International author visit reveals the scent of determination

I didn’t know what to expect. Having flown halfway around the world to visit the American International School of Abuja in Nigeria, I was open for adventure. But when the school invited me to visit their “sister school,” a local primary school they were mentoring, I wasn’t sure how those kids would react. After all, the international kids spoke good English and seemed to appreciate my sense of humor. Would I have something to offer the Nigerian kids?

Our van bounced over a rutted road and pulled up to a few nondescript concrete Author Bruce Hale tells stories to Nigerian studentsbuildings. Instead of the international school’s lush landscaping, this school’s grounds were nothing but packed dirt. The director, a vital, middle-aged woman in stylish threads, greeted us. She told us that the classes average 100 kids per grade (each grade has a single class). The student’s ages varied widely, even within the grade, as many of them were refugees from Boko Haram’s violence in the north, and may have missed years of schooling. These kids didn’t even have toilets in their school.

As I stepped into the first classroom, I was hit with a wave of heat and intense body odor. Rows of kids were packed onto benches like sardines in that sweltering concrete box. Not only did the room lack the air conditioning of the international school, it didn’t even have fans, nor (in some cases) glass in the windows. How those kids could focus on learning in that environment was beyond me. (Especially when I learned that they didn’t even have benches until a few months earlier. Before that, kids sat on rocks or tarps.)

Though I was affected by all that I saw, I tried to give the students my best. I told a brief story about my beginnings as a reluctant reader, did a storytelling from BIG BAD BABY, and demonstrated a bit of cartooning, with the help of volunteers. And just like kids I’ve met everywhere, they laughed, they listened, and they engaged with my stories.

By the time I’d finished my two presentations there, I was dripping sweat like a sprinkler in summertime. I don’t know whether I provided something of value for those students, but they sure did for me. I came away impressed with how, despite their challenging circumstances, those kids and teachers persevered. That no matter what their roadblocks might be, they still hung in there and tried to better themselves through education. Now that’s inspirational.

8 thoughts on “International author visit reveals the scent of determination

  1. Adele Chu says:

    Bruce, this moved me to tears! We so take for granted the whole concept of “education.”
    You communicated something very real to them. You were THERE for them and they recognized you for it. So proud of you!!

    1. Bruce Hale says:

      Thanks, Adela. I did my best. You’re right — we take so much for granted, that it’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.

  2. Bruce,

    They appreciated someone (a total stranger) taking the time to speak to them, and who interacted kindly and made them laugh. Often you never know if or how you’ve reached someone, but they’ll remember. God bless you for making the effort.

    1. Bruce Hale says:

      Thanks, MaryAnn. You’re right; we may never know the impact of many of our actions, but we do need to keep making them.

  3. Cynthia See says:

    Bruce. All I can do is Thank God, you are who you are! Spreading love and Aloha in all you do!!! What a wonderful gift you gave to those children!!!
    The childrens’ responses to you was their gift of thanks to you!!!
    Much Aloha to you,
    Cynthia 🤙🤙🤙🤙

    1. Bruce Hale says:

      Aw, thanks, Cynthia. I’m just doing what I feel called to do, trying to spread some laughter and aloha.

  4. Patrick says:

    Aloha Brada Bruce
    As a troubadour carrying the torch for humanity You touched primitive man and cultural boundaries become invisible because of your love opens so many doors and you as a representative of the Western world as a white man touched so many beyond color beyond site into your mind and they live in your mind, you’re walking with them and they with you for a long time they love you as much as you love them if not more that ripple of love will go so far beyond generations in their World 🌍

    1. Bruce Hale says:

      Thanks, Braddah Patrick. Love is the word.

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