It’s official: after three months of watching the 2011 ELI Africa Fellows having way too much fun posting on this blog, I requested my own account.
My name is Grace, and I’m the Chief Program Officer for ELI Africa. The team brought me along to Mauritius this summer not only to work with our current Fellows as they bring our vision to life on the ground, but also to plan longer-term. Right now I’m working toward the creation of a yearlong Fellows program, as well as meeting frequently with Vedant and Ben Widness (our first-ever ELI Scholar) to further develop the ELI Scholar program.
I was supposed to go back to America tomorrow, but late last week I decided to postpone biology class for another semester and spend July in Mauritius instead. Although this decision may have serious academic implications later on, it was ultimately an easy choice to make.
Right now I’m sitting with Vedant, Ben, and Ed at our work desk in the Education Centre. They’re researching and writing lesson plans, while outside it’s simultaneously sunny and raining. (This a fairly common weather occurrence here – Vedant told me that he and his friends called it a “monkey wedding” growing up, since if something so strange was going on, it probably meant that monkeys were getting married, too). Despite the deluge, Gina is gardening with a large group that is having trouble fitting under the two umbrellas we were able to find, and the sound from BJ’s vocal music class is filtering in through the open window.
It’s incredible to see how far we’ve come in the month since we arrived in Mauritius and opened the doors of our Centre. So, the reason I wanted to stay here should be obvious: I need to see what will happen in the next five weeks. What new dances will McKay teach? How many kids will show up for their first day shy and unsure and leave with huge smiles and a confident rendition of the secret ELI Africa handshake? Can anyone look more fashionable than Lexy does in a lab coat and safety goggles? (Definitive answer: no). I would never have been able to settle into the orange-and-green seat of an Air Mauritius jet plane while our team was still working hard in Pamplemousses.
During an intense hour-long work session earlier this week, Vedant made an off-the-cuff comment that has made me smile ever since. “We’re not a bunch of hippies trying to save the world,” he said. “We’re not saving the world. We’re just trying to make it better.” I know that all of our blog’s readers are as excited as I am to see ELI Africa work towards that goal for the remainder of our 2011 Fellows program and into the future. Thanks for all of your support and encouragement!