Photo used by permission of Bennett
Lower school music teacher Elena Bennett receives a handmade unity banner at GS Gitabage, a day school. The school is located high in the mountains and currently has no electricity.

From June 12 to July 3, lower school music teacher Elena Bennett traveled to Rulindo, visiting eight schools that SCDS supports.

Usually, each school assembles outside to greet her, with 700 or more students singing, dancing, making speeches and reading poems about the partnership with Country Day.

“(Then) I stand up and bring greetings from Country Day and present small gifts like banners or the posters and photo collages I made this year,” Bennett said.

She has been going since 2012, and this year, Bennett also brought over 300 pounds of toys and gifts and returned with another 300 pounds to sell at the next Play-a-thon.

“Last year and this year I brought puppets, and when I hold those up, the kids get unbelievably excited,” she said.

“Everyone wants to play with them, including teachers.”

Similarly, the students at Rulindo gave Bennett gifts, such as stalks of bananas, handmade toys, hand-drawn pictures, vegetable baskets, flip-flops and even a live rabbit.

And on Bennett’s last day, the principals of the eight schools had a party for her and gave her baskets and a dress to take home.

Bennett said the most memorable – yet bittersweet – moment of the trip was the “instant roar of 800 kids” after she held up a used soccer ball.

“I was really taken aback,” she said. “I was glad to give it to them, of course, but felt ashamed that I didn’t have more when the students value (soccer balls) so much.”

Experiences like these put the world – and its inequity – in perspective for Bennett, she said.

“So many material resources pile up in some places, more than people can even use, while most of the human race survives and manages with so little materially,” Bennett said.

“Students in Rwanda deserve soccer balls as much as anyone else, but balls just don’t reach them. It’s very hard to watch.”

—By Allison Zhang

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