Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Belleair woman who volunteered in Tanzania will receive town's humanitarian award

BELLEAIR

Ali Halverson wants to put a face on the issues of hunger and poverty in Africa.

So she talks about 5-year-old Sablina, who wants to become president. And Asia, 6, who is a tomboy and plays like "one of the guys." And Faudi, who is about 5 and loves to say the word "butterfly."

Halverson, 22, of Belleair spent five weeks in Tanzania this spring teaching these children and others. Later this month, the town of Belleair will recognize her volunteer work in Tanzania with the Belleair Humanitarian Award.

Halverson, who grew up in Belleair and spent summers volunteering at the town recreation center, played soccer for the University of Tennessee for two years. But after injuring her knees, she realized that her whole life had revolved around a sport she could no longer play.

A backpacking trip to Europe awakened her love of travel. She decided to go to Africa because she thought she needed to see the faces of the people who endure problems there.

"I wanted to do something instead of just hearing the statistics," she said. "I thought there might not be another time in my life when I can take five weeks off and go."

Through a global volunteer placement organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions, Halverson left in March for Bagamoyo, Tanzania, on the east coast of Africa. There, she taught English, science and art to a class of 50 children at Mwanamakuka Primary School, where pencils and paper were in limited supply.

When students used up the single sheet of paper they were allotted to write on each day, they went outside to practice writing in the dirt, she said.

"The kids are so eager to learn," she said. "You can't help but fall in love with them."

Because she knew only basic Swahili and because even the other teacher did not speak much English, Halverson at first relied on gestures and pictures to teach the students. Later during her trip, while volunteering with a nearby orphanage, she helped children conduct science experiments, which they had not done in class before.

"The kids are never asked what they think," she said. "That was the most rewarding part, seeing them actually think and process for themselves rather than repeat what they're told."

Belleair town Commissioner Mike Wilkinson nominated Halverson for the town's humanitarian award.

"I think it's an incredible thing she's done," Wilkinson said. "It's something she felt that was in her heart, and I admire that she went out and did it."

Halverson, whose journey was partly funded by donations from Belleair residents, said she was surprised that the town found her volunteer work worthy of recognition.

"I'm lucky to be part of a community that supported what I'm doing," she said.

Halverson hopes to set up a pen pal system and a sister-school relationship between the children of Bagamoyo and those of Belleair. In doing so, she hopes to create a cultural exchange between the children and make Belleair residents aware of the problems African children face.

Now that Halverson has returned home, she intends to finish college at the University of South Florida and get a degree in mass communications.

Although finishing college is her priority, Halverson cannot wait to return to Tanzania, where she made memories she will never forget — especially one of an 8-year-old student named Lati.

Several weeks into her trip, Halverson was walking home from school with Lati when the girl pulled her by the hand to a stand selling fruit.

Halverson was nervous about how to respond. She wasn't supposed to buy gifts for the children, but Lati seemed so desperate for a banana.

Instead, Lati, who wore a uniform with a broken zipper and no shoes, took out a coin and bought one banana. She broke off half and handed it to Halverson.

"Rafiki," Lati said — Swahili for "friend."

Belleair woman who volunteered in Tanzania will receive town's humanitarian award 06/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 7:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Man found dead in Dunedin canal identified as missing 63-year-old

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies on Tuesday identified the man found floating in a Dunedin canal as the man who was reported missing last week.

    Charles P. Morris, 63, was found dead in a canal in Dunedin behind Cedar Creek Mobile Home Park, at 605 Michigan Blvd. around 3:48 p.m. Monday. He was reported missing June 21 after he was last seen leaving his home the night before to walk his dog. [ Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. A Time magazine with Trump on the cover hangs in his golf clubs. It's fake

    National

    The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least four of President Trump's golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

    A framed copy of Time magazine, dated March 1, 2009, that hangs in at least four of President Donald Trump's golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland, is fake. There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time. The real March 2, 2009, issue of Time featured actor Kate Winslet on the cover. But the issue makes no mention of Trump. [Left, Time; right, Angel Valentin for the Washington Post]
  3. Editorial: The human cost of slashing Medicaid

    Editorials

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no choice Tuesday but to postpone voting this week on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that is just as devastating as the version passed by the House. The Congressional Budget Office's estimate that Senate bill would eliminate health care coverage for 22 million …

    Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press
  4. Vince Young takes shot at Bucs' Ryan Fitzpatrick

    Blogs

    Former NFL quarterback Vince Young, out of the league since 2011 and complaining about not getting more opportunities to prolong his career, took a shot at new Bucs backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in a story posted at …

    Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Bucs to be Jameis Winston's backup this fall, has played for six other NFL teams in his 12 seasons in the league.
  5. Editorial: Scott's poor choice for CFO

    Editorials

    Gov. Rick Scott didn't reach too deeply into Florida's talent pool in appointing his friend Jimmy Patronis to fill a vacancy as the state's new chief financial officer. This is an exceptionally weak choice for a Cabinet post that requires a sophisticated understanding of banking and other financial services, and it …