Service Without Borders: Camille Traslavina Helps Children In Africa
BY SARAH ROUSSELL
Ever since she was little, Cooper City High School junior Camille Traslavina has always had a fascination with the outside world. Instead of fantasizing about fairytale lands and princesses, like most little girls her age, Traslavina dreamt about traveling the world and visiting exotic countries. The country that drew most of Traslavina’s attention was Africa. By age four, Traslavina’s interest in Africa grew into a passion and her thoughts turned toward how to help underprivileged children on the continent.
“My parents always taught me that there was nothing more important than tolerance and selflessness,” Traslavina said. “So between my interest in exploring different places and cultures and my desire to positively impact people’s lives, I developed a fascination with Africa because traveling there would allow me to do both.”
As she grew older, Traslavina’s desire to help children in Africa only grew stronger. After her sophomore year of high school, she decided that it was time to pursue her dream. This past summer, Traslavina spent two weeks of community service with Global Leadership Adventures in the Volta Region of Ghana. On the trip, Traslavina interacted with local families and immersed herself in an unfamiliar culture. The experience gave her the chance to impact the lives of others and competely transformed her own.
“My trip to Ghana with Global Leadership Adventures was definitely more gratifying then any community services I’ve ever done here in America,” Traslavina said.
Global leadership Adventures is an organization dedicated to allowing high school teenagers travel abroad and participate in community service projects around the globe. GLA offers nine program themes in 12 different countries ranging from environment and ecology in Bali, India to public health in Peru.
For Traslavina, choosing a program with GLA was easy. She instantly chose to study children’s issues and was directed to the “Ghana: Children of Africa” program. Above all the benefits of this program Traslavina most enjoyed the idea that she would be able to befriend children while volunteering in local schools.
“I love working with kids in general,” Traslavina said. “I think that when you are looking at a society that is dealing with so many different issues, the only way out for them is through children’s education.”
Traslavina also knew that with this opportunity, she would be able to gain real hands-on experience helping other people.
“A lot of community service here in the United States seems to be centered around raising money,” Traslavina said. “Raising money is great if it is going to the right places but it is not the same as doing real first hand service.”
With this in mind, Traslavina began the application process. A few months after she turned in her application, Traslavina’s parents presented her with a plane ticket to Ghana.
With her acceptance came a long to-do list in preparation for her trip. Most importantly, Traslavina had to get specific shots before she even stepped a foot in Ghana. These preventative measures would stop her from catching diseases such as Malaria or Yellow Fever. In order to understand what the people and living conditions in Ghana would be like, Traslavina studied Ghanaian history, culture, and geography. As Traslavina got closer to her departure date, she couldn’t help but develop expectations.
“I was hoping to gain some sort of satisfaction that I had done something really meaningful and that I would have a lasting impact on the lives of the kids I was working with.” Traslavina said.
By the end of her trip, all her expectations had been realized. Throughout her two weeks in Ghana, she worked closely with Ghanaian children in a classroom setting. Traslavina chose to work in a Junior High School because the students spoke English, making it easier for her to get to know each individual and build a better bond with them.
In the school that Traslavina was at, many of the teachers had been sent to further their education in Ho, the Capital City of The Volta Region. With no substitutes to replace the teachers, often times children would sit in a classroom with no teacher and no guidance. During her two week stay, Traslavina and two other GLA students spent a couple hours a day teaching in a 6th grade classroom.
As the teacher, Traslavina was responsible for making lesson plans and teaching the students math and language arts. She and the two other volunteers created fun activities that allowed the children to express themselves in a healthy learning environment. For language arts, the girls assigned the students a project in which they had to write their names down vertically on a paper and by each letter write an adjective that described their character and personalities. To brighten up the assignment, Traslavina provided the students with markers and crayons that she had brought from the United States.
“You give them a marker and they just adore it,” Trasalvina said. “They cherish anything that you give them. You leave them with a marker, a pen, a notebook, anything, and they love it. It was amazing to see that.”
To teach the students reading comprehension, Traslavina created a fun activity based off of the game four corners. In her version of four corners, Traslavina made each corner of the room represent the phrases “agree”, “strongly agree”, “disagree”, or “strongly disagree”. During the game, Traslavina and the other GLA volunteers would say a statement such as “dancing is fun” and the students would pick a corner of the room that matched the phrase.
“They have such a positive outlook on everything we couldn’t find anything they disliked,” Traslavina said.
So they tried statements such as “hard work and chores around the house is fun”, assuming some of the children would go to the corner for disagree. To their dismay, the students did not. Then Traslavina tried the statement “School is fun,” and again the children all strongly agreed with the statement. When asked why they liked school so much, one child responded with “If we succeed in school we will have a good future.”
Despite the living conditions in Ghana, Traslavina found that the majority of the children she worked with had a positive outlook on life and constant motivation to do the best they could.
“It’s a common misconception that people who are living in poverty are not interested in education and don’t want to pull themselves out of it,” Traslavina said. “Every single kid that I worked with was a hard worker, and when you asked them why, it is because they wanted a better future. I think that if you could put one of those kids in a school here they would just thrive because they work so hard.”
While in Ghana, Traslavina was also given the opportunity to visit various orphanages. Her favorite was New Seed International. New Seed International is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Traslavina fell in love with the goals and objectives of the program and was even inspired to create a New Seed International committee back at home in Cooper City. Teaming up with CCHS’s Key Club, Traslavina is planning a walk for New Seed International in April.
“My goal is to raise money and awareness,” Trasalvina said. “I would say awareness more so then money. It’s like the ripple effect, if you could get the word out, if you can get people excited about helping kids in Ghana, you’re going to have a much bigger impact in the long run.”
With her committee, Traslavina is also hoping to create a pen pal system with the kids who are living in the New Seed International orphanage in Ghana. By paring each member of the committee with one of the orphans, Traslavina hopes that a friendly and supportive relationship can be built. This way, each orphan can get attention and know that there is someone who truly cares.
Traslavina’s experience in Ghana was life changing. Through the people she met, the relationships she built, and the projects she was a part of, Traslavina realized just how important it is to recognize what you’ve been given and use it to help others.
“This is very cliché, but being there made me realize just how lucky I am to have everything that I have here,” Traslavina said. “We really need to reach out to people who weren’t given as much, because they have just as much potential as we do.”