MEET THE MUSE: Reflections from Teen Muse Caroline Stuermer
What inspired you to travel to Zambia?
I went the previous year and the strong connections that I made with all the kids in the schools that we visited inspired me to come back because almost every kid would ask “When will we see you again?”
Did the trip live up to your expectations? Explain.
The trip EXCEEDED my expectations. I was surprised at how many activities were packed into each day and being my age, I get bored really easily but I was never bored on this trip. I was constantly taking in new information or being able to observe a completely different culture.
I learned that one of the issues girls in rural Zambia face is the lack of access to feminine products. There is a small amount of products in village markets but not enough for hundreds of women and girls, and most girls live too far away from the market to safely walk there every month. Even if the girls have easy access to the stores and markets, feminine products are very expensive and few families can afford them. A lot of girls try to make there own products which is not hygienic and can be harmful. Due to this, many girls start missing weeks of school and eventually start dropping out which leads to early marriage and teen pregnancy.
Please share one or more moments that had an impact on you and why.
One moment that made a huge impact on me was when my brother started playing guitar at the orphanage we went to and all the kids crowded around him and started singing and dancing which really proves that music is a universal language. Another moment that made an impact on me was when a girl around my age asked me if painkillers caused ovary problems that would affect her future children and if taking birth control now would prevent her from getting pregnant in the future. These questions made me realize how uneducated these girls are about medications and birth control. These girls need to have knowledge about birth control and their bodies in order to prevent child marriage and teen pregnancies.
Why do you feel this sort of travel is important?
This sort of travel is extremely important because it opens up your eyes to a whole different culture and makes you learn new things about yourself. Both years that I did this trip I learned new things about my personality and my strengths/weaknesses. Going to a place like Zambia when you’re young can completely change your beliefs and understanding of the world.
How has the experience changed you or shifted a belief about yourself or the world?
This experience made me realize that the youth are the future and I don’t need to wait until I’m older to start making an impact. The Chiawa Kittens, a group of primary girls we met in Zambia, made a huge impact on me and made me want to start doing something about the issues that I care about now rather than waiting until I’m older.
How will you utilize what you learned on this trip?
I will take everything I learned on this trip and try to educate kids my age about the struggles kids are facing around the world, and hopefully I can inspire more teens to go on trips like this and broaden their understanding of the way others are living around the world.
Why should someone else go on this trip?
Other people should go on this trip because the kind of experience that traveling to Zambia gives you is impossible to explain to other people because it’s hard to describe the feeling of driving through the villages, playing with the kids, listening to the struggles the girls are facing, and seeing the wildlife. You can’t fully understand the impact Zambia makes on people until you travel there and experience it head on.
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