Exploring three continents and beyond: HPA students gain new global perspectives
WAIMEA — Through Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s OurWorld Travel Abroad Program, 22 upper school students and six middle schoolers took off to faraway lands for spring break in March.
Never a dull moment, destinations included Washington D.C., Philadelphia and NYC for the middle school group, and Japan, New Zealand and Tanzania for upper school students.
For the past three years, HPA has planned spring break trips worldwide. The goal is for students to learn from cultural immersion experiences, practice language skills and learn more about being global citizens. This was the first year that Tanzania was among the destinations.
HPA partnered with Pacific Asian Affairs Council, Rustic Pathways and WorldStrides on the adventures. Faculty members led the trips.
On the East Africa trip, students spent 13 days visiting Njoro, Monduli and Arusha. Led by HPA middle school science teacher Laura Jim and upper school English teacher Brenda Clark, students worked with Rustic Pathways leaders within villages in Tanzania on a two-week service project.
Twelfth-grader Jasmine Buerano, was grateful she chose this trip.
“A couple of weeks before signing up for the trip I was really stressed out about college applications. But one of my teachers, Mr. Quayle, once told me, ‘The best feeling in the world is to lose yourself in service.’ I felt like the Tanzania trip would be a perfect mesh of volunteer work and tourism. And man, was it the best decision of my life thus far.”
The trip benefited the students, but also the recipients.
“We wanted students to develop a connection to the country through service and relationship-building prior to enjoying the country and its wildlife,” Jim said. “Tanzania was a very inviting locale.”
Activities included building structures for the village.
“We helped build a lunch building at the school,” Jim said. “Some of our favorite memories are of walking with Maasai leader, Lucas, and stumbling upon two giraffes, and the time we found three lions hiding under our safari vehicle taking advantage of the shade. Not an hour went by that one of us wasn’t learning something new or experiencing something memorable.”
Tenth grader Devyn Harmon learned a variety of skills during the trip.
“There were several jobs, all of which everyone did at least once,” he said. “After a couple hours of working, we went over to the school and asked the students questions in Swahili, and they asked us questions in English. Later, we split into groups and one group went back to do some cooking, while my group went to another house to milk a cow. It was harder to get the milk out correctly than I thought it would be.”
Freshman Anna Schroedel observed how vital water is there.
“When we arrived at the work site in the morning, getting water was often the first priority. We were instructed to go down to the stream, like many of the villagers do. We carried buckets about a quarter-mile down uneven ground and started filling them. A few boys, around age 9, came down and carried some of the buckets for us, two at a time. It was surprising they wanted to help us without even being asked.”
Deighton Emmons, an upper school science teacher, planned the trip to New Zealand — a country that’s not part of any of the seven continents. Students spent 15 days in North and South Island with stops in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo, Waitamo and Wellington.
“The purpose of the trip was to provide students with a cultural and service learning experience in New Zealand,” he said.
The group learned about the Maori culture and the history of New Zealand, visited famous sites and engaged in conservation and volunteer work. Focuses included The Kaipatiki Project, which aids endemic species restoration, and the Ark in the Park, a pest-control project.
“One of the most memorable moments was learning about the conservation measures New Zealand is taking to protect and preserve endemic plant and animal species, which are very similar to what is happening here in Hawaii,” Emmons said.
Tehani Carter, an 11th grader on the trip, enjoyed meeting a variety of Maori people and sharing information about cultures.
“We found that we have much in common. For example, Hawaiian and Maori people both have similar welcoming protocol,” she said.
Now in their third year, the school’s Japan trip was led by upper school Japanese teacher Rika Inaba. Spread over 15 days, stops included Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Hiroshima.
In addition to all the sites visited, the homestay program in Hiroshima was a highlight. Sophomore Megan Abe tried new foods and bonded with her host family members.
“Dinner was gyoza, which I was able to make with them. It was the best I’ve ever had. That night we talked about my family and their family. I had a lot of fun with them and it felt like I spent a month there instead of three days. I don’t ever want to forget about the time I spent with them. This was one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
While in Tokyo, one of their stops was at the National Diet.
“We went to the National Diet Building and I found out that it doesn’t relate to diet, but instead it’s a place where the Japanese government operates,” said 10th grader Kamau Pasadaba. “We also met with two gentlemen who taught us how the economic landscape has changed in Japan over the years and I learned a lot about how the financial world works in Japan.”
This year, for the first time the students visited a soup kitchen for the homeless in Tokyo and helped distribute clothes and dinner.
“The students were shocked to see the ‘non-glorious’ side of Tokyo. It was a humble moment for all of us that the homeless problem is a global issue,” Inaba said.
On the mainland, middle schoolers visited Washington D.C., Philadelphia and NYC March 9-18, exploring national treasures, historic sites and the Big Apple.
HPA 1st grade teacher Teri Chong and Kanu o ka Aina teacher Maya Chong led the trip. Highlights included visits to the Capitol, Kennedy Center, the Washington Monument, Pentagon Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
“As we walked the acres and acres of markers, visited the Kennedy grave sites and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard, we were reminded of service, sacrifice and valor — of how we honor with dignity those who defended and protected our freedoms,” Teri said.
She also remembered the Holocaust Museum as a highlight.
“It definitely forced us to reflect on what democratic values are, and on the freedoms we have and how they need to be appreciated, nurtured and protected,” Teri said. “It helped us to further understand the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping, as well as to revisit what it means to be a responsible citizen.”