How would your teachers have described you in the third grade? If you have children at home, ask them what three words their teacher would use to describe them. I would love to hear what they say.
Before coming to International Samaritan, I asked a group of students that same question at the SAY Detroit Play Center where I worked. One boy quickly volunteered, taking about ten seconds to get his answer right. I knew him to be fun-loving, candid, and caring and was surprised when he finally announced his answer with seeming pride that he nailed his teacher’s thoughts: “Bad and disobedient!”
My heart broke for him. How often had he been called these words in three years of school? How suffocating would it feel to face those labels each day? Moments like this revealed how deeply the impact of extreme poverty cuts into each child’s identity.

If you are someone who wants to fight poverty here in America and in developing nations, this may be your chance to lean into a project. That young man is now a sophomore in high school, and he and five of his fellow students from the SAY Detroit Play Center will be going to Ethiopia with us this May to spend time alongside our scholars in Kore.

Students from both teams met over Google last week to plan their trip. In discussing their expectations, this young man was the first to answer, “I don’t really have expectations,” he said, “but I heard animals roam the streets in Africa, and I would sure like to see some!” This gave Selam, our team leader in Ethiopia, a good laugh. She explained that he might see some donkeys or goats, but not lions or giraffes. She called right after to say how much she liked this young man. “He’s so honest and funny!” she exclaimed.

Our scholars from two nations getting to know each other last week.

Another thing jumped out at me on the call: the local kids went into it calling themselves Team Detroit, but they came out of it as Team America after being called that by our scholars in Ethiopia.

Many of you who read these weekly reflections have had a life-changing experience through an immersion trip or supported a family member on a life-changing trip. Please consider making a special, one-time gift to support these six young people and the scholars they meet on their life-changing experiences.

Derron Sanders, center, and his wife, Selam, are leading this life-changing effort with friends, Jonathan Quarles, Robert Shumake, me, Markeith Weldon and Johnathon Matthews.  

Mike Tenbusch, IntSam President

Mike joined IntSam in 2018 after two decades of leading social change in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. He’s a University of Michigan Law grad and author of The Jonathan Effect: Helping Kids and Schools Win the Battle Against Poverty. He and his wife, Maritza, have three children who keep them young.

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