As WorldTeach remembers the life and service of Kristin Linnea Skvarla, we thought it timely to share with you why volunteer teaching in Namibia is more than a just great teaching opportunity – it’s a life-altering gift from those who taught before you. Thank you, Kristin.
‘What is more beautiful than a ROAD?’ (George Sand, Consuelo, 1842) was one of the first entries Kristin penned into her journal during training in Windhoek, December, 1997. “I can’t believe I woke up this morning in Namibia!”
As a WorldTeach volunteer at St. Boniface College in Namibia, Kristin lived in the remote rural village of Sambyu on the banks of the Okavango River. She taught geography, history, even math… her brother’s best subject, physical education and art to learners in Grades 8-12. As a first-year teacher, she found her learners “eager, pretty intelligent and so much fun” although, initially, she spent late, and at times ‘agonizing’, evening hours preparing for her next day’s classes. She was heartened when she found, “I don’t need three pages of notes to get through one class period anymore” and observed that “each day as my confidence grows, so too does their confidence in me” and “the learners’ level of respect for me has allowed them to trust what I do in the classroom.” Lots of growing! “In short, I can’t believe they pay me US$87.00 a month to do this job. I would do it for free!”
“The weeks are flying by despite the relaxed pace of life…the learners are wonderful. They definitely demand the best I can do, but they’re respectful, disciplined, warm and eager! They make every day different and extraordinary.” And Kristin was learning new skills too…”I have a friend in the village who is teaching me to carry stuff on my head. My goal is to carry a full bucket of water from the river to the road by the end of the school year…right now…5 steps.” During her time at St. Boniface, Kristin took on a number of coaching roles alongside her teaching; track and net-ball primarily. “After four weeks of 5:15 AM practices (track) and an additional week of ‘after study’ practices… St Boniface ROCKED the 4×100 relay, winning four of eight age groups. Over 400 competitors from eight schools participated. Official time was kept on my Ironman. The only pair of running shoes at the meet were on my feet…bamboo reeds for batons…and a cow joined the Girls Under-16 200 meter…and the cow won… did you know they could run?” In Kristin’s second year at St. Boniface, to her great satisfaction, the roster of Ministry of Youth and Sport, Kavango Zone 5 Athletics school team managers, listed her as the only Ms. Among all team managers and event directors for that February ’99 track meet; a little crack in the “Namibian glass ceiling,” she noted, which she was pleased to leave for her students.
Kristin was quickly appointed Faculty Sponsor for Student Council after arriving at St. Boniface. In her second year she established a community internship program for grade 12 students, served as a volunteer regional program officer for Patty Schmidt Foundation Scholarship recipients and combined the monies sent to her by friends and family with similar funds from co-WorldTeach volunteer teacher Seth Bundy to enable students to participate in regional culture competitions of dance and drumming with authentic, hand-crafted instruments and attire.
In her request to extend her placement at St. Boniface for another year, Kristin said “I want to stay for me. The Kavango has gotten under my skin and it will not let me go just now.” “It’s not what I’ve done here, but what St. Boniface and the Kavango have done for me. I’m just now hitting my stride, in my teaching and in my relations with members of the community and staff… I owe it to all the people who have made personal investments in me, to give them one more year.” Kristin wrote in a joint journal she and friend Amy kept during their travels in Namibia and Southern Africa, “My Namibian existence is not a dry 2 years cut off from everything familiar and loved—I breathe, live and radiate my spirit as fully here as I do in the US—sometimes I think even more so here.”
During her second year Kristin hoped “to make good popcorn on top of a feisty burner, catch a fish in the river, spend the night in the kraal of one of my learners, convince Willibald that he has tremendous potential, to write a mission statement for the next century, to turn a good idea on my part, into a commitment.” In her letter to the WorldTeach volunteer taking her place at St. Boniface, Kristin reflected “The learners of course are the best part of the experience. They will frustrate, exhilarate, make you cry and make you laugh until… They are wonderful!! This place will embrace you with open arms and keep you enthralled for the time that you stay.” “For the past two years I have called this place home and it has been the most amazing time of my life. Two years have flown by in a richly hued kaleidoscope of experiences and memories and emotions.
This place has become a part of my soul –not something I’ve done, but something I’ve become. So get ready… Ewa, Mbaa!!” Kristin’s family, the Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation Board of Directors and their loyal and generous donors who have made possible assistance to Namibia-bound WorldTeach volunteers, are confident that the ROAD you find in Namibia will be as rewarding and life-changing for you as it will be for Namibians with whom you share your days.
We believe you will ambitiously make your own commitment in the school at which you teach and the community in which you live; that with your own gifts you will celebrate the discovery of potential within your students and all whom you meet and embolden their steps to discover, explore and positively change the world.
You are invited to visit klsf.org to learn more about Kristin’s journey and that of KLSF.