June 27, 2013
They come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Many join the group while still wrestling to gain a solid grasp of the English language in which all activities are conducted, having never held a copy of what they’re expected to create in their hands. Few, if any, have had much access to television or computers let alone the Internet. In a country where information is most widely disseminated via the radio, audio exposure for these students has been their dominant experience with the medium for which they are now becoming responsible.
The Newspaper Club, a staple at Agahozo-Shalom, consists of sixteen dedicated Enrichment Year (9th grade), Senior 4 (10th grade) and Senior 5 (11th grade) students. Together they regularly create The Sunlight Times, a newspaper that is proudly hand-delivered to each of the 32 families in the Village. This self-selected group takes their responsibility of documenting important events, activities, happenings and stories for the benefit of their peers very seriously. Collectively, they scour the Village in search of great photos, unique interviews, compelling competitions or great human-interest stories. They meet weekly and discuss upcoming events, identify what they want to cover, and plan the execution of the next newspaper. Students express being drawn to the club by their love of writing and telling stories. Many join because they aspire to be journalists or hope to pursue careers in media. This is their first in-depth exposure.
Club meetings consist of students exchanging wrinkled pieces of notebook paper with incredible hand-written stories covering all aspects of Village life. Our most prolific writer, a sports journalist from Enrichment Year, regularly submits three to five pages of neatly written accounts of the previous weekend’s competitions. The trick, however, is in taking the next step. For the Enrichment Year students, in particular, the Newspaper Club activities are their first exposure to word processing. For many, converting hand-written pages into typed documents will take hours and be achieved one single letter at a time. For our Enrichment Year sports superstar, these five pages will take at least two hours to convert.
There is one Newspaper Club computer, and each Club member arrives one at a time to make use of it. Hours are invested, diligently plugging away at the keyboard. In working on the newspaper, students learn how to save their work, identifying strategies for ensuring that they don’t lose it, and explore the Internet conducting research. Many have never accessed news online and are both surprised and amazed to realize the extent of what is available at their fingertips.
For these motivated writers and aspiring journalists, the Newspaper Club experience becomes an invaluable education about the expanse of the world, the opportunities available to them, and the art of storytelling in writing. Witnessing these students blossom and increase their critical thinking capacity by watching their fingers begin to move rhythmically across a keyboard and seeing them experience the quality of their own writing steadily improve is a wonder and a privilege to watch.
Submitted by long-term volunteer Shira Liff-Grieff