Dear Madagascar Summer Program students and instructors,
On behalf of all parents, you have my immense and lasting thanks, along with a deep sense of duty to acknowledge each and all of you for all you have given us — for opening our own eyes through your own, hard-earned experiences.
Over the past six weeks, despite your physical exhaustion from long treks under the hot, relentless sun often carrying heavy backpacks, and despite your overwhelming emotions and mental challenges of culture shock and adaptation, despite all hardships and eye-opening experiences you were encountering at every step of your journey, you sourced the inner strength to selflessly give by sharing with us, your families, and with each other your thought-provoking and affecting postings.
You will smile to know your postings were eagerly awaited — like the baby bird anxiously awaiting the next feeding — to learn of each new set of your experiences and of the inner growth they unleashed in you. It was moving to read your poetic self-reflections, heartfelt writings, nuanced descriptions, insightful analyses that transcend cultural comparisons, and of your discovery of kinship in unexpected places — in your host families and communities that became your new families and that gave you new eyes with which to view the world.
It must be with a sense of loss and a heavy heart that you said goodbye today to each other, your new immediate family that supported and strenghtened you in unprecedented ways over the past six weeks. You said goodbye to Madagascar and to all the people and places you encountered and that shaped you, and your shaped them in return, on this journey of lifelong impact within you and 360 degrees around you.
Profound thanks to your instructors for selflessly giving you, supporting you, and enabling you and your experiences as both catalysts and safe harbors. Thank you, world-class instructors Micah, Colin, and Sidonie.
A world of thanks to you, student participants, for stoically learning and sharing with us, in the fullest spectrum of the Humanities and humanity, how this journey has made you stronger by allowing yourselves to experience vulnerability and acceptance of ways of life that defy comparison by serving as norm in their own cultural contexts. Over the past six weeks, you became the experimental group yourselves, the on-the-ground researchers, the fresh sponges absorbing cultural exposures and experiences first hand, the change agents, the catalysts for yourselves, each other, and everyone you touched along your six-week path of discovery and lifelong awareness.
It is with excitement of anticipation that the 2019 Madagascar Summer Group will reunite over coming weeks and months, and that the supportive friendships you have formed with each other will continue to bring meaning and joy to each of you through the years.
With admiration and gratitude to each and all of you,
Julia, mother of Orestes