Lessons from Africa

Two weeks in Africa gave Palmer Elementary 3rd grader Verity Sibley a new experience, new perspective and newfound appreciation of the comforts of home. The visit also gave her a new name.

“Here, I’m Verity. There, I’m Baby Binta. They called me that because I’m small and the youngest in my family. My sister and her friend figured out my name and it means, ‘With God’,” said Sibley.

Sibley has just returned from a trip to Senegal to visit her sister, Kateri, who is in the middle of a two-year term with the Peace Corps. Kateri, a Windsor graduate, is helping people create economies for themselves by producing and selling goods. 

“I missed her. She’s hard not to miss. She looks exactly like me. When we’re together people ask her, ‘Oh, is she your daughter?’” said Sibley.
Jeri Smith, Kateri and Verity Sibley holding surfboards in the Lampoul Desert. 

Sibley soaked up local culture, learning Senegalese dances and taking part in what’s called sand surfing. 

“You take an egg-shaped surfboard and go up a dune, then ride the board down the dune,” said Sibley.

She also quickly learned that in Senegal people don’t have their own cars. They either walk or take taxis. There are also a number of stores called boutiques. 

“People sit at little desks with all kinds of stuff behind them: cookies, candies, water inside of a bag. You have to bite the bag and drink the water,” said Sibley.

She also learned the Wolof words for “no”, “yes” and “What is your name?”. Wolof is the most common language in Senegal.
Verity Sibley standing with a group of children in Senegal 

“When you meet people you do a professional greeting. You shake hands and you say something from the Wolof language,” said Sibley.

She also learned something else about Senegalese children.

“They don’t have electronics. The little kids usually find something to play with like a bottle, and kick it around,” said Sibley. 

Sibley’s mother is going to visit Palmer Elementary next week to share her thoughts about the trip, as well as show some coins from Senegal and hand out some cookies from the country. Verity enjoyed her time in Senegal but is happy she will be in her classroom to see the presentation.

“I missed all of my friends. I’m glad to be back,” said Sibley. 
Verity Sibley standing in front of a huge tree

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