Category Archives: Discovery and Exploration

February 6, 2013

The Global Fund for Children in South Africa (Part 2)

To learn more about the experiences of children and families in South Africa, we spoke with Emmanuel Otoo, program officer for Africa at The Global Fund for Children (GFC). If you’d like to donate to The Global Fund for Children to support their work in South Africa and beyond, visit their website or add a donation at check-out when making an online purchase from Tea Collection!

If you missed part one of the interview with Emmanuel, you can see it here.

Photo taken at the Sophiatown Community Psychological Services in South Africa.

 

 

What inspires you about the South Africa region?

Despite their painful history, South Africans exhibit strong unity and determination to succeed, and that inspires me a lot. I am also inspired by the South African constitution, and the vision and passion that went into its making. The vision and bravery of Nelson Mandela, his selflessness, and his willingness and ability to sacrifice his freedom for humanity have always been a source of inspiration as well.

Photo taken at the Sophiatown Community Psychological Services in South Africa.

Describe a day in the life of a typical GFC-sponsored child in South Africa.

Chipo is the 14-year-old son of Angela, who fled with him and his two siblings to South Africa following a gruesome attack on their home by rebels in a war-torn country.

Chipo sleeps in a kitchen that his family shares with another family in an overcrowded apartment in a huge slum building. In the morning, Chipo gets up and eats a bowl of porridge. He helps his mother with some household chores and assists in taking care of his younger siblings before leaving for school. After school, Chipo drops off his schoolbag at home and goes to the market in search of leftover food or work to bring some money home to supplement his mother’s income.

When he returns home, Chipo goes with his mother and two siblings to Sophiatown Community Psychological Services, a grassroots organization supported by The Global Fund for Children. There, his family participates in art therapy and counseling, receives food, and plays games. Chipo is one of hundreds of refugee children who are being supported by Sophiatown to help them recover from their traumatic experiences.

Passionate about animals, Chipo loves to hold and care for them, and he hunts for abandoned kittens on the street. His dream is to be a teacher when he grows up—it is our hope that GFC and Sophiatown will help give him that chance.

Photo taken at the Sophiatown Community Psychological Services in South Africa.

What does Ubuntu mean to you?

Ubuntu is an Nguni word that has its origins in the Bantu languages of Southern Africa. While it has no direct translation in English, it is used to describe a particular African worldview that focuses on people’s allegiances to and relations with each other. Ubuntu describes a situation in which people can only find fulfillment through interacting with and supporting other people. It represents a spirit of kinship across both race and creed that unites people for a common purpose.

Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, defined Ubuntu as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist, said, “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

That said, Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. It means you need to think and act beyond your immediate personal needs—you will benefit from doing so, in addition to benefitting others. The question, therefore, is: Are you going to enrich yourself in order to promote the well-being of your community? If the answer is yes—that is Ubuntu.

 

 

February 4, 2013

The Global Fund for Children in South Africa (part 1)

To learn more about the experiences of children and families in South Africa, we spoke with Emmanuel Otoo, program officer for Africa at The Global Fund for Children (GFC). If you’d like to donate to The Global Fund for Children to support their work in South Africa and beyond, visit their website or add a donation at check-out when making an online purchase from Tea Collection!

A child at the Teboho Trust, a GFC grantee partner in Soweto, South Africa. Teboho Trust makes sure orphans and other vulnerable children get the support they need to succeed in school–sometimes that means going to school on the weekend to stay ahead! But the hard work pays off: last year, 100 percent of the students were promoted to the next grade level. Congratulations, kids!

What is the major need in the South Africa region at the moment?

According to our partners in the field, the major need is to systematically and practically promote social inclusion and improvement in the education system, especially at the early-childhood and elementary stages.

There is also a major skills shortage in South Africa—a significant number of youth have not received relevant education or acquired the appropriate skills to be competitive in South Africa’s job market. To that end, development of small businesses, social enterprises, and community entrepreneurship is another area that needs reengineering and support.

What’s something special about South Africa that most Americans do not know?

Perhaps what many people are not aware of is that migration is an integral part of South African history and its present reality, and that cities like Johannesburg owe their existence to migrant laborers. Also, in spite of the country’s extreme levels of poverty compared to the United States, South Africans come together and make efforts to support one another.

More of the students from the Saturday Academy run by Teboho Trust.

What are some games that the kids like to play in South Africa?

Most boys in Africa are passionate about soccer, which they often play in school or on practically any field they can find. The same is true in South Africa, where boys make their own soccer balls out of rolled, stuffed, and string-tied plastic bags. Kids also make their own toys, such as cars made out of scrap metal and wire, which they often play with on the sidewalk.

Young girls in South Africa play skipping, clapping, and jumping games. One favorite game for girls is jumping through and over elastic bands made from old pantyhose. At school, girls often play netball because equipment for this game is usually available on the playground.

How is playing different in South Africa from playing in America?

The average American kid plays games on computers, tablets, iPods, and video game consoles like Wii and Xbox. There is also a strong culture of play at amusement parks such as Walt Disney World, Six Flags, and Busch Gardens during warm months and in warmer states like Florida and California.

Kids in South Africa, especially those who are part of the populations GFC serves, do not have easy access to technology, are unfamiliar with “gaming” as a form of recreation, and also do not have access to playground equipment or amusement parks. They improvise by creating innovative toys made out of scrap materials and leftover fabric. They often do not have designated play areas and resort to playing on sidewalks and in empty fields.

But kids in the United States and in South Africa are perhaps more similar than they are different—they all love to play, have fun, and make mischief.

Stay tuned for the rest of our interview with Emmanuel later this week—he’ll tell us about Chipo, a South African boy served by one of GFC’s grantees. Emmanuel also shares his own understanding of Ubuntu.

 

February 3, 2013

Through the Eyes of Children

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Cathy and her family traveled to Zimbabwe this winter to visit family. Cathy is a teacher who took leave from her position during the birth of her twins. When her children were toddlers, she filled her time by acting as a founding parent of a charter initiative to open Birchtree Charter School, a Waldorf-inspired school in her  hometown of Palmer, Alaska. Since the school’s opening in fall 2010, she has acted as the treasurer on the Academic Policy Committee. We outfitted Cathy’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part three of their adventure.

travel with kids

I’m often asked if I believe there is true benefit in traveling abroad with young children. Will they remember their experiences? Couldn’t we simply take them to any beach or pool and they’d have an equally fantastic time? My answer – well, yes and no. Children are typically quite perceptive and are often more cognizant than we assume. Sure, my children love any beach at any time, yet my motivation for taking them abroad and exposing them to new cultures, beliefs, and attitudes is primarily because I believe that these experiences broaden perspectives in children (and adults).  Through each and every traveling adventure, we are challenged with all that is new and different.

travel with kids

So, what do we do with all the newness?  How do we process it both during the trip and after- to extend our understanding and to ensure that the experience of traveling abroad does not end when we unpack our suitcases and settle, once again, into our daily lives? Like many travelers, our family takes photos, utilizes travel journals, and we purchase works of art that transport us back to our time abroad.  These mementos enable us to deepen reflections and observations once home.

Travel with Kids

On our latest adventure through Southern Africa, we decided it was time for our children to take a more active role in documenting their experiences in order to help solidify their individual memories and give them an avenue for sharing our trip with others. To help with the documentation endeavor, we provided each of our six year old twins as well as our six year old niece with a camera. The cameras were given well in advance of our departure to ensure that our children knew how to use them and be responsible for general care. Additionally, a blank journal, colored pencils, watercolors, and crayons were provided to allow freedom in documenting daily experiences through stories, words, or simply drawings.

travel with kids

Watching the documentation process throughout the trip was a fascinating experience.  When happening upon large African beetles, we would have predicted running and screaming from our children, but found that they chose to photograph collect, analyze, and draw these strange creatures. Massive thunderstorms, which are rare in Alaska, were also documented with photos and later drawn with great detail. Our children drew pictures of an African woman transporting a fifty pound load on her head. They painted a double rainbow over Victoria Falls, and pictures of elephants and giraffes filled their SD cards. No doubt, these kids were recognizing an abundance of unique stimuli.

travel with kids

Now that we have returned home, our children are working to turn their photos into books, and have enjoyed sharing both the pictures drawn, stories written, and photos taken with friends, classmates, and family. With each sharing, I’m certain our children deepen their memories of this adventure.

As we’ve begun to unpack our memories and experiences, we recollect the many differences along the way; weather patterns, food, dress, language, customs, and routines- that were very different from those in our daily lives. Yet, we find the differences both curious and fascinating. Our children have begun to recognize that differences are neither good nor bad, but always mentally stimulating. Perhaps, they are also recognizing the commonalities we have as humans and that we can work to respect differences and learn from one another. And perhaps, we can use our broadened perspectives in our daily lives.

travel with kids

February 1, 2013

Road Tripping Through Southern Africa

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Cathy and her family traveled to Zimbabwe this winter to visit family. Cathy is a teacher who took leave from her position during the birth of her twins. When her children were toddlers, she filled her time by acting as a founding parent of a charter initiative to open Birchtree Charter School, a Waldorf-inspired school in her  hometown of Palmer, Alaska. Since the school’s opening in fall 2010, she has acted as the treasurer on the Academic Policy Committee. We outfitted Cathy’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure.

travel with kids

Three six year olds, four adults, one Toyota Prado and a three-week 2,100 mile road trip through Zimbabwe and Mozambique- that was our plan. Trepidation? Lots of it- I couldn’t help wondering if this was not our best idea. Yet, we were excited about spending time with my brother and his family, who had recently relocated to Harare, Zimbabwe. What we knew for certain was that we are not package tour travelers- we wanted to explore on our own as much as possible. Car travel would allow us maximum freedom for exploration.

Happily, I report, that not only did we survive, we thrived. In fact, the trip turned out to be one of our very best vacations- one that will shape our thoughts for years to come. What we learned along the way is that not only is road tripping with young children possible, it’s a fantastic way to explore at your own time and pace. Below are a few tips that guided our daily experiences.

Put the right people in the car: If traveling with others, choose your travel partners wisely. Talk clearly about expectations for the trip. For us, this part was simple. We’ve traveled with my brother and his family for years. We tend to like to experience travel in the same way and truly enjoy each other’s company.

travel with kids

Engage everyone in the plan: Should we do one very long drive today and get to the beach or spend two shorter days in the car and stop along the way? Questions such as these posed to our six year old travelers allowed them to feel a part of the decision-making and be active participants in the journey.

travel with kids

Rise early: For us, getting an early start to the day was essential. Departing by 5am on our driving days enabled us to make the most of daylight hours while the kids slept through the first several hours of the trip. Getting an early, early start to the day was also wise as it gave us more time to deal with the unexpected: road conditions, police stops, frolicking baboons, detours, and getting lost a time or two.

Sing often and reinstate those old car games: Music was a part of each of our days. Given the holiday season, Christmas tunes were at the top of our list, as were Shona songs. Additionally, We asked our children to prepare a holiday concert for us. Each child chose a favorite song, taught it to the others, and developed choreography as needed. Tried and true car games also worked to engage us for hours. What better time to play I Spy than on road trip in Africa?

Nourishment: Who could know how much kids can eat during the course of a single drive? We kept a cooler fully stocked at all times, so that we wouldn’t have to engage in time consuming sit down meals. However, roadside vendors did fill the inquisitive palate from time to time. Roasted cashews, piri piri chicken and fresh mangos were exquisite local fare readily available through a rolled down window.

travel with kids

Get out of the car: Make time for tree climbing or other out of car experiences. Sanity is much more easily maintained when recognizing that children and adults need to move. Planned and unplanned stops to walk on the beach or take dip in the ocean reenergized even our most weary travelers.

Declare Moviepalooza: Vacation is the perfect time to loosen house rules a bit. In our home, TV and movies are permitted only on Friday and Saturday nights. Allowing our children to enjoy some movie time worked well for our longest travel days. Yes, they were missing some of the scenery for a few hours, but everyone can benefit from with a break from all the newness that surrounds us during a trip.

travel with kids

Once again, knowing how you enjoy traveling and planning with those that you know and trust is essential.  We included the kids as much as we could and let them know what was happening all along the way.  They knew it could take 1 hour or 6 hours at the border and that we would all do the best we could to make it fun and easy.  We also let them know that as soon as we got to a pool or the beach, no matter the time or weather, it was swim time.  Believe me there were hiccups – unexpected police stops, room mix ups, a dead motor on a boat that had just whisked us ten miles out to sea –  but, we survived by focusing on the best and laughing at the rest.

January 30, 2013

Making The Most Of Vacations Abroad

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Cathy and her family traveled to Zimbabwe this winter to visit family. Cathy is a teacher who took leave from her position during the birth of her twins. When her children were toddlers, she filled her time by acting as a founding parent of a charter initiative to open Birchtree Charter School, a Waldorf-inspired school in her  hometown of Palmer, Alaska. Since the school’s opening in fall 2010, she has acted as the treasurer on the Academic Policy Committee. We outfitted Cathy’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Time is always an issue when planning a trip overseas. How much time can the kids be away from school? Where can we travel to achieve maximum exposure, and once there how do we ultimately choose what we do?

Our home is gorgeous Alaska, but we relish any chance to escape the cold, dark winter environment. Many of our trips center around spending quality time with family and sharing our love of travel. Recently, we met up with my brother and his family who live in Zimbabwe.

Looking back, we found that incorporating a few simple things into our traveling routine improves our exposure and experiences.

1.     Educate ahead: We started our explorations of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Dubai months prior to our departure by reviewing maps and globes, learning about the animals we might encounter, and reading African folktales. Keeping on ongoing list of questions and predications about what we might experience helped focus our interests and potentially reduced culture shock.

travel with kids

2.     Learn some of the language- Simple phrases of hello, good-bye and thank you are fun for kids to learn and practice. In Zimbabwe, our children worked on counting to ten and singing a song in Shona, which became part of their Christmas concert performance. When the locals saw that we were trying to interact with their language and culture, they were inclined to open up so much more.

3.     Eat local- We set a goal to try something new at each meal such as crocodile and sadza. Keeping a list of new foods, how they tasted, and allowing, “it’s not my favorite” to be a reasonable response to a new dish provided a fun atmosphere for food exploration.

4.    Give back- We want to make sure that our children don’t ever leave a country with a resort view of the society.  One way we work to provide multiple perspectives of the country and people is to spend some time giving to others. On this trip, we visited a local orphanage. Our children, somewhat apprehensive at first, found that sharing the art of making paper airplanes was a bonding hit.

travel with kids

5.     Skip air travel and take to the road when possible: Our group learned much about Zimbabwe and Mozambique by taking the time to take to the roads. Experiencing police road blocks, pot holes, local markets and roadside food stands, gave us a better perspective of daily life for Southern Africans. You just can’t get the same perspective from 33,000 feet.

 

As we continue to ponder all that we saw and experienced, I can’t help but be thankful for the interactions we had along the way- Extended time with family, kind, generous and open individuals, animals galore, and breathtakingly beautiful venues!

travel with kids

January 25, 2013

The best sights to see in London and Wales

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Sandra, our data guru, shares her travel highlights in the unexplored parts of London and Wales.

Stonehenge

L- R. Stonehenge, the White Hare in Llandudno, Titern Abbey, and Bath.

My brother and I traveled to the UK at the end of December to sight-see and visit our grandma and
uncle in the south of Wales. Since we’ve both been to London before, we skipped the standard tourist
stuff and took a lot of day trips before heading to Wales. Here are a few highlights from our trip:

London. Royal Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the world, is a must see if you’re a ballet fan
or appreciate grace mixed with athleticism. Try to catch a performance with principal dancer Alina
Cojocaru.

Sightseeing tip: If you’ve been to London before and London Pass isn’t economical, Days Out Guide
offers 2 for 1 promotions with a valid travelcard from a rail station (must have the National Rail logo;
travelcards from London Underground won’t work) and it includes some attractions, such as the London
Eye, that aren’t covered by London Pass: http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london

Stonehenge. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and on my bucket list of things to see. The henge is roped
off so you can’t touch or wander among the stones unless you sign up for a special dawn/dusk viewing.
It was very cold and windy there so make sure to wear lots of layers if you visit in the winter!

Bath. Who doesn’t want to see the city where Jane Austen’s characters go to recuperate? Ok maybe
just me. The city of Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has the only hot springs in the UK.
We took a tour of the Bath Abbey Towers (hilarious yet informative tour of the history of the abbey),
explored the Roman Baths, sampled the spring water at the Pump Room (tastes like warm iron, gross),
and ended the day soaking in the thermal waters at Thermae Bath Spa.

Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey is the first Cisterian monestary in Wales and inspired William
Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” and Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s
poem “Tears, Idle Tears.” The surrounding Wye Valley has beautiful scenic walks along the River Wye; a
perfect diversion while waiting for the next bus back to Chepstow!

Llandudno. Llandudno is the largest seaside resort in Wales and has a Victorian promenade and the
longest pier in Wales. The town has loose ties to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland as Alice Liddell, the
“real Alice,” spent her summers there. Most attractions are closed in the winter, so after walking along
the promenade and pier, we searched for Alice in Wonderland statues scattered around the town (there
are four: Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts).

January 20, 2013

Explore London with Brooke

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Brooke, our amazing Store Marketing guru, took a getaway trip to London with her husband.

Big Ben in London.

You can’t miss Big Ben when visiting London.

It’s been at least 2 and ½ years since we’ve had couple time for longer than a couple of hours…alone..no kids…no diapers…no nap schedules to work around. It was time to get away and for us to be kids again.  We have two girls and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law generously volunteered their weekends.  We definitely owe them one or maybe two.

Honestly we could have gone anyway (even into Boston), but it was magical to be across the pond (on an island of sorts) and somewhere my husband Josh had never been – London, England.

After hopping the overnight flight, we arrived to a rainy, cold day…this picture pretty much sums it up:

A happy couple in London.

Notice the grey skies in the background.

Instead of wallowing or going to take naps (which would have been a treat all in itself!), we hit the department stores because they are such a wonder overseas.  I definitely recommend popping into Harrods, House of Fraser, and Topshop.  They have food halls, amazing displays and the hippest fashions – things that will be popular here in a year or so!

This was also the perfect day for a bus tour around the city – both to get oriented and to take a rest, and also stay out of the rain. The guide was great and super enthusiastic. We got to see all things quintessential London, and also got to stop for some fish and chips (with mashed peas of course!) and then on the Tate Modern museum.

Tower of London on a cold December day

The Tower of London has been standing since the 11th century.

The mix of super historic (Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral) with the modern city of London really was striking, and on top of it all – the city was all dressed up for Christmas.

House of Fraser decked in holiday cheer.

We loved how the House of Fraser went all out to deck the halls.

December 28, 2012

Vi Ses Senare Scandinavia!

Highlights from Nordic 2012

It’s that time of year again to say goodbye to our cozy home we have found in destination Nordic.  Thank you for all the wonderful memories, bright colors, and lessons on biking.  We’ve learned a lot from our trip and hope you have too! Finland, Sweden, and Denmark have taught us to notice the beauty in everything from nature, furniture, to the stars shining in the night sky.

December 20, 2012

Discover the World Tree of Hope

The World Tree of Hope decorates San Francisco’s City Hall.  Since 2006, the Rainbow World Fund (RWF) has encouraged individuals to inscribe wishes of peace and hope on 7,000 paper cranes that adorn a 25 foot tree.  Over the years, the tree has come to symbolize hope for the future.  It has evolved into a global symbol that has come to represent different cultures, sexual orientations, spiritual beliefs, and points of view.  If you could wish for something, what would you wish for?  Share with us on Tea’s Facebook.

San Francisco's World Tree of Hope

What’s your wish this year?

Cranes inscribed with wishes for a brighter future.

Closeup of the cranes.

Images courtesy of My Modern Met.

 

December 10, 2012

Cultural Connections: Holiday Horses

Horses have played a major role in the development of all cultures, maybe because they proved reliable creatures and friends. For the past three holiday seasons, we have featured horses on our girls’ tees. Take a trip down memory lane with us.

1. Old World Hungary Pony inspired by Hungarian reverse appliqué Christmas ornaments for tea’s Fall 2010 collection

2. Modern Mexico Flying pony inspired by Mexican alebrijes Fall 2011 collection.

3. Motif from Swedish Dala horse for tea’s current Nordic Design Collection. (image credit: ebay) Check out the Folk Sparkle girls’ tee.

We made a printable coloring page so you can create your own holiday horse ornaments!