First Day of School

``Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.``
- Dr. Seuss

I stood in Gadi Village on the morning of September 5, 2016, looking through my tears at the beautiful faces surrounding me, and prayed for time to stop. I did not want that moment to end. I feel such a profound love for the people of Gadi Village that when I am there, it seems my heart will burst, and I do not want to leave.

I will never forget that morning. The smell of smoke. Cool shade generously proffered by the ancient village acacia. Mothers singing while they prepare morning meals or wash clothes by the well. Men greeting each other with a handshake. Anxious students giggling, some in their new purple uniforms. The bleat of a goat. An abundance of smiles. Small children chasing a chicken. Tears of gratitude and joy as I prepare to walk to the Village Schoolhouse for the first day of school.

I served in the U.S. Air Force from 1988 to 1992, and my father drove me from Tucson to Phoenix where we spent the night before I was to start my military career. The next morning I was bused to the airport, then flown to San Antonio to begin six weeks of basic training. Dad told me later that as he waved goodbye to me that morning, he thought to himself the next time he saw me, I would be a different man. And he was right. Few things will change you the way military basic training does.

As we made our way to the school, I remembered the words of my dad, and thought the same thing about the dear children walking next to me. That day marked a new beginning for them and they will be forever changed. Their futures will be dramatically altered by the opportunities that can only be provided by an education. My hope is that they will develop into mature and productive individuals making impactful contributions to their society.

On this trip to Malawi, a handful of close friends joined me. Phil Beebe, a gifted filmmaker, was one of these friends, as was JJ Stauffer, a talented photographer and Equitas supporter who is passionate about education. Phil produced an amazing film that tells the story of our work in Malawi, and JJ captured some beautiful photos from that first day of school. I hope you enjoy their imagery below. Thank you, Phil & JJ, for being so committed to our work in Malawi!

Steve Cook
steve@equitas.cc
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