Marla Kapperud is a business consultant who works with business owners along the broad continuum of operations and finance. She's passionate about working with entrepreneurs in her work life. She is passionate about travel, reading, and cultural experiences when she is not working.

I traveled to Africa in September 2016, spending time in Zambia (6 days), Malawi (10 days), and South Africa (14 Marla and Theresa smallerdays). Zambia was a personal trip to visit a friend of ACC founder Henry Bromelkamp. Malawi and South Africa were part of the ACC Learning Tour.

Why did I go? Simply put, because the opportunity presented itself. I love to travel. I especially love what I call cultural travel, adventure travel, educational travel. With all the elements of this trip, I quickly saw that this trip could be a trip of a lifetime. In what other trip would I experience a wedding in Malawi as an invited guest? Interact with hundreds of children in their schools? Meet street boys and reformed street boys in Lusaka? Visit museums documenting apartheid with tour guides who lived through it, surviving the dehumanizing, life-destroying tactics employed by the government? Meet people engaged in the mission to educate children - principals, teachers, Rotarians, concerned, community-minded citizens? And to visit in September, Heritage Month in South Africa, was an amazing, added bonus. Every school we visited presented an hour cultural program: teachers clad in their native dress, each class performing song, dance, solo dramatic recitations. During our five day stay in Eshowe in the heart of Zululand, I remember thinking, "can it get any better than this?” Then we headed off to the next part of the day that added yet another amazing experience. So why did I go? I recognized the potential of the trip and was not disappointed.

I've also been asked about a chief take away. Again, with a 30 day trip, it's impossible to answer. I have a montage of images in my head. Do you have five hours?
If pressed, though, the primary image is one of eyes. Eyes of school children excited to learn. Eyes of young children well cared for. Eyes of secondary students filled with promise. These eyes shine with hope and optimism. Eyes of middle-age and older adults engaged in life and their passion for making things better. These eyes may be care-worn, reflecting years of hard work amid challenging circumstances, and yet they radiate commitment to a better future for their country. The eyes of the street boys in Lusaka? They are etched in my memory as dead, unseeing, hopeless. Some boys are orphans, some have been abandoned by their parents. They have no stable, loving environment in which to flourish, so they survive on the streets with help from alcohol and drugs. And their eyes reflect that.

Africa Classroom Connection, in partnership with Eshowe Community Action Group and Books For Africa, is making a difference in these children's lives. I am privileged and grateful to have witnessed it.

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