The Student Connection
The Student Connection

The Student Connection

HU Student Teaches Prisoners' Children in Tanzania

A member of the Maasai tribe poses with Thomas and shares a smile.

A member of the Maasai tribe poses with Thomas and shares a smile.


Thomas shares not only knowledge but hugs with the children in Tanzania

Thomas shares not only knowledge but hugs with the children in Tanzania.


One of the students, Praygod, learns the alphabet from Thomas' teaching

One of the students, Praygod, learns the alphabet from Thomas' teaching.

Hampton University Junior Ivana Thomas, from Durham, N.C., traveled to Tanzania, East Africa this past summer. She worked in a prison in Tanzania teaching English to prisoners' children.

"The way prisons are set up in Tanzania are different from America's prisons," said Thomas. "Prisoners don't have to be separated from their family, which emphasizes how family is very important to the African culture."

Thomas shared how teaching the children gave her a sense of purpose and excitement. She credits a lot of her personal growth with the relationships she developed with the African children.

During her free time, she immersed herself in the African culture by visiting Maasai and Chagga tribes, hiking, going on safaris, taking Swahili classes, and meeting with local health and educational leaders about policy issues in Tanzania. Because Thomas saw Tanzanian policy issues first hand, she has committed her life to becoming a public servant. Upon her return to HU, she donated a computer for youth back in Tanzania, and has begun creating an app to help Swahili children learn English.

Thomas, a multi first place winner with the HU Forensics and Debate Team, said that although she's a psychology major, she took some computer science classes that will help her in creating this app.

"This was truly a life altering experience and I'm so glad that Professor Jamantha Watson [HU assistant professor and coach of HU Forensics & Debate Team] suggested that I travel abroad," said Thomas.

Gianina Thompson