One Groves High School teacher not only took a break from school this summer, but a break from Michigan, the United States, technology and all the comforts of home.
Bonnie Bartnick, a Groves science teacher, spent her summer in Kenya with the non-profit Africa Inside, where she worked with young people and donated more than 60 pounds of art supplies to a Nairobi orphanage.
"Taking a trip like this is life-changing," Bartnick said. "To see first-hand people living with no electricity or running water, without even a garden, makes you stop and think about how much we need to live."
"Most of us have too much of everything and not enough connection to the Earth," she added. "Visiting places like Kenya or Tanzania reconnects us to our beginnings and changes the way we look at our own lives and what we perceive to be important."
While in Kenya, Bartnick volunteered at an orphanage in Nairobi, donating a 61-pound duffle bag full of art supplies, many of which were donated by Groves parent Caroline Taylor. Bartnick worked with other volunteers to supervise three art projects at the orphanage.
"The children worked so intently, so joyously and the experience was the highlight of the trip," Bartnick said. "I think the biggest difference between the kids here and there is the availability of supplies and even schools. There are many street children in Nairobi. The lucky ones are in an orphanage where they at least get an education."
According to Bartnick, going to school for children in Nairobi isn't a chore — it's an opportunity.
"The students I met were so eager to learn and they would stare in disbelief at the abundance of materials we have to work with," she said.
Getting back to nature and giving back are part of Bartnick's life, whether she's volunteering abroad or at home. At Groves, Bartnick is the advisor for the Groves Green Club, which harvests hundreds of pounds of food for local shelters every year. Bartnick has also been integral in helping Groves achieve Evergreen Status through Michigan Green Schools.
The trip with Africa Inside was Bartnick's second to Africa. In 2006, she traveled to the continent on a Jane Goodall-sponsored trip.
"This unique ecosystems and animals are fascinating (in Africa)," Bartnick said. "The pastoral people that still live in a manner that has so little environmental impact is incredble. And there is something about being in undeveloped place — no cell phone, no electricity, no computers or microwaves — that is so peaceful. It does something to you that is restorative."