“By definition, short-term missions have only a short time to ‘show a profit,’ to achieve, pre-defined goals. This can accentuate our American idols of speed, quantification, compartmentalization, money, achievement, and success. Projects become more important than people.” - Miriam Adeney
“After a short term team conducts a Bible study in one of these communities, the children stop attending the Bible studies of my organization. Our indigenous staff tell me that the children stop coming because we do not have all of the fancy materials and crafts that the short-terms teams have and we do not give away things like these teams do.” - Anonymous, “Short-term Missions Can Create a Long-term Mess”
Zimbabwe, March of 2012. I had just turned twenty years old and was in my sophomore year of college when I found myself (unexpectedly) in Africa for the first time. And like most who have traveled to Africa for work, vacation, or a missions experience, I was enthralled with the culture and the resilience and compassion of its people.
I couldn’t go back to normal life upon my return to America. I was stuck thinking about the incomprehensible hospitality and how it was dichotomous to the challenges that Zimbabwe faced each day(the food scarcity, the orphan crisis, and the political turmoil, to name just a few). And that is, in part, how 2SOL was formed. The beginning of our history in development work was riddled in ignorance, and although our passion was enough to drive us, it wasn’t enough to ensure excellence or responsibility.
I grew up with a church ideology that valued swooping in and “saving the people of developing countries,” rather than striving to have interactions that were mutually beneficial and healthy for all parties involved. I didn’t understand that foreign aid, although often well-intentioned, misses the most important parts: the relationship building, the empowering of local communities, a deep knowledge of cultural contexts. Furthermore, I didn’t understand that we as Americans sometimes like to project our own solutions onto problems we don’t fully comprehend. Doing this hands-on work in Zimbabwe has made it impossible for us not to engage with the fraught history of “helping” in Africa, and our learning there has grown in direct proportion to our willingness to listen to those who know the needs far better than we do.
Here at 2 Seconds Or Less, we have no other choice than to believe in the power of transformational missions experiences, and we’re grateful to have learned myriad lessons about ourselves and the world as early as we did, before our framework fully solidified. Because of this, we are incredibly passionate about offering these same opportunities to local students in a way that is organized, purposeful, and designed to grow them into intentional leaders for their own communities. For the last half a decade, our goal has been to push students to think more critically about the Westernized mission mindset, and give them an opportunity to learn about and experience “service” in a more holistic and transformational way.
2SOL’s Social Justice Residency is a six month home training, followed by a 14 day residency in Zimbabwe designed to develop social consciousness, knowledge, and skills. Through an action-reflection process, students are enabled to become change makers in their chosen fields. Although each trip is curated to meet the specific desires of the participants, its base level always focuses on development issues and practices, and the impact on marginalized communities and the environment. Students and community members alike are provided with tools to explore their collective struggles, analyze their history and current circumstances, and then experiment with inventing a new future together.
All of our experiences are carefully designed to fit the needs of specific student groups. Thus far, we’ve crafted programs for youth groups, college internships, after-school initiatives, and agricultural clubs.
Growth in agriculture has at least twice the potential impact of any other sector for reducing poverty worldwide.” - The World Bank
Our experience in agriculture is expansive, and during our agro focused trips, students will get a thorough and hands-on view about the similarities and differences between farming practices in America and in Zimbabwe. Specifically, members of our team have completed training at Heart Village, a Floridian institute that simulates a developing nation and teaches courses on sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, nutrition and food technology, cross cultural communications, and community development. Additionally, we’ve studied at Foundations for Farming, a Zimbabwean Initiative aimed at bringing transformation to individuals through productive use of the land. Our team overseas has degrees and certificates in community development, sustainability studies, and project monitoring and evaluation, and have been building their solid foundation and reputation in the communities for over ten years.
We love to partner with local FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapters because our missions are so intrinsically aligned. FFA’s motto, “Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve” succinctly summarizes 2SOL’s vision: “We aim to empower women and youth by educating them about best entrepreneurship and agricultural practices and engaging them in creating solutions to problems in order to serve their local and global communities.”
According to FFA, agricultural education aims to “engage students in the globalization of agriculture as the solution for...food safety…” We at 2SOL offer students the ability to utilize their agricultural skills to empower their peers across the world to change their communities through farming.
That said, if you are a student or a teacher looking for an exploratory way to expand upon your skills, we’d love to talk more about the opportunities we offer in tandem with our expeditions abroad.
Working with over 1000 entrepreneurs all over Zimbabwe provides our business students with a unique look inside how innovation occurs in times of economic crisis. During this residency program, students will meet and learn from dozens of world changers in all stages of scaling their businesses. They’ll have the opportunity to work alongside the community members, and complete lessons on marketing in rural Africa, resilience building, pivoting and local barriers, and other unique topics distinctive of the area.
This program has specifically been designed for churches and youth groups who want to explore the relationship between service and their faith. Lessons focus on the history of missions in Zimbabwe, and how church and religion affects the culture throughout the region. Furthermore, days start and end with devotionals that help students dig deeper into the bible and what it means for their personal walks with the Lord.
Our program was designed to help students seamlessly shift from a six month training module in the states to responsibly participating in development work abroad.
The modules covered at home are a blend of cultural and language immersion, the history of missions and development, teambuilding, and personal reflection. The individual modules covered are as follows:
Students will continue their lessons upon arriving in Zimbabwe, many of which will be taught by local leaders and entrepreneurs. Although each day is different, a typical schedule looks like this.
8 a.m.-Travel to project site
9 a.m. -1 p.m.-Work, learn, and build community at project site
1 p.m.-Lunch with community partners
2 p.m.-5 p.m. Animal sanctuary and sightseeing
5:30 p.m.- Return home
6 p.m.- Dinner and debrief/lesson
10 p.m.- Lights out
Our alumni have reported significant personal growth in the areas of leadership, empathy, adaptability to unfamiliar situations, and openness to other cultural viewpoints. At the trip's conclusion, they express feeling more connected to themselves and the rest of the world through a deepened understanding of what poverty means and how best to address it.
I wasn’t aware of how personal [development work] was before this…what I thought before was, maybe you give some money, do your work and go home, but this has been such an immersive, amazing experience to get to know these people. This project is important because not only do we work with people to get sustainable food, nutritious food, but we get to know them, and they teach us an incredible amount that make us more effective leaders. After this trip, I feel like a better person, like a more mature person, after experiencing so many new things here. (Noah, student)