“You’re sitting on the dirt floor in your classroom and you hear a few heavy raindrops start to fall on the thatch roof above you. There are no desks in this room just a table for the teacher and an old blackboard on the wall. Slowly the rain gets heavier and louder. It becomes so loud now that it’s hard for you to hear what your teacher is saying. You notice that the rain water starts to seep under the walls of the classroom. Now there are pools of water all around you – mixing with red earth to become mud. It’s making your legs and clothes wet and cold. It’s hard to keep your attention and to focus on the lesson.”

Nikki Lovell has us all, the 14 participants in our recent CAS workshop, sitting on the floor of a comfortable air-conditioned classroom in Prince Alfred College. Our eyes are closed. She has us imagining that we’re sitting in class in the remote village of Namwanda in Uganda. She’s narrating a context for her experiences there as a volunteer health teacher.

It’s a clever simulation. She’s a ‘special‘ teacher.

There’s no fuss or pretence about Nikki. She will claim that she’s not any better, greater or different to what is usual for a young lady pursuing a degree in law and languages. She loves being outdoors. Riding her bike, climbing a rock face or a challenging wall are her favorite pastimes. However when she’s talking about her project “One Village” her face lights up. It’s a cause that she’s passionate about.

In the space of a few years this young lady has done some remarkable things – she’s built a pre-school, established a scholarship scheme, started a sustainable agriculture program, and initiated a curriculum for aids awareness.

Nikki was an invitee and contributor, a special guest, to a recent CAS workshop in Adelaide. She is not a CAS alumni – she pursued the D of E Award scheme when she was in high school. But when she heard more about CAS she confided to us, “I really wish I could have done that at school.”

Nikki denies this ‘special’ tag, but by definition this adjective does fit her – she’s good and precious, different to what is considered usual.

So on a special day for women, International Women’s Day 2011, a day dedicated to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide, I nominate Nikki for your special attention and I invite you to do 3 things : –

* Read this young woman’s story, and reflect on her achievements.

* Assign your students to do the same, and invite them to find ways to support Nikki’s work.

* Contact Nikki, or Tim Agnew @ PAC, and find out how to use “One Village” as a case study in connecting geography lessons and CAS in your own school.