Last week, Pauline Brown, Volunteer Coordinator for Kilimanjaro Community Support Project, wrote about her “Tanzanian Experience”. This week, Pauline tells us about some of the personal initiatives she took whilst in Tanzania last year.
MY PERSONAL PROJECTS
As I have been a volunteer and a Co-ordinator in Tanzania for many years, I know before I go out that I will encounter something that compels me to try and make a difference. In 2014, I completed two projects that, hopefully, fulfilled that brief.
The School Uniform Project:
Whilst I was visiting Arise School, listening intently to what Frank was telling me about his long held dream of opening a school in Sanya Juu and how that very school came into being, the over-riding philosophy of the school touched my heart. As well as taking fee-paying pupils, Arise also takes pupils whose families cannot afford to send their children to school. This is where ACE Charity steps in and finds caring individuals as sponsors who are prepared to fund a child’s education. At the time of my visit, I noticed that not all the children had a school uniform so, with the philosophy of ‘equality’ ringing in my head, I decided to make all the children equal. We sent for the tailor and, within the space of a month, all the children were dressed identically. To raise the children’s self-esteem which, in turn, gives them confidence and puts them on an equal footing with their peers, is no mean task but I think this project went a little way towards achieving that goal. Their faces were an absolute picture, their smiles said it all!
A New House for Josephine and family :
Whilst I was visiting Arise School with a couple of friends from the US, Marilyn and Susan, who have also volunteered regularly in Tanzania, I was alerted by Frank to a family who he was very concerned about and who he felt desperately needed help. Josephine is a single mum with seven children to care for. Josephine worked in the fields (with her 3 year old child strapped to her back) on a casual basis to provide food for her children. Two of the children were pupils at Arise school and Frank was concerned regarding their living conditions.
I went with Frank to their home and to say the condition of the house was ‘dire’ is a complete understatement. One older son works away from home but the remaining seven family members were sleeping on one single mattress which was only separated from the open fire kitchen by a torn half curtain. One side of the house had been completely washed away by the floods and the toilet they used was in an extremely dangerous state of repair.
I was completely shocked by the experience but there was no time for emotion or sentiment – I had to think on my feet. I asked Frank to get a quote to rebuild the house and give them extra bedrooms and a new toilet. However, as always in Tanzania, this turned out to be a completely unrealistic quote. I knew I had to think sensibly, something I’m definitely not known for doing! I always seem to think with my heart and not my head which is very easily done when you are staring abject poverty in the face. This was not easy but I decided I had to go ahead with this build because walking away was just not an option for me.
I decided to build three bedrooms to give Josephine (the mama) her own space and, also, to give the only boy in the family who was almost reaching puberty a bedroom of his own. Beds were commissioned made of metal so that termites could not damage them and I bought mattresses sheets, pillows and mosquito nets. Olivia and Hannah kindly bought the blankets for all the beds. The day before I left Tanzania was the day the family were able to move into their new bedrooms. They were completely overwhelmed by the experience and so was I but it was so exciting. The pictures were taken before the toilet was completely finished and before the internal walls were painted because the plaster needed to dry out.
When I returned to the UK, I decided to fund a food parcel of green vegetables and fruit for the family every week because the youngest children were considered malnourished by the Doctor at the dispensary.
In February, I was sent a picture by Ron of Josephine and three of her girls which completely reduced me to tears. This picture bears absolutely no resemblance to the family I met last July – the change has been literally incredible in such a short period of time! My heartfelt thanks go to Ima, the builder, who worked so hard on the house despite having a road accident; to Frank who works tirelessly for his community and who project managed the build; to Salome, Frank’s wife, for taking Josephine under her wing, teaching her basic health and hygiene skills and purchasing the fruit and vegetables every week, and to Ace Charity for facilitating the funding which allows me peace of mind and has enabled me to give the whole family the helping hand they deserved.
Josephine is a very good mum. She now has a permanent job at Arise School helping the cook and cleaning the classrooms. She keeps her new house very neat, clean and tidy and her children are a credit to her. Now, her youngest child is also an Arise pupil thanks to Olivia. THIS PROJECT HAS BEEN BY FAR THE MOST AMBITIOUS ONE I HAVE DONE TO DATE AND BY FAR THE MOST REWARDING. Thanks go to everyone. I couldn’t have done it without you and…………………………………………… WATCH THIS SPACE !!!!!”
Thank you, Pauline, for all your endeavours which have made such a difference to the children at Arise School and their families.