Next week we return to Tanzania for three weeks to see progress and developments at Arise School. We will also be spending a few days in Moshi, the local town, before making the long and dusty journey by road to Dar es Salaam. In both Moshi and Dar, we will be seeing the older young people we support in education and catching up with their news. In particular, whilst in Dar, we will be joining one of them, Annastasia, to celebrate her graduation with her.
It is hard to believe that this time eight years ago, we were planning our very first trip out to Tanzania at the beginning of January 2008. I (Sue) had just retired. Ron was already retired. Never having had the chance of a gap year at the start of our careers, we decided to take a step into the unknown and go to volunteer in an orphanage for three months. We were also able to participate in several food and medical outreaches. How that first experience has changed our lives. We never dreamed that eight years on we would have our own charity!
We have lost count of the number of return trips we have made. There is certainly something about Africa that gets under the skin. The sound of music blaring, the smell of woodsmoke, the bright colours, the welcome and kindness of the people and, not least, the smiles of the children. They have so little and yet they are always so happy.
Initially, our return trips were to see the children we had cared for. In particular, to let them know that, although we were no longer living with them, we still cared about them and had not forgotten them. Then, in 2010, we set off to Kenya for another three months, to help to set up a new children’s home there. Another brilliant experience! Having started my career as a a child care social worker nearly forty years before taking children into care in Liverpool, I never dreamed that I would finish it in rural Kenya, sitting under a mango tree, taking children into care there with someone translating into Swahili!
Over the years, we funded various small projects in both Tanzania and Kenya. All were related to the education or training of children and young people. Education – something we take for granted but which is still denied to so many in the developing world. Invariably, their only opportunity of a route out of poverty. We quickly learned that even a small amount of money can make a vast difference to what can be achieved.
And then, our trip to Tanzania in 2012 when Frank took us to meet his family and shared his dream with us – to build an English speaking school for those children in the small, rural community on the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro where he had been raised and his parents still lived. For many of them and their families, struggling to eke a living, education was still nothing but a dream.
The rest is history! Arise Community School first opened its doors in January 2013 with one classroom, one teacher and 11 children. There are now three classrooms, four teachers and 119 children. The fourth classroom is, hopefully, on schedule to be ready for use this coming January. We are so looking forward to seeing everyone there again – the children and staff, Frank, his wife Salome, their family and all in the local community who have embraced the school as their own – their school for their children.
Africa’s Children in Education (ACE) received charity status in July 2014. Running it from our kitchen table is a full time job – we thought we had retired once! But, with the tremendous support of all our sponsors and donors, ACE is going from strength to strength.
Thank you to everyone for helping us to make this possible and for giving these children their chance of an education. Please watch this space for our “Tales from Tanzania” over the next few weeks!