So the day finally came on 10th November for my trip with World Vision to see my sponsor child Alyahaji in a rural community of Kisiriri in Tanzania. I had been so excited since I had been invited to go and apparently there were over 75 people who applied and only 8 of us were chosen. I want to dedicate this blog it to the lovely people who supported me by helping me raise £500 to buy a beehive and bee-keeper training for the parents of the children in order to give them another form of income to support their families.
Many people are skeptical about the money raised by big charities but I left the UK with an open mind and came back with the firm knowledge that World Vision are an amazing charity whose number one priority is caring for children and families.
So I thought I’d just diary some of my highlights of the trip and what I’d learnt.
You certainly had to have stamina for this trip. Long journeys in jeeps, sometimes through very rough terrain, but each day was full of the most amazing sights and sounds plus the great conversations with other members of the group, meant we hardly noticed. We stayed in a very nice hotel in Arusha about an hour from the airport on the first night before a 5 hour journey to Singida and another great hotel on the shores of Lake Singida for our daily trips out into the rural areas. A beautiful sunrise was made even more lovely by the amazing flamingos on the lake that flew in there every morning for breakfast.
World Vision Kirisiri Area Development Programme
Meeting the fantastic people running the programme was the first highlight. Everyone was so welcoming and had a wonderful special handshake, big smile and warm friendly eyes. They gave us the most delicious lunches and even bought a birthday cake for one of our group Angie whose birthday it was on the first day. They had a wonderful tradition of cutting the cake and the person whose birthday it was then fed everyone with a piece of cake which made us all laugh. A great introduction to the customs of Tanzania.
We learnt that the money we pay monthly not only goes to support our sponsored child but collectively helps with teaching the communities including of course the beehives. As we all know bees are very important and help pollinate the flowers to conserve the environment plus provide honey, wax and glue. The local people didn’t know how to keep bees and World Vision bought in professionals to teach them.
World Vision’s Work
World Vision work with and support communities for a period of about 15 years teaching people how to build up different projects in order to sustain themselves. We met many of the groups including fishing, nutrition, clay pot making, bee keeping, irrigation projects providing safe water for drinking and watering their crops, plus investment in schools.
World Vision are passionate about protecting vulnerable children and help them become healthier by giving them opportunities they would not otherwise have. They have also set up two dispensaries which we visited including one where a lady had just had a baby that morning and was quite happy for us to go in and say hello. However medical supplies are very limited and the conditions are pretty bad; there are only 4 staff for 88,000 people – and we moan about the NHS!
Of course the main highlight of the week was visiting my sponsor child Alyhaji in a very rural area of Kisiriri. We had split into groups so I went to visit Alyhaji with three of my group including the driver and the translator Modest from the ADP office. Alyhaji was at school when we arrived so I was greeted by his parents Athuman and Amina and his sister Safina who is 17 and helping her mother in the kitchen and little Rehema who is 4. Shortly Alyhaji arrived back and he was just as he looked in the picture. The family were very poor and their room was too small for us all to sit in so we sat outside and they showed me Alyhaji’s school books – his writing was very neat and he regularly got good marks. His father said he bought and sold different crops including soya, maize, beans and millet and was hoping to get a new plot of land to build a bigger house. Modest said he would liaise with the government as he would probably be eligible for a grant for this as he and his family were in need. Athuman was disabled from polio but he still walked miles to do his job – such determination and strength. Alyhaji’s uniform had seen better days but they were all very smiling and although shy at first soon warmed up. After I’d looked at Alyhaji’s school books I gave them my presents. Rehema had a ‘my little pony’ toy but she wasn’t really sure what to do with it so just held it. I gave Alyhahi’s mother one of my aromatherapy bracelets which she put on and then it was Alyahaji’s turn. His little face lit up when he saw the football and T-shirt and shorts and then we all had a photo taken. It was such a lovely moment. Alyhaji had sent me a picture he’d drawn of him with a football and now he had a real one; then all his friends came round and to try it out. My overriding feeling of the visit was that despite their material poverty and the father’s disability simple gifts gave them pleasure and you can see this in their smiles – I think we have a lot to learn. Even though they were so poor they wanted to give me a live chicken – a standard gift in Tanzania; also they would be very offended if I’d declined! Luckily Modest managed to save the day by saying that I couldn’t take the chicken on the plane so could they look after it for me. It was so lovely to meet my sponsor child and now it will seem more real when I get letter from him and I guess he’ll feel the same.
I went on two other visits with Gaynor to visit her sponsor child Emanuel and with Angie visiting Reheema. Both were amazing and gave us further insights into living in rural Tanzania. They were both given live chickens and we ended up bringing them back to the ADP office who put them in a pen at their offices. However the next day they’d gone and I think they were taken home and unfortunately ended up on the table! Being an animal lover this was one of the difficult things to come to terms with but it is important to understand and respect the culture; certainly they only eat what they need and health wise it is of course all fresh.
With all the journeys we did to get to the various projects we saw a lot of fascinating scenery and all along the road people were selling their produce including maize onions, chickens, bananas. Many women carried things on their heads and all had great posture because of it. It was just before the beginning of the rainy season so the rivers were completely dry. Interestingly enough as we were driving along on the last day and we saw an unexplained isolated dust storm that our driver said was fore-telling rain – sure enough the next day it rained. We also drove alongside part of the Rift Valley and saw some amazing rock formations. Lots of people lived in small brick huts along the route but some of them had added a tin roof and these were mushrooming up everywhere – must be noisy in the rainy season!
One of my favourite moments was sitting in a village on the shores of Lake Latsaka after a 2 hour journey over very rough terrain and being welcomed by all the local people from the fishing group. It was very hot but there was lovely calm and peaceful atmosphere with beautiful wide eyed children staring at us – many of them had never seen white people before so we were certainly an oddity! I looked up and flying overhead were 8 beautiful pink flamingos in formation followed by a large eagle – it was like being in a beautiful dream! We then walked down to the shore and watched the wooden boats made from tree trunks going out and catching fish which they sold at the market straight from the boats. I could have stayed there for ages as it was so peaceful and beautiful and would have been a great place for a retreat. The pace of life is slow and it was wonderful to be part of it. The group then gave us a delicious fresh fish lunch.
Children and Schools
Everywhere you went were the most beautiful children with big smiling faces and they played with the most simple of toys. For example one game consisted of several stones a bit like fives throwing one in the air and moving others to the side. Gaynor’s child Emanuel was kept happy and laughing for ages by being tickled with a tree branch! Another group of children at the fishing village were entertained with bubbles and their happy laugh and big smiles were so lovely to see. Coming back to the preparations for Christmas and all the toys that our children have made me think who is happier? I think we have a lot to learn from them. Certainly at the school all the children were really attentive and apparently there is a 100% attendance rate – they were all keen to attend school and Alyhaji wanted to be a teacher and Angie’s sponsor child Reheema wanted to be a doctor. They definitely have a fighting spirit that we could all learn from. The teachers were all pleased to see us and proud to show us what the children had learned. One of the schools had 408 children and 7 teachers and we worry about overcrowded classrooms! The children in the picture belonged to the members of the nutrition group and had all been given rattles by one of our group Angie and they just loved them. The little girl in blue was actually 8 years old but as you can see was disabled. Thanks to World Vision and their initiatives she had survived and was loved and cared for by her parents. She was one of the lucky ones as many children do not survive because of the poor medical facilities and lack of medicine.
AND LASTLY …..
One of the biggest highlights was the lovely group of people on the trip so thanks to Katie from World Vision for being such a great guide, Nina also from World Vision who was always there for everyone, Chris, Angie, Charles and Sally, Kevin and Marian for all the fun and laughs. I learnt to live in the present and enjoy every moment and didn’t want it to end. In fact we all got on so well we’re planning reunion in January and maybe a return visit in a couple of years.