I have worked in Tanzania before and this time I was in a different village within the same general area in central Tanzania. The village was called Ilongero and was about 1 to 2 hours by bus from Singida. It was the rainy season and the road just kept getting washed away. (40 mins in the dry season). Singida has grown so much since I was there 4 years ago. There are a lot more sealed roads and mobile phones have arrived in force. Sometimes before electricity in the villages.
My day usually started around 5am with the morning call to prayer which I used as my alarm clock. I was involved with teaching English at the secondary school, overseeing the building of a hostel for accommodation for girls at the school, and picking up on a chicken rearing project. I tutored English in the evenings – so long, busy days.
Teaching English was a bit daunting at first but the kids were really great. Classes ranged from 40 to 70 students with ages from 14 to 22. A diverse group with some really bright students. It was great when they started asking questions and interacting more. There were a few challenges with trying to explain different concepts in my very limited Kiswahili and trying to yell over the rain on the corrugated iron roof. I happened to take some coloured chalk with me, so that was a real winner from the start. There were about 600 students in the school and just 5 teachers. Students seemed to spend more time cleaning the school and grounds then attending classes.
The chickens arrived for the chicken rearing project towards the end of my time there. So I was involved with mainly preparation work, roster meetings and it was great to see chickens actually in the kibanda before I left. It was lovely working with the women and trying to get to know them and their stories a little more. They were so happy to see the chickens arrive at last. Just waiting for ‘mayai, mayai’ now. (Mayai – eggs!) The chickens should start laying within a month.
I asked a couple of the ladies what they thought they would gain from the project.
‘The profit that we can make from the project can help pay fees for our children, help buy clothes and uniforms and to improve our health through eggs and meat’ Amina Ihuecha
Ilongero itself was a friendly little village with the usual hospitality of the Tanzanians with so many people wanting me to visit and have a meal with them. This is a very important part of their culture. There were lots of little challenges like learning to cook on a little kerosene stove and finding my way around all the paths and shortcuts in the village with no signs. It was very frustrating at times especially dealing with Government departments. But I guess that is the same worldwide! My Kiswahili definitely needs some work. I loved shopping at the local market, learning who supplied what and when and spending time with the children from the disabled centre across from where I was staying.
After travelling onto Rwanda and having some contact with a lot of the bigger NGO’s I was even more proud and impressed with the grassroots work that is done by the RWDA and The Kanga Project. The projects are driven from the ground up, with community involvement keeping them running. I am already trying to work out when I can go back.