An update on 2017’s activities

I feel like I have neglected this blog for far too long. Despite not posting, 2017 has been a busy year for projects in Tanzania and I’ll highlight some of them here. Thank you to all who have donated money – I have some very kind friends. Also, thank you to both Our Lady Queen of Heaven School in London and Ampleforth College in Yorkshire who have continued with their support.

As always, there is a pressing need for food. Tanzania has endured yet another drought and life is particularly hard for the villagers of Buigiri. I arranged for food to be distributed on a number of occasions. Here is a little video where one of the villagers gives thanks in Swahili, on behalf of his friends, for the assistance. The second video is a brief explanation in English about the first.

The number of children at the Blind School is growing. I have been involved with a program whereby a teacher visits rural communities to look for children with eye problems. The parents are then informed of the blind school and I take care of the various costs associated with getting the child to the school and established as a student. As a consequence of this, as well as other factors, there is a shortage of beds and children often have to share. I have provided a couple of bunk beds and a number of mattresses for the dormitories . I have also supplied a large number of school uniforms throughout the year for the pupils at the blind school as well as at other local schools.

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The blind children play a game called goalball. The attacking team throws the ball along the ground and the defending team has to prevent it from slipping past them and hitting the wall. Much like in blind football, where visually impaired athletes wear eye masks to ensure they have zero vision, the children wear the same masks to keep things fair. They compete against other Tanzanian blind schools but they have been held back by a lack of kit. A couple of years ago I repaired the potholes in the goalball pitch and this year I have supplied them with the kit they need, including the specialist balls, face masks and sports kit.

I have set up a number of small pig rearing projects. I’ve supplied 13 families with two piglets each. The hope is that when they are fully grown they can be sold for meat and make a healthy profit which can then be reinvested. This kind of project can be very risky though. When the only resource your family has is the pig in the garden, then when somebody falls ill the temptation is there to cash in on the livestock. Hopefully a handful of the projects work in the long term.

I have continued to support a student called Frank at university. I have sung his praises in previous posts, but he is a remarkable man from the village who has managed to excel academically in spite of his living conditions and the poor standard of local secondary education. He is now studying for an engineering degree in Dar es Salaam. He has a little over a year until graduation and then he will be in a great position to find a well-paid job and he can then support others from his community. Even as a student, he is involved in initiatives to improve the living standards in rural areas.

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One other area I have tried to focus on over the years is helping mothers start small businesses. I think it is important to empower the women in the community. They often carry out much of the hard work, yet they do not always control the family finances. On many occasions I have seen hungry families at home whilst the fathers are sat under a tree drinking homebrew. This year I have helped several women start businesses, such as opening small cafes (such as Esther in the photo below) or preparing snacks to sell in the market.

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There have also been a number of much smaller projects such as repairing houses, paying medical expenses, setting up an after-school English Club and supporting students at Primary school. One such student is Gaston, who has recently graduated and hopes to attend Secondary school in 2018.

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Running the Bristol 10K on behalf of Buigiri

I will be taking part in the Bristol 10K run in mid-May. This is a genuine challenge, as I have had to lose over 9 stone to ensure I am fit enough to run the entire course.

I’m raising money for three different causes, all of which can be found on my GoFundMe page.

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Assorted projects during 2015/16

It’s been a year since I returned from my last trip to Tanzania. Due to events in real life (aka now having a mortgage) I won’t be heading out in 2016. I am still in regular contact with many of the guys in the village though –Facebook and WhatsApp simplifies this hugely. Life is still tough for pretty much everyone. None more so than the elderly and disabled.

Thanks to donations from friends and from Our Lady Queen of Heaven School in London, I have been able to help out in a few areas around the village. Here are a few of the main things we’ve achieved.

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With some of the funds raised by a sponsored walk at OLQH, we provided desks and chairs for a classroom at the blind school. 

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A couple of friends are supporting Jose and Gaston through their education. I’ve also been able to provide a number of other children with school uniforms. There is an infinite demand for more, as many of the children wear little more than rags to class.

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Frank looks like being the first real education success story. He received help to finish his schooling – no mean feat when fewer than 1 in 10 pass the equivalent of GCSEs, let alone A-levels. This photo is from his A-level graduation ceremony. He went on to win a very scarce scholarship to a Technical College where he is currently in his first year. Whilst he has no fees to pay, it is up to him to cover his accommodation, food, university books, transport, exam fees and 20 other impediments to learning. Frank is exceptionally bright, friendly, humble and hard-working. Some money is in place for his second year, but I really need to focus on finding the rest of it.

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Last summer I put a request on Facebook to see if any friends might be able to help supply the final items needed to finish building this house for a family in the village. A number of people got in touch and we provided the roof, cement to finish the walls, and the door and window frames. The leftover money found its way to other much needed projects.

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At Christmas time, I selected 30 families who face particular hardships, to each receive the equivalent of £7.  This is enough money to buy a meat, rice, vegetables and sodas so they can all have a proper Christmas feast. In these photos, the leader of the blind in the region, Mr Omari, is handing money to two of the recipients: John, who has a club foot, and Mariam, who is blind. 

OLQH also supplied the funds to provide all 12 families who live at the Blind Centre with hosepipes, shovels and seeds. They have been requesting these for years. There are a couple of standpipes available, and in the past they would fill 20 litre buckets with water and then navigate their way to their plot of land. Backbreaking work and a task made much harder when you have no vision. The hosepipes will enable them to irrigate their gardens so they can feed their families and sell surplus in the market.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed money, read my witterings, or shown interest (both genuine or feigned) in what is happening in Buigiri Village. There are always little projects taking place and I’ll post another update before my next trip. Finally, good luck to Stuart who has given up beer for the entire year to raise money for a project next year – you are a stronger man than me!

 

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2014/15 trip, Part 4

Saturday, 3rd January

I have been staying at Buigiri Blind School this trip but all the children have been away for the Christmas holidays. Today they began to drift back to the school. This is quite a logistical mission. There are approximately 65 boarders and they are spread over an area the size of Spain. Most families don’t have any means of communication, yet despite this, the system works. Fortunately the first children back were kids I have known for a few years. From left to right is Ezekial, Jose, Nico and Abubakkar. They all got football shirts and wind up radios.

Next up was a visit to see Zawardi. His father set up the adult blind centre many years ago and he passed away two years back. Zawardi now runs the place and it was good to sit down and chat about the future of the centre

Abel is the village photographer and each trip I bolster the hardware he uses to earn a living. A friend of Dawei’s, called Caroline, gave us this excellent digital camera. Abel is the perfect man to receive it.

We had the leaders of the Tanzanian League for the Blind over for dinner. This is the first of the final three nights of entertaining and send-offs. I provided the house, but the others all arranged for a feast to be prepared. That gave way to the speeches. Tanzanians won’t say something in 5 words if they can say it in 25 words. I like to reciprocate in kind but I am yet to find I’ve hit the point where I lose the audience – these guys have endurance.

Sunday, 4th January

The children brought us a chameleon to replace the one which passed away. I am not too sure we should be entrusted with much more of Tanzania’s wildlife though.

Mamma Gordo came to see me as her husband was paralysed and needed help getting to a hospital with a spinal unit. I’ve pretty much run out of money but she won me over with her smile and I contributed enough for him to get there.

There were some heavy rains the previous night which caused problems with the cement in the goal ball pitch, so I popped along to see the damage being repaired. I am really pleased to be able to support the blind school in this way during this trip.

Sarafina is next up to pay me a visit. I have been helping her for the past few years as she lives independently of her family. Albinos need special care. Partly due to their skin being very susceptible to cancer, but mainly because many are killed annually so their body parts can be used in witchcraft. She wants to attend secretarial college, but I could only offer to help cover her living costs.

Next up was a visit to Nuru Children’s Choir where Dawei taught them the moves to the song Africa which he had choreographed last year for his own choir in England.

Monday, 5th January

Pasquina is from a village five hours north of Buigiri. Years ago I went through many villages and found two blind children to join the school. Salim is the other. Getting them not only into education, but also into a community of other blind, is the achievement I am most proud of in Tanzania. They returned to the school today, so I supplied them both with a bucket to wash their clothes and in each bucket were toothbrushes, toothpaste, sweets, biscuits, soap and skin cream.

We hand out more of the radios. Wind up radios are brilliant for young visually impaired children. They don’t have the money to buy batteries and they are more in need of audio stimulation than other kids.

We also took this opportunity to clear out loads of things from the house, such as clothes, braille playing cards, a Bop-it and football shirts.

And this is the Bop-it. Mr Boa is certainly enjoying it. and I always try and bring a couple with me for the school.

Our next stop is the rehab centre for more maize distribution. It is a hard and dirty job, but very rewarding.

Another distribution… another line-up

Imogen, a future star of Bristol Rugby… somehow

We wave goodbye to the last of our football shirts. We had enough adult Chelsea shirts to form a team

The children help carry the maize back to the houses

A friend gave me an iPod to bring out. I loaded it up with audiobooks and decided Mr Omary was the best man to receive it. Not only is he blind, but he has been a huge support for us this trip in many different ways. He also has electricity and is currently learning how to use a computer.

Omary wanted us to have our photo taken with his family. The man smiles constantly until you put a camera anywhere near him. He must have a sixth sense for it.

Our final night is always a celebration with the teachers. First up, we had twenty children for dinner. They were then turfed out and it was the turn of the ten fellows here to eat. The women at the back did all the cooking and were exhausted by the end of the night.

Buta turned up midway through. She is at a secondary school for the deaf and my mother and a friend have supported her living costs in the past. Costs are far higher in secondary school as opposed to primary, so I was able to take the sting out of it all, but not cover everything.

We left the village early the next morning to go on a short safari before flying back to the UK. At the airport I by chance met a woman who reads my wesbite – so hello Dorah! Small world. Looking back on the trip, I’d say this was possibly my most successful yet. In the past there can be a little unpleasantness at times, but that was entirely absent from this trip. New people are now in charge in some areas and the future looks promising.

My trips would be entirely fruitless were it not for the work and support of many people back in England – whether it be people who gave me a single phone or football shirt, to people like Stu, Eddy, Monkey and Sue, amongst many others, who gave me bagfuls of goodies they’d collected. Then there are the schools: Our Lady Queen of Heaven in London, St Joseph’s in Hertford and Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. My sister Imogen helped organise boxes full of shirts, phones and everything else from two of the schools. OLQH and Ampleforth were also brilliant at fundraising, this was topped up with bits from friends and in total I spent £5000 on 90 separate projects.

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2014/15 trip, Part 3

Saturday, 27th December

We headed back into Dodoma to spend the day with a group of Deaf people. Dawei trained as a sign language interpreter and it was interesting to see how he managed at communicating, given that in Tanzania they use a mixture of BSL and ASL, with some other signs chucked in to the mix too.

We arrive home and Joel pays us a visit. I helped set him up with a small shop which supports his family, but keeping a business going when so many people rely on you is very tough.

Sunday, 28th December

I covered this day in a photo diary which can be found here

Monday, 29th December

We have another road trip lined up for today. We head to Bahi, which is one of the last districts for me to visit in this region. We make a pit stop to buy lots of rice but feel a little guilty having the man break apart his rice pyramid.

Whilst my efforts tend to be focussed on Buigiri village and Dodoma town, it is always pleasing to get out to the more distant towns and villages so that people do not feel like they are being ignored.

Apart from food, we also handed out white canes, mobile phones and talking watches

When we were finished we headed to town to stay in a hotel – one night each week is spent having some R&R and this would take the form of a chinese meal.

The highlight for me was being presented with this plate. I asked the waitress if this meat was free and she looked confused.

Tuesday, 30th December

Selfie!

We spent much of the day in town and I try and avoid taking photographs there because the people are not quite as friendly as in the villages. Here is a pic from the evening, back in the village. The dog has adopted us, and as we walked to someone’s house she spotted three Giant African Snails marching in formation.

Wednesday, 31st December

I wrote earlier about visiting a woman with cancer whilst boys were playing marbles outside. Unfortunately she passed away two days previous and this was the day of her funeral. They don’t hang around in hot climates. We would be unable to attend the service so instead we joined the men of the community in the churchyard whilst the grave was being dug.

The previous day the duck we were given by the witchdoctor vanished into thin air. These boys found her and brought her back to us.

The nephew of the deceased woman turned up looking a little like a camp grim reaper.

We were missing the service because we had appointments in town. First up was a visit to Lucy’s house. She is a remarkable woman. A few years ago she saved up 150,000tshs (£60) and then used this as capital to generate an income by lending money out and charging interest. Within two years she had 4,000,000tshs (£1700). When I came here in 2011, she had formed a relationship with a man who was clearly no good. Sadly, whilst everyone could tell this, she could not. He ended up selling everything she owned and disappearing. Around the same time, I set up a project so the blind could generate an income making soap. This did not work out, but that capital was then used by the blind to start a microfinance bank. They loan small sums out, and charge high interest. It is easy to make a profit if you have capital, so people are happy to pay fairly extortionate interest rates. Each month, the profit is then gifted to a blind person for them to start their own project. Lucy was given 500,000tshs (£200) and now she is back to where she was pre-husband. She has also expanded in to trading charcoal and buying and selling clothes and shoes. She is now building a large home, supports her mother and daughter, and is fortunately single.

She was extremely grateful for being given the second chance that she piled me up with gifts.

Next up was a visit to see Peter Gabriel. Great name. Many of the blind here have to rent rooms. They are often turfed out with little notice and so many of them dream of building their own homes. Peter has done just that. I have given him some iron sheets and sacks of cement in the past and he has managed to get together everything else he needs.

This year I have helped him with a small project getting water piped to his front door. He can then sell buckets of water to local families and use this money to support his family. In his neighbourhood live many of the blind who often beg in town – this year is the first year I have not recognised anyone on the streets. It may just be chance, but I think it might also show the positive impact my projects and the work of the Tanzanian League for the Blind are achieving.

After visiting Peter, we returned to the centre of town to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some friends. It was a fun night which started with the brave decision to eat a seafood platter a long long way from the sea, and ended with an even braver decision to try out a nightclub. We didn’t arrive til 11.15pm and my neurotic self thought we wouldn’t be able to get in – but the place was empty. Fortunately by midnight it was heaving and the atmosphere was great.

Thursday, 1st January

I first met Martha several years ago when she was orphaned due to AIDS. A friend in England kindly provides her with a little support. I was given a present to bring out for her and she was ecstatic to receive it.

My friend’s son also supports Moussa in a similar way and he too recieved a present, as did another child sponsored by a third person. He also got a football shirt.

These guinea fowl have proven to be a right nuisance. First I was led to believe they were in fact peacocks which I’d be eating (before I saw them, I hasten to add). Then when I bought one, I made the mistake of not handling it. It looked big enough to feed ten, but it was all feather and no meat. So we had to quickly go out and get a second one for the pot.

The main job for the day was making videos of the kids. A school in London had made short videos of 12 children asking questions to the children here in Tanzania and my job was to have a bunch of children provide answers. It went surprisingly smoothly, despite these three camouflaging themselves into the upholstery and carpet.

This was a first for me: attending an opening of a girls’ loo block in a neighbouring school. This is the biggest project I’ve done this year and I was very pleased to see it completed before I left – well, almost completed. It just needed the door attaching.

Friday, 2nd January

My second major project is the rebuild of the concrete sports area. The blind kids use bottles filled with sand as a ball and they hear it moving along the floor. The place was so badly potholed over years and years of use, that I am really pleased I can help fix it.

Next up: maize distribution. My old school, Ampleforth College, held a sponsored swim last year to raise money for food and I have used a large part of it to buy 1800kg of maize. This morning we were giving 40kg to each of 45 people who live in the village and face particular adversity – perhaps due to being frail, blind or unable to walk.

The whole process was well organised and ran smoothly – but it was hard work shifting 120kg sacks and then splitting them into smaller amounts.

Mission accomplished

Next up was a trip to the nearby town of Chamwino to do much the same again, just on a smaller scale. There were 12 families this time.

This man entertained us with his traditional musical instrumet while we worked. When he shook hands with me, he could remember me from my handshake from 7 years previous.

The obligatory line up

The whole job left this boy exhausted.

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A Day In The Life #19

I will spare you all a sleep photo. This is a rare moment of peace in the living room. The bottles are left over from dinner the night before and the place could do with a bit of a tidy.

I was at the village bar the night before and collapsed into bed around 1.30, so I was a little tired getting up this early

Dawei and I leave the house.

We meet two friends. The four of us, including our shadows, head out. We are accompanied by a three legged dog called Shida (Swahili for problem). We must make for a strange sight.

We arrive at the church. We are there for the Baptism of Baby Tom. From now on, there shall always be a Tom in Tanzania.

We are told to arrive at 7.30 but it turns out things don’t start until 9. This level of punctuality is common place here, but I stupidly never learn and keep turning up on time. There is music playing though, so I have a bit of a dance

We are surprised to see our friend John. It turns out he is part of a small choir which will be singing.

The main man himself: Tom

We take our seats and manage to avoid being ushered to the very front

I chuckle at the slight inappropriateness of the girl’s top

Tom was fast asleep when he was lifted up to be baptised – his ensuing tears could have refilled the font

When we walked in, Dawei thought the font was a bowl to clean your hands and wash your face

I had prepared myself to stand up and introduce myself to the congregation, as is the custom for visitors. I wasn’t expecting to be dragged to the front.

After the service, we all file out. Everyone is formed in a circle outside and you walk around the circle shaking hands with everybody before joining the end of the line

There were perhaps 200 people, so it took a little while

I think this photo encapsulates how we feel after several hours of waiting and then being in church.

We stop for a quick liquid top-up. It gets pretty warm here and it is too easy to dehydrate.

We arrive at our destination: Tom’s grandmother’s house where we have been invited for lunch

The choir are also here. I know 4 of the five choir members well but never knew they were friends with each other, let alone sung together. They had superb voices. Individually they lead very hard lives, being blind in one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest countries is not exactly great, but when they sing together they really create something amazing.

Food time: rice and beans.

After, we head outside and spot this young woman

She wasn’t the only kid around though

I chat with some of the guys about the problems they face. George smashed his leg up pretty bad and needed to have a follow-up x-ray done in town

As we left, we spotted this example of local recycling

We arrive back in the school – this monument gives a potted history of the place

The school is on its holidays and so the only children here are the kids of the teachers. This is Nina, whose father is a good friend who teaches at the school

We get home and spy our cook Anna on the steps. All the cooking happens outside on a charcoal fire and it is such a slow process, which is why we employ someone.

I am visited by Isiah who is a builder when he doesn’t have an arm in plaster. Much like George, he was looking for small help getting to town for a checkup and to have the plaster changed

Albert and his brother Alfred pay us a visit to drop off a gift of damsons and a fruit which may be a guava

We hand out another football kit to a local boy. We have 60 shirts here, many of whom were gathered together by the Dempsey family in London called who took it upon themselves to get very involved in this work.

More visitors. More problems.

We make a break for it when our car comes to collect us.

On the left is Daodi. He is a much revered witchdoctor and each year he invites me to his home. His father is blind and I give him some support and Daodi is fantastic at reciprocating. On the right is Mr Omary. He is a fantastic help whilst I am here. He is a leader in charge of all disabled people in central Tanzania and that helps give me lots of access to people who it would be tricky to contact otherwise.

Daodi has several wives and he is keen that all his children learn the local dances so that the culture of the tribe is preserved for another generation.

It makes for fascinating viewing

We are not the only people watching, behind us are dozens of children

Daodi joins in the dancing. This is the first time I have ever seen him get involved and it felt exceptionally special. His hat and shoulder blades are made from monkey fur.

After the dancing and speeches, this little girl helps to clear up.

Our net stop is to visit the cows. These are 4 of the 7 cows the father of the witchdoctor now owns as a result of me starting him off with a small chicken project a few years ago.

Before we leave, Daodi kindly presents us with a duck to take away

The poor thing was so docile

We arrive home and spot this fellow outside the house

There is an intricate handshake which the guys do here which involes high-fives, finger flicking and bashing elbows together. We have managed to get a few to add this manoeuvre to the end

Food time. There are always 8-15 people here at supper time who need feeding and we usually have 4ish kg of rice and 2kg of meat prepared. We messed up today and supplied far too few sweet potatoes to take the place of the rice, so there wasn’t much to go around

Meanwhile some of the children meet Mr Duck. It is wrong to play with your food, but I guess we can make an exception.

Just before I go to bed, I see online that England is covered in snow. This photo of a snowman reminded me of the sand sculpture from earlier, just at a somewhat different temperature.

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2014 Trip part 2

Sunday 21st December

I once again had various visitors this morning and fortunately it all went fairly straightforward. It helped that most of the village was at church. We managed to leave the house before everyone piled out. We had a long walk ahead of us, so stopped for food fuel at the butchers. They slaughter either a goat or a cow each day and they will barbecue it for free, should you so wish. It is delicious, but you do have to fight through clouds of flies to reach the meat.

I bring plenty of strong suncream to give to those with albinism. One of the bonuses of going overseas in the winter is you can get these bottles for a couple of quid from ASDA

We came across this poorly beast on our walk and christened her Hannah Montana.

We had a three hour walk to do, taking in the homes of 4 of the village blind, so we could check past work and have a discussion in situ about exactly what they were after. By the end of the afternoon I’d committed myself to supplying ten iron sheets, ten sacks of cement and a plough, plus some smaller items. I also found a home for a couple of the phones I was given by friends in the UK. They make such a big difference – for instance one blind woman is guided around by her young daughter. When the mother has to go somewhere then the girl misses school. Having a phone means she can contact people much more easily and so the girl can have better access to education. All because someone gave me a phone they no longer use.

The evening was spent battling with the internet to make my last update – when it works, it averages 8kbps. We also sorted through many of the phones to find out which work and which are unlocked.

This woman’s husband passed away this year. He was a blind man and last year I’d helped them with putting a roof on their house. This time they wished to have a chat about strengthening the house and making it less dirty by adding a cement floor. Can you spot all 6 people in this photo?

We also visit this girl’s house to see about getting iron sheets for the roof.

Our final stop of the day was to see Mamma Happy. I helped her with the iron sheets last year. She is after a plough this time though.

Because walking in the midday African sun isn’t quite tough enough

We also started the mammoth task of sorting through the phones we have brought with us. A number of them don’t work at all and some others will need unlocking, but so far the success rate is the highest it has ever been and we have plenty to hand out.

Monday 22nd December

I have made a photodiary of this day which can be found here

Tuesday 23rd December

I love visiting the clothes auctions in town. When people in the UK and elsewhere give clothes to charity shops, the best items are sold in the shops but the stuff that they can’t sell gets sold on to traders who then ship it to places like the Dodoma markets, where I buy them for the village. We only had half an hour until our next appointment, so didn’t buy too much, it was still fun, and just a little bit crazy.

This photo really doesn’t do justice to the bustle of the place. There are around a dozen sellers all shouting over one another, and a network of book keepers, money takers and overseers, plus all the buyers. When you win something, they throw it at you, and this photo shows me mid catch.

Next up was seeing Christoph. He drives this bus for a living, but I still like to help him each time I come as he has a young family and life is tough. I supplied rice, maize, beans, cooking oil and things for the kids.

Wednesday 24th December

The main project I have to do this trip is building a 3-cubicle girl’s latrine for the local primary school. The building work started before I arrived so it would not be too interrupted by the rains which happen around Christmas time. Hopefully it will be finished before we depart.

I had a little time to kill, so joined the neighbours in a game of hopscotch

Emmanuel came over to say hello… and then to list his problems. He is a blind man from a town a few hours away and he always knows when I am in the country. He wants to be as independent as possible and each year asks me for different components of his house. This is quite clever of him because I won’t just build someone a house, but if each year they ask for bricks, then a door, then windows and so on, they’ll eventually end up with the same result without me feeling the pinch too much. I also gave him a phone as he dropped his last one down a well!

Unfortunately our friend Hannah passed away. We made a simple casket from a water bottle and buried her outside the house and said a few words wishing her well in the afterlife.

Next stop was the Rehab Centre to hand out the items I’d promised a few days previously. John had asked for a radio – radios are especially important for the blind. He was wearing a Plymouth Argyle football shirt a friend gave me last trip to bring. It looks as though John has been wearing it every day since.

Now time to hand out the rehab’s school uniforms. Each family also received 4kg of rice and the equivalent of £4 which was a gift from my mother. That will buy their meat and other items for Christmas day. I also bought each family a mosquito net. Last year I gave them all mattresses, so the nets completes that job.

These are the dozen families who live at the centre

Baby Imogen carrying her goods home.

There is a Free Methodist church at the centre. Methodism has its roots in my home city of Bristol and before I travelled, I went to the museum to gather various brochures to bring. These were very well received by Pastor Kikoko.

In the evening we headed to a nearby town for drinks and meat. Dawei’s hair is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Thursday 25th December

Christmas day starts with a church service. A 4-hour church service. It is filled with choirs and music, so it isn’t too bad. I had to stand up and introduce myself but Dawei was not called upon to do the same, despite him having memorised his lines.

The woman we employ to do our cooking and cleaning was in one of the choirs, so we hung around the stage door and pleaded for a photo afterwards

Having been a little concerned we weren’t going to be invited anywhere for lunch, we were resigned to eating tinned sardines as they were the only food we could find that didn’t involved many hours of cooking on a charcoal stove. Our fears were unfounded though as two invites came along. This was meal one: pilau rice and pork.

And meal two just a few hours later: rice, cooked bananas, potatoes, beef and liver.

In the evening we went to the disco. This was quite an experience. We were in a big room and it slowly filled with the village youths who were manic on the dancefloor. Standard manoeuvres for the boys include grabbing someone and swinging them around until they fell over, then running to a girl and doing a mix between twerking and grinding. I decided to keep my moves in the locker and just sat off to one side nursing my drink.

Friday 26th December

When Kenneth visited me last time, he was at Theological College. He has now graduated and is awaiting a placement in a regional church. He was looking for a little help with things like a mattress and buckets to wash his clothes in.

We sorted through the 60 football shirts and had a boy strut his stuff in one. We have a large number of Chelsea shirts because the bulk of them came from a collection held at Our Lady Queen of Heaven School in South West London.

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I had said to Dawei that there are snails here the size of a fist – I wasn’t too sure if he believed me, but then we came across this fine fellow. We have adopted him and have made a home for him and two frogs. I hope they fare better than poor Hannah. We joked to our cook that we were going to eat it for dinner. We then had to come clean because she was trying to figure out how to cut it into small pieces.

We headed to the local town of Chamwino for lunch and to buy some items. I figured I’d best do as Africans do, and use my head.

Our butcher in the village was shut as it was boxing day, so we stocked up on meat for the evening.

Once we had everything bought, we hired a bus to drive us back.

The first stop was delivering 10 sacks of cement to strengthen Mrs Kusenha’s house. They are much heavier than they look!

Next up was to deliver Mamma Happy’s flat-pack plough.

Finally we delivered Simba’s iron sheets. Usually it takes a whole day to complete just one task, so to knock three off in just a few hours was very satisfying.

On our way home I was pounced on by this woman who slapped me. Apparently it is meant to be endearing.

I met the woman in the middle a year or two ago when she was pregnant and I made a joke about how she should name her son ‘Tom’ if it was a boy because it is an awesome name. Awkwardly she had a boy and followed my advice. As per cultural norms, her name is now Mamma Tom as a mother adopts the name of their first born.

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