I have just returned from a fantastic trip to Buigiri. £3010 was raised through the generosity of many friends and the children of Our Lady Queen of Heaven school and Ampleforth College. As a result, I managed to achieve an awful lot in a short space of time. Within 10 days, I carried out 60 different tasks. These ranged from small activities, such as providing exercise books to children, to distributing over a ton of maize to 50 families. Everybody likes a pie chart, so this is how the money was divided up:
Education was the main area which received funding, to the tune of £1219. Whilst education is technically free, unless you have the correct uniform and equipment, then you are excluded. I spent £465 on 70 uniforms for the poorest children.
Handing out uniforms at the adult blind centre
The village tailoress, Mamma Degera. She uses the profit to support her son at school and to cover her own medical issues. Its pleasing to see money working on more than one level as it trickles through the community.
The children of the community of blind beggars in Dodoma
Augustino is the boy in the blue scarf in the photo above and he was a revelation. Usually the children are very shy and I have to rely on my Swahili. This guy speaks superb English, which is no mean feat given his parents are blind and scratch a living begging at the side of the road. He approached me asking for exercise books and then he corralled his friends and they ran to the shop to buy 100 of them which were then shared out equally.
The largest part of the money spent on education is being used to support Frank who is at University in Dar es Salaam studying Electrical Engineering. He is in his second to last year and I have supported him since he was at secondary school. I can’t sing his praises highly enough – through hard work he is breaking out of the cycle of poverty and his future is bright. He also volunteers for a local charity whereby he visits rural schools and talks to young students about how they can follow a similar path. He has identified a young boy called Alfa who is about to start Secondary School. He is the only child amongst hundreds in the village to excel at his primary school exams. He has been granted a ‘free’ place at a government boarding school 10 hours from the village. Whilst the fees and food are free, he still needs money for transportation, uniforms, books and whatever else a child needs when away from home for an extended time. I have met most of these costs and he is now at the school. My strategy now is to focus on just a few bright students, rather than my previous plan of trying to assist as many people as possible.
Me with Frank & Alfa.
Christmas is as huge in Tanzania as it is in the UK. If a family can afford it, they will skip their maize porridge and have rice and beef/goat/chicken, washed down with soft drinks. For many families, this is not an option. I spent £425 providing money for 60 families which will enable them to buy 2kg of rice, 2kg of meat, vegetables and drinks. I accept this is not the most efficient use of money, but it is Christmas after all. When I later met some children, their faces lit up when they listed all they had eaten.
A short clip of me introducing myself in both Swahili and Kigogo, the local language.
Esta is the head of one of the 12 families who live in the blind centre.
For many, it is easier to take the items to them when the community leader calls their names out.
The Kikokos run the local Free Methodist church – a religion which sprung up in my home city of Bristol
The blind beggars after collecting money and rice.
More will follow in due course about these two projects. The main one was the purchase of a Keyboard for the choir at the blind school. This has been requested for many years now. Music is a fantastic way to bring a group together, and the blind school choir is excellent. They do not have the hardware they need to really shine. I have been reticent about providing the money for the keyboard until now because it is so expensive, however several members of Sing Out Bristol Choir kindly donated money and I decided to use this for the school choir. I also made a contribution to the office rental costs of the local branch of the Tanzanian League for the Blind. They are a volunteer organisation and are a great help with the work I do in Tanzania.
On our first night we visited my close friend Mr Omari who is the elected leader for all disabled people in Central Tanzania. He caught up on our differing hairstyles.
This is the Power of Jesus choir who I helped a few years ago with equipment, just visible on the right hand side. After church on Christmas Day, we were invited to listen to them perform. Although I took a video, I managed to butcher my Swahili in a phone shop and convinced them to completely wipe my iPhone and this video did not back up.
Anna lent us her Bible during the service. Inside the front cover, we found a photo of the three of us from 2015, so we recreated it.
Income Generating Projects
Over the years I have assisted with creating over 50 income generating projects. In many instances these do not succeed, but when they do, they can make a huge impact on a family. The truth of the matter is that when the only money you have is the capital which is vital to keep the business ticking along, and then somebody close to you falls sick, there is tremendous pressure to raid the business. I like to look on it positively though – even when a project fails, at least good will have come about, even if it is not how we intended it.
One project which has been a great success is a cafe set up by Ester. She previously sold tea and snacks alongside the road. With an injection of capital provided by a friend who was sponsored to quit beer for a year, she has moved into a small building which houses her kitchen, a table and several chairs, where she now sells main meals. We visited for a delicious breakfast
Outside Estar’s cafe. Dawei is still finishing his breakfast
This trip we helped with a further 9 small businesses. These included more food businesses, a soap making enterprise, and a plough rental service.
Two of the three new women at the Rehab Centre. They missed out on projects I started several years ago and so I have made good on a promise and helped them this time.
There is always demand for maize. The region has suffered drought for a number of years and many people are struggling. This particularly affects the elderly and disabled, so they are the focus of my efforts for maize distribution. We selected 50 families and each received 20kg of maize, which will keep their families fed for a couple of weeks.
This is what 500kg of Maize looks like
Dividing it up is hard and dirty work…. so I simply dived in for the photo opp!
30 individuals from the village receive their share
As you can imagine, access to medicine is vitally important. Whilst appointments are very cheap, getting to the hospital or paying for your drugs is the issue. Often huge collections take place where 50 people in the village give a few pennies, to enable someone to receive health care.
My main expenditure was for a good friend of mine. This trip, he has been struck down with a trio of nasty illnesses: Typhoid, Malaria and a UTI. This left him a shell of a man. He was sat at home, rocking back and forth, chanting deliriously. I helped with several hospital visits, including two courses of intravenous fluids. I’m not a medic, but without this intervention, I suspect he would have struggled to emerge out of it.
John came to visit me to show me his arm. He broke it years ago and during my last trip it was a festering compound fracture. He proudly demonstrated how the wound had healed – but then he wriggled his forearm up and down and it was clearly still detached. He seemed happy enough though.
I used almost £200 to provide items such as white canes, mobile phones and a mattress to people in the village. Phones are so important as distances are vast, and communication is essential if people are to receive help.
John’s phone came from the UK a number of years ago, and it is well used and rather battered. I provided him with a new Nokia and he proudly handed his old phone to his wife. He is one of the few English speakers in the village and it is important that I can contact him when needed.
Emmanuel tries to live as independent a life as possible, but he needs some help with his farm.
Daniel receives one of the talking watches I brought with me
The final main category I assisted with was helping people rebuild their homes. Most houses are constructed from bricks made of mud, which then have a roof comprised of wooden joists and corrugated iron sheets. They are not particularly sturdy and can face problems. I provided cement, wood and a door for three houses which I built in the past.
Mamma Happy always greets me with a huge smile. I helped with 10 sacks of cement which she will use to strengthen the walls of her house. She will use the remainder to form a solid floor, which will prevent dirt and possible disease finding its way inside.
The end of the trip and a miscellaneous photo dump
Imogen visiting the family of her namesake who was given her name a number of years ago. There is also another family with three children: Thomas, Imogen and Sara, which is the name of my mother.
I could feel the eyes boring in to me
A boy making the most of what is available
One of many visitors asking for help with a uniform and school shoes
I apologise for my horrendous rendition of the National Anthem
Some dancers from the church visited our house on Christmas Day, so we joined in
A final farewell to friends