Frank’s Graduation

I am delighted to say that Frank Sakalani has just graduated from university having completed his studies in Engineering in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering. It is a remarkable achievement for a young man from humble origins. It shows that with a lot of hard work and dedication, mixed with a healthy dose of good fortune, giant obstacles can be overcome.

I have recounted the tale of how I met Frank before, but I’ll recap. In 2012 I was in Buigiri and I would often receive notes on scraps of paper from people in the village. These would detail the various issues their families faced – requests were often for food, medication or occasionally for something completely outlandish. Frank wrote on behalf of his aunt who had a broken leg and she needed a splint and medication to help it heal. The letter was extremely eloquent and it was a surprise to hear it had been written by a young schoolboy. We met up and it became apparent that in spite of the lack of good quality education, Frank had spent his free time studying to try and better himself. After our conversation I decided to help him with his continuing education.

I supported Frank through his GCSEs and A-levels and he was offered a scholarship to university. This meant he did not have to pay tuition, but he was still liable for food, rent, school books, uniforms, a laptop etc which are prohibitively expensive for a young man with just pennies in his pocket. I shared his story with a number of friends back in Bristol and several have kindly provided the support over the four years he has spent at university.

Throughout the whole process, Frank has been a superb communicator, sharing his progress with me and keeping me informed of his successes and setbacks. He has also become involved in a locally run NGO called Builders of Future Africa which is concerned with supporting the youth and searching out those who have real potential at improving Tanzania if they are themselves given the opportunity. I am extremely proud of Frank and the success he has become.


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2017 Trip

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 food

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.

Community projects

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.

General expenditure

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

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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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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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