Sunday, 15th April
With today being Sunday I figured I’d treat it as a rest day before the final push came along. My last few days are always hectic as I have to finish all the jobs, empty my house of the things I brought out, distribute everything I’ve bought whilst here, say my goodbyes and also get ready for my return journey.
The final three primary children who are being sponsored came to visit me. Two of whom Imogen supports and so it is a slight shame they came just when she was gone, but it was good to see them all anyway. Again I laid out what they can expect during the year and they all good some goodies there and then.
Nyemo and Stefano with their grandmother. Two more of the sponsored primary children.
Moussa, the 11th primary child to receive sponsorship. Having given him the football it then transpired he didn’t like the game. Ooops, trust me to find the one kid in the country who doesn’t like it.
Every time I come here I always kick myself for not bringing The Lion King. This trip I remembered. The kids were transfixed and even though it was in English they still laughed at all the right places.
Kenneth is a student at a theological college and was after some support. He walked off with a few shillings and a phone.
I had promised some of the guys I would play pool with them, so over we went to the nearby town and we hogged a table for 10 games on the trot for a grand total of 80p. I bought this tie as a bit of a joke but Teck took a shine to it and wore it for the day.
More football shirts were distributed
Plus some uniforms
In the evening I was invited to David’s house for dinner as it was his daughter’s 5th birthday. I gave her a bag of English sweets – she enjoyed the refresher lollipops, but the blackjacks might make her wince.
Monday, 16th April
The day was spent in town getting seeds and medicine for the rehab centre plus a hundred and one small things. I also organised getting 3 mattresses shipped back to the village – many people just sleep on a sack on the floor of their house. Not very comfortable. One went to Joel the shopkeeper, one to Amini who has malaria and his mother is very sick with breast cancer and the other to Teck who shares a sack with his brother Alan. When I asked Amini about his mattress he said ‘ah it is amazing, I slept so well, I went to bed very early just so I could lay on it’ and when I asked Teck the same question his face lit up with a huge grin. The three mattresses only cost £100 in total, so hardly big bucks to make a difference. I also bought some walkmans and a couple of radios for children who had requested them.
In the seed shop, buying up a chunk of their stock.
Handing tapes out to the children with tape players. It may seem like a slightly frivolous use of money buying tapes, but for blind children with little stimulation is important for them. Plus they are cheap as chips – 20 tapes and 3 tape players cost £23.
Giving the final load of toy cars out.
Tuesday, 17th April
Another day in town. This time I was visiting a sign maker to have something made for the chicken projects. I also met up with Christoph worked at the rehab centre until he and the other sighted helper stole tools and went to prison. In spite of that, he is still a good guy and now works driving local buses around town. I meet him every year and give him support in the shape of food, medicine and other items for his family.
Christoph with some of his bags
In the evening I make the children work for their supper. Tomorrow I will be distributing many items to the school and they all need dividing up. The least fun task was taking 3x15kg sacks of powdered soap and splitting it in to 100 smaller bags. That stuff is nasty. It gets in your skin, down your throat and in your eyes.
Child labour at its best. It would have taken forever for me to have put 1000 or so items into the bags.
A job well done
Wednesday, 18th April
I have covered today in a Day-In-The-Life which can be found here
Thursday, 19th April
First visit was to the village doctor to hand over all the pairs of glasses my sister and I had gathered. I didnt count them but there must have been around 100 pairs. I then headed to town for my final visit. I was due to visit the blind again at Milembeli at 1.30pm with a teacher from the school who is the top dog when it comes to local blind leaders. He is always late though. I had finished my business in the morning in record time and then found a nice hotel with wifi I was starting to feel reluctant to leave. We ended up setting off at 4pm.
100 or so pairs of glasses
The trip to Milembeli went well. We handed out some of the completed uniforms and visited the tailor to check on the progress of the remaining ones. Some children also got windup radios and one of the leaders got a phone. I also had some chats with the adult blind about what assistance they are after in the future.
Some of the MileMbeli uniforms and back left is the tailor.
Idi and his wife Amini. Easy names to remember. He wanted help towards starting a brick-making business. He had already raised $150 of the $300 he needed, so I boosted his total by a further $75.
I spotted this centipede and pointed it out to some children who immediately killed it and told me it was far more dangerous than a scorpion.
Friday, 20th April
This was my final complete day in the village and I tried my best to keep it as free as possible as I knew I would have plenty of jobs to finish plus I had to pack and say my goodbyes. Sure enough it ended up as a full day of work.
My first job of the day was to deal with the school uniforms. Providing uniforms isn’t as simple as going in to a shop and buying a bunch of clothes, instead you have to compile a list of the names of the children most in need, agree a price with the tailor, ensure the children visit the tailor for measurement, pay for the materials, check the work is on schedule for the deadline, collect the completed clothes and make sure it is clear which belongs to whom, pay the tailor the balance, distribute them and then get a promise the tailor will complete any modifications that need to be made. I have had 61 made in the village plus 25 made in town for an average price of £6 – not bad for bespoke clothing.
Next visit was to Uguzi Primary – one of the 4 schools in the village. I went to hand over Bristol City shirts for their football team. I hope one day a City fan who happens to be in that part of the world pulls over to the side of the road and does a double take at them. I also visited some of the classrooms. Each year I do a bigger project here – two years ago it was building 3 homes for the families of blind beggars in town, last year it was building the chicken projects and this year I’ll be supplying desks and chairs to a school.
To meet the deadline, Mr Fwejeje who is a blind teacher stepped in to help his wife. Making the uniforms not only benefits the children enormously but it is also excellent business for Fwejeje and his wife and the profit will go on to do more good for his extended family who rely on his salary.
The Uguzi football team
How most of the classes look. Not only is it uncomfortable, but learning how to write becomes that much more difficult.
Just one class has desks and chairs. I have £1000 to play with on this project and each desk/bench combo will cost around £30 and can seat at least 3 children.
Mr Kusenha came with 4 of his grandsons to collect his 10 iron sheets. I didn’t envy having to carry them a few kilometres to his home.
The next visit was to the rehab centre to say my goodbyes. I also took a boot load of goodies for them including plenty of medicine plus seeds for their gardens. They also received all the odds and ends from my house like spare clothing from town, loads of toothpaste, and soap. We had a 90 minute meeting to discuss the past projects and what will happen in the future. Two new families have moved in to the centre and they don’t have a project and there is no money left to set them up with one so I told them I’d add it to the rather long list of things to consider for the future when the next load of fundraising takes place. I try my best not to promise things because the money that comes in soon finds a home and if it is already promised for certain things then it will limit what I can do in the future.
The rehab centre with their seeds and medicines
Jared is the rehab chairman. John is the guy who had cancer on his head a few years back. Behind them are Jared’s gardens where he grows things like eggplant and green peppers to supplement his family’s diet and to sell.
Yusuphu outside his chicken project with the sign I had made.
Some of the rehab children with their new uniforms
More albinos with their ASDA factor 50.
Next up I had to help someone with a visa application for the UK – one of the teachers wants to come to have his eyes checked over to see if anything can be done. I suspect he is beyond hope, but it’ll be good having him to stay. Omary then came with his Tanzanian League for the Blind hat on. I gave him all the remaining phones for distribution to blind leaders across the region, plus anything else I thought suitable. After he left I had just enough time to visit the school to hand out the remaining few things from my house and then it was time for dinner. Each visit I have some blind leaders for dinner on my final night. Each year it gets progressively more boozy. 3 of the 8 did not drink but the rest of us put away 8 bottles of wine. We then went to the village bar and I drunkenly announced I’d buy the drinks for everyone for the rest of the night. Fortunately a few of the teachers had hit their limit so the bill was only £12 for about 25 drinks.
The final few shirts from my house
I liked the addition to this card
Dinner with the blind leaders
Which became a rather drunken affair. A few of them even turned down alcohol later in the evening which I see as a success on my part.
Samson, with a shirt I had given him earlier in the week, had been sketching Spiderman
Saturday, 21st April
Having stumbled to bed gone 3am, I was up at sunrise to finish my packing and clearing out the house. I had various visitors and was given gifts ranging from a music instrument to a tortoise. Not all the gifts came back to the UK with me
The tortoise in a box
Samson on his paper phone
Saying goodbye to the children is always rather moving. I shook them all by the hand and wished the ones well who would be moving on to secondary school by my next trip. I then headed to Dar with Teck. I’ve always done the journey alone but thought it might be fun to show him what Dar has to offer – he has been a bunch of times, but has only stayed in very basic guest houses. On this trip he had his first experience of riding in a lift – I’m still not sure if he figured out we were moving or if the world was moving around us. We then went to a smart hotel for drinks and a Thai dinner was followed by a quick visit to a casino where he was dumbfounded by some of the amounts of money being wagered – on every spin of the roulette wheel there was enough money on the table to buy him a new house and educate him and his 5 siblings.
Teck about to tuck in to his first experience of Thai food.
The next morning, after another 3-hour night, we headed to the airport and said our goodbyes. When I landed in the UK he had texted me saying ‘God be with you Tom on your journey, I’m sad to return back to the village alone but don’t you worry I’m alright. I’ve seen your aeroplane it was white and there is your national flag behind’. Which means after I left him he must have waited for 3 hours at the airport to see the plane lift off.
At some point after I catch up on my sleep and contact everyone who gave money, I will post up exactly where the cash all went but as a rough idea I spent just shy of £3000 on 76 mini-projects documented in these updates, plus around £1200 on child sponsorship and I have a grand still to spend on the school desks and chairs. Thank you to all those who gave money.