Each year I meet with the urban blind beggers at their home. They are organised and have a committee to represent them, which makes my life easier. I had asked them to draw up a list of 20 families to receive food. We went via the market and arrived to find everyone waiting patiently. I know most of them by name now and so it took a while to get the greetings out of the way. Each family received maize flour, beans, soap, bananas, exercise books and pens. The whole process always takes longer than planned, and today was no exception. After the distribution we visited the home of one of the women so we could see a certain problem she was keen to remedy. Finally the leaders invited us inside their home and fed us cake and soda and gave us gifts. It is always touching when people give us things in return.
An extra pair of hands makes all the difference
Members of the 20 families with their goodies
We also hand out some of the many football shirts
We stayed in Dodoma town that evening as a mid-point break in our trip. The hotel has wifi, a Chinese restaurant, well stocked bar and hot showers. It really feels like an oasis and after a week or more in Buigiri it is just what the doctor ordered. We also managed to squeeze in a football game – Polisi Dodoma versus Simba. Simba are one of the two big teams and Dodoma are the lower division minnows. The gulf between the two teams was evident and Simba put on a fantastic display. Although many locals support Dodoma, their affections really belong to Simba and so it felt a little odd seeing the away team get all the home support. At the end, the Simba players were mobbed and the Dodoma players slinked away.
And to think we were concerned we would not be able to find a seat. Our side was full though as it was in the shade
We had a bunch of jobs to do in town. We met up with the wife of a man who used to live in Buigiri and who each year I provide with some food and other items. We also teamed up with some of the guys from the rehab centre and went about completing this year’s main project: supplying mattresses to their houses. This is something they have asked me to consider for a couple of years and so it is pleasing to cross it off the list.
Ive always wondered what the arcade was like. We walked out winners, to the tune of around £5. The ‘No under 18’ rule wasn’t enforced.
Waiting for lunch in the hotel. It is a different world in there and it can be a shock to the senses when stepping outside afterwards.
With Morientes and his mother after getting their annual stash.
We both live in Redland. Hence the silly pose.
Getting the mattresses for the rehab centre.
And to think I thought they would all fit on to a pick-up truck. We had to get this second vehicle to carry the majority of them.
Buigiri’s blind primary school is pretty much free for all the kids, as is every primary school in the land. The parents need to pay for the minor things like some transportation, uniforms, soap and suchlike. Secondary schools are different – they cost around £100 to attend. There are also some prestigious schools which cost many times that much and one such school is 2 hours away in Mvumi. They benefit from the patronage of Sir Stuart Rose, the boss of Marks and Spencers. He personally sponsors many of the children there and has established a blind unit. This accommodates 30 blind students currently and Buigiri acts as a feeder school. I have visited a couple of times before, but during my last visit the unit was only just finished and there were yet to be any blind students in attendance. Each year I spend time in Buigiri bonding with the bind children and then each time I return to Tanzania many have moved on in their education. Thus, Shane, Myself and two of Buigiri’s teachers drove over and paid them a visit.
We took some gifts and handed each child some pocket money. They were delighted that we had come and it was fantastic going around the classroom and catching up with each child individually. We stayed a little longer than planned and on the way back had a puncture, not too surprising given what passes for a road to Mvumi. After a while we even came across a search party on a motorbike from Buigiri that had come to see what had become of us.
We spy these guys from MileMbeli. I handed this shirt out the day before. It made our day seeing it in use.
The Mvumi kids.
This is our third trip into town by bus. Before we arrived in Tanzania I had warned Shane about the local buses. They are always crammed full and you can be standing up, crushed by hens and breast feeding mothers in a 5′ high bus. Each journey has been brilliant so far though, one bus was empty, another half full and for our third journey we flagged down a comfortable people carrier and got a lift in that.
We had a bunch of little jobs to get done, all of which we successfully managed. I remember the days when I would come to town and everything would conspire against me – maybe there would be no power, or the shops I needed would be shut and it would take me several trips to get anything done. For the past few years it has all changed – either I’m more mellow about things and take set backs in my stride or things are actually improving. Either way, it is a good thing.
When we returned we met with the local branch of the Tanzanian League for the Blind. Originally I used to avoid providing them with any support because I’m not a big fan of committees and organisations. I like seeing a problem, finding a solution and getting it done so I can move on to the next issue. Committees talk and don’t commit. Over time I have seen the TLB doing a lot of good though. They track where all the blind people live so they can receive assistance. They also receive some small grants for projects and everything is transparent. Over the past I have relented a little and got behind them. They now have a small office and a contribution I made last year helped towards some of the furniture. This year I have a pot of money specifically for buying furniture, so I have dipped in to this so they can add another cupboard or table. It is not a vast sum, but it will all help them gradually get to where they want to be.
With the local TLB leadership
The photo does not do it justice, but this is a toy bus made from junk. It had movable wing mirrors with glass-inlaid, and a door which swug open when a lever was pulled.