We headed into Dodoma for our final town trip. First up was a trip to Milembeli to hand the uniforms to the children of the blind who live there. There was quite a gathering awaiting us and after the usual introductions we spoke to various people in private about what issues they had. Some were too big to deal with, such as building houses or paying for university; but those which were manageable received various amounts of assistance.
Dishing out the final load of uniforms
Giving one of the phones I have brought to a local leader
These two needed a little help. One for HIV medication and the other to buy a door for her house which I had built for her a few years previously but clearly I had found a shoddy carpenter as the door broke.
Zawardi and Eliza were looking for school shoes and a bag for their books. Zawardi features a lot in this blog as she is the one who sparked off the mass-buying of uniforms after she asked my sister for one years ago.
After the discussions were completed, we headed to the home of Mariam. Part of her roof had been destroyed in the storms and if it wasnt repaired then the next storm might take the walls with it. I was given a small amount of money by someone I’ve never met but who stumbled across this blog and I used the bulk of that money to buy her the iron sheets she needs. Driving to her house was a mission in itself. We started on a dirt road which became a lane and then turned into a track and finally was little more than a footpath. The taxi driver took it all in good spirits, even when he had to change a tyre.
Mariam and her son outside their home. You can see where the roof has collapsed.
Their new iron sheets. I’m the one on the left.
We returned to Buigiri to find the usual assortment of people awaiting us. I had promised Ashel a small amount of money to get him to the eye hospital in Mvumi and for his treatment. I was also able to find him a couple of pairs of glasses from the storeroom. He walked off with a huge smile. Also waiting to see us were Esther and her son Emmanuel. She insisted we see his ulcerous leg, but I managed to convince her it was not necessary. He needs way more help to solve the problem than I can provide, but I helped with things like bandages.
Trying out eyeglasses for Ashel
This snazzy pair did the job
Esther and Emmanuel outside my house with clothes and cash. They received quite a haul because I was in the midst of emptying my house of goodies before leaving the village. They timed their visit perfectly.
Although I am here for around a week less than usual and my final few days are always so incredibly busy, the final few days of this trip have been rather calm in comparison. I have had less money to spend on smaller things as the bulk of it has been earmarked for specific items by those who gave it. This means less running around and more focus on large scale and less time consuming projects. The mattresses for example took around an hour to plan, an hour to buy and an hour to transport. The chicken project of to years ago probably took around 50 hours of my time.
I had expected plenty of visitors to my home but this was not the case – only one person came. I thought living in the village rather than in the school would make me more approachable than before, but it seems only a few found out where I was living. This is a good thing as I had just the right number of requests for assistance. I am fine with saying no to people if I believe I have valid reasons for doing so, but having to say no just because my cash has run out is tough.
Teresa collected some money to pay for medicine for her stomach ulcer
Killing time with a frisbee
Handing clothes out to the girls at the blind school.
One thing that has come to light this year is I have more of an insight into how I am perceived by many of the villagers, including some of the leaders. There is a belief that after World War 2 a bunch of white missionaries acquired a large quantity of gold and buried it in 6 crates. They believe all whitemen know the location of this hoard and I steal it from them. When not stealing their gold I am mining for diamonds in the nearby hill. Quite how they think I have time for that between working hard all day, spending the evening in the bar and then scraping together 5 or 6 hours sleep, is quite beyond me. It is fascinating how these rumours have spread and I’m sure many villagers would swear they are true. They also think I come to Tanzania and do the good things I do just so I can then take photographs of them and these I sell these for vast sums in England. Quite why they think their photo has any value or why there is a market in a bunch of Tanzanian’s standing together with me often lurking behind them is another matter. I’ve spent too long in the country now to be bothered by such tittle tattle and those I work directly with laugh at the ridiculousness of it.
In the afternoon 20 of the disabled and very elderly gathered at the maize shop. Last year they all received 40kg each but with the price hikes I had to halve this. They 20 people make for quite a motley crue. Some crawl on the ground, others have feet pointing the wrong way, some are so frail and yet still walk off with the sack of maize balanced on their heads.
Handing out the maize
The 20 people lined up
Afterwards we wet to the football pitch for the clash between a village team with the delightful name of ‘Killer Boys’ and a team who had come down from the mountains. At stake was a football, plus football shirts. Shane is a referee and with some simple swahili scrawled on a pad he managed to successfully officiate.
Just before the game I met with Enock, Martha, Moussa and Happy. They are four of the children who get support from friends in the UK. It isn’t a huge amount, but it helps with uniforms, a little food, school books and other essentials.
The team from the mountains
The local team. They had turned up without shirts and so we dished out 11 of the red shirts I had been given in the UK. The plan was to give these to the winning team whilst the other team got a mixture of shirts. Fortunately they went on to win, otherwise things might have gotten a little awkward.
The ref with the winning captain and their new ball
In the evening we had our traditional send off meal with the teachers. We ate the duck given to us by the witchdoctor, plus served up a further 5kg of meat. We fed the ten of us, plus 15 children, our biggest haul to date. As per the previous year, the wine flowed and flowed. We had bought a box of the stuff from Dodoma and I took it upon myself to ensure we didn’t waste any by not finishing it. It was a fun evening and some fascinating stories were shared – I’ll save writing about them on here as they were a bit too extreme for public consumption.
The teachers at the start of the meal
Mr Omary and Shane re-enact Sláinte from St Patrick’s Day
As a taste from the UK, I brought out a bottle of whisky