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.
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.