Sunday 21st December
I once again had various visitors this morning and fortunately it all went fairly straightforward. It helped that most of the village was at church. We managed to leave the house before everyone piled out. We had a long walk ahead of us, so stopped for food fuel at the butchers. They slaughter either a goat or a cow each day and they will barbecue it for free, should you so wish. It is delicious, but you do have to fight through clouds of flies to reach the meat.
I bring plenty of strong suncream to give to those with albinism. One of the bonuses of going overseas in the winter is you can get these bottles for a couple of quid from ASDA
We came across this poorly beast on our walk and christened her Hannah Montana.
We had a three hour walk to do, taking in the homes of 4 of the village blind, so we could check past work and have a discussion in situ about exactly what they were after. By the end of the afternoon I’d committed myself to supplying ten iron sheets, ten sacks of cement and a plough, plus some smaller items. I also found a home for a couple of the phones I was given by friends in the UK. They make such a big difference – for instance one blind woman is guided around by her young daughter. When the mother has to go somewhere then the girl misses school. Having a phone means she can contact people much more easily and so the girl can have better access to education. All because someone gave me a phone they no longer use.
The evening was spent battling with the internet to make my last update – when it works, it averages 8kbps. We also sorted through many of the phones to find out which work and which are unlocked.
This woman’s husband passed away this year. He was a blind man and last year I’d helped them with putting a roof on their house. This time they wished to have a chat about strengthening the house and making it less dirty by adding a cement floor. Can you spot all 6 people in this photo?
We also visit this girl’s house to see about getting iron sheets for the roof.
Our final stop of the day was to see Mamma Happy. I helped her with the iron sheets last year. She is after a plough this time though.
Because walking in the midday African sun isn’t quite tough enough
We also started the mammoth task of sorting through the phones we have brought with us. A number of them don’t work at all and some others will need unlocking, but so far the success rate is the highest it has ever been and we have plenty to hand out.
Monday 22nd December
I have made a photodiary of this day which can be found here
Tuesday 23rd December
I love visiting the clothes auctions in town. When people in the UK and elsewhere give clothes to charity shops, the best items are sold in the shops but the stuff that they can’t sell gets sold on to traders who then ship it to places like the Dodoma markets, where I buy them for the village. We only had half an hour until our next appointment, so didn’t buy too much, it was still fun, and just a little bit crazy.
This photo really doesn’t do justice to the bustle of the place. There are around a dozen sellers all shouting over one another, and a network of book keepers, money takers and overseers, plus all the buyers. When you win something, they throw it at you, and this photo shows me mid catch.
Next up was seeing Christoph. He drives this bus for a living, but I still like to help him each time I come as he has a young family and life is tough. I supplied rice, maize, beans, cooking oil and things for the kids.
Wednesday 24th December
The main project I have to do this trip is building a 3-cubicle girl’s latrine for the local primary school. The building work started before I arrived so it would not be too interrupted by the rains which happen around Christmas time. Hopefully it will be finished before we depart.
I had a little time to kill, so joined the neighbours in a game of hopscotch
Emmanuel came over to say hello… and then to list his problems. He is a blind man from a town a few hours away and he always knows when I am in the country. He wants to be as independent as possible and each year asks me for different components of his house. This is quite clever of him because I won’t just build someone a house, but if each year they ask for bricks, then a door, then windows and so on, they’ll eventually end up with the same result without me feeling the pinch too much. I also gave him a phone as he dropped his last one down a well!
Unfortunately our friend Hannah passed away. We made a simple casket from a water bottle and buried her outside the house and said a few words wishing her well in the afterlife.
Next stop was the Rehab Centre to hand out the items I’d promised a few days previously. John had asked for a radio – radios are especially important for the blind. He was wearing a Plymouth Argyle football shirt a friend gave me last trip to bring. It looks as though John has been wearing it every day since.
Now time to hand out the rehab’s school uniforms. Each family also received 4kg of rice and the equivalent of £4 which was a gift from my mother. That will buy their meat and other items for Christmas day. I also bought each family a mosquito net. Last year I gave them all mattresses, so the nets completes that job.
These are the dozen families who live at the centre
Baby Imogen carrying her goods home.
There is a Free Methodist church at the centre. Methodism has its roots in my home city of Bristol and before I travelled, I went to the museum to gather various brochures to bring. These were very well received by Pastor Kikoko.
In the evening we headed to a nearby town for drinks and meat. Dawei’s hair is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Thursday 25th December
Christmas day starts with a church service. A 4-hour church service. It is filled with choirs and music, so it isn’t too bad. I had to stand up and introduce myself but Dawei was not called upon to do the same, despite him having memorised his lines.
The woman we employ to do our cooking and cleaning was in one of the choirs, so we hung around the stage door and pleaded for a photo afterwards
Having been a little concerned we weren’t going to be invited anywhere for lunch, we were resigned to eating tinned sardines as they were the only food we could find that didn’t involved many hours of cooking on a charcoal stove. Our fears were unfounded though as two invites came along. This was meal one: pilau rice and pork.
And meal two just a few hours later: rice, cooked bananas, potatoes, beef and liver.
In the evening we went to the disco. This was quite an experience. We were in a big room and it slowly filled with the village youths who were manic on the dancefloor. Standard manoeuvres for the boys include grabbing someone and swinging them around until they fell over, then running to a girl and doing a mix between twerking and grinding. I decided to keep my moves in the locker and just sat off to one side nursing my drink.
Friday 26th December
When Kenneth visited me last time, he was at Theological College. He has now graduated and is awaiting a placement in a regional church. He was looking for a little help with things like a mattress and buckets to wash his clothes in.
We sorted through the 60 football shirts and had a boy strut his stuff in one. We have a large number of Chelsea shirts because the bulk of them came from a collection held at Our Lady Queen of Heaven School in South West London.
I had said to Dawei that there are snails here the size of a fist – I wasn’t too sure if he believed me, but then we came across this fine fellow. We have adopted him and have made a home for him and two frogs. I hope they fare better than poor Hannah. We joked to our cook that we were going to eat it for dinner. We then had to come clean because she was trying to figure out how to cut it into small pieces.
We headed to the local town of Chamwino for lunch and to buy some items. I figured I’d best do as Africans do, and use my head.
Our butcher in the village was shut as it was boxing day, so we stocked up on meat for the evening.
Once we had everything bought, we hired a bus to drive us back.
The first stop was delivering 10 sacks of cement to strengthen Mrs Kusenha’s house. They are much heavier than they look!
Next up was to deliver Mamma Happy’s flat-pack plough.
Finally we delivered Simba’s iron sheets. Usually it takes a whole day to complete just one task, so to knock three off in just a few hours was very satisfying.
On our way home I was pounced on by this woman who slapped me. Apparently it is meant to be endearing.
I met the woman in the middle a year or two ago when she was pregnant and I made a joke about how she should name her son ‘Tom’ if it was a boy because it is an awesome name. Awkwardly she had a boy and followed my advice. As per cultural norms, her name is now Mamma Tom as a mother adopts the name of their first born.