A Day In The Life #19

I will spare you all a sleep photo. This is a rare moment of peace in the living room. The bottles are left over from dinner the night before and the place could do with a bit of a tidy.

I was at the village bar the night before and collapsed into bed around 1.30, so I was a little tired getting up this early

Dawei and I leave the house.

We meet two friends. The four of us, including our shadows, head out. We are accompanied by a three legged dog called Shida (Swahili for problem). We must make for a strange sight.

We arrive at the church. We are there for the Baptism of Baby Tom. From now on, there shall always be a Tom in Tanzania.

We are told to arrive at 7.30 but it turns out things don’t start until 9. This level of punctuality is common place here, but I stupidly never learn and keep turning up on time. There is music playing though, so I have a bit of a dance

We are surprised to see our friend John. It turns out he is part of a small choir which will be singing.

The main man himself: Tom

We take our seats and manage to avoid being ushered to the very front

I chuckle at the slight inappropriateness of the girl’s top

Tom was fast asleep when he was lifted up to be baptised – his ensuing tears could have refilled the font

When we walked in, Dawei thought the font was a bowl to clean your hands and wash your face

I had prepared myself to stand up and introduce myself to the congregation, as is the custom for visitors. I wasn’t expecting to be dragged to the front.

After the service, we all file out. Everyone is formed in a circle outside and you walk around the circle shaking hands with everybody before joining the end of the line

There were perhaps 200 people, so it took a little while

I think this photo encapsulates how we feel after several hours of waiting and then being in church.

We stop for a quick liquid top-up. It gets pretty warm here and it is too easy to dehydrate.

We arrive at our destination: Tom’s grandmother’s house where we have been invited for lunch

The choir are also here. I know 4 of the five choir members well but never knew they were friends with each other, let alone sung together. They had superb voices. Individually they lead very hard lives, being blind in one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest countries is not exactly great, but when they sing together they really create something amazing.

Food time: rice and beans.

After, we head outside and spot this young woman

She wasn’t the only kid around though

I chat with some of the guys about the problems they face. George smashed his leg up pretty bad and needed to have a follow-up x-ray done in town

As we left, we spotted this example of local recycling

We arrive back in the school – this monument gives a potted history of the place

The school is on its holidays and so the only children here are the kids of the teachers. This is Nina, whose father is a good friend who teaches at the school

We get home and spy our cook Anna on the steps. All the cooking happens outside on a charcoal fire and it is such a slow process, which is why we employ someone.

I am visited by Isiah who is a builder when he doesn’t have an arm in plaster. Much like George, he was looking for small help getting to town for a checkup and to have the plaster changed

Albert and his brother Alfred pay us a visit to drop off a gift of damsons and a fruit which may be a guava

We hand out another football kit to a local boy. We have 60 shirts here, many of whom were gathered together by the Dempsey family in London called who took it upon themselves to get very involved in this work.

More visitors. More problems.

We make a break for it when our car comes to collect us.

On the left is Daodi. He is a much revered witchdoctor and each year he invites me to his home. His father is blind and I give him some support and Daodi is fantastic at reciprocating. On the right is Mr Omary. He is a fantastic help whilst I am here. He is a leader in charge of all disabled people in central Tanzania and that helps give me lots of access to people who it would be tricky to contact otherwise.

Daodi has several wives and he is keen that all his children learn the local dances so that the culture of the tribe is preserved for another generation.

It makes for fascinating viewing

We are not the only people watching, behind us are dozens of children

Daodi joins in the dancing. This is the first time I have ever seen him get involved and it felt exceptionally special. His hat and shoulder blades are made from monkey fur.

After the dancing and speeches, this little girl helps to clear up.

Our net stop is to visit the cows. These are 4 of the 7 cows the father of the witchdoctor now owns as a result of me starting him off with a small chicken project a few years ago.

Before we leave, Daodi kindly presents us with a duck to take away

The poor thing was so docile

We arrive home and spot this fellow outside the house

There is an intricate handshake which the guys do here which involes high-fives, finger flicking and bashing elbows together. We have managed to get a few to add this manoeuvre to the end

Food time. There are always 8-15 people here at supper time who need feeding and we usually have 4ish kg of rice and 2kg of meat prepared. We messed up today and supplied far too few sweet potatoes to take the place of the rice, so there wasn’t much to go around

Meanwhile some of the children meet Mr Duck. It is wrong to play with your food, but I guess we can make an exception.

Just before I go to bed, I see online that England is covered in snow. This photo of a snowman reminded me of the sand sculpture from earlier, just at a somewhat different temperature.

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2014 Trip part 2

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.

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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.

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A Day In The Life #18

Here is the obligatory fake sleep photo

I was awoken by someone ploughing the field outside my window.

I face a constant struggle with the internet. The 0 kbps speed was labelled as ‘good’.

I eventually connect and manage to do some work on my blog.

Dawei soon surfaces. He found this sick chameleon the previous day and has been nursing it. The locals are frightened of it as it is meant to be very dangerous – wikipedia disagrees though.

We head to a nearby teacher’s house to collect 120kg of rice. This is half of it.

I tried to help… but the box split open

And we are off… this is fairly typical of the scenery around here.

The view through the other side

We finally sight town in the distance. It is technically the capital city, but really only just in name

We head to a few shops to add to the items we brought. This is a cooking oil shop

And now a general-everything shop

I get passed a phone to say hello to someone’s friend. Face-to-Face calling is all the rage here. I’m not sure I have ever even done it in the UK

We arrive and unload. I thought this bag would be easier to carry

Instead it needed four of us

30 families are here to receive items for Christmas. Before I join the leaders, I thought it was important to go over and say hello to all those waiting patiently for us

First, we begin with more speeches. I start with Swahili but then switch to using a translator

Uniform distribution time

The kids pose with their new uniforms

Next up we hand out pens and exercise books

Then it is the turn of biscuits. These are hardly an essential staple, but they make a nice Christmas treat.

We also distribute the rice – 4kg to each family. Plus 1 litre of cooking oil.

I gave each family 5,000tshs (around £2 or $3.25) to buy a kilo of meat on Christmas day. I only had 10,000tshs notes so the families had to pair up. Bad planning on my behalf.

More money distribution

Finally we hand out sweets to the kids – it is surprising what age range considers themselves to be children as a number of grandparents also joined the line.

Pascal is a latecomer. It looks like I am taking his goodies though.

The heads of each of the families line up for a photo

Next up we hand out white canes, talking watches and phones to those who have been selected by the local leaders.

Daniel receives a phone. These were given to me by friends in the UK and are pretty much redundant in the west now everyone has smartphones

Now it is the turn of the white canes to be set free

Talking watches are so cheap on ebay, but they make such a difference out here

Another watch and another smile.

Meanwhile a boy makes full use of a spare Oreo box

Many of the families approach me to discuss their issues. This girl needed help with her school fees

It was only a small amount, so I agreed to help. I have money given to me by friends in the UK and by a couple of schools who fundraise and this is the type of things it gets spent on.

Next up Zawardi and his mother. She wants him to go to a very good school which costs a lot of money but we did a decent job of convincing her that it was a pipedream and to pick a government school instead. I declined to help with the fees but instead sorted him out with a uniform, shoes and sports kit.

Idi is the chairman of the community. I set a project up a few years ago which generates a small amount of profit each month and this is used to help the blind members generate their own incomes. Idi was given a handout which he used on his farm and has now harvested 8 sacks of maize as a result which should see his family through the next few months.

George was the previous chairman. He needed help starting up a charcoal trading business. He was looking for around £25 so I gave half of it to help him along. This is the last request of the day and we soon leave.

We stop for a belated lunch.

And then go to the ice cream parlour…

… for some much needed treats

We have decided to spend the night in town so we can make the most of a hot shower, shave, tv and other creature comforts. This is meant to be the best hotel in the capital but we were the only guests

My first gin and tonic of the trip. It would have been better had the place not been swarming with mozzies

I shift inside to avoid the blighters. I had the whole place to myself

Mmmm beer.

I am not usually a soup eater (or drinker?) but I was intrigued by the Clear of Vegetable description

The soup is on the right. It contained vegetables. The food was really quite tasty

With no one else present, aside from a waiter who stared at me for 3 hours straight, it meant I could be a little silly.

Time to pay the bill. This is around £25 for the two of us, including a number of drinks

Final time stamp of the day

And then to bed, for a final fake sleep photo.

 

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2014 Trip part 1

Thursday 18th December

We arrived in the village the previous day after 24 hours of travelling but did little more than catch up with a few people and unpack. There are regular power outages, and sure enough we were without electricity and so the body decided this was the perfect time to crash out. 12 hours later and we were fully recharged and raring to go. This is my 8th trip to Buigiri over 15 years and the first day is always spent getting myself up and running – such as sorting the kitchen out, collecting bundles of cash I had sent out ahead of my trip, getting my laptop online, buying local sim cards and so on. This means a day in town which can be a frenetic experience. Surprisingly the day was a success – successful days are few and far between as there is always a hold-up somewhere – a bus breaks down or the shops are shut for some esoteric holiday for instance.

This is what we managed to bring out this time. We were stopped at customs and nearly got into some hot water, but I grovelled our way out of it.

On another plus note, in the past, wherever I go, but especially in the towns, I get everybody staring at me. I can walk around a corner and make a busy street scene fall into silence. However this time I have found a perfect solution – travel with someone with a large red mohican. Talk about an attention shift. I can glide around and no one knows I am there. At one point we were in the bustling market and the place is divided by a bridge. This bridge is often lined by young men and they all broke out into spontaneous cheering when they saw his hair and several reached for their camera phones for surreptitious photographs. The hunter becomes the prey. Several people have said that the style will catch on and next time I visit, all the men will have bright red mohawks.

These two girls were joking around with us and then wanted to take their photo with us for their facebook pages – how things have changed here! In return, we also took a snap.

Piled up with goodies for the house.

On our first night we were invited to dinner and we had this feast served up

Friday 19th December

The visitors started arriving today, all with pressing needs. This year I have a couple of bigger projects lined up but I also have some money to help individuals with their issues. This money will not go too far though and so I am focussing on helping the people who have received support in the past and who I know to be reliable and trustworthy people who will make the most of the opportunity. Each year I come out thinking I have plenty of financial reserves to tide me through the trip but each year I run out and have to turn down genuine requests for help and I suspect this year will be much the same.

Someone bought a chicken to my house for me to buy. Every last part of it ended up in the pot, including the feet and head.

I had some of the successes visit me today and it was pleasing to start the trip in this way. First up was Mr Masaka – he is blind, in his 80s and a leader amongst the blind and in the community at large. However his position at the top of the social hierarchy does not mean he gets an income inline with his position. I have done what I can for him over the years and if everyone made as much of the opportunity as he did, then the village would be a far less troubled place. Years ago I set him up with a small chicken project consisting of 6 chicks, medicine and food. His chickens bred and he soon traded them for two goats and these in turn are now 7 cows. He has turned my original investment of £25 into capital worth 100 times as much within 6 years. I wish I’d lumped more on and taken a percentage!

Having blind people check out Dawei’s hair is an endless source of amusement for us.

Frank also paid me a visit – he is an exceptionally bright and hard working boy who comes from the poorest of backgrounds. Shane, who came out last year, and another friend, have helped pay for his education for the past couple of years during his A-levels and he is soon to graduate – this is a minor miracle given that only around 1 in a hundred children complete their GCSEs in the village. He has ambitious plans of studying Computing and Electrical Engineering at university but even with a government loan he would still need ten times what his mother might make from her small farm each year. It is frustrating seeing such barriers blocking good people like him and it is one of the factors that keeps the poor as poor as they have ever been, despite the country gradually becoming wealthier.

There were several other visitors, some of whom I could help and others who I have made plans to visit in their homes just to double check that previous support has been used correctly. If so, then I will likely help out again. Sometimes it is quite tough cutting people off because they have not done what they have said because it is often for valid reasons. Perhaps I give someone 10 corrugated iron sheets for their roof but before they are fitted, their child collapses in a fever – is it fair to punish them for selling half the sheets so they can visit the hospital and buy the medicine to save the child’s life? At the same time, it is difficult to operate as I do if people mislead you, no matter their intentions.

Lunch at John’s. The best (and just about only) restaurant in town.

After lunch we had a wander around the village. I like just pottering about and taking in the sights as you never know what you might find – it could be a chameleon sunning itself, or a bunch of old men playing draughts. We found ourselves watching a game of marbles, which looked simple but I am sure the kids were considerably more skilful than I could ever be. We were then ushered inside a house to see a woman who had had breast cancer. Three years ago I took care of her hospital treatment which included a mastectomy. Her breast was hacked off and even after all this time the wound has not fully healed. Living in squalid conditions means even antibiotics can’t destroy the infections. She was bedridden, very weak and one side of her body was horribly swollen. It was a grim sight and markedly different to the fun game of marbles taking place on the other side of the wall.

You might just be able to make out who I was waving at.

Saturday 20th December

There was the usual stream of visitors into my home, including an albino mother who needed skin cream, three elderly grandmothers who all had various ailments. The final visitor has been coming to see me for a few years. She had a broken leg which had been jambed into a crudely made metal support frame. Walking was very tough for her but a while ago I helped get a new frame, as well as medicine and now she is almost back to full fitness, which is pleasing to see. Fortunately by 11.30am there was no one waiting and so we made a break for it.

Dawei up in the lookout with a couple of friends. The lookout is what I was waving at in an earlier photo

I was being punished for something or other. I probably deserved it.

We headed up to the Adult Blind Rehabilitation Centre to see the dozen families who make it their home. I always like visiting there as I have known many of the families for 15 years now. When I first came here, I was a mere 18 years old and thought I was going to make a difference, but instead found myself planting trees and digging ditches. All these years later and I see the trees giving shade and bearing fruit and the ditches prevent flooding in the rainy season.

We went around a few of the houses and caught up with various people and then had a meeting with all the families present. I outlined what would be happening in the coming days and broke the news that there wouldn’t be anything major happening there, instead they’d just be getting the regular annual delivery of seed, medicine, school uniforms, maize and food for Christmas. The meeting turned a little surreal when I mentioned Christmas Eve and that prompted a rendition of Silent Night.

Standing with John Kapingo and his family outside his home at the rehab centre

Here I am with baby Imogen, named after my sister.

Lucas was in a car crash with his football team a few months ago and he  couldn’t pay for treatment for his broken arm, so it is a bit of a mangled mess. He has collected around half of the money needed to get it sorted and I added a small amount to the pot.

Peter and his sewing machine – he and his wife eek out a living repairing clothes but he needs a second machine to help make better clothes. He has some savings and it is pleasing to see when people work hard to solve their own problems but I used some money from a friend to bolster his amount.

In the evening we were invited to a leaving party for the headmaster of the blind school. He should have left in October but he keeps coming back for different reasons. We have had a bit of a tricky relationship in the past. I like doing things myself but he wants me to just hand over lumps of cash to him and it angers him that I won’t do this. It would have been very rude not to have attended the party, so along we went. He gave me a great big hug when I went to greet him like we were long separated friends and then tried to have me sit next to him for the whole event but I managed to insist I should hide at the back and so I managed to escape. He had the last laugh though. When he was addressing everyone present, he called me forward and thrust a microphone into my hand and had me take part. I hate public speaking at the best of times but I wasn’t going to let him know that. He said he would translate for me, but I made a point of babbling away in Swahili. I enjoyed the rest of it though as there were a few choirs taking part and they are always entertaining to watch.

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Planning for my next trip

I am all booked up for my next trip to Buigiri. I head out in mid-December for 24 days. I have started gathering together the things I like to take out, such as talking watches, mobile phones and football shirts. If anyone reading this has any old phones or football shirts (I’d wager against you having a talking watch) which you no longer use, then please get in touch and I can help free up valuable real estate in your drawers and in turn it will help someone in Tanzania.

It has been 16 months since my last trip in Easter 2013, but I still involve myself with various activities out in the village and surrounding areas. The internet has been a great help for me. When I first visited, the only means of communication was via an unreliable postal service which took two months to deliver a letter and bring me a response. Now many people have access to facebook through mobile phones and every day I get sent Swahili greetings and I keep up with the news in the village. It also means that I can be sent photographs shortly after they are taken. Even some of the blind leaders are being taught how to use computers.

Over the past few years some friends have been supporting ten primary school children. This provides them with two uniforms, school shoes, school books and fun stuff like sweets. I have just received photos of the children from half way through the year when they receive their 2nd uniform and other items. Here are some of the children:

 

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Short report on how a friend’s money has been spent

Much of the money which is spent on the projects I write about on this site is raised by a couple of schools in the UK. Occasionally, during the year, friends also kindly give a little. There is always so much that needs doing, that it can be hard to pick who to help. If anybody reading this feels the urge to get involved then please get in touch with me. I send money out each month and if it is small I can tack it on to that and if it is more substantial then I can do my best to get photographs and provide a more detailed breakdown in how the money is used (although I can’t promise pics as it is not always easy to get digital photos sent from the village). I receive constant requests for food, building homes, medicine, school fees and dozens of other needs. Below is a small report on how £200 has been spent which a friend handed me last month. It has been dictated by Omary who is a local leader and blind himself. My bits are in the square brackets.

1.

Here is a photo of a boy called Mohamed Mubarak. He lives with a parent in a village called Baura which is near Kondoa Town [approx 4 hours north of Buigiri]. He has low vision. The money I offered them helped them to go to CCBRT Hospital in Dar es Salaam [children need to have paperwork to show they have had their eyes tested by a doctor who can verify they are low vision and that nothing practical can be done immediately to resolve the issue]. He will join the blind school in July because his sight is very low. His family has treated him in using traditional medicine for a long time and still his parent believes that he can recover with only traditional medicine [there is often a battle between using local witchdoctors and western-style doctors].

2.

There are photos of Mr Phelemon Masumega and his wife. I visited them at their home which is at Ilolo area in Mpwapwa district [2 hours east of Buigiri]. You can see me in the photos [Omary is wearing the hat. I also met Phelemon and his wife this year and they are in a photo in this update]. They slaughtered a chicken in my honour. It was special for me for that day. Maybe it is because of what I sent them or perhaps it is just their kindness. I told you earlier that he is an entrepreneur. I gave him 200000tshs [£80/$120]. He makes and sells bricks. He will use the money to buy more materials and tools which will enable him to support his family.

3.

In the photos are Magreti, her husband and Vumilia who is studying at Mvumi Secondary School. She is in Form 2. They lives in Kawawa village. I hope you remember Magreti, she came to visit you in March with another woman when you were here. It is this family which takes care of Vumilia nowadays since her mother passed away. Vumilia has been at home since March 28th when the school closed for half-term because there was noone to pay for her transport to school. She has uncles and aunts but no one is ready to help her. Magreti and her husband volunteered to stay with her despite the fact they are too poor to support Vumilia with anything more than only food. I decided to give them 100000tshs [£40/$60] IN ORDER to help the girl go back to school.

This is all I have for today. Thank you. There remains 100,000tshs [£40/$60] to be used for Nasma [who is in a similar predicament to Mohamed] but she lives very far.

Yours,

Omary Lubuva,
Regional Co-ordinator for the Tanzanian League for the Blind

Of all the areas I have been involved in over the years, I am most proud about helping young blind children in to education. Too often they are kept at home, deprived of the opportunity to learn and are forced into becoming a burden on their family. I have witnessed firsthand the children being terrified at the prospect of leaving their home environment but then within a short time absolutely loving life at the blind school where they get to learn, play with friends who understand about visual impairment, and where they get three meals a day and a bed to sleep in.

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A Day In The Life #17

Monday 25th

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Time check. This is my final full day in Buigiri and so Operation Empty-The-House commences.

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I spy this dictionary which I left in the village in 2009. It has had some good use! Its new owner added my name to the back page and has tried his best to spell the name of my home town.

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Catherine pays me a visit to collect some sun cream. I bring plenty of bottles out each year for the albinos. She also gets some food for her family.

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The silliness resumes. This box is a remnant from the previous night’s entertaining of the teachers.

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Meet Jose. He is sporting a shirt I brought out last year. His education is being funded by the family of my flatmate.

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I can’t believe I have even more shirts to hand out. It has been a never ending pile. The top Britol City shirt is clearly the most sought after. Or at least it should be.

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The box sure is generating some fascinating stares.

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Shane fishes out the last of the water. We have no running water and this tank collects rain water which lands on our roof.

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A girl comes around selling these cake things for breakfast. I think they are made from a combination of rice and grease.

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As one of the few houses to have electricity, we find we have become a phone-charging centre.

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Next job is the final food distribution of the trip. This is for the 12 members of the blind rehab centre.

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On the left is Kapingo who is the only guy who speaks English. On the right is Simba. He isn’t from the centre but I had promised him an extra portion of maize so he met us with the others.

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Everyone together for the customary photo. We have supplied enough food for approximately 7,000 meals this trip.

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Time to pay.

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This lot cost around £100

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Eva and Agnes pay me a visit. A friend from work gives a little money to get them food, uniforms, clothes and other items each year. He gave me these two toys to hand them this trip. I wonder if Buigiri has ever seen a boomerang before. I hope they like it and don’t try to throw it away.

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The two at the back do much of my cooking. They were delighted to get these shirts.

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I don’t recall what was going on here.

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A friend who works for WPT magazine gave me these shirts to hand out.

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And yet more football shirts found their way on to people’s backs

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I gather all the other bits together and head to the home of the big boss of the Tanzanian League for the Blind

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He will ensure they go to the correct places. The bulkiest items are the glasses. They will end up with the eye specialists at Mvumi Hospital. The Bop-it toys will get used by the blind kids and the sun cream will go to the albinos who live further afield.

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A local guy I knew from when he was at secondary school in 1999 is now the boss of a small safari company. He funnels part of his income in to building a library in the village. Prices of text books are prohibitive, so a central store should enable many students to succeed at school.

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Next stop is to see Mr Tongu. On top is a talking calculator for the staffroom and underneath are 3 maps of Africa my boss gave me to bring and which will end up on the classroom walls to aid geography lessons.

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This swing is the only functioning part of the playground.

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I hand out the remaining hats

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And find two recipients for these braille playing cards. That is Nico on the left and Salim on the right. Years ago I travelled around some remote villages looking for blind children who could join the school and Salim was a product of that search.

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I also hand out two replacement radios for a couple which had broken – I got a bunch of cheap ones off Ebay before I came and they are quite useless. Plus I give out batteries for other radios.

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I say my goodbyes to the blind children as this is my last visit to the school.

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As I head off I spy this boy trying to hunt birds. If he succeeds then his family will get a little extra meat for their supper.

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Rehydration time.

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And refoodation.

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I get home and look in on our cooks. As it is our final night we have asked for two chickens to be devoured.

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Years ago I saw these two boys dancing with a choir so I arranged a small dance off competition between them.

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Albert was the winner.

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Unusually I am in no rush on my final day so I fire up a DVD. Eventually we had about 15 people crowded around my laptop. We watched Africa United which is a charming film set in and around Tanzania.

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After dinner we went to the bar for a final session with the teachers. I was exhausted though and stuck to soda.

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I’m not quite sure what I am trying to convey here

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Just as we head home, this critter decides to pay a visit to wish me goodnight. I crawl in to bed arond 2.30am and my alarm is set for 3 hours later. This has been a fantastic trip and pretty much everything has gone as smoothly as possible. It has also been great having Shane out there with me. Thanks to Ampleforth College, OLQH, UWE and UoB who gave me items to bring, or cold hard cash – plus thanks to everyone else who kindly added to my warchest, there are too many to name and I’m sure some of you prefer the anonymity. You are all stars.

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