Saturday, 3rd January
I have been staying at Buigiri Blind School this trip but all the children have been away for the Christmas holidays. Today they began to drift back to the school. This is quite a logistical mission. There are approximately 65 boarders and they are spread over an area the size of Spain. Most families don’t have any means of communication, yet despite this, the system works. Fortunately the first children back were kids I have known for a few years. From left to right is Ezekial, Jose, Nico and Abubakkar. They all got football shirts and wind up radios.
Next up was a visit to see Zawardi. His father set up the adult blind centre many years ago and he passed away two years back. Zawardi now runs the place and it was good to sit down and chat about the future of the centre
Abel is the village photographer and each trip I bolster the hardware he uses to earn a living. A friend of Dawei’s, called Caroline, gave us this excellent digital camera. Abel is the perfect man to receive it.
We had the leaders of the Tanzanian League for the Blind over for dinner. This is the first of the final three nights of entertaining and send-offs. I provided the house, but the others all arranged for a feast to be prepared. That gave way to the speeches. Tanzanians won’t say something in 5 words if they can say it in 25 words. I like to reciprocate in kind but I am yet to find I’ve hit the point where I lose the audience – these guys have endurance.
Sunday, 4th January
The children brought us a chameleon to replace the one which passed away. I am not too sure we should be entrusted with much more of Tanzania’s wildlife though.
Mamma Gordo came to see me as her husband was paralysed and needed help getting to a hospital with a spinal unit. I’ve pretty much run out of money but she won me over with her smile and I contributed enough for him to get there.
There were some heavy rains the previous night which caused problems with the cement in the goal ball pitch, so I popped along to see the damage being repaired. I am really pleased to be able to support the blind school in this way during this trip.
Sarafina is next up to pay me a visit. I have been helping her for the past few years as she lives independently of her family. Albinos need special care. Partly due to their skin being very susceptible to cancer, but mainly because many are killed annually so their body parts can be used in witchcraft. She wants to attend secretarial college, but I could only offer to help cover her living costs.
Next up was a visit to Nuru Children’s Choir where Dawei taught them the moves to the song Africa which he had choreographed last year for his own choir in England.
Monday, 5th January
Pasquina is from a village five hours north of Buigiri. Years ago I went through many villages and found two blind children to join the school. Salim is the other. Getting them not only into education, but also into a community of other blind, is the achievement I am most proud of in Tanzania. They returned to the school today, so I supplied them both with a bucket to wash their clothes and in each bucket were toothbrushes, toothpaste, sweets, biscuits, soap and skin cream.
We hand out more of the radios. Wind up radios are brilliant for young visually impaired children. They don’t have the money to buy batteries and they are more in need of audio stimulation than other kids.
We also took this opportunity to clear out loads of things from the house, such as clothes, braille playing cards, a Bop-it and football shirts.
And this is the Bop-it. Mr Boa is certainly enjoying it. and I always try and bring a couple with me for the school.
Our next stop is the rehab centre for more maize distribution. It is a hard and dirty job, but very rewarding.
Another distribution… another line-up
Imogen, a future star of Bristol Rugby… somehow
We wave goodbye to the last of our football shirts. We had enough adult Chelsea shirts to form a team
The children help carry the maize back to the houses
A friend gave me an iPod to bring out. I loaded it up with audiobooks and decided Mr Omary was the best man to receive it. Not only is he blind, but he has been a huge support for us this trip in many different ways. He also has electricity and is currently learning how to use a computer.
Omary wanted us to have our photo taken with his family. The man smiles constantly until you put a camera anywhere near him. He must have a sixth sense for it.
Our final night is always a celebration with the teachers. First up, we had twenty children for dinner. They were then turfed out and it was the turn of the ten fellows here to eat. The women at the back did all the cooking and were exhausted by the end of the night.
Buta turned up midway through. She is at a secondary school for the deaf and my mother and a friend have supported her living costs in the past. Costs are far higher in secondary school as opposed to primary, so I was able to take the sting out of it all, but not cover everything.
We left the village early the next morning to go on a short safari before flying back to the UK. At the airport I by chance met a woman who reads my wesbite – so hello Dorah! Small world. Looking back on the trip, I’d say this was possibly my most successful yet. In the past there can be a little unpleasantness at times, but that was entirely absent from this trip. New people are now in charge in some areas and the future looks promising.
My trips would be entirely fruitless were it not for the work and support of many people back in England – whether it be people who gave me a single phone or football shirt, to people like Stu, Eddy, Monkey and Sue, amongst many others, who gave me bagfuls of goodies they’d collected. Then there are the schools: Our Lady Queen of Heaven in London, St Joseph’s in Hertford and Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. My sister Imogen helped organise boxes full of shirts, phones and everything else from two of the schools. OLQH and Ampleforth were also brilliant at fundraising, this was topped up with bits from friends and in total I spent £5000 on 90 separate projects.