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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2013 Trip part 4

Saturday 23rd

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.

 photo P3230321640x480_zps63497575.jpg Dishing out the final load of uniforms

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Giving one of the phones I have brought to a local leader

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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.

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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.

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Mariam and her son outside their home. You can see where the roof has collapsed.

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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.

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Trying out eyeglasses for Ashel

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This snazzy pair did the job

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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.

Sunday 23rd

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.

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Teresa collected some money to pay for medicine for her stomach ulcer

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Killing time with a frisbee

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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.

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Handing out the maize

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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.

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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.

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The team from the mountains

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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.

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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.

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The teachers at the start of the meal

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Mr Omary and Shane re-enact Sláinte from St Patrick’s Day

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As a taste from the UK, I brought out a bottle of whisky

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Mission accomplished

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A Day In The Life #16

Friday, March 22nd

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Traditional fake sleep photo

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Time check. Anything after 7.30am counts as a lie in.

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Checking the cash I have to hand. This is what 2 million looks like. It is 1/8th of my total spend this trip.

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The first stop of the day is not until 10am, so I check what’s happening in the world.

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And here is the first appointment. I am collecting many of the completed uniforms from the tailor.

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I hand over the remaining balance to Mr Fwejeje. I have had around 50 made here and 20 in town. Each costs approx £7.

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An early lunch is had as the next job starts at 1pm.

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Lunch is Chipsi Mayai – or a chip omelette in English.

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As we head to the school after lunch we spot Mr Julius. The government has been handing a few kg of food to those most in need in the village. He has just collected his share

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Each year I arrange a group phone call between the blind school and a London primary school. The kids introduce themselves and ask questions about each other’s lives.

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I had told them that if they spoke loudly and clearly I would provide sodas as a treat. Not all the children could have them right away as some were fasting for Lent and so had to wait until the evening.

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The blind kids who had been fitted up for a uniform then arrived to collect them – they are in the black bags.

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I get cornered by Zenedea. She is blind and training to be a teacher. She is rather formidable and is always flanked by a posse. She is definitly the Queen Bee though.

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As I leave the school I am introduced to these two who had travelled 5 hours to visit me. The woman has a back problem and the man is blind. I tend to avoid helping people who turn up to see me but I could hardly send them off empty handed.

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Next up is a short walk to the shop with…

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…Flora. She is 19 with a 5 year old child and both are blind. I give a little help by way of food, soap and other items.

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Next stop is the blind rehabilitation centre to distribute some items.

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The main project this year was supplying mattresses to the centre. Each family received 2. They sleep on sacks on the floor and had asked last year if I would consider providing mattresses in the future. Also in the pic are sacks of soap, clothes, toothpaste/brushes and other items.

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I was also there to hand out the seeds and medicines they had requested.

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Plus more uniforms

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And some shirts from my sister’s school. The two at the front are twins who happened to be wearing shirts I gave out last year.

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Before the mattresses get taken away we have a group photo.

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Jared collects his

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As does Leah

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I give a hand (or a head) carrying them to the houses.

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I admit it, I am showing off now

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I make sure I get pics of each person with their mattresses to show to the sponsor in the UK

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As I go around the houses I spy this sign I had made for a previous project there.

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And more smiley faces

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Harry wants me to provide a water pump for his garden. He has to carry the water buckets by hand. I have said no though as it is unfair to favour one family over another in the centre.

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I head home and a quick storm comes and goes. It brings with it this rainbow

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It also brings Frank. He is a very bright student, in the top few in the region, with excellent English who is one of the very few people to have passed his national examinations. He lives with his disabled aunt and has had to drop out of school for financial reasons. Having said I would not support any more people with education, I buckled with him. Shane, a friend in the UK and I have put enough money in a pot so he can restart in May

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Now all the serious work is done, it is time to revert back to my default state of being silly.

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I’m not sure where this monster came from (the toy, not the boy). I asked people what it was and noone knew. The closest they got was ‘Godzilla’. I tried explaining about dinosaurs but I think they thought I was pulling their legs

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Next is a visit from Hogra. I have already helped her start a small tea and cake selling business but she came to remind me I had promised her kids uniforms. Ooops. I handed her a ticket to take to the tailor and she seemed happy.

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Dinner time. We have 3 cooks and a guard.

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Rice, goat, salad and plenty of fresh fruit. We feed around 15 people each evening. For the kids, these few weeks are like when a seal puts their blubber on before the winter. After we leave, they will be back on basic rations until I return next year.

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The dog wandered by and was tempted in to the house.

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Also making an appearance was this cricket

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And this centepede. They are very dangerous with a strong poison in their tail. When the children are frightened of an animal then I know it is something to take seriously. We eventually track him down and kill him.

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In celebration the children prat around outside

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Next stop is Chamwino town, around 5km away. The teachers are taking us there for a drinking session.

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They had ordered us all half a chicken. Having eaten at home we were not too keen on the idea, but after a few beers we plouged through it. It was delicious.

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We indulged for quite a while

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We had agreed to pay for the drinks, which costs £22, and the teachers covered the 5 chickens

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Heading back by taxi – 4 in the back and me up front.

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A later than usual night and after a busy day we found sleep came without much prompting.

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