Making a difference?

It’s been a mad 4 days since my first blog entry. But its amazing how quickly I’ve settled here and adjusted to what was such an alien world a week ago. Work continues at the school and I am beginning to get into the pattern walking the kids to school, helping out in the classroom and playing with them after lessons.

Morning school session

Morning school session

The biggest learning curve so far has been establishing an overall perspective of the immense challenge that developing countries face today. All the volunteers here, myself included, come out with lots of enthusiastic ideas and preconceptions, expecting to cause a big bang and change the world in a significant way. However, what is clear upon first reflection is that that socio-economic development is a very long, slow process and that there are many obstacles in the way. The best we can do is to play our part in the ongoing development and make a difference to individuals and the community. It struck me the other day that the kids we spend our mornings and afternoons playing with and developing relationships with are deprived of the love and parenthood that we received in our upbringing and many go home to a one bedroom house and sleep on the floor. I have seen scars on 5 year olds where they have been whipped by parents, and the majority wear the same dirty, 3-sizes-too-big outfits everyday. It is all too easy, even when living out here, to take for granted the fact that we are so protected by the love and warmth of our friends and family back home, the comfort of a bed to sleep in, clean food and water and the benefits (and knowledge of) of modern medicine that protect us from the likes of Malaria, Cholera and such life threatening and inhibiting diseases. The people here are just so exposed, so vulnerable, you could not comprehend it unless you live amongst them. Just playing with these kids and giving them the love and friendship they long for is making a impact. 20 of the 200 kids in the class may already be HIV positive. Some of them may not live beyond childhood. I see my role here as outreaching to these people and continuing to cement the foundations that were put in place just over a month ago when the programme was established, in order to ensure that it is maintained and developed throughout the longer term and continues to make a difference to the lives of these people. This week has thus been all about absorbing the way of life out here and learning the roles we can fill to nurture socio-economic development from the inset, at the local level.

Outside of time spent at the school this week I was fortunate to spend half a day walking around three of the local villages guided by Dzinyato, a former fisherman now employed full time by TAYOA to teach at the school. We are really fortunate to know him as a member of the local community as without him we could not walk through the villages safely. When we are with him the villagers know we are friends of him and we are not in any danger. We walked through Kunduchi, the village where all the kids from the school live, and he invited us into his house (a rented bedroom in a small building). We walked along the beautiful Kunduchi beach amongst the fisherman making nets and repairing their handcrafted boats, which was quite a sight. We sat for a while with some of the fisherman learning some Swahili, before taking a tour of two of the other villages. In one of them, we were briefly introduced to Dzinyato’s wife who had moved back to her original residing from Kunduchi because their young daughter is ill. Finally, we finished off back in Kundchi where we had some rice and watched the fisherman bring in their fish in at the end of the day and sell them at the local market. I was very careful to remain inconspicuous when I took my camera out to take a few snaps, but a few locals noticed me and were bemused by my photo taking, enticing me to photograph a women who was evidently very embarrassed by the thought of appearing in a photo. It was very entertaining!

Dzinyato and me with some of the Kunduchi kids and fellow fishermen

Dzinyato and me with some of the Kunduchi kids and fellow fishermen

Yesterday was an equally busy day. During the morning session at the school we split the kids up into groups and took them into the village to pick up litter. It was a worthwhile exercise in an attempt to try and teach them some form of hygiene, and the rubbish was burned at the back of the school afterwards. After the morning session five of us took off to an island just off Kunduchi beach for a bit of rest and relaxation. Dzinyato had been kind enough to organize the trip, and he and two other fishermen drove us out on their boat for a small charge. After the twenty minute journey we arrived on the island, deserted but for a few tourists and a handful of villagers providing food and drink to the tourists. No one resides on the island, but there are a few huts and hammocks to cater for the handful of tourists that come. The island was breathtakingly beautiful, the kind of place where every photograph could be a postcard. The sun was baking hot and we were greeted by palm trees, hammocks and clear blue water. We ordered lunch on arrival and some of the fisherman went out in their boat to catch some fresh fish. The fish was served an hour later with chips, onion and garlic. It by far superseded any fish and chips I have experienced previously. We finished our meal with fresh coconut juice, straight from the shell, and went for a walk around the island before getting back on the boat. Dzinyato walked us back to the house and we had a few drinks before making a return visit to the local bar for the evening.

Relaxing on Mbudya Island

Relaxing on Mbudya Island

This morning I have just been chilling out at the house. Its great to have a couple of days off at the weekend to relax. Just about to have a bite to eat and then we may go for a swim at the beach.

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