Rafiki, rafiki

Another four days have passed since my last entry, and my time on the volunteer programme is almost up. Tomorrow morning will be my last session at the school and we leave the volunteer house for our safari early on Sunday morning. Right now it is difficult to contemplate, but I really do think I will miss the school in a big way.

To fill you in briefly on the events of the past few days; on Tuesday we ventured into Posta in Dar city centre to pick up flight tickets for our week of traveling. It was interesting to see this side of town in contrast to Kariakoo which I saw on a previous trip into the city. Posta is the central business district of the city evidenced by a dozen or so sky scrapers, pockets of western influence and other more promising signs of development. It did make me wonder as I was sitting in the comfort of the air conditioned Precision Air office, the extent of the disparity of an average Tanznian’s earnings, especially between a city worker and a Kunduchi fisherman.

Trip to Dar

Trip to Dar

Yesterday we started a new class in the morning session for the really young kids that come to the school, up to about the age of around 2 or 3. I have volunteered to help Emma out with this new class during my remaining time here. One of the young dudes that has become rather attached to me (I have now learned his name is Mdusa) is in the class and it is great to watch him becoming more expressive with his class mates and increasingly responsive to the teaching. Splitting the group up into smaller, more manageable classes is definitely beneficial.

This morning I went to the morning session as per usual, helping out with the younger class. Meanwhile Steve and Grace took two of the kids, Israeli and Isaaca who have really bad ringworm, to a local doctor (with the consent of their parents) who prescribed some antibiotics. Ringworm is a fungal infection that is rife amongst the children. These two particular kids have it all over their skin and it has gotten to the point that no amount of cream would stop the infection from spreading. The doctor expressed a strong suspicion of HIV Aids in both of them, and reality hit home again when Steven and Grace met Israeli’s auntie who explained that both his parents recently died from aids. The guardians of both kids have given consent for them to be taken back to the doctor tomorrow for an HIV test. If they do test positive at least they can be prescribed free antibiotics as part of a government health initiative. One good thing that came out of the visit was the whole hearted support of the doctor of the work we have been doing in the school. Apparently she visits Kunduchi village frequently to buy fish from the market where she has spoken to the locals and heard about the school. The hope is that we may be able to develop a link between her and the programme, perhaps paying a monthly visit to the school to look at the kids or helping to educate the local community about common illnesses and their prevention.

Morning preschool class

Morning preschool class

I skipped the afternoon session at the school to make a return trip to Rafiki and the surrounding market place to spend the rest of the fund we raised prior to the trip. I dragged Roxy, Laural and Steve along with me for extra help, given my previous experience of the market place. Nelly (one of the Swahili-speaking teachers) also accompanied us with Mapunda driving.

I figured that a second mass give away of clothes and shoes at the school might not be entirely productive so instead the focus of the trip was on medical supplies and toothbrushes/toothpaste. Our first stop was a pharmacy where we picked out plentiful supplies of all the basic medical necessities to treat fungal infections and common health problems that arise amongst the youngsters. Grace has told us that the kids often complain about bad headaches and that there is nothing that the they can do for them. However, with our new supplies we will be able to administer pain killers and other such appropriate treatment. As aforementioned, ringworm and other fungal infections are rife amongst the kids and our new stock of anti fungal cream and antibiotic eye/ear drops will go a long way towards combating such infections that are so simple to cure.

Goodies from the Chemist

Goodies from the Chemist

Our second stop was a small outlet that sold basic amenities such as toothpaste and tooth brushes. Fortunately they had a lot of stock and we purchased 72 toothbrushes, 240 tubes of toothpaste, 60 small pots of petroleum jelly and 72 small packets of washing detergent. In case I have failed to mention before, the level of hygiene evidenced by the kids is very poor. With regards to teeth, many of the kids some as young as two or three, have teeth that are rotten though. A lot of them look like they have never used a toothbrush or toothpaste in their life. Our health and sanitation initiative thus begins next week (after we have left the programme) when the volunteers meet with the parents to talk about basic hygiene and things like how to clean teeth. We will provide each child with a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste to take home with them, and after todays investments we have more than enough to distribute to every child. The petroleum jelly will be distributed on an as need basis to those kids that really need it, and the fruitful supply of washing detergent will allow teachers to wash the clothes of those kids who come in wearing filthy clothes.

Our final stop was Rafiki, the used clothes market. Our purpose here was to purchase 40 outfits for the kids that didn’t receive clothes last week during the previous giveaway (we took note of their names). Once again it didn’t take long to attract the attention of the zillion or so merchants. Soon after we started shifting through the mountains of clothes to find appropriate items, sellers started gathering around me shouting ‘rafiki (friend), rafiki, over here.’ I ended up standing outside of the market place again, just like last time, examining items of clothing picked out by the merchants and their staff running to and from their stalls. The sellers gathered around me trying to redirect my attention away from the guy I was doing the bulk of my business with. I got quite agitated in the confined space and kept asking the guy to tell all the other sellers to move away and give me some space. I felt sort of guilty afterwards as Nelly told me that a chap behind me who kept calling my name was desperately urging the seller with whom I was doing business with to give him a chance at showing me some of his clothes as he had no money. Fortunately it was only a quick stop and unlike last time we only required 40 outfits. The dude who supplied the bulk of the clothes was very appreciative of our business and apologised to me in Swahili for the haggling of the sellers, explaining that I should understand that his friends need money to go home and feed their families. It does make me feel good to be able contribute to the local economy like this.

Well, I think I hear my bed calling me. Its been a tiring day and there is much to do tomorrow. In the back of my head I am constantly reminded that tomorrow is our penultimate day at the school. Better get some sleep so I can make the most of our last day. Night!

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