Towards the end of an enjoyable first week in Tanzania, I was joined by a group of trekkers keen to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and raise funds for COCO in the process. Prior to departing on their trek, the group visited Uwawayaki Nursery to see an example of how their hard-earned funds would be spent.
Uwawayaki are a women’s group working in Majengo, a suburb of Moshi situated in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. Having witnessed the difficulties members of the Majengo community faced, a group of women combined efforts to change things by providing education and healthcare to vulnerable people within the community.
COCO has supported Uwawayaki towards the construction of a nursery school, having renovated a couple of classrooms, a toilet block and a kitchen. There are currently 40 energetic young boys and girls studying at the nursery, each of whom will benefit from a solid foundation ahead of starting primary school.
Most recently, COCO has helped the women’s group to implement a chicken project. A few hundred chicks go into the chicken project each month, they are nurtured until they become fully-grown chickens and are sold on. The funds from the chicken project are sufficient to cover the cost of running the nursery, meaning that Uwawayaki don’t rely on any further support from COCO to keep the nursery running successfully.
COCO will continue to closely work alongside Uwawayaki to ensure that the nursery maintains self-sustainability. I’m quite glad of this, given how enjoyable my visits to the nursery are. Thankfully the kids don’t seem to quite enjoy them too, it’s quite a struggle to get into the nursery as I’m pounced upon relentlessly to shouts of “Good Morning, Madam.” I’ve been assured that this is because their teacher is female, rather than being a question of my masculinity!
Thankfully, with a lot of determination combined with the excellent advice from their guides, each of the trekkers reached the roof of Africa! They returned from the mountain having spent six nights on there and were treated to a pretty impressive celebratory meat feast at a local restaurant… Having gorged on beef, chicken, pork, more chicken, lamb, sausages and an impressive array of salads, the trekkers received their certificates from Safi, the head guide on the mountain.
Confusingly, the trekkers and everyone else at the meal also received several boiling ‘warm’ flannels to wash with at various points in the meal. In fairness, the flannels were definitely warm enough to kill off any bacteria on our hands before we started eating, I’m just not sure they had to be so warm that they burnt off our finger prints too!
Whilst the trekkers were on the mountain, I was busy finding a School for Life site in northern Tanzania. As well as being fantastic for the communities and projects themselves, our projects in northern Tanzania becoming self-sustainable gives us the opportunity to divert our support elsewhere and work our magic in a different location!
Two sites in particular have stood out from the many I have visited this week. Dageno Girls’ Centre in Karatu provides secondary education to girls who have slipped through the net of the government system. Being a girls’ school with only female staff, I did receive quite a lot of attention as I walked into the centre the first time. To break the ice, the girls were encouraged to ask me questions about who I am and where I’m from. The questions started timidly, but it wasn’t long before I was being put on the back-foot with unexpected questions. I was particularly flummoxed when asked “so, what are you going to do to help us?!” and had to give a bit of a politician’s answer to get out of the awkward situation!
Dageno is a fantastic facility, which provides students with formal education skills as well as marketable skills with a particular focus on the development of entrepreneurism. Students at the school have recently begun to manufacture sanitary towels, which will be sold to generate income along with an informative leaflet about female health. I’m informed that female health is really not a topic for discussion, so many girls are under the impression that what they experience is unique to them, which must be really difficult… It’s not as though most girls in the area can have a discreet look on Google to check out embarrassing medical conditions so they just have to suffer in silence.
In spite of the fantastic performance of the school, support is necessary as currently the centre is located on rented property with 48 girls and 2 staff living and learning in a five-bedroom house. In addition, the water supply is privately owned and controlled. The centre often goes days and even weeks without access to water. The school board have acquired a plot of land a couple of miles from the rented site and plan to begin construction of a permanent site there, this will eliminate the cost of rent, water and electricity which comes to around $1,000 each month and provide scope for the development of further income-generation strategies.
The other stand out site I visited was Lekrumuni, which as I found out as I bounced along a rocky track is a long, long way from anywhere! For my visit to Lekrumuni, I was joined by Oswin, who travelled from southern Tanzania to help identify a new project site in Kilimanjaro. Secondary students in Lekrumuni are currently forced to walk 13KM to the nearest secondary school and 13KM back at night… Try concentrating on algebra when you’ve had that commute to school! Similarly, primary students have to walk 9KM each way.
Education in Lekrumuni starts at age three and ends at age five. Once students have had two years in nursery school, that’s their lot and understandably the community are striving to change this. Many members of the community turned up to the meeting to discuss how best to develop the site, and given that many of them can only speak Maasai we ended up in a ridiculous situation where community members spoke in Maasai, the village chairman translated to Swahili and Oswin translated to English!
When you stand on the site that the community has donated for construction of a school, it is unbelievable to think that such an area could be forgotten. The school is in a beautiful location, you look one way and see Mount Meru and look the other way and see Mount Kilimanjaro. Sandwiched between two of Africa’s most famous landmarks, but somehow completely neglected.
The value of making projects self-sustainable is two-fold. Firstly, it ensures that the project is able to continue long into the future without support from elsewhere. Secondly, it enables COCO to focus our support elsewhere. Having visited a couple of fantastic initiatives this week, I am delighted that COCO is in a position to consider support for other projects and hope that we are able to continue our Schools for Life journey in these communities.