Friday, 10 November 2017

Tanzania: First Distribution Day!

Today we got up very early to be ready for a 7 AM departure from Dar es Salaam to a school situated at Vumilia Ukooni, about a 90-minute ride to the south. We took the ferry across Dar es Salaam harbor and saw many people travelling by ferry, car, motorbike, bike, and walking to the various places they were going. The streets were full of stalls ready to sell and the fish market located close to the ferry terminal was full of the buyers and sellers of fish. This is a very alive city!

Enroute we noticed that there is a lot of construction going all over and around the Dar es Salaam area. There were many building projects visible from small houses to large apartment type buildings, all made out of cement and concrete bricks. As we drove to the school, we passed a multitude of small, alongside the road cement brick-making places manned by two or three men using a simple brick mold machine and stacking the finished brick alongside the road.

With the recent rains producing very challenging ruts in the road as well as driving through some significant puddles, our driver, David, has been keeping us safe since he met us at the airport and got us to the school around 8:30 AM this morning. In preparation for today’s distribution, the staff at the school with the help of our overseas volunteer partner headed by Mama Wandoa, made sure that the parents of the selected children knew how important it was to be at the school with their children for the bedkit distribution. When we pulled in with our vehicle, they were all there, waiting with much anticipation.

Patiently waiting
On arrival, we saw all 600 hundred colourful mattresses piled high on tarps as well as the two sizes of bedkits that would be handed out (small or large for the girls and boys). The area was already roped off and the parents sat on the ground, waiting patiently with some of the smaller, pre-school children sitting with them. We took a little time to select the best site for taking the pictures of the children receiving the bed kits given the contrasting bright sun and shadows. Each of the children would be given a t-shirt and shorts as part of the bedkit prior to their picture being taken which required the use of two classrooms as change rooms.

Carol Diening, Doug MacDougald, Mama Wandoa

As we looked at the classrooms, we noticed that they consisted of a large room, covered with a sheet metal roof, a painted blackboard on one wall, no electricity and very limited resources. The windows had no glass in them, and let in the natural light so that they could see. There were also some holes in the sheet metal roofs. The resources available to the teachers appeared quite limited and classes could have more than 100 children in them. There are no lack of challenges to educating the children. Having as good night’s rest on a mattress underneath a mosquito net should help.

Prior to the start of the actual distribution, our team lead, Doug MacDougald, with the help of Mama Wandoa as interpreter, explained what the bedkits were all about and where we came from to the total delight of the parents as they cheered when they saw each item that made up the bedkit.

Gary Jewitt with some of the Children
With the help of many volunteers, the flow of getting each of the children changed into their new clothes, their picture taken and handed a bedkit is quite the challenge, including keeping track of them and making sure that no one would be missed. Given the heat and high humidity, we also wanted to make sure that the children and their parents would not have to wait too long.

Over the space of about three hours, we managed to hand out all 600 bed kits scheduled for distribution today and packed our gear ready for the next activity: a home visit to see how well the bedkits handed out previously were standing up.

As we left the school, it was very gratifying to see the parents and their children walking in all directions with their bedkits backpack on their back and carrying their new mattress on their head. For some, the walk home is more than an hour.

Going Home!
On arrival at the home of a family of seven in accommodation consisting of several very small rooms made of sticks and mud and covered with a thatch roof, we saw a previously distributed bedkit being used and supportive of the child that received it.

These very humble living quarters help put in context how receiving a bedkit is so very much appreciated by the family and making a difference.

After the home visit, we made our way back to our apartment, taking in the sights of the myriad of stalls selling their wares in all sorts of places, sitting in traffic jams and bouncing over rutted roads. These trips really make you feel alive. And thanks to the many donors who are so very supportive of SCAW, we all continue to make a difference in the lives of those families working hard to give their children the best education available to them and getting a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow morning, we start again at 7 AM.

More to come…For the Children

Joep Diening on behalf of SCAW Team Tanzania 2017 B
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