Every parent wants the best for their child. At the SCAW distributions, a parent/guardian is required to attend in order to understand the purpose of the program, to learn about the research connected to our promotion of a good night's sleep, and to assist with the transportation of the bedkit home.
When we first meet the parents, they are somewhat reserved, yet very polite, and perhaps a bit suspicious (too good to be true, perhaps?!)
Our SCAW partners, and our team leader, Peggy, explain our purpose and intent to the moms and dads, grandparents and guardians:
Then, the realization that their child, and their family, is about to receive a useful and practical gift that promotes a healthy sleep sets in...and we are so fortunate to be hanging around to be able see the true joy in the faces of these most appreciative parents and guardians:
The absolute best, though, is watching it all sink it on a child's face...
Quite the impact for $35.00CDN. Priceless, actually!
What does a Tanzanian classroom look like? Being a teacher myself in Canada, I was interested in learning about this. I figured this was a simple enough question but soon learned the answer is not. After visiting 7 different school sites, I soon came to realize that there is no "typical classroom." The learning can be in a class with desks and chairs.... like Canada, or it can take place in a classroom sitting on the floor as there are very few desks.
In some schools, there aren't enough classrooms, so they teaching takes place outside!
The biggest surprise to me about the Tanzanian classroom is the number of students. Chatting with the teachers, I was told that some classes have over 50 students! I was shocked until other teachers told me of 100+ students in one room. I started to think that this might be a language problem - a miscommunication - until I saw a class with 200 students.... not just one classroom but an entire school with every classroom filled with wall to wall students.
As a SCAW group of travelling volunteers there are a number of activities we do beyond distributing the bedkits to the children. There are home visits to meet prior year recipients, reviews of financial records of our volunteer partners, writing these blogs, checking and re-checking the photos to make sure they are complete and accurate, etc.
One other activity that each of us gets to do is to engage in “conversations” with parents, guardians, and/or teachers of the current year’s children. Today was my day for these conversations. Some guideline questions are as follows:
Normally the conversation will go down a path where the adult is most comfortable, and not all questions will get addressed, but we usually get some very good and thoughtful insight into how our efforts will likely impact the home life of the children.
The conversations are facilitated by one of our local partner representatives, who help with translation, and who also benefit from the feedback that we receive. Mama’s son, Benjamin, has been helping us with our conversations throughout this distribution.
My two conversations today were both with single mothers who each have 4 children at home. In both homes there are at least two people sharing each bed/mat, and a good night’s sleep is a challenge because of the cold and cramped conditions.
In reviewing the various responses received by team members during their conversations, there are some consistent themes that arise:
all are extremely grateful for the bedkits and indicate that it will definitely improve their living conditions and the children’s school opportunity for learning.
school supplies are expensive and many children go without.
the water bottles are a big hit (thanks, Raymond James!).
most parents are reluctant to “rank” the items in the bedkit. Our sense is that everything is cherished and they don’t want us to think some things are not valued.
My biggest takeaway from these conversations is that, if we think the children are excited with their new possessions, the parents are ecstatic!!!
We finished our first week of distributions and our team wants to thank Mama Wandoa, her son Benjamin and her group of volunteers for all of their help. It is uncanny the way they anticipate our needs and we could not ask for better partners. Asante sana.
On Friday afternoon our team walked a long way through a village to visit the homes of previous bedkit recipients. How humbling it was to see where our children live.
Saturday was our day off and this hard-working group wanted to experience some of the sights in Tanzania. Up bright and early we met our guide, Tetula, and with our trusty driver, Abbas, off we went on our adventure.
First stop was the Mwenge Woodcarvers Cooperative where we watched the artists create animals from ebony wood. Some of our team made some purchases to support their work.
We took a drive through the campus of the beautiful Dar es Salaam University as Tetula’s son hopes to study Economics there in the fall.
The next place we visited was the Village Museum and we saw an impressive display of dwellings starting in the 1700s to the present day. John and Irene had to duck in the doorways.
We learned that this team sure can dance!!!!
The Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative is an explosion of vibrant colours with a very distinctive style of art. John and Peggy were able to purchase their Christmas tree ornaments.
At the National Museum we learned about Tanzania’ s history and appreciated Tetula’s knowledge of her country.
John had to have a Tanzanian flag to display on Independence Day which is December 9th.
The last stop was the Fish Market with lots of people, noise and interesting ‘catches of the day’.
Tomorrow is a rest day. As a sleep organization we know that ‘a healthy team needs a healthy sleep’. Lala salama (sleep well).
We are excited to see our children on Monday for the last five days of distributions.
Every distribution day is unique. A different location with new recipients, new adventures, and new stories. However, what remains constant, is the tried and true "method of delivery". If it ain't broke...!
Upon arrival at the distribution site, we first take some time to meet, and to mingle with, the families of the bedkit recipients.
If we're at a school, we watch the opening exercises, and we practice our Swahili while the students switch roles and become our (amused) teachers.
Then it's on to the business at hand. Our local SCAW partners have always beaten us to the delivery site. They unload the bedkits and mattresses and start to set up the stations. Children are then ushered into change rooms where they receive their first, of two, new outfits.
The children then proceed, with both hesitation and excitement, to the photo station. Yes, it can all be a little overwhelming for everybody involved, whether you're 6 or 60!
However, when greeted by someone as happy and as warm as John, how can one not feel more relaxed?!
Photos are taken...
Then the children are reunited with their belongings and sent on to the check-in station.
A quick swipe with a Sharpie (colour choice is one of the perks of working at this station!) confirms that the child is ready to move on.
Backpacks first (different colours indicate sizing of school uniforms inside)...