travel bursary reports
My trip to Tanzania was absolutely fantastic. There were moments of happiness, stress, heart-break, pure joy and exhaustion! I was working with a small charity called Go Make A Difference (Go MAD) in a town called Musoma and the villages surrounding it. Musoma is right on the edge of Lake Victoria in Northern Tanzania.
During the 6 months, me and my team of nine got involved with loads of different projects, thanks to the amount of fundraising support we received in the lead up to the trip! One of the main things we got involved in was the building projects. Overall, we built seven water tanks, six goat sheds, a toilet for the teachers at a primary school, a house for a woman and her six children, and a couple of other little things. We loved doing the water tanks as we thought they were the most important and most needed in East Africa. They also worked slightly differently in that most of the work was done by the local people and we paid them to do it. So as well as receiving clean, safe rain water to drink (drinking from the Lake is highly dangerous and is riddled with the disease, bilharzia), the local people got work and received a fair, much-needed salary. The other building work was done by our team; I have learnt a lot of new skills, including concrete mixing, brick laying, sawing wood… I actually loved doing these projects as we felt like we had really made a difference in people’s lives and after all the hard work it was so satisfying to see the finishing products.
Another much loved activity was the education. Half of the team taught in a standard four class (mostly nine or ten year olds) at a primary school in one of the villages. However, I got involved in teaching at a small private school set up by Go MAD in which six girls attended. The girls ranged between the ages of 12 and 16, with the exception of a 6 year old who was the sister of one of the girls. They were all still at primary school level but would be too embarrassed to return to school at this age along with some other reasons. So the private lessons were set up. Two of the girls couldn’t read (the six year old and a 14 year old) so two members of my team taught them how to read whilst we taught the other girls maths, which was something they really struggled with. We also ran a Girls’ Group every week in the village where we did short Bible studies and played games. Just as many boys and children turned up as girls, so it was half the team’s job to keep them occupied outside! We all really loved Girls’ Group because we got to know them all so well and there were so many incredible memories to be made there.
As well as water tanks being the main noticeable need in Tanzania, it was absolutely vital that we put money aside to health as well. Almost every other day we would cross paths with a sick person, usually someone who wasn’t planning on going to the hospital to get themselves checked out. So it was our job to spot these people and to get them to the testing centre or hospital, and to pay for their treatment. Almost every person we sent in with a high temperature and vomiting/diarrhoea had either malaria or typhoid or both. We had a health screening day at a school in one of the villages far away from town and we tested every child for various illnesses. 79% of them had malaria, whether they were in the early stages of it or they were seriously ill from it. It was astonishing to find such a huge number and it makes you realise how common it is and how great the need is for things like mosquito nets and health training. We had a couple of big health cases that we supported as well. One of these was a girl called Agnes who has severe rickets and extreme bode legs as a result. We have put a lot of our money towards her operations that should hopefully begin in September in a hospital in Moshi (close to Mount Kilimajaro).
A couple of the team (including me) got involved in the Menstrual Health project. Women out in the villages of Musoma cannot afford to buy normal disposable pads like we get in the UK. Instead they use bits of cloth and don’t leave the house whilst they are menstruating. As a result, the younger women miss a lot of school and it can be really disruptive in their lives. So whilst out in Tanzania we used the help of a charity called ‘Irise’ and introduced reusable sanitary pads to the women. We taught a few women how to make them and got some feedback, and towards the end of the trip we decided to hire nine women to make the pads. Go MAD will then buy the pads off the women and use them in starter packs to give as freebees in schools. The plan would be to teach girls on health and menstrual health, and to promote the use of the reusable pads and to give them a couple of free ones to try. The pads cost money but can be reused a lot of times and just need to be washed between use. It will take a while to find out if there’s a market for them but we will see! We want the women to promote them to shops in the villages too so they can sell them and start a business that will carry on if Go MAD were to ever leave.
Every week our team visited the Leper Community and brought down food and paraffin for lighting. All the children of the lepers live there too and it’s a really nice atmosphere. We dressed some wounds and took those that needed to go to the hospital – they get free medical care. Leprosy is treatable now but most of these people are fairly old and have suffered with the condition all their lives so can no longer be treated for it.
During the weekends, we had a break from eating rice and beans every day and went to a lovely café called Rehema. It was set up by Australian missionaries and serves Western food as well as selling clothes and various things made in the workshop. The staff are African women who are absolutely fantastic and unbelievably friendly and mad! All profits made go to support vulnerable women in poverty. The missionaries live next door and I was able to teach the four children piano and one of them flute also.
The trip was incredible and I got involved with such a variety of things. I sincerely miss the local people that I got to know, but who knows, maybe I’ll return there one day…
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