Blog: Mission Possible, Tanzania, Aug 2016. Nobody wants to be labelled poor. 16th August, 2016
Islamic Help volunteer Asim Siddiqui describes the experience of his first meeting with the villagers he will be supporting as part of the Mission Possible deployment to Tanzania.
I didn't realise before coming how remote the villages we were delivering aid to were. It was a 6-hour drive from Dar es Salaam, then a short ferry ride followed by another 45-minute drive to the first village we delivered aid to.
The local villagers had already gathered for a community meeting. Sitting at the front, in front of a children's desk, were some old gentlemen. Upon arrival, many of the villagers quickly offered their chairs to us for us to sit down on at the front.
One of our Tanzanian Islamic Help staff, Usmani, is also our translator and gave the locals an introduction to what we were here to do. We then each got up to introduce ourselves and told them a little bit about why we came here.
We then split into 2 groups and began drawing a map of the village. From that we went on to discussing the history of the village, when it was established, the seasonal calendar and routines of the men and women.
An interesting thing to come out of the women's routines was the time that they prepare their children's breakfast. Breakfast is not a guarantee so their routine becomes giving their children positive encouragement. The mothers say to them "Don't worry, maybe tomorrow there will be some" before dropping them off to school.
It became quite clear that the women were the harder workers here. As well as getting children ready, they will go and do some farming before collecting children and preparing the dinner for the family in the evening.
When we asked the men for their routines, one man was adamant that he had porridge every day at 10am. However I think this was more out of his pride and not willing to admit the truth. And I can understand that - nobody wants to be labelled poor, not even the poor.
We got a short tour of the village. The school was in a terrible state. The walls were filthy with the same dirt that the village roads are made from. They recently put concrete over the floor but it was just so lumpy. It hadn't been spread but literally just chucked over the old floor. Not a surface ready for chairs and desks to be put on. The classroom next door was in worse condition with a broken plasterboard at the front as the "whiteboard".
We had a look at the head teacher’s office (the only other building aside from a communal toilet on the grounds). This village had no electricity so it was pretty gloomy inside.
Even with electricity I don't think it would have made much difference. There was a lot of dust inside (I forgot to mention there are no windows in the village either) and everything was dirty and/or broken.
It's quite sad to know that these are the conditions these children have in this village. Despite these the children are still enthusiastic about learning and going to school.
What struck me most about the village was how content the villagers were. There wasn't much of a reaction that some people (i.e. the volunteers) were here to help out and despite the level of poverty, you could leave our van unlocked and they would not take from it. You could tell that they would like to see improvements but if we didn't bring them, they would survive.
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