Mission Possible 2019 Blog: The Children’s Eco Village
On the last day of the 2019 Tanzania deployment, the Mission Possible volunteers - Arslan Tariq, Kaleem Abbas, Nazia Choudhry, Zain Ali, Sidhra Yasin and Yusuf Kassam – visited our pioneering Children’s Eco Village and met the orphan girls that it cares for and supports. As Nazia explains, it was something they had been looking forward to and it more than met their expectations.
Today is the last day of our Mission Possible. I woke up feeling a little sad thinking about it but also really excited as today we finally were going to have the opportunity to visit Islamic Help’s Children’s Eco Village that currently houses 20 orphan girls.
The day started off with us going shopping in Dar Es Salaam city centre to buy gifts to take for the girls. Strolling down the streets of the city centre we made our way into the markets and had collectively decided the night before that we would be gifting the girls with clothes and scarves.
Us girls having far more knowledge than the boys of what young girls would like to wear, we picked out 20 dresses for the girls to wear for special occasions such as Eid rather than everyday wear which I am sure they would be provided with plenty of already.
I’m not typically a shopaholic - when I shop I find myself taking a few minutes to decide what I’m getting and I can’t wait to make my way home, but today being tasked with providing gifts for these orphans felt like a responsibility I definitely didn’t want to rush.
Looking at dress after dress we finally decided on the perfect outfits and after much deliberation and changing my mind on a few items and colours several times, I felt satisfied with the items we had chosen and couldn’t wait to see the look on the girls’ faces when we presented them with their gifts. Dresses and scarves chosen and packed we made our way back through the streets to our hotel where our coach was waiting to take us to the Eco Village.
The Children’s Eco Village
We arrived at the Eco Village and made our way through the gates. I was amazed at the sight of what was in front of me.
The landscape was beautiful. The Village is built upon 30 acres of land which was donated to Islamic Help by a resident of Tanzania. To our right was the mosque, which was one of the very first buildings to be constructed on the land and had taken approximately 2 years to build.
As it was Friday, Jummah prayer was due to start. Schools are let out early on Friday, so the girls had returned back to the Village already so we would have the afternoon to spend with them.
After Jummah prayers, we were taken on a tour of the grounds. We were shown the Eco Mosque which was built specifically so that it didn’t require air conditioning and the acoustics were great to allow anyone in the mosque to hear the imam when he was speaking or leading prayers. The toilets also had a rainwater filter system to be as eco-friendly as possible.
It was explained to us that when the land was originally donated the owner had cut down a lot of the trees and vegetation on the site as he hadn’t realised an Eco Village was going to be built here, so the natural water sources that we now saw before us weren’t originally here. After replanting and building back up the vegetation, streams began to appear on site as the trees draw the natural water in the earth up to the surface. This water is collected now and has formed ponds and streams used to water the farm and for various other things on site.
We were shown the well on the property and were informed it was previously used by all the local community. Once the land was donated to Islamic Help, the local community no longer had access to the well as the land was gated off. I learned that Islamic Help had built a couple of wells outside the land for the local community. This touched me greatly as ‘pay it forward’ is a motto I try to live by and seeing it in full effect within the work being done by Islamic Help made me feel even more connected to the causes I was helping with through them.
As we continued walking through the village we came across Passion Corridor, a pathway named to reflect the passion fruit vines that, although they weren’t in season at the moment, grew delicious fruits that covered the whole walkway when in season.
The pathway leads on to a tent camp which previously was used as guest accommodation for which the charge was donated to the orphans who live on site. It is now an office for some of the staff who work here. Nearby was a treehouse and playground with a few tyre swings hanging from the branches of the tree and a seesaw. I could imagine many hours of fun being had here by the orphans and volunteers who visited prior to us alike.
We learned the treehouse was actually built by the staff on site and designed by one of the orphan girls who resided there. This was beautiful to hear and so generous of the staff to organise.
There was a real family sense and feel all around the village and this was heart-warming. When we often read or think about orphanages they never quite seem so warm. This was clearly very different and I felt grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to visit such a wonderful place.
We continued the tour of the grounds and saw the farm which we were told was completely organic. Tomatoes, pineapples, mangoes etc, anything grown there was 100% organic and no chemicals were used on anything. There was also a bee farm where delicious local honey was produced on site. There is also a poultry farm and cattle farm on site.
We then headed to the homes of the orphans. Each home that is built on site will house 10 orphans and one ‘mother’ (this is what that orphans’ guardian-carer is known as). Currently the Eco Village has 2 homes fully completed which is why there are only 20 orphans living in the village. Over the coming years the goal is to eventually have 100 to 160 orphans homed here. Walking into the home came the moment I was looking forward to - sitting inside were the girls I was longing to meet and speak to.
The girls shyly said hello and we proceeded to introduce ourselves to them. They then each individually stood up and spoke to us in the little English they knew and introduced themselves, telling us their names, ages, what school year they were in and where they were originally from as the orphans come from all parts of Tanzania.
The girls’ faces spoke a thousand words to me. These little girls, despite having been through so much and being orphaned so young, smiled away at us and looked genuinely happy, loved and cared for. Having been in a few of the remote villages a mere 24 hrs earlier, I could only imagine what kind of lives these youngsters would be leading had the Eco Village not been built and they had not been selected to be able to live here.
This made me smile. I felt so humbled and privileged to be able to witness first hand where my donations could go should I donate further towards the Eco Village project and the orphans who lived here.
Introductions out of the way, we spent the next few moments talking, via a translator, with the girls and one of the questions asked was if they were happy at the Eco Village and getting what they needed. I wasn’t surprised at all when the answer was yes and they were very grateful for everything they had here, but it was nice to be able to not only see it on their faces but also hear it first-hand.
The Joy of Giving
We had lunch with the girls and they then delivered a beautiful nasheed to us and we were able to then present them with the gifts we had bought them. The joy on the girls’ faces was evident the moment they realised what they were receiving and it made my heart melt. Once every girl had their gift, they rushed over to the other home to be able to try them all on.
While they were gone we had the opportunity to be taken on a tour of the home we had lunch in and see where the girls’ rooms were. Each room housed 4 girls with bunk beds, desks and wardrobes. Simple yet all they needed and far more than what they would have had were they not living here.
There are 3 bedrooms designated in each house for 10 girls, another for the guardian mother and a communal bathroom which has 2 toilets and 3 showers. A big living room and dining room is where we had all enjoyed lunch together.
Upon returning here, we were told that the girls loved their gifts but sadly some were not the correct fit. We spoke between ourselves and Yasini, from Islamic Help Tanzania who had been with us and accompanied us throughout our mission, and it was decided to let the girls know they would be able to all go to Dar Es Salaam together and exchange the dresses we had given them. It would be giving them a day out and something fun to look forward too.
Sidrha and I went into the other house where the girls were, to deliver the news and were met with excited cheering and joyous faces once we told them. I was elated to be able to bring such smiles to them and thought about the fact that this was probably such a rarity for these girls and, again, something I take for granted myself.
Being in a position where I can just pop to town whenever I choose to do some shopping usually felt like such a chore - as I mentioned I’m not the biggest shopper - but seeing how much this meant to the girls, my outlook will definitely change and it’s something I won’t take for granted or treat as a chore in the future, Insha’Allah, as it truly is a privilege and not a chore.
The girls came bade us farewell as we left to return back to our hotel as our mission was now completed. As sad as I will feel to leave this place that bought so many adventures, hard work, beautiful memories and friends I probably would never had made had I not come on this trip, I’m excited to come back again in the near future, Insha’Allah, and do it all over again.
This mission that I spent years dreaming up the courage to do and spending time looking for the right way to do it, finally happened and it truly was a Mission Possible. For anyone reading this, I will leave you with this - do what you can today because we aren’t promised tomorrow.
If you are in a position to be able to give back, always take the opportunity and make time to do a Mission Possible trip as soon as you can. It’s hard to describe how truly life-changing and rewarding this experience was, so why not sign up to Mission Possible in the future and come and experience it and see for yourself where your funds really go!