Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Day 4 November 12, 2013 

The van was almost empty – only me and Phil the army vet left – as it rolled along the rutted dirt pathway posing for a road and rolled up to the Good Hope Community Support Centre. Catherine, one of the veteran volunteers (she’s been here for weeks/months), and I are the only two assigned to the Centre and she clearly knew her way around. She hopped out ahead of me and starting greeting the children who ran up with open arms and a chorus of “teacher, teacher!”.  I took a look around and waved goodbye to our driver Daniel and Sarah, our CCS Program Manager.

Where to begin? I had read that volunteers often feel left to their own devices, and it’s true – but I had been warned. You have to just jump in and figure it out as you go. Mama Khadija met me graciously at the door and I felt a little of unease melt away. We were in the Majengo neighborhood of Moshi, one of the most marginalized in the community. But the dirt yards were swept and the trash piled and burning on the side of the road. The children at the centre are aged 13-16; but they appear younger and smaller than their years. Their smiles are wide and eyes bright as they quiz the new mzungu – what is your name? How old are you? How many children do you have? What is your mother’s name? and so on…. When I explain that my mother died, they put their hands on my arms and in quiet voices tell me “I am so sorry about your mother".This – from children who are HIV positive or who have lost one or more parents to AIDS.

They asked me to bring pictures tomorrow and I promised I would. I accompanied Oliver (one of the trio of founders) on three home visits to sick and ailing people and I couldn’t help but be moved by the love and empathy from the neighbours. This is a community reaching out to one another, and as Oliver strolls up and down the dusty pathways waving and calling out, she is greeted warmly by all whom she meets.

The school Is conducted in two rooms, each about 10 ft by 12 ft, and each with about 23 children sitting in plastic chairs or on the floor, notebooks and pencils clutched in their hands. Sometimes they cram 35 children into the room and the others peer through the window to get their lessons.

And then of course, there is the outdoor class under a tree with a blackened piece of wood for a blackboard. There is a community squatter toilet in a rundown building with a khanga thrown over the door frame for privacy. It is humble but cleaner that many I experienced in my travels.

Today I observed and tomorrow I will be teaching. After a delicious lunch we had a visit from Dr. Martha, a local doctor from the clinic who discussed health issues facing Tanzanians. She was a noble looking, elderly lady with the exhaustion and pain of many years etched into her face. She too is on the front lines fighting for her people and the survival and health of her country.

After dinner we made a trip into town to buy khangas. A lady in the community was killed in an accident and when her father-in-law heard the news, he also died. Many of the volunteers and the CCS staff left for the afternoon to attend the funeral, and therefore had to dress traditionally. At one point there were 19 of us piled into a van build for 13 – dala dala style. 

At first pass you could choose to see poverty; that which seems to be lacking, but it would be tragic. This is a community that struggles and celebrates in unison, supporting one another, in which commitment runs deep, and the mantra "it takes a village" is ever apparent. It is a community rich in relationships and I admit, I am a little envious. But that aside, I choose to be inspired by the love and welcoming spirit that is palpable - or is it hope. Good hope...

My class
First we clean
Jill dressed in her khanga to attend the funeral

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