We currently have 24 Sixth Form students and four staff members in Mbeya, Tanzania supporting the work of The Grassroots Trust. We will be posting updates, written by the students, when we receive them from Mr Thomas in Tanzania.
Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th July
The first day we got to Gatwick Airport at around 7.00am. After checking in our luggage and going through customs, we waited a little while until boarding the plane to Istanbul Airport. We then arrived in the new Istanbul airport (which has six runways) - we boarded our seven hour flight to Dar-es-Salaam. What a long flight. After finally arriving at Dar-es-Salaam we faced an 11 hour wait until our next flight (which most of us spent sleeping)! After a long wait we boarded the plane to Mbeya. This plane was a lot smaller than the others, but seemed to fly by quickly. After arriving and setting up base at the Karibuni Centre, we went up to the Grassroots Centre where we met lots of local children, who welcomed us warmly.
Wednesday 10th July
Report by Joe Cornick - Our first morning in Mbeya started with a militaristic workout kindly organised by Evie. We then travelled in the back of a cramped land cruiser up the winding dirt tracks to Iyela Stable Pentecostal Church, to start our first feeding program of the trip, part of Grassroots' daily nutritional meals that play a vital role in the development and growth of school children. It was a sobering experience for all of us and a reminder of the juxtaposition to our privileged lives 3700 miles away in West Sussex. After meeting the rest of the group at the Grassroots centre we headed on foot down the dusty streets to Mwanjelwa, Mbeya’s largest market. We were all on the hunt to purchase some Tanzanian fabric to be turned into a garment of our choice by the local tailor, Teo. Each market stand we walked into was stacked to the ceiling with immensely colourful and bright patterned material. We wound our way through the crowds of stalls, selling fruit and materials and once we all had selected our fabric we travelled back to the centre. We had lunch of beans and rice provided by the cook Mernard. The afternoon was spent teaching secondary school girls about menstrual products that would keep them safe during their time of the month. We spent the afternoon helping to cut and plane timber at the local carpenter, to build beds for the grassroots new houses. Once we returned to the Karibuni Centre we reflected on what we had seen and experienced during our day, the biggest challenge to many of us had been eating lunch knowing that there were many children who would not eat.
Thursday 11th July
Hey everyone Jess C and Kezia here! The energetic ones of us woke up and did a high altitude (5000ft) circuit workout led by Evie and Mr Thomas while the rest of us slept in a little bit longer. We all had breakfast at 8:30am and then we were split into two groups; 12 of us took either one or two of the grassroots children to the zoo and Jess C, Romney, Beth, Eleanor L, Tilly went with their sponsored children, which was such a lovely, special experience. It was amazing to see the children in such delight whilst seeing the native animals of their country which they possibly have never seen before, and having fun in a play park with all of their friends.
The other 12 of us helped paint the walls of the grassroots centre, where feeding programmes take place, to create a welcoming, colourful place for the children to enjoy their food, it’s amazing how much a little bit of paint can make such a difference! Also, we made simple bed frames from eucalyptus wood and Mr Goldsmith showed many of the local people different carpentry techniques which will be taught to others in the community.
After a delicious lunch of rice, beans, okra, watermelon and potato stew one half of the group were driven in a truck to a nearby church to interview prospective children for the Grassroots programme. This involved asking questions to the carers and children themselves about their living arrangements, health situations, and assess their wellbeing. Alongside this, weight and height measurements were taken, photographs for possible sponsorship profiles and woolly hats were given to each interviewed child to take home for the cold nights.
The other half did a chicken run which involved a 30 minute ride along an off-road track to Swaya where each of us were given a live chicken to transport. We had to hold them all in the back of the truck until they arrived back at one of the airport centre where they spent the next hour delivering chickens to the some of the sponsored children and their families through the backstreets of the towns. The purpose of this delivery was the provide each family a fresh supply of eggs, however inevitably some of the chickens would be eaten, whether that night or after some time.
Overall it was an amazing day, and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to experience things here in Tanzania, which we wouldn’t otherwise!
Friday 12 July
Hello all! Tilly and Alyssa here. After a hearty breakfast we headed off down to the Grassroots Centre, whilst the other half of us went to the zoo (similar to yesterday). Tilly did some painting at the Centre, finishing off yesterday’s work, decorating the wall with drums, fish and butterflies. Alyssa saw a spectacular view of the whole of Mbeya from a hill, scattered with mines. We then et up back at the Grassroots Centre to have some lunch (we were particularly thrilled to see some avocado!). After lunch we split off into three groups to interview children entering into the Grassroots programme, helped out with a feeding programme and building beds. We were building beds and it was an interesting experience to say the least. Our first step was to buy wood, where Rob tried to haggle to get the Tanzania price. We then dragged our planks of wood to a woodwork shop. Here we all had a go at sawing wood (even though we took a while). While attempting to cut the planks a few school girls peaked in and seemed shocked that girls were chopping wood. At the same time they also looked thrilled to see that manual labour wasn’t reserved for men! After this we walked back to the Grassroots Centre to assemble our beds, with lots of help from children.
Report from Beth and Romney - We started our day by walking to the Grassroots Centre where we promptly split into three groups. Beth and Romney, the writers of this, went across the road into the feeding centre where we would be continuing and finishing bed building. We sanded many wood components and watched as Rob taught the locals and the bed came to form. We were fortunate enough that once two beds were completed we accompanied Amber, his team, along with Rob to see the newly built grassroots houses. The houses were colourful, safe, clean and good quality, and would not have looked out of place on a Spanish promenade. The windows were gated, the doors had locks, and the floor was tiled and was able to be mopped and kept clean. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the houses and the accompanying kitchen and toilet blocks as well as the incredible views.
After lunch we moved on and helped with a feeding programme for the younger children. It was a really rewarding experience as we started by singing with the children whilst meals were being prepared. It was a great team building experience as we worked out the mechanisms of how we served the food. It was hard work and quite stressful deciding portion sizes but nonetheless was rewarding seeing the children’s faces when they were fed. Continuing on after this a small of us made our way over to the market where we explored the small avenues of shops tucked behind the busy streets eventually finding some Tanzanian football tops! Then we finally made our way back, and prepared for the next day.
Ps Hi Lindz we made the website!!
Saturday 13 July
Report by Nancy Thelma – For most the day started with the early call for circuit training, which combined with picking up often not so small children and high altitude is certainly...invigorating.
Breakfast has become clockwork and is complete with Mr Thomas’ cunning plan for the day. The morning held carpentry, with another load of beds needing to be sawn, sanded, and assembled for the new housing. Not something I have been involved in yet having spent the last opportunity painting the feeding centre. The other group participated in the process of grant giving to the children under sponsorship, offering money for school uniforms and in turn making an education possible. It feels pretty cool to be even a small part of all of this.
The centre was a hub of productivity all morning with even the smallest of children enthusiastic about ‘helping’. In fairness most were invaluable with so much wood to get through, especially in the heat of the day. Some of the older ones sprung at a chance to learn the new skills. All of this busyness was really special to see, just seeing so much involvement and unity. Plus the weather has been stunning since day 1 which is definitely something I can get used to. Our group started a singalong with ‘Sir Thomas’ and Gwakisi on guitar (Gwakisi taught me how to play the hakuna mungu song all the kids had been singing, it wasn’t world class but it was a valid effort!).
After dropping off the beds and inhaling lunch I helped out with the last half hour of grant giving that needed to be done, spending the time helping the children write letters to their sponsors. Their written English was almost perfect considering the limited communication so far. It was also a chance to see how our translators and other Tanzanians viewed England (heaven and paradise among several other words) Seeing these people’s lives being even lightly touched by what we are out here doing is magical. Even just a child remembering your name, it feels like we are making an impression.
The afternoon held a Tanzanian dance/movement workshop with Gwakisi, who it turns out can not only translates but also plays guitar, sings and dances (and he’s good at all of the above, I was less graceful to say the least).
The evening saw a trip to the maze that is the local market, rows and rows of independent stores from football shirts (by far the favourite) and realms of fabrics and materials in traditional African colours and patterns (I could lose hours in there). A walk home for dinner which was welcomed after one of the busiest days so far (hence the long entry)! After a few rounds of Irish snap (quite a few..) we were all exhausted and ready for sleep.
Sunday 14 July
Report by Mac and Ben – It was a relatively late start in the morning, leaving for church at 9.30am. The closer we came to the church and the Grassroots Centre it became clear that the service was already underway with the tell-tale chorus of Tanzanian choir singers. Seaters had been saved ready for our arrival making us feel extremely welcome within the church. The service kicked off with one or two songs of praise performed by various choirs – we were then invited to perform two songs of our own (‘My God is so big’ and ‘Hakuna Mangu’). Numerous speeches were made by members of the community, including Sharon. We were then invited to the altar by Richard to accept Christ into our lives and follow the path of God. All seventeen of us (students, teachers, translator and driver) piled into the land cruiser and set off for the Karibuni Center.
Monday 15 July
Hi everyone, Jess Christie here! We started off the day with breakfast, closely followed by a trip to two different secondary schools. One half of us went to Iyela secondary school where they sat in on a maths linear programming lesson and an English family tree lesson. The other half went to Forest Park secondary school which involved a biology form 4 (GCSE equivalent) lesson about classification which rapidly evolved into observing tapeworms. It was really amazing to see how involved the students were in their learning, they were extremely bright and it was crazy that even though their country’s native language is Swahili, they do school in English completely. After this we had lunch and tried ugali which is the stable diet of Tanzanians, it is maize flower mixed with water into a paste. Some of us then went to Nisa’s house which was so emotional, where he told us his life story and spoke about his journey with Jesus Christ. Some of us headed back to the Karibuni Centre vía the market to pick up some last minute gifts, and the remaining ones of us did interviews in a new location for Grassroots. The interviews were very interesting yet sad, some of the children were very malnourished or HIV positive as the interviews took place within an extremely poor region of Tanzania, 18km away from Mbeya.
Wednesday 17 July
Message from Mr Thomas from Tanzania - Kipepeo Beach
We are coming to the end of our trip in Tanzania now and we’re spending our last day on Kipepeo beach. Here, we have an opportunity today to reflect upon the past week in Mbeya.
There are many things we enjoyed over the last few days, but also many moments when we learnt a lot about both the people of Tanzania and ourselves. We have experienced a wide spectrum of emotions in Tanzania from sadness and frustration to joy and gratefulness.
The wide spread poverty of mbeya is juxtaposed by the luxury we have had at Kipepeo beach. At the beach last night, we slept in beautiful tree houses, surrounded by monkeys leaping from tree to tree. Completely contrasting the houses we saw last week in Mbeya - often simply just a small bed as the only furniture - lots of questions come to mind about whether things can be done to address some of the imbalance in the world.
Yesterday we travelled to the beach from Mbeya. The hardest part of the day was saying goodbye to the Grassroots translators that we had come to know and love throughout the week in Mbeya. This was particularly sad because we have gone through so much with them and shared many fantastic memories, but also harsh eye-opening realities in Tanzania.
All of us are making the most of the brilliant weather at the beach today and are having a great time. We would have loved to spend a few more days here in our tree top lodges.
We’ve loved every minute here in Tanzania and we’re sorry to say goodbye.
Love from the team and looking forward to seeing you soon!