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Jambo! (Hello in Swahili)

23 March 2015

One teacher, five students and one parent representing The British International School Shanghai, Pudong turned up at Pudong International Airport one Friday evening in loose elephant pants and flip-flops. With sleeping bags and a camera charger in our backpacks, we were ready for our 22-hour journey to Arusha in Tanzania!

A week after we all entered the Year of the Goat in China, goats were about to bring a new meaning to each of us, and a spark of hope for a local village in Arusha. Goats were going to become much more than a zodiac animal for us. All of us were very motivated, excited and optimistic towards going to a new continent, experiencing a new culture and to help making a difference.

Together with our Nord Anglia Education sister schools from around the world (Prague, Pattaya, Cambodia, Bratislava, Al Khor and BISS Puxi), we all arrived at Nord Anglia’s camp in Arusha called Shamba (farm in Swahili) Kipara camp, surrounded by Mount Meru and coffee plantations.

Our main task in Tanzania was to do service activities in the local community. We were divided into six groups and each group was allocated to an underprivileged family. Our group was sent to an old lady we called “Bibi” (grandmother in Swahili). Her son lived across the road in a house built from bricks and cement, and he had abandoned her despite the fact that her health and living conditions were poor. Bibi’s house was purely made out of mud, wood and banana leaves. Her son had a job as an English teacher at a nearby primary school. In Tanzania, being able to teach English will give you a very high paying job. Unfortunately for Bibi, her son has decided not to support her financially. This is hard for her as she is living an extremely basic existence compared to him.

To define Bibi’s basic necessities, we could look at what she did not have access to in her house (room): she did not have a bathroom with toilet and a shower, nor did she have a proper kitchen to cook in and neither any electricity to keep her warm or light up the one room she lived in. We all found her story heart-breaking, as we could not believe that her son had treated her like this. In contrast to this is where we live in Asia, where the importance of respecting and looking after your elders is emphasised heavily.

Our first step was to help to improve Bibi’s daily life. We built a goat shed where the animal would be protected from all sorts of weather; comfortable for the goat, easy for feeding the animal and clean. By building a goat shed and giving her a female goat, she is now able to produce goat milk to make cheese to sell and earn some income. Also, by providing her with a female goat, and with a male goat available in the village, in the future Bibi could sell the offspring. Doing something practical and seeing how the goat shed slowly took its form, made us feel like we were really making a big improvement.

On this trip to Arusha, we also visited a local primary school where we interacted with the school children and understood better what their school day is like. It was definitely an eye-opener for us because we realised how privileged we are with our facilities and learning environment that we take for granted. One classroom that especially made a huge impact on us had problems with bats. These bats had invaded the classroom ceiling and left an unpleasant odour that the children had no choice but to study in. The smell was so intense that we only managed to be in the classroom for a few seconds before we needed fresh air.  After leaving that classroom, we realised that we take our learning environment for granted and do not appreciate it enough.

Apart from building goat sheds and visiting schools, we had a good mix of both giving back to the community and also experiencing what Tanzania had to offer. From amazing fruits, delicious avocados picked from a tree outside the camp kitchen, to the extraordinary and unforgettable safari where we camped under the pollution-free sky full of stars and saw elephants, a cheetah, zebras, giraffes (the world’s most awkward animal), lions chilling under the shade… and even more elephants. All in all, this was a memorable and great trip that made us able to see global issues from different perspectives.  

Kwaheri Rafiki, Hakuna Matata!