New Years 2015 Update

The following was a letter with a New Year's update for 2015 sent out to our previous supporters detailing the history of one of our projects:

If you care about issues of war and poverty on a global level, it is also critically important to give.”    ~ Dr. Samantha Nutt ‘Damned Nations – Greed, Guns, Armies & Aid'

So many of you DID! THANK-YOU!

The holiday spirit flowed from so many of you, our precious, loyal ‘African Children’s Book Box’ donors. Our organization tries to help improve the circumstances of poverty stricken lives, mostly in the small territory of Mufindi, Tanzania. About 45,000 people live there in the surrounding villages.

It seems time to share some good news! Sometimes the NGO seems like an amorphous amoeba-like creature and it is nice to celebrate a positive tentacle. This is the story of two containers, one from the UK and one, just one, from Canada. Of the several from the UK, one was filled primarily with needed supplies and equipment for the hospital. Marion Gough has worked tirelessly in England to acquire used equipment from hospitals there. The Canadian container, with help from the Victoria Compassionate Warehouse and all of us, was jammed with school supplies and library furnishings and so much more. David Dare, our contractor friend, built a false end to the container to hide windows and a door (which often ‘disappear mysteriously’ in customs), as we had visions of the container becoming a dwelling one day.

Both containers travelled by rail, ship and then were finally trucked to their destination. It was not easy – customs officials were greedy, there were interminable delays in exotic places, and ball bearings seized on tired worn trucks grinding over the rough, red Tanzanian roads. However on arrival day resounding cheers were heard as all 545 Igoda school children poured out of their school to witness endless wonders coming from the long box from Canada.

Next Rod Gough, retired engineer, Oliver Hestor, a descendant of an original Brookebond tea planter and Geoff Fox, head of the NGO, put their collective heads together with their local Tanzanian partners. Voila! The containers became unique side walls for a new field level technical school. The hidden door and windows were used in the main building rather than soldered into the container.

Enter the most popular phrase in the current NGO vernacular: “SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”. It means, I think, opportunity NOT handouts. It means, I think, helping to equip people with skills and education so they can become financially independent. It means, I think, to protect vulnerable young people while reducing dependence.

In Tanzania a child can begin secondary school only if they can pass formidable exams (written in English!) and if they can pay high school fees beyond the reach of many, many families. English instruction is spotty at best in rural communities. Remember our own bilingual French studies? If all our high school courses were taught in French and our entrance exams were in French how would we have done?

The traditional employment in the area is as a ‘tea picker’ but becoming a picker is physically arduous and limiting. It is also thought to increase exposure to migrant workers carrying the HIV/AIDs virus. At one standard seven graduation I listened to the school board official tell the students “We don’t need to graduate any more tea pickers.”

So what opportunities could be developed for young people in the community?

Jenny Peck, one of the two local managers, thought possibly a tailoring school could help both young adolescent girls and boys. It would not be easy because, and again I quote Dr. Samantha Nutt, “The loss of hundreds of thousands of textile jobs in Africa has been attributed to the trade of used clothing – largely from wealthy nations.”

However bright, gorgeous, unique fabric from all over East Africa is available at the local monthly travelling markets (mnada). Three or four metres cost only about $7.25. Larger pieces of heavier cotton fabric cost about $17.00. Jenny purchased treadle sewing machines from China, eliminating the need for electricity. There is also one ‘museum ancient’ iron that students fill with hot coals. Really!!!

Mr. Longinous Ngonyani, a most skilled tailor, was hired. He has his own small, profitable (duka) shop in Igoda village. Twenty to twenty-five students wear uniforms and commit to two years of training. They also pay a fee to attend. When Anne and I visited we noticed the dreadful scissors the school had. One day I am going to do a piece on what it means to have truly NOTHING when you are poor. We talked with Jenny and thanks to you, dear donors, we were able to bring over 24 pairs of Henkel sewing shears at $34.00 a pair and one $50.00 pair for Mr. Ngonyani. Most of those sewing shears will become graduation gifts for the students. The new tools and supplies are treated almost with reverence!

Some of the results are magnificent. Vivid colored garments can be ordered and are ready in one or two days. Bags, baby clothes, decorative pieces, napkins etc. are available. One adult student, Miss Agrepino Chang’a quietly attended the school. She became very accomplished and Mr. Longinus Ngonyani fell in love. They are now married and the school has two instructors!! Every time one of their handmade crafts is sold the student’s authentic achievement is recognized. As skills are refined the school is aiming to send the products to safari camps so those with more disposable income will have the privilege to purchase too.

One more item, the Canadian container on the right side of the building had shelves built into it for storage. Marion Gough came again and set up and re-organized all the food supplies for the orphanage into that space. House-mothers regularly collect supplies for the Children’s Village. It is rat proof and robber proof with the big metal doors.

The UK container has a stunning mural painted by the Tanzanian artist, Chasaki, on the outside of it. It celebrates the contribution of unending work and effort by Tanzanian girls and women.

Look what you have all made possible!!

Here to the spirit of 2015!

Ruth James