Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Day 5  

Time is passing by quickly – however each day is slow and full. Rich. It was my second day at Good Hope and already it feels familiar. I worked with an 18 year old boy today to help him write about his background and ambitions in English – something he will need for his application into vocational school. Hamidu is a bright young man who is desperate to improve his English, and become a tour guide (two years of school). He caught on quick and we decided to continue our lessons for the rest of the week so he will be very prepared. 

I spent some time showing Asia, one of the Good Hope directors, how to use Excel. She caught on quickly and soon became enamoured with the power of the tool -- and the range of font colours! The kids are really growing on me with their enthusiasm and curiosity. The classroom is tiny and the chairs are borrowed from the bar next door. When he gets customers, he calls over and a few kids jump up and return their chairs - and the teacher doesn't miss a beat. It is sweltering and uncomfortable inside - yet there is no complaining - except by me as I struggled to make my hair disappear off my neck and control the trickles of sweat rolling down my back.

The office has a desk planted in the middle of the room - and no chair in sight. Chairs come and go all over the place. As we stand around the table discussing the plans for the day, a chair will suddenly appear behind me with a smiling face urging me to "sit".

These kids are teaching me much and as I expected, I am taking more than I am leaving. I am falling in love with this magical place and resilient people.
Director of Education Khadija Salim takes a Sprite break

Other two directors, Oliver Canada and Asia Ally

Me and the inspiring women directors of Good Hope


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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Dennis and his brothers
Day 3 - Karanga

The duelling dogs and rooster crows almost won out last night but I finally dosed off before sunrise. I was a little slower today as I donned my skirt and headed to the outdoor dining hall for our communal breakfast. It doesn't take long for the contagious energy of the group to fuel me up.

Today was all about getting out into and learning about the community outside the walls of our home base. We were divided into teams and each assigned a different mission. Ours was to turn left outside the gate and follow the road to the Eleroi Nursery School, and find out the name of the teacher as well as the CCS volunteer who would be working there in a few days.

The dirt road that runs outside CCS seems to be carved into the earth – more pathway than road. And the lushness of the vegetation greets you, as do the family that lives a stone’s throw across the way.  The children smile and wave, calling “jambo” – competing with the bleating goats and barking dogs. The smoky wood fire aroma is omnipresent as are the small cooking pots bubbling over the fire in the yards. As we totted down the laneway lined with banana and coconut trees, greeting everyone we met (greetings are very important in Tanzania) we searched in vain for a sign for the school. Of course not only are there no street signs or names, building signs in this tiny rural neighbourhood are few and far between. The squeals and laughter of little children was the only sign we needed. While our team lead went in search of the details we needed for our assignment, my team mate Katie and I enjoyed the barrage of “karibu’s” (welcome) and hugs. The experience was reminiscent of Kenya and the love that had filled my heart there, was obviously to be found here as well. We spent more than the allotted time with Teacher Luke and the children, listening as they sang the ABCs and some Swahili folk songs and finally bade them farewell … Henry, Victor, Laura, Janet, Peter, Dennis, Mary and many more.

What we learned was that the people in this community are welcoming and want to share. They are happy to have visitors (including us) any time, and they are proud to show you their goats, pigs, chickens and how they live. They smile and nod, shaking your hand, uttering the appropriate Swahili greeting – and offering assistance when my own words faltered.

After our delicious lunch we finally met with representatives from our work assignments. Many in the group are serving at orphanages and schools and have many in their group. It looked as though I was going to be alone at Good Hope Community Support however I lucked out when I learned that an experienced volunteer (Catherine) had been serving there for four weeks. She cautioned me that I will be surprised at how different our placement is from others – that we will be serving in a slum and amongst three strong women (Oliver, Khadija and Asia) who started the organization with little resources and a mountain of resolve. Mama Khadija was engaging but shy. She gently reminded me not to fan myself with the bottom of my skirt in front of the boys as it would not be proper. She assured me though, that if I could administer nothing but love and hugs, it would be enough. I told her I could do that – and much more.

I am, after all, a neighbour. 

A typical open air kitchen

Banana groves created our enchanted forest just outside our gates

Our neighbour Dennis insisted on taking our picture