With the start of this New Year in January, as Operations Manager at ABCD (UK) I hit the ground running here in Tanzania. We had the pleasure of looking forward to our new volunteer, Andy Ollett of Worcester Park in London as well as the scheduled visit of our Rotary Club of Morden president, Philip Watson. Our resource bucket had also shown a healthy balance with donations from three sources in both 2016 and this year: firstly from the Priors Field School, Farnham, secondly from the Members Fund, Alford House and lastly, this year from Morden Rotary Club. All 3 funds contributed to the success of our first quarter, 2017.
Andy had just finished a temporary contract in IT for the NHS and Philip wanted to come and see our projects, and quite right too as Morden Rotary have become major sponsors of many of the projects recently! Andy’s experience in IT suited me well as I have also long had a desire to provide the village with a computer facility for young people’s vocational training. The only source of information available until now has been through news media or the mobile phone, and there are still not very many smartphones in the village!
As soon as I started in January of course, I had a reminder from the principal of Lyamungo Sinde Primary School that we promised to supply a fuel-efficient cooker similar to the very successful cooker at ARI school, finished last year. I began planning for the building and installation of the cooker as well as preparing the ground for our annual donations to the schools’ food programmes for disadvantaged children.
As Andy arrived a few days later I set him to work helping me to refurbish a computer room previously donated by a Dutch NGO at Mwowe Primary School. The room had been neglected for several years as they had no teacher for IT until this year. Meantime, the church pastor also reminded me of my promise to help him set up a computer facility in the church for those young people who did not do well in either their end-of-primary or end-of-secondary exams and who needed to pick up skills that they might use in the work-place.
Meanwhile, Philip’s visit provided an opportunity for all three of us to get stuck in to help set up the computer room at Mwowe school. I also introduced Philip to our past projects in the village. There were two major highlights for his visit, the first being the spectacles clinic, held at the church on February 15th, following on from a similar successful clinic last year. Used specs had been collected throughout 2016 by members of the Morden Club as well as at various collection points in Morden and Wimbledon areas, as well as at the British School of Osteopathy, thanks to fellow Rotarian, Dr. John Telford. We gave out over 250 pairs this time, 150 more than last year.
The second highlight for Philip involved the official opening of the new kitchen at ARI school, supported last year by Morden Rotary. Moreover, Philip had brought some gifts for the schools – 5 illustrated English Dictionaries, some pens and some tournament cups that we arranged for distribution in the schools. Being Philip’s first visit to Africa I think he was quite impressed with what we were doing and could see the need for the on-going projects. We also had an opportunity for a short safari in Arusha National Park.
In summary, although I did raise funds to help with the building and refurbishment of the kitchen and cooker at Lyamungo Sinde Primary School, we were able, with the surplus funds to re-establish a computer teaching room at Mwowe Primary School and a vocational training computer facility at the local church. Quite a busy 3 months so far and extremely successful.
And finally, just as an afterthought, while Tanzanian Immigration officials were double-checking all volunteer and visitor visas with the threat to fine anyone without proper documentation, we got off lightly due to the thorough and whole-hearted support we received from the community for our projects!