Clockwise from top left, James (Short), Thad, Loni, James (Tall), Carla, and Christy, James (Tall) by himself, and Loni, Christy, and Holley
Monday, September 8, 2008
IT’S BEEN MONTHS…
…literally, it’s been months since I’ve posted on the Rocky Woodbridge Journal. I apologize for the long internet silence. We’ve been pretty busy over the past few months with workshops, organizing clubs, writing grants, having a visitor from the US, and lots and lots of travelling. Also over the past couple of months, we have lost most of our Mpwapwa crew. Our good friends Loni, Holley, James and Jane, and James and Christy have all returned to the US after finishing their two years of Peace Corps service which leaves only four of us here in Mpwapwa: Ben, Thad, and Carla and me. Having good American friends that you can periodically hang out with in your region is crucial to the psychological wellbeing of most volunteers. We have a few good Tanzanian friends, but sometimes you just want to speak English with a fellow American that will know where you’re coming from. Having said that, we’re still doing well here. To be honest, since we’ve been travelling so much over the past few months, we crave being in our village for more than just a week at a time. When we are here, we find ourselves incredibly busy. We’re usually at the secondary school meeting with different clubs and organizing with a few of the teachers. Carla has started an English club, my Art club is still going well, and we’ve started working more with the Tumaini (Hope) club for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). Carla’s English club is going well. She’s working with the students to improve their basic conversational skills. Even though most subjects are taught in English, it amounts to little more than a teacher copying out of the book and onto the blackboard and then the students copying into their notebooks. There’s little to no comprehension of the language and that’s true among the teachers as well. Carla is doing her level best to make English club a fun time for the kids. Meanwhile, my art club is moving right along. There are only a few students who are really serious about drawing and they show up for every session. I’ve basically given them a place where they can draw for a couple hours twice a week. My main objective with these kids is to foster in them that they can draw whatever they want, not just from magazine photos of rap artists. I’m trying to encourage creative thought which is not highly valued in Tanzanian culture. If you do something outside of the group or outside the norm, you’re judged for it. We’re working on drawing skills and projection techniques for enlarging pictures. I’d like to be able to do a mural with these students eventually: one that they conceive of and design themselves. Tumaini Club is a group of 59 secondary students that are Orphans or Vulnerable Children (OVC). In the developing world, and specifically in Tanzania, OVC is a term used to describe a person under 18 who has lost at least one parent and/or is living under difficult circumstances such as alcoholic or abusive caretaker, elderly or disabled caretaker, financial hardship, etc. The members of Tumaini (the Swahili word for hope) are currently working on a vegetable garden at the secondary school, from which they sell mchicha (a Tanzanian variety of spinach) to local vendors. Recently, we’ve been working with Carla’s counterpart, Renfrida, and secondary school teacher Mr. Nickson, both professional tailors, in order to diversify the club’s activities. Renfrida and Nickson have agreed to teach sewing fundamentals to the club members. Our hope is that the students will be able to supplement their small vegetable gardening enterprise with a sewing business. I am currently writing a small grant to acquire a sewing machine, sewing supplies, and garden tools, so that Tumaini Club can have a fighting chance for success. All too often the case is that students lose interest in activities for lack of proper equipment, insufficient supplies, and lackluster leadership. We’re trying to lead by example: we’re at the school when we say we will be, we do what we say we’re going to do, and we’re trying to teach that it’s better to earn by hard work than asking for handouts. Also, we are teaching the club members about different gardening techniques like permaculture. The students are just happy to be doing something different. Along those lines, we just acquired a volleyball from James and Christy and we’re planning on teaching the students how to play. Mr. Nickson is really excited about this. Every time I see him he asks if I’ve downloaded the rules yet. It’s really refreshing to see this type of enthusiasm in the village and it makes our job here a lot easier. I’ve included some pictures so you all can get a visual of what I’m talking about. Enjoy.