A day of community service in Karatu, Tanzania
by 6-time travelers Jim & Jeanne Gale of Moline, Illinois
Our family safari and community service project were all that we had hoped they would be—and more.
The kindergarten room that had been built by Grand Circle Foundation and then finished and furnished by [OAT traveler and philanthropist] Susan Rickert was perfect for our group. Before leaving the U.S., we had input from the entire family and made our initial plans based on an outline provided by OAT. JoBeth Clark, a kindergarten teacher in Denver, packed a duffle full of books, papers, markers, Weekly Readers featuring President Obama, etc., while many of the rest of us bought stencils for the alphabet and numbers, markers, and supplies.
Although we bought a few paintbrushes in Arusha, our incredibly knowledgeable trip leader, Exhaud, decided we could purchase the bulk of our supplies in Karatu. When we arrived there a few of us stopped briefly to meet Principal Christopher Seth, view the classroom, and estimate what supplies we needed. The next morning we began the day with our shopping expedition in Karatu, a "learning and discovering" experience in itself! We divided into three groups: one bought the painting supplies, the second bought groceries for lunch, and the third bought soccer balls.
When we arrived at the school, we quickly divided into groups to stencil and spray the alphabet,
numbers, shapes, and colors on the walls. Ross Nordstrom, with help from other family members, began painting an acacia tree and rising sun on the east wall and an acacia tree and setting sun on the west.
At lunchtime we made peanut butter and jam sandwiches and served them along with mango juice, bananas, and biscuits (cookies!) to the beautiful kindergarten children. Interestingly, they had to be urged to eat by their teachers because it was not their custom to eat lunch anywhere except home. Most of us in the group ate peanut butter sandwiches also and shared our Tloma Lodge chicken, quiche, carrot sticks, and cookies with our new friends. We wished we had bought carrots and fixed them for the kids, too!
After lunch, our grandchildren played soccer and kickball with the school children. The Njia Panda kids were surprised to see our girls play soccer.
When we headed back to the Tloma Lodge, we left everything at the school with Christopher's enthusiastic assurance that he planned to paint other classrooms in a similar fashion to enhance learning. We all left with the feeling that we had been helpful and made a little difference in the school experience for these Njia Panda kindergarten students. Although we realize our desire to do a project created extra work for you at OAT, we surely would recommend something similar to future travelers. It was a day our children, grandchildren, and we shall never forget.