Associates in Tanzania help provide a better learning environment for children
Once a nomadic people, the Maasai tribe of Tanzania has increasingly settled in permanent villages, called bomas, as modern concepts of land ownership and government restrictions have limited their territory. These bomas allow the Maasai to retain the social and ceremonial traditions of their culture while making necessary adaptations to live peacefully in modern society.
As with cultures everywhere, a fundamental concern within the bomas has been the education of their children. This concern has led to the construction of permanent schools, such as the Tarangire Primary School, a new Grand Circle Foundation partner this year. Located on the outskirts of Tarangire National Park, the school serves 600 children from neighboring bomas, up from just 100 when it first opened in 1973. On November 5-6, a team from Grand Circle's regional office in Arusha gathered to make the journey to the school, to provide some much-needed improvements.
To help make the two-hour bus ride pass quickly, Trip Leader Exhaud Sarumbo led lively discussions on such controversial topics as processed versus free range chickens and charcoal versus bio fuel.
By the time they arrived, the team of eleven was raring to go! Teachers, villagers, and children were similarly ready to lend enthusiastic support as supplies were unloaded from the bus. Most of the classrooms had been emptied before the team's arrival, so everyone was able to get right to work cleaning walls, sweeping floors, and painting walls and blackboards.
"The atmosphere was amazing despite the immense heat, dust, and, most horridly, the bat guano!" reports Emily Newman, OAT's Area Manager in Tanzania. "Everyone was having fun and joining in, which was so inspiring to all of us." Emily further reports that, for one of the women in the group, a highlight was seeing Maasai men cleaning. "What was even funnier was the fact that the ladies all sat outside and watched and thought," she says. "Usually it's the job of the men to sit under trees and contemplate life, the universe—and their wives cleaning."
Some team members learned a new skill as they mixed the cement needed to fill cracks and patch holes in classroom walls. Others cooked a meal for the volunteers in the open air. ("Maybe a new kitchen for Tarangire Primary School is in order," says Emily.)
Other tasks tackled by the Grand Circle crew included planting an avocado tree—to be fertilized by the dung of passing elephants—and repairing desks and window frames. As a final gift, the volunteers wrote cheerful messages to the children on the newly repainted blackboards.
According to Emily, members of the community, teachers, and elders were amazed that so many Grand Circle staff turned up and accomplished so much. In fact, Emily originally estimated that the team would finish at most two classrooms by the end of the weekend. In fact, they renovated eight! The headmaster promised that the leftover paint would be used to finish the job, with the help of the community.
"All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, well spent, learning new things, encouraging teamwork, sharing food, and most importantly making a difference," says Emily. "We knew that our weekend had made an impact when the Trip Leaders turned round at the end of our journey and said, 'So, which school are we sorting out next weekend?'"
Featured in our November 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.