After my amazing experience in Tanzania, I returned to New York and started plotting and scheming for a way to return to Africa. Thus Operation Tech Start was born!
Take a look and you’ll see how we’re nearly ready to launch our computer lab and research the communication practices of the farmers in the rural region of Tabora. But we need your help!!! Are you a computer geek or do you know someone who would like to volunteer in Tanzania? Check out the volunteer description here!
On our final Friday in Tabora, HAPO held a ceremony to welcome the new children and provide all 24 HAPO kids with new school uniforms, bookbags and shoes. Community leaders including a member from the Tabora Ward District Council as well as the guardians of the children were there to be a part of this very special day. Decorations were donated by the owner of the Tabora Hotel and food was catered from a local restaurant. Indeed it was a very big deal.
Unbeknownst to me and Siwan, this welcome ceremony was also in large part a goodbye ceremony for us, the exiting volunteers. In the photo above the children were nervously singing us a goodbye song.
And then it was our turn to give a speech we had prepared to thank the children, the staff, and friends. We read it in Swahili (thanks Gayo & David for the translation help!) but I’ll spare my non-swahili speaking readers. Here is the English version…
“Before Siwan and I arrived in Tabora we were both always in a hurry, running here and there, eating on the go, having very little time to rest, and working in big office buildings every day. Arriving in Tabora was a very big change for us…and we could not be happier to have this experience of working and living in Tabora.
HAPO is an organization which we have had the pleasure of working with and seeing grow into a thriving drop-in centre for Tabora’s most beautiful children. We are both deeply commited to HAPO as we ourselves have seen the change in the childen academically, socially, and in their general well-being.
We have learned so much during our time here, from the HAPO staff and the children themselves, and we must say a big thank you to everyone. Thank you to Dr. Sekasua and Mama Sekasua for sharing their HAPO vision and allowing us to be a part of its success. Thank you also for their hospitality and relentless kindness. Thank you to Mama Houli for taking on our troubles with a smile. Thank you to Mr. Ndaki and Mr. Mwendapole for testing us in Kiswahili and keeping us on track. Thank you to Bernadete for her friendship and guidance. Thank you also to all of the HAPO staff and HAPO friends who have helped us have fun with their good humour and smiles. Thank you also to Faye and Christine for their fresh ideas and enthusiasm for the HAPO programme – and for not burning down the house when we went to Kigoma!
Last but not least, thank you to the HAPO children. We love each and every one of you. We believe in you. You are very special. You each have unique talents so work hard, listen to Mama Sekasua and believe in yourselves. You will succeed and we will never forget you!”
Our fellow volunteer Christine claims that she wanted to make us a nice going away cake. I believe she just couldn’t wait to make Rice Krispy Treats after the rare sighting of both Rice Krispies and marshmallows in Tabora. Either way we were presented with a lovely treat with our names in banana on top “Holly” and “C1” respectively. Thanks Christine!
And here is the Sekasua family, the people who run HAPO and helped make every day a learning day with good humor and an unlimited supply of laughter. On both my behalf and Siwan’s we wish this very special family a heap of thanks and best wishes for future success.
My last week in Tabora as a volunteer, I was fortunate enough to meet the twelve new children that were to double the size of HAPO’s OVC after-school programme. As part of their initiation, each child was to receive a set of school clothes, school supplies and of course school shoes. It was quite the event for these kids who were used to living in tattered clothes day-in and day-out. And it was quite the event for me to see how much a pair of shoes can make a difference in the hopes and dreams of these very good but very poor children.
There’s Christine at the market helping wrangle some of the kids for trying on shoes.
And there’s quiet, shy and very bright Adelina poking her head out from the front of the car on the way to the market.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the woes of the nice big non-functioning volunteer house in Tabora but let’s start with the picture above shall we. That’s me. And yes I’m sitting on the toilet to demonstrate on how one must bring an umbrella into the toilet to protect oneself from the dirty, cold water that drips from the tank above ever since the fundi (mr. fix-it) fuddled with it in hopes of getting the hot water heater working. And that’s the NICE bathroom.
Another externality of living in such a remote region is the lack of hair salons for white girls. The locals have a plethora of options and most women redo their hairdo about once a week (they look so completely different each time too!). But alas, we strange wazungus have to settle for first time hair-cutters under the lone working bulb in our living room. Here I am making my debut as a stylist on Siwan’s lovely London-layered ‘do.
Eleven weeks into my stay in Tanzania, the Sparkle Princesses and friends were invited to tobacco friend Marc’s backyard pool. It felt a spontaneous luxury vacation: pool, beer, water polo, itunes playing on portable speakers…aaaaaaaahhhh.
Above are Steve, me, and Jonathan posing in the water.
Teaching synchronized swimming to two of my favorite blokes, Craig and Steve.
The lot of us relaxing by the pool: Bradley, Marc, Christine, Jonathan, me, Craig.
That’s Zituni setting a world record for how far she could fire the rocket into the air by the child-inspired force of jumping on the purple pump. This was a loaned gift to HAPO by our friends Steve and Jonathan, the Brits building the new Anglican Cathedral on the main road in town. Thank you so much Steve and Jonathan. As you can see, the kids, big and small, LOVED it.
Jonathan, Siwan and some of the children watch in awe at the rocket’s red glare bursting in the air.
Mama Sekasua gives it a go.
And being a big kid myself I had to fire up a bit of fun as well.