The 10,000CHF raised by the fourteen Y11 students who travelled to Tanzania last year, included matched funding from the PTA, and was spent on completion of a new boarding house and classroom at the WATU school, plus on supporting the work of the DARE foundation. The following is an account of the trip taken by these pupils to Tanzania, to visit the projects for which they fundraised.
An Amazing Trip
We left on Saturday June 24th headed for two amazing weeks in the beautiful country that is Tanzania. The first week was spent exploring parts of the country as we all embraced our inner explorers and tourists by hiking up Mt Meru (4562m), and going on two safari days. The second week was more focused on humanitarian work: we worked with DARE Women’s Foundation – an NGO working to empower Tanzanian women and girls – and WATU Secondary School – an NGO focused on offering young people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to realise their academic potential.
This article was put together by the entire team as all members wrote about different parts of the trip. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey!
The hike was a true experience and overall life changing. Even though only four members of the team reached the to of the mountain, we still had enjoyable moments and times together on the hike (including blisters and getting altitude sickness). The view on the top of the mountain of the orange/ violet rising sun over Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance will be an unforgettable moment in my life. The hike eventually gave the motivation to do more, or in other words climb Kilimanjaro.
During our trip to Tanzania we had the amazing opportunity of witnessing the wildlife of the country, by going on two safari days which were complemented by a surprisingly comfortable night of sleeping in tents. From the Tarangire National Park (on the first day), to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (on the second day), we were lucky enough to see animals such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, wilder beasts, hippos, hyenas, rhinos. The experience of seeing these animals in their natural habitat was truly incredible, and greatly eye-opening. We quickly came to understand and appreciate how these animals live in coexistence. Learning about the horrific dangers elephants and rhinos have to face – specifically in relations to the ivory trade – becomes incredibly more tragic after seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
DARE : an organisation dedicated to empowering Tanzanian women and girls
When the women from DARE’s Women’s Foundation first arrived at our hotel, Maggie, the founder of DARE, explained to us what they did and what inspired her to start the foundation. They told us that they didn’t ask for big donations from sponsors. They had come up from with ways of making money themselves such as making necklaces and selling them. On Monday we helped them sew stuffed animals and make beads out of recycled paper. We also helped them cut up material for reusable sanitary pads, which is another project that they have started and funded. We spent the majority of the day doing this and talking to the other women about their role in DARE and how it has helped them.
Towards the end of the day a few of us were able to take Maggie aside and interview her about her motivations and hopes for the foundation. As modern day women in western society, awareness of feminism is something important. I also know that due to traditions and culture, African societies (as a whole) are seen as very conservative in comparison to the more liberal Western mentality. As someone who goes to Africa regularly and who grew up in African family, meeting the founder of DARE’s Women’s Organisation changed my entire perception of Africa. The idea that in a country with a sexist society every individual within that community believes that sexism is okay, was proven to be an absolutely wrong misconception. Maggie made that clear to me. Her passion for her country and her complete disbelief in discrimination within a marriage is admirable. Her determination to help women reach independence was inspirational to not only me, but the entire team. She changed not only our views, but how we should approach gender inequality in conservative counties.
WATU Secondary School
One of the main events of the trip was our work at WATU Secondary School. The school describes itself as a ‘small NGO working in the Kilimanjaro Region, whose mission is to offer young people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to realise their academic potential’. In all honesty, most of us spent the majority of the first day asking ourselves, “how is our work going to change anything?”, “do they even really need us?” To put things into perspective, the headmaster had come to talk to us the night before to tell us a bit about the school, and ended up mentioning that numerous other international schools were supporting WATU, including College du Leman for example.
When we arrived, we were treated like royalty. Sat next to the teachers’ office (in the
teachers’ lounge I believe it is called), we received tea, bread and corn, while people were coming in and out to greet us. Soon after, we were given a tour of the campus, which included the classrooms and the boys’ dormitory. For what it was, the campus was quite nice with large classrooms, clean bathrooms, and the bunkbeds did not look uncomfortable. Of course, as we wandered around the campus, it became even clearer to us that this school was indeed receiving funds from several different sources.
Prior to departure from Switzerland, we had prepared different activities to conduct
with the students of WATU. Starting with ice-breaking games, we were then going to split off into groups: one being in charge of English activities, one focusing on maths, the other on IT work, and the last one working to put together a play with the students. The ice-breaking games went very well, and I think it is safe to say that we all became a lot more comfortable around the other students as that morning went on. Over the course of the next three days, our focus was to lead these different planned activities. Some were very successful, with the students participating with enthusiasm, while others were not so well received. One of the more successful groups was the one initially in charge of putting on a play with the students. Once they got to know them, they realised that a great number of them loved to sing and dance, and thought that maybe a concert would be a better idea. This also provided more insight between the different cultures and traditions, and broke down an important barrier. Our group taught them a few English songs and dances, which the WATU students picked up with great ease, and they returned the favour with traditional rhythmic dances and catchy folk songs. Communication was slow at the start, but as rehearsals progressed, everyone became more open and comfortable with each other to the point that no one wanted to stop practising. Seeing how people with such different backgrounds can come together through dance and music was truly an eye-opening experience. We begin understanding that communication really is not all that difficult once common ground is established. Connecting through a shared interest and art form shattered a wall, and everyone became comfortable with each other.
Another significant moment was when our team joined the students for a netball game. Nicci from the Tanzanian Team 2016, had decided to follow up on a project she had worked on during her trip. With her sister’s help she went to Sisters’n’sport who donated netball shirts and bibs. In return, the shop requested that we take photos of the girls in their netball kits, which meant this was the perfect opportunity to hold a netball match. Not only were the girls very eager to play and very pleased with the new equipment, but their netball abilities were very impressive. Again, finding common ground broke a certain barrier where now the girls had something they could bond over.
One of the things that made some of our experiences at WATU more memorable and
significant was that we were finally able to meet the students we had been communicating with for the weeks leading up to the trip. In March, we contacted the school to see if we could set up an email exchange between the Ecolint and WATU students. We were given 14 email addresses, and it was our job to contact a student each. Upon arriving at WATU and meeting in person, some of our students had an unforgettable experience, and were able to talk with their buddy on end about likes, dislikes, what they individually enjoy doing in their spare time, experiences in Europe, and the cultural differences between Europe and Africa such as religion, music and education, just to state a few. It was a very special thing though to see how well some people connected with their buddies and how a friendship was slowly beginning to develop. I firmly believe that experiences like this are the reason why we came to WATU, and how our presence did make a difference. Seeing how well some people connected, and the bond that was formed made our fundraiser for the school immediately more significant. We finally understood why we were at school, and how important it was for us to donate, because it does make a difference and some of the students there really deserve to get a good education. Compared to most students in western countries (and yes, I will have to lean on a stereotype for this), they do not take their education for granted at all. Being truly grateful for the opportunity of simply having a future, they changed a lot of our perspectives on how education is perceived, and how we overlook things because all of our life they have been handed to us.
On the last day an assembly was held during which the songs and dances learned were
performed. The students also sang their school song along with the teachers. Unfortunately, the assembly did not last very long and soon, goodbyes had to be said.
Overall, this was an absolutely unforgettable and truly eye-opening experience. We were really able to notice how lucky and privileged we are. There is still room for progress, but so far, the school has truly done an excellent job of ensuring their students will be able to pursue their dreams. More than anything, our work changed the way we see education around the world and amongst different people: some students are so deserving of this chance yet they may never have the opportunity of going to school, while other students go to phenomenal schools and put minimal efforts into their work, as if it was a burden. If the things we have had not been handed to us (our education, home, food), we would be fighting for them. I believe that is the most valuable lesson WATU taught us.
Compiled by the involved Y11 Students, and edited by Lara Eckes-Chantre.