Meet two IVHQ volunteers in Tanzania who took their volunteer program to the next level and raised $2,000 after arriving in Arusha to install a new cooking system and chimney for Testimony School, providing a safer and more cost effective cooking environment. While the kitchen was completed, the pair also arranged for the stairs at the school to be reinforced for the children’s safety and are currently in the process of painting classrooms - all in the space of two months…
Our names are Grace and Ashleigh, we have been volunteering in Arusha, Tanzania for ten weeks at Testimony School. Testimony School is an English medium primary school which means all subjects except Swahili are taught in English. It has 120 students aged 3-12 years.
Testimony School is pretty basic in terms of its infrastructure and resources available to students. During our first week we got to know our director, head teacher as well as the other teachers and students. Our director also showed us his other campus in Moshi, where he dreams of setting up a university. His enthusiasm as well as our experiences in the first week motivated us to set up a fundraising page. We wanted to build a new kitchen for the cook who cooks morning tea and lunch for the kids. We also wanted to reinforce the stairs which were quite precarious and give some classrooms a paint job.
Our director connected us with Mr Idd, the contractor he has previously used to do work for the school. We are lucky we have such a great director who we trust and were therefore happy to put our trust in this contractor.
The first project we did was build a new cooking system for the cook. Previously all she had was a little fire set up in the ground over which she had to balance a huge pot. This created a large amount of smoke in the room which was both dangerous and unpleasant to cook in. The task of balancing such a big pot over a little fire was also pretty tricky.
When we visited the campus in Moshi we saw a new cooking system that had been built to reduce the smoke in the room, provide a better space for the pot and use less firewood. We met with Mr Idd and our head teacher, Meshack, who acted as translator, to talk about the possibility of building this system at our school in Arusha. We were very happy to find that this could be put in place before Christmas (less than one week away), so we gave Mr Idd the money to order the materials and left him to work. On Christmas Eve we went back to school and were so excited to see the kitchen finished. A chimney had also been installed to provide a channel for the smoke to escape. When we returned to school after the Christmas and New Year holiday it was really cool to see the cook using her new space, she was very thankful to us and it made us very happy to see her so happy!
During the time the kitchen was done we also arranged to have the stairs reinforced. This was very simple as only cement was required so we asked Mr Idd to purchase this when he bought the kitchen materials. The stairs were also finished before Christmas. We are glad they are now much sturdier and therefore safer for the children to walk up and down.
After the New Year we have arranged to paint two classrooms. We spoke with our director and both agreed some colour on the walls was very much needed to improve the children’s learning environment. Once again, with Meshack as translator, we gave Mr Idd the money to buy the materials. The classrooms are all plain terracotta brick. Mr Idd had two classrooms re-plastered so they were set up to be painted. We then went with Meshack to choose the colour paint we wanted and buy some paint rollers so we could get started on painting ourselves! We are currently halfway through painting our first classroom which we would like to finish before we leave. We are not sure if we will have time to finish the second classroom but it is all ready to be painted so hopefully some more enthusiastic volunteers come along who are keen to finish our work.
Overall we have had an amazing ten weeks volunteering at Testimony school. We have been mainly teaching English to Classes 3-7 (8-13 year olds) along with a bit of basic Maths and Science when required. Teaching has definitely provided some challenges, especially with kids who don’t understand us very well. However they are all really eager to learn and it is really satisfying when we are successful in helping them learn something new. Testimony School has been extremely welcoming to us and our director has emphasised he sees us as teachers of the school rather than just volunteers which has been very flattering. We have really enjoyed getting to know all the kids and have finally succeeded in learning some names!
Volunteering has provided an amazing opportunity to for us to meet new people, both locals and other volunteers from all over the world. It has given us the chance to have authentic experiences we would not otherwise have been able to such as visiting the homes of our teachers and students. We have also had some great trips around Tanzania to places such as Moshi, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. We would definitely recommend volunteering in Tanzania to anyone looking for a different cultural experience and adventure.