| August 23, 2017 |
– From August 14, 2017 in Tanzania, Africa –
Our “good night’s rest” didn’t come so peacefully last night. Turns out, the dogs start fighting at 10PM, and continue until 4AM, when there’s a slow transition from dogs barking to roosters crowing. I think the roosters are confused, because I’m certain the sun doesn’t rise at 4AM. I declared my mission to find my snore blocker earplugs for tonight!
We stumbled into the breakfast buffet around 8:40, and were relieved to find out orientation wouldn’t start promptly at 9AM as planned. When Tyler and Adrian arrived from Edutours, the three of us went over the slide presentation for the student group to give Tanzania’s cultural context. We discussed culture shock, appropriate attire, and the general itinerary. Afterwards, we headed to visit the two centers we’d be volunteering at as a group…
Our first PT service site is Step-By-Step Learning Centre, which is one of the biggest reasons I’ve returned to Tanzania. Last year, the children and staff at this non-profit school for children with learning/physical disabilities inspired me in immeasurable ways. I also saw the potential for continued growth, as the school is built on passion, kindness, and acceptance of ALL children. Myself and four student Physical Therapists will be volunteering at this center—Sarah, Meaghan, Lo, and Jamie. Though only Meaghan had a pediatric clinical rotation thus far, they’ve already taken pediatrics courses and came willing to learn and practice their skills!
Margaret, the school’s founder and visionary, directed us to tour the classrooms, which included different sections based on the child’s abilities. In one classroom, there is also a sensory room. In the classrooms, I saw two familiar faces! Bibiana and Rogathe are two teachers I worked with last year, and they were present cleaning the classrooms alongside the newer teachers–Francis and Sister Emma! They welcomed me with a hug, happy to see me back in Tanzania. They showed us some of the students’ notebooks and their progression in handwriting.
We then met with William, one of the greatest supports of the school and another inspiring teacher I met last year! He drives the bus, assists with mechanics throughout the school, and holds social time with the students. In the social time, William connects with the kids to discuss their emotions, and especially support the boys to provide a father figure. Quite often, the father will disappear after his wife has a child with a disability. He abandons the family, and therefore boys and girls often grow up without a supportive father figure. William is trying to change this, and it’s beyond heartwarming. He also showed us the garden, chicken coup, goats, and fish pond in the schoolyard to provide food for the children, and teach them pasteurizing/farming skills.
Margaret then joined us in a circle time to discuss disability in Tanzania. She described how people don’t often seek care from doctors because it’s expensive, and they can instead self-medicate by visiting the pharmacy (“Duka La Dawa” medics). Margaret then spoke about the dream to have students making and selling their own goods, in order to have a job and begin providing for their families. The vision is so clear, and I am faithful it’ll continue to be prosperous.
After having a packed lunch from The Grill House, our group headed to Shanga where Ryan, Jackie, and Charli will be providing PT service. We got a tour of the facility that makes artisan crafts from recycled materials. Shanga employs all individuals with disabilities, ranging from physical disability to deafness. The trades include weaving, tailoring, beading, glassblowing, and paper/metal creations. The recycled materials come from all over Arusha. They even use sunflower oil to heat one of the kilns for glassblowing.
Our group joined the beadmakers and made our own bracelets, chokers, etc., while bonding with the staff! They were all so welcoming, even when Meaghan fired a bead into someone’s face and they all laughed, joking in Swahili! This was an awesome ice breaker for Ryan, Jackie, and Charli who will be evaluating 10 staff members and providing them with an exercise program. The staff members put their names forward when they heard there’d be Physical Therapists at Shanga, so it’s exciting to hear they’re motivated and wanting services!
We headed to the shop, which provides most funding for Shanga, and purchased a bunch of dress shirt Tembos (elephants!)… then had a photoshoot with them.
David from Edutours was our trusted Swahili teacher on our first night! His lessons are a bit intimidating, as he approaches everyone individually asking for greetings and responses. For example… Unaitwa nani? Ninaitwa nani? Anaitwani? (What’s your name, what’s my name, what’s his/her name?) Then it gets really confusing asking how are they all, how are you, where is he from, where am I from, what’s my name, you cool? COOL. Our heads were spinning, but hey, we were getting it!
When Sarah was asked “Mambo,” she responded “POW!” Meaghan struggled a bit with pronunciations but she also caught on. I forgot Charli’s name. We had many laughs and struggles together, but immediately started putting what we learned into use! Greetings are REALLY important in Tanzania. Nobody simply walks past each other and says “hey” or looks the other way as we do in the USA. Also, in restaurants, etc., Tanzanians ask very politely for service and to pay. They’ll say “Naomba kahawa,” which almost translates into “Please I beg of you, can I have coffee,” as opposed to Kenyans who will just say “Lette kahawa,” or “Bring me coffee.” Sound familiar, New Yorkers?!
Here’s some phrases we learned in our lesson!
Now we are ready for PT Service!