Looking back on my month in Moshi I feel like it has flown by, but at the same time, I feel so comfortable and at home in the day-to-day life that I can’t believe it’s only been four weeks. I have learnt a lot about the workings of an NGO, the reality of the challenges faced in these projects and the dynamics of volunteering in a different county.
Working with Team Vista has been an incredible opportunity. The people behind it are extremely hard working and generous, juggling tasks from the most basic day-to-day activities (getting the children good food and a working refrigerator) to large-scale projects (coordinating setting up new businesses in the community and managing legal cases). All these projects require constant attention to keep the momentum going, especially in a country like Tanzania where things don’t work quite like home. After seeing Team Vista run on the ground, I was surprised by the problems that were faced which were generally unexpected and not what I predicted.
Supplying aid is rarely as simple as recognizing that “a community needing a well” and an engineer coming over and using their knowledge to install one and walking away, problem solved. There are many facets to the issues the communities face and infinite ways to “offer help” as we aim to do. Some such factors which can complicate things are cultural sensitivities, religion, corruption, government or police involvement and associated issues, things rarely running on time, issues with sourcing materials, coordination of people and other external factors etc. Initially, an issue need to be identified, which can be a challenge in itself. Finding the solution is then usually an iterative process with sometimes many, and sometimes frustrating, roadblocks that you just don’t expect.
We aimed to connect a community with fresh water while we here, having eager and able-bodied volunteers to do all the digging and installation. We thought getting the local water management body to come and survey the existing system would take a day or two so we could begin work, but unexplained delays meant we didn’t hear back from them. It becomes difficult to plan efficient execution of projects and generally you constantly need to think and adapt. I didn’t expect the application of available resources to be an issue, but you really need to be proactive in the projects to get them off the ground.
During my time here, I have also gained insight into the dynamics of volunteering in a developing country. Moshi is home to countless NGO’s and aid organizations with funds and volunteers wanting to make a difference. It is admirable to see but also flagged a warning to research and understand how these agencies work. Some companies have made a business in itself of facilitating volun-tourism that can result in misspent resources. This was a disappointing reminder that it is really important to understand where your donations etc are going, as not all agencies are as honest and transparent as Team Vista.
It was extremely rewarding to be a part of a group working on such an array of projects here; building a caretakers hut, helping at the local school, taking the boys from the Team Vista orphanage on outings, renovating and decorating the girls empowerment room at the high school, marketing the hotel and associated enterprises, gathering ideas for future projects etc.
Personally, I was most proud of leaving Moshi with a Days for Girls group based out of Haria Hotel. Days for Girls is an international charity who distribute reusable sanitary kits to developing countries, where the girls miss out on school and work unnecessarily, and not to mention the embarrassment and discomfort which goes with that. Girls in the Kaloleni dump, or the slum like area of Moshi, for example, currently use leaves and other miscellaneous objects leaving them stuck at home or sick with infections. The deaf sewing group (Tatu Rafiki meaning “three friends”) supported by Team Vista, produce excellent quality products and work out of Haria Hotel. During my time in Moshi, I worked with them to make the Days for Girls kits. These can now be produced, sold and distributed locally, providing income for the group and a basic necessity for girls in the community.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here working on all projects. I take away an appreciation for what goes into taking resources donated in our society and turning them into something beneficial in a developing country, which can mean so much. Furthermore the amazing adventures in Tanzania and the people I’ve met. I count myself very lucky to have such an opportunity.
We got to see two exciting projects this week. The first project highlighted the striking contrast between Tanzania and Australia’s way of operating in the first. The second project was a completely unexpected series of events and discoveries that unfolded from a simple invitation to a party.
The first project was at the Team Vista block of land at Newlands, a new and growing area on the outskirts of Moshi (as the name suggests). The block had one harvest of maize last year and has since stood empty. Team Vista’s plan for the block is to build a caretaker’s hut with a small classroom facility, a fence to border the block from the random roads that spring up though paths of least resistance, and a workshop, made from shipping containers where youth can undertake vocational training programs for various trades. The rest of the land would be planted with crops and fruit trees, along with a compost toilet and water well.
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