Letter no. 4   23rd February 2007

 

Hello again,

It is quite difficult to remember all that has happened over the last two weeks because, right in the middle we went off on safari for 5 days. It really was very good, fine lodges, and very good driver/guide and viewing was excellent though we had forgotten the vast distances that have to be traveled and a lot of

it over very bumpy roads. It is very strange that you can travel for miles and see not one animal then you

come across several different ones in just a short distance (a bit like London busses I suppose!!).

Anyway, despite all this adventure, it is good to report that some things do not change. No we do not have electricity!!! As I write we have poles and cable all erected to within 10 ft of the final connection point but the foreman simply refuses to come out and make the final connection – we have no idea why. It is now 2½ weeks past the day they promised we would be connected. We have reached such a point of frustration that we have threatened them with court action. We may have said this before but

Tanesco is a truly awful company.

Putty and Paint Jobs

 

On the building front, the kitchen building is finished though they are still constructing cookers inside. They say the target date for providing the children with food is 5 March – we shall see! All classrooms are now completed so that between our efforts and the government project they now have 8 additional rooms – and all in use; the result is that class sizes look quite reasonable. For the remainder of our time we shall largely focus on teachers houses and we are finishing off the first 4 room house whilst kitchens and toilets are being built to make them usable. When that is all done, probably in about a weeks time, we hope to move on to restoring three old houses, two of which are currently unusable. Oh and we have made repairs and some changes to the water supply and the result seems to be pretty good. One really good bit of news is that a girl (Einoth John) who Tony taught 2 years ago and who came top in his first maths test, came top of the school in the Form 4 National results – this is their equivalent of

‘O’ levels and passing at “Division 2” or above is essential if you want to go on to 6th form. She was only one of 3 from the school that got a high enough pass. We have been sponsoring her for the last two

years and will continue to do so as her education continues.

 

Sue has got her gardening project going and has planted six seed beds – the beans and courgettes came

up within a week in this wonderfully fertile volcanic soil. The school children have cleared about100 more

beds ready for planting out and for more seeds. It is all a bit chaotic, though quite fun, particularly the

watering which is done by splashing water from buckets. The food that eventually grows will all be used in the school feeding programme.

Making Vegetable Plots

 

The weather has changed again. We have had no rain at all for the last week and it gets very hot in the afternoons. But the next rainy season is due next month – who knows?

 

We had a few drinks on Wednesday with the other local vollies to celebrate Tony’s birthday – they gave him a “Muzungu” T shirt (Muzungu = white man)– that is what some of the little kids shout out to us as we pass by – we assume they do not mean to be rude!! But other than that it was just another normal day of painting and puttying, chasing supplies and trying to persuade Tanesco to deliver. There will be another party for a 30 year old this weekend – such is the hectic life we lead.

 

After being away last weekend we expect to have a busy weekend of internet cafés to catch up with all your e-mails.

 

Love to you all

Sue and Tony

 

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An Emergency Appeal   28th February 2007

 

Hello again

First the good news – we have electricity at last –though the very next day there was an 8 hour power

cut. Now for the real purpose of this out of sequence letter. This is a very late appeal for a little more money. The school desperately wants a library and computer room which were always part of our plans but, because we had to spend £2,500 on water and a kitchen which were never part of our plans (but were essential), we can’t afford it – also we are running out of time.

 

So the appeal is this: You have already been very generous but if some of you will come up with £1000

between you, we will put in an extra £1000 and will somehow get it done before we leave. But we have to

know before the end of the coming weekend. Whatever you do, please do not send any money yet – just a

commitment will be enough to let us make a decision.

 

Many thanks for your support.

Tony and Sue

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Letter no. 5   11th March 2007

 

Hello to you all,

It has been a fortnight of ups and downs. We seem to be getting very tired but we are working hard, have

lost quite a lot of weight, and sometimes get very frustrated – the joys of working in Africa! As you all know we now have electricity but that can be a tenuous benefit; 4 hour power cuts were normal

and then one day last week we had a 27 hour power cut but since then it’s been fine – maybe they have solved whatever problem they had but who knows? We could send you a picture but a light bulb isn’t that

interesting.

 

Our appeal for extra funds to build a computer room/library has been a great success and we are very

Starting the Shell of the Computer-Library

grateful to all of you. We find it difficult to believe we have raised over £12,000 and it is also difficult to appreciate how much can be done with that. Anyway, last Monday we made the decision to go ahead and construction is already well under way; we are starting from a bare wall shell (see picture) that was built 2 years ago but already new windows are in, the base floor is laid and the roof is up; we are beginning to believe it really might be possible to finish it in three weeks. Also we think we may have found a computer teacher so it all looks promising. But at the same time the other projects have continued. We have completed the bachelor house, including and toilet and shower block and two small kitchens and it is already occupied by 4 bachelors. We have also completed two other teacher houses, one of which was occupied (but with only the most basic facilities) and the other will be occupied at the start of next week by the blind English teacher and family. They now have proper kitchens (well not actually western standard but fine by local standards), electric lighting and power, and dedicated toilets and shower rooms. And we have started on the final set of three old teacher houses which we will finish to the same standard. 

 

But amid all this there has been a great deal of confusion and frustration. Old buildings have been used as stores and have to be cleared before we can start work – so they just moved everything, all piled

on top of each other into one of the nearly completed houses. Two hours one morning to sort that mess out!! But then we arranged for one of the bachelor teachers to move into a cleared room but instead he moved into the room with all our tools and equipment which was piled up in one of the old teacher houses we were about to clear – another wasted morning sorting that mess. So lots of frustration but we are making progress.

 

The water continues to be a problem partly because they keep breaking taps and partly because the villagers still come in and empty the tanks by leaving the taps on – its free so why should they care. Water is off during the day because someone higher up the mountain breaks into a pipe but it seems to come on again every night to fill the tanks if only the taps were turned off!! All very frustrating and we have told them that, from now on we will not replace broken taps – sometime soon they have to stand on their own and take responsibility so why not now?

 

They did start feeding the students on 5 March but the real surprise was a few days earlier when they brought in two ugali cookers – they are huge, like great steel vats. The problem was they wouldn’t fit

The Ugali Cookers

 through the door and they were determined to take out the door frame despite repeatedly showing them tape measurement to prove that even that wouldn’t do. Eventually they were convinced and took out a window to get them in. When cooking started on Monday it was a completed fiasco (see picture). They had no idea how to light these big cookers, traditional ovens didn’t work at all and the serving of 600 children was completely chaotic. But within a few a days they seem to be getting it worked out. Whether Sue’s vegetables will ever make it to the pot is less certain but the courgettes and beans are doing well. With the £50 the bank gave us by way of apology for their screw up with our account, Sue decided she wanted to smarten up the grass so we have bought a hand lawn-mower. Sue carried it through Arusha on her head, (African style – see picture) but still had to use her hands to steady it – more practice required!

 

Tony went to a School Board meeting two weekends ago and is now considered an honorary member – it went on for 4½ hours, mostly in Swahili. Also we know they are planning a farewell party for us on our last Saturday. We have asked that it please does not go on too long but we shall see.

 

We are off next week end to Tarangire Park which we loved 2 years ago with the same two girls we went with on big safari. Two weeks from now we will send out last big e-mail and then we come home – we are beginning to look forward to it.

 

Best wishes to you all

Tony and Sue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Letter no. 6  27th March 2007

 

Hello for the last time this year.

As you can see from the attached picture they gave us a great party by way of thanks for all the work. Lots of speeches, dancing and singing for about 4 hours and it was great fun and we sort of felt we had done a good job. They even got the local MP and the Regional Education Officer to come.

 

It was slightly sad that the computer room and library were not quite finished by the great day – there is still one section of ceiling to go in and final coats of paint need to go on inside and out (mostly done by Tuesday). Also, although we have bought two computers with the donated money, they could not be shown because the final hard surface of the new floor had not dried out fully.  

 

The last two weeks have been very hard, not just for us but also for the fundi who are getting fed up with the intensity of the work and the continuous pressure to deliver – Tony has become a very severe site manager and we have been spending money so fast that simply managing the cash-flow has been a bit of a nightmare. Sue is fed up with cleaning the builders mess off the new windows before painting and glazing. Tony did most of the early glazing because Tanzanians do it so badly but he has now trained a young fundi to do it properly. Between the last three teacher houses and the computer room/library, 25 new windows have been put in in the last three weeks. Depending on their size, they have between 5 and seven panes of glass in each window. In retrospect, taking on the extra project of the computer room/library was probably too much for all of us but it has been done and they are immensely pleased with it so it really was worthwhile. But it also means that at least one teachers house won’t be finally glazed until after we leave.

 

But there have also been great successes. The electricity supply is now fully connected across the school and a week ago Tony popped in to Tanesco to thank the Regional Manager; for all our moans and fights with them, we know that without his support we would not have got anywhere. The water supply has been much better and the school has started to take full responsibility for its maintenance; we have also

improved the supply to the village outside the school and this seems to have stopped villagers coming in – or it maybe that now they turn off the tanks each night and take away the tank outlet tap handles so they cannot get water anyway!! Afternoon feeding is now routine and seems to be working quite well. Sue’s vegetables are growing and we can actually see courgettes. All the classrooms are in use and there are signs that the influence of the new headmaster is starting to bring a calmer atmosphere to the school. And we know that about 100 more desks will come in the next few weeks which will make a huge difference to the Form 1 students who currently have to exist with only 60 desks and chairs between 225 students.

 

So yes, Kimnyak Secondary School has changed but at the end of the day we have to recognise that what we have done is no more than provide new and better facilities for them to teach and learn in. Exploiting those facilities to deliver a better school is now up to the teachers and students but all the signs are good. In future years if any of you out there would like a similar project, there are plenty of schools out here that need help. We would particularly recommend Muklat School, the next Secondary School north of Kimnyak, which has a wonderful and really enthusiastic headmistress who wants to know why we could not have put some of the effort into her school.  

 

In the middle of all this we took the weekend off (booked weeks ago) with two other volunteers to have a short safari in Tarangire. It was our favourite place two years ago and it is still lovely and we would

strongly recommend it to anyone who comes to this part of the world. The Tarangire Safari Lodge, a tented lodge on a ridge overlooking the river, is beautiful and the park is very peaceful and full of birds, baobab trees, elephants and giraffes. It was particularly noticeable this year just how many healthy young elephant and giraffe there were. We needed the rest and a fair number of bottles of wine (mostly South African and surprisingly cheap) were drunk!!!

 

So now we are coming home, slimmer and fitter, bringing with us over 1600 photographs( so beware – we can bore you on a grand scale!!). Sue can’t wait to see the grandchildren and they are just a desperate to see her. We look forward to seeing many of you over the next few weeks.

 

Love and Best Wishes to you all and thank you for your

support through your e-mails which has given us great

strength and enjoyment.

 

Tony and Sue

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