Part two of three segments of spotlight on Buildbase / Hirebase employees and Raleigh volunteers for the cycle this autumn. Part of the expedition Alpha 2 team working on the school water, sanitation and hygiene (SWASH) project at Nanenane school in Nyamwezi, funded by Buildbase / Hirebase, we looked for their insights on teaching at Nanenane as well as the importance of community integration. Besides the construction of new toilet blocks, handwashing station and menstrual hygiene management (MHM) room, Alpha 2 two are also delivering SWASH and MHM lessons for the students at Nanenane.
The trio took a break from work to recount their experiences so far; like the other Buildbase / Hirebase volunteers, they come from and work in different parts of the UK. Scarlett and Rory both work in sales, “I go on site quite a bit too, I have to get on with people for a living which is good in this environment because you’re with people all the time, so you have to get along”, said London born Rory, who now works in Grantham. Scarlett, who is from Milton Keynes and works at the branch there, recalled hearing about the volunteering opportunity, “They said there’s an opportunity in Africa, you can go out and work with children, teach them – you get to build – you can’t really turn that down.”
Travel southwards until you reach the English Channel coast, reaching Poole, where Elliot is from and works, “I go to sites every day so I see the tools and how they get used – before I started driving, I did a lot of days with customers to get to know the products.”
On top of construction, the volunteers have been involved in teaching SWASH and MHM lessons which bring a unique level of responsibility. In preparation, Alpha 2 consulted the existing MHM club at Nanenane, composed of nurses and parents in the community, “When we got involved, it was sensitive, and we had to make sure we were teaching the right things, that we weren’t going against what they [MHM club] were teaching and on topic. So, when we first did it, we were cautious of how students responded but they had so many questions and they were enthusiastic to learn more”, Scarlett recalled of the MHM lessons with the female students.
In Tanzania, nearly 20% of deaths, of children under five, occur due to diarrhoea and in schools across the country, students face health risks such as worms and urinary infections due to a combination of a lack of awareness of preventable diseases and poor sanitation facilities. The hygiene management topic at Nanenane has also extended to male students centred classes, at this stage mostly based around personal and domestic hygiene as well as promoting the topic of gender equality.
Rory had been teaching in these lessons and reflected, “When you lead those, afterwards you feel like you’re having more of an impact. It seems like a little thing but when you come to realise the impact of hand washing – when you do it, it actually genuinely saves lives.” When asked about the importance of promoting gender equality amongst the boys, Rory said, “Hopefully if they believe in those values and they bring them up with them, overtime in the next 15 years hopefully, it will be a bit more equal.”
At the heart of this project is ensuring a continuation of the messages being taught as well as the maintenance of the 18 new toilet blocks, a MHM room and a handwashing station funded by Buildbase / Hirebase. This will be attained by engaging and working alongside the community every step of the way. In Nyamwezi, community mobilisation has been propelled by an invitation from the teachers at Nanenane school for the volunteers to play in their football team as part of a district tournament. Elliot scored the winning goal in their first match, “Football brings the community together and I felt part of that community. We are not just here building and going back to our home stays – we want to be involved with the community – they asked if we wanted to play for them and we said yes – we turned up every game, made up their numbers.”
Aside from teaching, working as a team in a different environment and alongside a community in rural Tanzania, the volunteers found they have gained deeper levels of experience as Rory articulated, “Adaptability – you strip your life back down to the absolute basic thing and you realise you have to appreciate people – for me I’ve matured being here I think. You realise more what’s important in real life.”
Given the skills gained and the experience so far, all three were keen to offer taking on mentorship roles for potential future Buildbase / Hirebase volunteers with Raleigh, “I would like if it was me doing it next year, someone to tell me what to expect”, concluded Scarlett.
Words by Miguel. Images by Paul.
First appeared on the Raleigh Tanzania blog