Final part 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 working in a rural Tanzanian village. 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.
“Everyone is keen to greet you here, we are like minor celebrities”, declared Josh, as a group of Nanenane students interrupted the interview to say hello to us. In the UK he works on the trade counter at the Grimsby branch, where he is originally from. One thing you notice, particularly in rural Tanzania, is that people make time to have a conversation and welcome you to their community, “The chance to work here, you can’t put it into picture until you actually come. As soon as we arrived it all became very surreal”, Josh explained.
Connor recalls working at the sales office in Falkirk, where he is from, “It’s usually max 20 degrees in Scotland, here it’s almost double that.” Both volunteers agreed on the benefit of having previous knowledge and skills in order to acclimatise to the new working environment; knowledge of the construction like how cement, gravel and sand work as well as communication and leadership skills that they were keen to develop on this expedition, as Josh reinforced, “We’ve been grafting long hard days. We’ve done a lot of classroom work and have enjoyed it. Hands on stuff isn’t something we do, it is good to know what our customers usually do”.
One of the immediate positives both Josh and Connor agreed on is the chance to work in a diverse environment composed of community members as well as volunteers from all around the globe; Connor reiterated this, “It’s a good experience matching cultures, working together. Our action day proved that as well. The sports day theme, all the children and adults that attended – they were all really happy with it.” With the school and student beneficiaries of the program in mind, Josh highlighted the importance of, “Engaging with students – a lot of them will stand by the project site and also seeing the progress. Sometimes seeing them still using the old blocks is hard. It’s rewarding to know they’ll have a lot better facilities – actual toilets.”
The SWASH club and its members at Nanenane will be the examples for future students to follow in hygiene practices; with volunteers engaging the group with lessons and planned activities, Josh reflected on the future, “I think all the SWASH club are very passionate, enthusiastic and mature for their age – it was a big group and they are proud to be in the SWASH club which will contribute to making the change sustainable and lasting after we leave.”
It became evident both volunteers had integrated similarly, from their accounts of construction, lessons and community action day. When we reached the topics of homestay, it was slightly different, as Connor stated, “I think I’ve found it quite easy, I’m actually in the chairman’s house and it’s quite good”; I had heard Martin, the Nyamwezi chairman, had taken up spiking their food with chillies as a joke, “Yeah, he does do that”, laughed Connor.
Josh and Connor expressed humility gained from the experience so far, as they recognised how an entirely different perspective will impact their lives when returning to the UK, “When you come here you realise the difficulties – its good being here and not being connected to back home, taking in the full experience” expressed Connor, as Josh added, “I didn’t bring my mobile phone, certainly feel like I’ve been able to take a lot more in from the experience. I think it has even helped the whole group.”
We finished with thoughts on the next phase and the challenge that awaits them, “I’ve never been on a trek before; adventure phase is another one of the reasons I signed up as I heard we will also be on a safari”, said Connor.
Words by Miguel. Images by Paul and Alpha 2.
First appeared on the Raleigh Tanzania blog