From the Kingdown, Queensbury, LOGS & King’s School Grantham Tanzania Team Expedition...
Since arriving in Camp Tanga we have completed a range of different community projects.
Some of the poorest families in this region accommodate many people over three or more generations, in minimal space. Our first task was to construct the clay walls of a new two-room house for an elderly woman who lives, cramped, in a small house with seven of her children and grandchildren. One room would become her bedroom and the other a dining and family area. We were keen to get started.
We were told we had to get a few things before we could begin. I was, however, concerned that nobody was waiting for the delivery of building materials, but it turned out this was not necessary, not because Tanzanian delivery drivers do not require any paperwork to be filled in for drop-off, but because we had to dig for the clay ourselves. It turned out to be very enjoyable to climb up and down the 6ft deep hole, dig and bag the clay powder.
After hauling the bags of clay back to the house on the village’s man-powered cart, we were ready to begin mixing the clay powder with water so we put on our work-gloves and got our shovels ready to mix. But no, “This is Africa! TIA!”, so instead we were told to remove our work boots and mix it by foot. Imagine wine making, only on a pile of mud while a Tanzanian ‘fundi’ (The Swahili word for ‘handyman’) throws water at your feet. Clay-squishing is surprisingly therapeutic, and we were able to enjoy a treatment which thousands of Britons would pay hundreds for at a beauty-spa day. It was discovered that wet clay is an excellent choice for a facemask, although it was originally intended solely for the walls.
On top of our work on this house, we also started the foundations and wooden skeleton for another house in the village. We had to dig one-and-a-half-foot deep holes in a line about 3 inches apart from each other in the position of the future walls. Due to the large number of holes required, we were unable to finish it all in one day, so we left it overnight to complete over two days. The local children were clearly keen to help us in our work, as they kindly decided to fill some of our foundation holes back in! Still, at least the filled holes we had to re-dig again gave us extra practice.
On top of the house-building, we carried out work in a local secondary school, renovating classrooms which were previously in a dire state. The Head teacher was very proud of his school, and had big ambitions to improve the quality of education for the 600 pupils and 13 teachers.
After several days’ worth of hard labour, a well-deserved rest & relaxation day was required. Some of the group went on a snorkeling trip and enjoyed a heart-healthy lunch on a barren atoll no bigger than a tennis court, formed by low tide in the Indian Ocean. Others preferred to stay at the camp, relaxing in the soft-drink bar and enjoying the breathtaking views of the ocean, which could not be any closer to the camp. In the afternoon, once the snorkelers had returned to camp, we went into Tanga town and had a quick look around, visiting a few shops.
Our final full day was a special one. It was someone in the group’s 17th Birthday, and the camp had been decorated in a British theme, supporting Team GB at the Olympics. When the tide was out, the group went seaweed farming. This involved tying small bits of seaweed to ropes and letting them grow in the sea. Once grown, the seaweed can be harvested and sold by the villagers to countries like China and Thailand, where it will be used in a variety of different products, from ice cream to nail varnish. We were very successful at this, and managed to smash yet another Camp Tanga Project Work record, our fourth record breaker! The idea of breaking previous records really kept everyone motivated. After lunch, the village mamas taught us how to cook chapattis and vishetis, the Tanzanian equivalent of churros.