A lot of you will know that I have spent some time in Tanzania with a charity but don’t really know what for. I was immersed in the busy and brilliant Raleigh bubble as soon as I arrived in Tanzania so I didn’t ever get a moment to write my own blogs, then I came back and was enjoying the bubble of family and friends (with a bit of work in between!) So, I think now it is time to explain where I have been!
Raleigh International is a youth led sustainable development charity. Fundamentally, they inspire young people and rural communities to help each other create lasting change and the volunteers bring energy, enthusiasm and motivation to their projects. The ethos is not to ‘go in and fix’, it is to work with communities and support them in creating positive, long term solutions.
Raleigh had three projects of their own as well as delivering fifteen projects for ICS, a government funded program aimed to end extreme poverty. The Raleigh groups were a part of three projects during three phases. Each group had the opportunity to work on all three projects, taking over from each other and continuing the work where the previous group left off. This was actually a lovely idea, and all of the volunteers were hugely positive, excited to see what the group before had done and excited to continue their hard work. The ICS groups did the work slightly different and actually stayed in the same village the whole cycle, seeing a project through right from the start to completion – also a lovely way of doing it. Interested in people and their psychology, I was constantly internally debating which style worked best. What I will say is both are fantastic but the Raleigh volunteers who moved around (also switching groups each time) were much more positive than the ICS volunteers who were in the same village with the same people for three months and were exhausted by the end. That said… what an incredible life lesson in patience and personal development!
Both programs were holding WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) projects, building latrine blocks in schools and hospitals. Alongside the construction the volunteers were educating on the importance of hygiene, treating water and washing hands. These projects happened in seven different rural communities during the cycle that I was with Raleigh. Water often isn’t treated, and really is dirty, and there isn’t much of an emphasis on the importance of handwashing so the spread of diseases is high, causing lots of diseases and deaths.
One of the other largest projects was ICS Livelihoods, which took place in 9 different villages, whereby free education and support was given to Tanzanian youth on how to set up their own businesses. The focus was on how to make most the most of what they have in order to support themselves, their families and their community’s long term. The entrepreneurs then pitched their ideas to a panel and those that were successful actually received a business grant to make their ideas a reality.
There were then two other Raleigh projects running, the first being a Natural Resource Management project where the groups worked together in one village to plant 50,000 tree seedlings. There is a huge problem with deforestation in Tanzania, with forests being burnt for coal or trees chopped down for fire wood. During this project the groups also held action days in the village and educated the school children on the importance of ‘chop a tree, plant a tree’.
The final project was actually a 19 day trek. Raleigh focuses hugely on youth development and they want volunteers develop themselves while supporting others. This way, the knowledge and experiences learnt can also be passed on, hopefully causing a ripple effect of positive change, no matter how small. The trek is hard, the days are long, the terrain is tough, the sun is beating down and all trekking, camping and cooking kit is carried on their backs! I did four days of the trek and while it was tough I absolutely LOVED it. The views are out of this world.
As part of the advanced team, I was based as a photographer at Fieldbase (effectively head office). Here I lived in a house with 14 volunteers all doing different roles to make the projects happen (there is a lot of logistics that go into this, more than you could ever imagine!). We would then go off on project support visits to see how they were getting on, give pastoral support and of course photograph their work. It is safe to say that this is by far the best, most significant thing I have ever done in my life. Tanzania is a beautiful and very peaceful country full of kind, friendly people. The volunteers that I lived and worked with were incredible, we really did have a dream group; the conversation, ideas, ping pong tournaments, delicious cooking and madly brilliant fun were something I miss hugely and am very privileged to have been a part of.
I will write up more about the particular projects and my photography, but I just wanted to give a bit of an overview to where I have been and the amazing projects I have been working on.