You can take a group of teachers and vicars out of Tanzania, but you can’t take Tanzania out…

Having returned to our day jobs, and thinking that this time last week we were in the Serengeti seeing some of God’s wonderful creation in their natural habitat; it feels somewhat surreal. Here are some of our final reflections on the visit:

Rev Maggie:
It was a real pleasure to travel with such a great group of teachers from our diocese.  Their capacity to embrace, and to try and process, some very difficult and overwhelming experiences was marked by an openness to learn and a depth of compassion. They were extremely good ambassadors for their schools and the diocese and I am confident that they will share their experiences with sensitivity and insight.

Michael’s thoughts
It has been such a privilege and honour to represent Ackworth Howard as Headteacher during my time in Tanzania alongside a group of remarkable people. I have been moved and encouraged by the things that I have seen. It has been inspiring to see the impact of the work from the collaboration between schools, the diocese of Leeds and the diocese of Mara.
A particularly special day for our school was meeting the wonderful children and staff of Mshikamano (meaning solidarity) Primary School, our partner school. Seeing the children’s gifts in Africa brought a tear to my eye. They were so appreciated and the children even sang songs thanking us for coming and for the gifts.
I have now begun to process what has been experienced and will carry those that I have encountered in my heart forever. I will find ways to articulate and communicate these treasures the best way that I can. We had a lovely assembly on my first morning back where we discussed our partner school, learnt some Swahili and sang a song. The Howard children were fantastic!

Kate W's thoughts
 It seems an impossible task to sum up my thoughts about our trip. It was unforgettable, inspirational and has without a doubt changed me as a person. My lasting memory is smiling faces. Children who were beaming and full of excitement just to see us will be etched in my memory forever. When thinking about Mara, I can hear joyful music and see lively, spirited dancing. Arthur said it best when explaining, "Asking a Tanzanian child to sing without dancing is impossible. They would be dancing in their hearts."
 Although it was clear that the schools were facing immense challenges, I was overcome by the dedication of staff and students alike.  What moved us to tears had only made the staff work harder and the children become more ambitious. The visit to my link school will stay with me forever. I experienced a range of emotions; watching the reaction on the children's faces when gifts were exchanged, being dragged into a crowd of children and staff dancing and singing and taking part in sack races while laughing and crying. This experience has renewed my enthusiasm to strengthen the link even further and has made me determined to convey the importance of the link to the rest of my team.
 I feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to visit the Diocese of Mara and must also thank the rest of the group for their support, care and encouragement on the trip. I know I have made friends for life and could not have asked for a better group of people to share my journey with. I have every confidence that our combined enthusiasm will raise the profile of our link with Mara and maintain the superb relationship we are developing with our Tanzanian friends. 

To be given the opportunity to visit St James link school Ragata has been a privilege. It has been great to represent the school and begin to develop the relationship between the two schools. To be welcomed not only into a school, but a community will stay with me forever. This has touched my heart and is something which I'll share with my school and the parish.

I have worked alongside an inspiring group of adults who made the experience even more memorable. There has been a lot of hard work with the Diocese of Leeds and the Diocese of Mara to make these links possible and there is excitement to build a legacy to share with others.

Now that I'm back to school, everything I have learnt is beginning to sink in. I've already started sharing the experience with my Year 1 class, lots of questions, lots of discussions and a realisation of how two different communities are so different yet so alike. I will be holding a whole school assembly next week alongside Reverend Stephen Rochelle (and the infamous ukulele) to share our experience, our friendships and our songs. Asante kwa kutukarabisha.

Diane’s thoughts…a sort of poem
 Flat green land stretching to the mountain in the distance.
Rice fields
Maize fields
Lake Victoria glimmering 
Women bent in the heat of the African sun
Men and boys driving cattle to pasture
Small compounds, homesteads 
Dwellings made from mud bricks thatched with straw
Corrugated metal roofs reflecting sunlight
Round grain stores and charcoal oven houses
The small of wood burning everywhere
African women walking carrying an assortment of pots, plastic containers, bundles of sticks, or sacks of beans on their head 
No hands needed
Unmade roads; bumpy, bumpy tracks

Children…smiling faces
Delighted by our visit running out to meet the bus
Excited shouts
Singing and dancing for special visitors 
Songs of joy to commemorate our visit
‘We are so happy that you have come’
‘You have come a long way and we thank God for your safe journey here’
‘You have helped us’
‘Come to school. Education is very important.’
‘We don’t want you to leave’
Not used to seeing white people, the children want to touch us, hug us and dance with us
‘Karibu sana’
Treated like royalty
Having to overcome the usual British reserve to fully immerse ourselves in these precious moments
Very different lives touching fleetingly yet profoundly
Teachers sharing vision to see children realise their dreams
Doctor, Pilot, Teacher, Lawyer, Engineer
Why not?
Children want to learn
Children see the value of education
The way out of poverty
Teaching in challenging circumstances
Over 100 pupils in a class
One adult
One text book for the teacher
Children sitting on a mud floor
Some are lucky
They can sit on a sack
Others are luckier
They can sit three or four to a desk
What are Working Walls?
What are teaching assistants?
Maybe one day the classroom will be finished
Maybe the walls will be plastered
Maybe there will be a proper floor
Maybe there will be teaching resources
Maybe there will be other classrooms
Maybe the children can eat lunch and drink clean water
Maybe then results will improve
Maybe more than 40% of children will go on to secondary school
Safe house
52 girls escaping FGM and domestic violence
Great need
Mouths to feed
Educating stubborn traditions into the 21st Century
Brave, strong women
Brave strong girls
They have dreams too
And yet, ‘Karibu’ is the chorus everywhere
Radical hospitality the norm
Guests eat and drink
Hosts would go without
Visitors are angels
Karibu sana!
Even complete strangers are welcome
A challenge to typical British mistrust of the ‘other’
Sad to return, yet longing to see loved ones
Beginning to process what we have experienced is our next challenge
How to articulate what we have seen and learned?
May we carry those children and schools with us forever
May we find ways to articulate and communicate the treasure we’ve been given
So that others may catch the vision
And seek to help those children realise their dreams.

Rev Stephen: Sacrificial Hospitality
So often we excuse ourselves by being too busy or not having enough time or simply by saying charity begins at home.
We become isolated and deeply suspicious of strangers.
This is simply the opposite of what we encountered in Tanzania. As we travelled around Mara we were constantly shown sacrificial hospitality. People who had next to nothing offered to share the little that they had with eight strangers. In any exchange, on the road, at schools, around our hotel or in Musoma we were shown courtesy, smiles, warmly greeted and always offered food and drink.
Visitors are seen as a blessing and are themselves blessed.
I think we have all been blessed by our time together in Tanzania and return committed to be a blessing to others, family, friends, strangers and our brothers and sisters inTanzania.

Mungu Akubariki    God bless


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