Alan and Nicki are in Tanzania for the second time now. The extracts from their emails below give a taste of their adventures…
“On the school front, we have had a lot of visitors. One important guest was the Provincial for the East Africa province (this includes Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan ).
He kindly blessed the new infirmary which is now operational. As the rector said, it is the best room in the school – but he did advise boys that they had to be sick to enjoy this luxury. There is also an adjacent “guest” room. This is to accommodate nursing help should the people in the infirmary need extra help. We are in the process of trying to arrange for a plaque to be included in the room in memory of my twin brother’s wife Jane. We would agree with the rector – the infirmary and guest rooms are the two best equipped rooms in the school!
It is pleasing to be able to report that all of the school projects that are being sponsored by the Sean Devereux Children’s Fund and our friends have been successful. Thank you all so much for your generosity and help. Perhaps the nicest thing is to see the money being used so well. Here, a small amount of money seems to go a long way. The next big event is the arrival of the container which is on its way from England. It is due to arrive in Dar Es Salaam around the 8th March. Everybody says that getting containers through customs at Dar is a nightmare. We would like to ask you all to pray for our container to get cleared quickly! We are going to need a lot of help from God.
We have both been very busy over the last couple of weeks. It is amazing how quickly the time seems to have flown. Nicki has been doing a really wonderful job in relation to the English teaching. She has been so much more confident this year. She has pretty much organized all of the English lessons that we have taken together. All I have had to do is turn up and follow instructions. Her nursing talents have also been put to very good use. It’s not really surprising that the boys manage to cut and bruise themselves. The way they wield their pangas [machete] in the farm is a recipe for disaster. Nicki is now an expert at dealing with such wounds.
For my part I have been mainly engaged in physics teaching, football coaching and training and implementing the computer system I built. The physics teaching is going well, although the boys in form III got a real shock when they saw last week’s weekly exam. Suffice to say, it wasn’t easy and they weren’t prepared. I have told them that I am expecting a considerable improvement when they sit the half-term exam in a couple of weeks. Nicki suggests that I am following in the footsteps of my former physics teacher who was affectionately known by the boys as “Basher Bryant”. I should point out that he consistently produced excellent results, but I am not sure that this was the context in which Nicki made these remarks!
A couple of weeks ago it was announced that the school 1st XI had a match against a school that beat them 4-1 last year. I didn’t coach the 1st XI last year, but offered my services this year, albeit on a very limited basis. I managed to have 4 sessions with the team on the pitch and two in the classroom. Well I am pleased to say that the team played really well on the day. They finished up winning 7-0, much to my and everybody else’s surprise.
The computer training has its good days and its not so good days. I probably hadn’t anticipated how little most of the people know about computers. In addition, they also seem to have an aversion to manuals! As a result, I seem to spend a lot of time teaching them very basic skills over and over again. This means that I have had to spend much longer training people than I anticipated. On a positive note, 5 schools have the system and they are all using one or more of the modules to help them.
Nicki was really not sure what to do about her departure. The main dilemma was that she wanted to try to go and see the Salesian school in Didia. The previous headmaster from our school (Father Melky) has moved there. By all accounts the school is in need of help. We had therefore discussed the possibility of one of us going to see whether we could put together some plans to help them.
The dilemma was who should go and how should we get there? The journey from here to there takes two days. Nicki felt that she ought to make the effort to get there. Anyway we prayed about what to do and God (who else?) came up with a solution. Nicki finished up travelling to Dodoma via Morogoro on Tuesday. Father Melky kindly offered to drive down to Dodoma and he is taking Nicki back to Didia today. If everything goes to plan, Nicki will fly back to Dar on Friday. She will be staying at a hotel for a couple of days and then flying back to London on Sunday.
Well that is the news for this time around.
Love and blessings to you all.
Alan and Nicki (wherever she is!)
Hi from me (Nicki) – now safely back home and recovering after a lot of travelling!!
As Alan said, I left Mafinga tuesday last week and was lucky(?) enough to get several lifts, first to Morogoro – where I managed to catch up with Fr. Brian and Br. Anastasio for a few hours. It was baking hot and I was quite tired after all the exhaustion of packing up and saying goodbye to everyone and then leaving at 6am, but nonetheless it was lovely to see them. About 4pm the same afternoon Fr. Augustine came through from Dar, picked me up and we drove another 3hours or so, on to Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania, which is pretty much right in the centre of the country. Also quite hot, & lots of mossies, but cooler at nights. The Salesians have a sixth form college there as well as a technical school. Fr. Melky very kindly met me there and together we travelled back to Didia on Weds. We left at 9.30am and didn’t arrive until 7.45pm! – with one stop at an extremely slow restaurant for lunch – it took nearly 2 hours! Most of that road is tarmac now, apart from one stretch of 27kms, which took us between 1 and half and 2 hours and was the worst stretch of road I have ever been on. Huge craters filled with mud and muddy water – so trying to dodge those and all the lorries and oil tankers was a nightmare! But we made it – safely – thank God – and I even drove for about 3 hours. Didia is in a very poor region of the country and this year there is real concern as the rains started late and then just stopped mid Feb, – when the maize should have been plumping up – so now all you can see is dried & shrivelled up maize plants everywhere which will mean meagre rations for all and starvation for some.
The school there was built and started by the Salesians in the early 90′s, because it is such a poor and deprived area. There are 630 pupils, about 2/3 boys and 1/3 girls, with about half as boarders and half as day pupils. The fees are about £125 pa for the day pupils and another £125 for the boarders. Most of them really struggle to pay even that amount and the Salesians do what they can.
The facilities are woeful to horrendous. I thought Mafinga was bad, and it was and still is by our standards, but this is in a different league. To take one example, the ‘infirmary’ where the boarders go when they are ill so that they don’t infect the other boys, comprises of 2 bunks squashed into a tiny, dingy hut with a corrugated iron roof. When I visited, one boy with malaria had dragged his bed out under a tree rather than be cramped into the hut. Water is also a real problem – the rainy season is supposed to finish in April and then they get no further rain until November. By Sept/Oct they are washing their clothes in a soupy pond and rationed for drinking water etc.
It is hot pretty much all year round, with a lot of mossies and high malaria risk.
Anyway, I was really glad that I made it to visit as they were all so welcoming and so pleased I’d come. I was referred to as ‘Peter’s mum’, because they all remembered him from when he passed through for one night last October. Fr. Melky is doing the most incredible job under really difficult circumstances – and with a real struggle to recruit and keep staff in such a difficult place. He was sent there to replace another headmaster who became very ill, so he really does need our prayers and whatever help we can give.