Happy Independence Day to America! July 4 is a day of celebration for us as Americans, but a bittersweet day as volunteers – it’s our last day with Make A Difference Now in Tanzania.
A volunteer trip with MAD offers opportunities for cultural learning and exchange, so we started our day with a trip to the local market. Simple wooden food stalls offered fruits, vegetables, beans, maize (corn), meat, and animal feed. We were on a mission to buy plaintains to make a typical Tanzanian banana stew – ndizi njegere. We were also tempted by the huge avocados (now in season), tasty tomatoes and the yummy papaya.
Back at the guesthouse, we were met by MAD scholarship students with the traditional greeting – double hugs with a friendly “Jambo” (hello). The students are on summer break now and eager to hang out with the volunteers. Our first order of business was to catalog the needs of the students before they go back to school – clothing, shoes, toiletries, school supplies, and more. As the MAD students are orphans from impoverished backgrounds, they largely rely on Make A Difference donations to get properly outfitted for school. Next we worked with the students to finalize their latest blog post updates. You can check out the posts from each student using the categories at the top of this blog.
Continuing with the cultural exchange, our amazing house cook, Flora, taught us how to make ndizi njegere (that’s the banana stew). Plantains, onions, carrots, tomato, potatoes, coconut, and peas make up this hearty local dish. I can speak for all of the volunteers when I say we will greatly miss Flora’s delicious cooking!
We ended our day, and this incredible trip, with a traditional Tanzanian send-off, complete with cake, songs, dances, gifts, thank you notes, a prayer, lots of photos, and many hugs all around. One of the traditions is to feed a small piece of cake from a toothpick to a person who has helped you, so the students took turns offering cake to each of the volunteers. Every volunteer was also awarded a certificate in recognition of their contributions to MAD and Tanzania, along with a khanga (sarong), which is a traditional Tanzanian wrap for women with a saying embroidered on it. Janeth, our house manager, explained that khangas with sayings such as “Congratulations” or “Thank You” or “God Bless” are kind of like the greeting cards of Tanzania. Our sole male volunteer, Ali, was given the traditional cloth of a Maasai warrior in recognition of his expert “tech warrior” assistance leading the setup of the computers for the MAD Computer Certificate Program this week. And finally the students taught us a local dance called the kwaito, which is suspiciously identical to the Electric Slide.
As we prepare to say “Kwaheri” (goodbye) to the MAD students as we depart on Kilimanjaro treks, safaris, or back home to the USA, I can say that none of us will ever forget the welcoming and friendly nature of the Tanzanian people, the beauty of the Kilimanjaro region, the resilience and determination of the MAD students to improve their lives, and the difference that Make a Difference Now is having on education in Tanzania.