Archive for November, 2018

Thank you, Tanzania

November 25, 2018




I spent three weeks in October at the small village of Ipalamwa in Tanzania, Africa. It was life-changing. The village is in the highlands, at 6000 foot elevation. The vistas were gorgeous. I went during the dry season and saw no mosquitos or bugs. The temperature during the day was 70-75 degrees and 55-60 in the evenings. Perfect! Since Tanzania is south of the equator, it was spring.


The accomodations were quite nice. There’s a whole complex that includes the clinic, the guest house for volunteers, staff housing and a kitchen and dining room that also serves as a venue for family workshops.



Above are the Global Volunteers greenhouse where they grow seedlings for families and food for the staff and volunteers. At right is Gracie, demonstrating the hand-washing station.

Global Volunteers has a very ambitious project there called RCP, Reaching Children’s Potential: the first 1000 days. Many of the children in Tanzania are stunted in growth and intellect due to poor nutrition. Global Volunteers has built a maternity clinic which also serves the community’s other health concerns. They started with eighty families and are now up to 274 families. The mothers attend workshops on Hand washing, Nutrition, Child Development, Breastfeeding and Family Planning. Hand-washing stations, made from PVC pipes, are installed and the families report no more stomach upsets or diarrhea. Global Volunteers also provides porridge with extra nutrients to make sure the mothers’ breastmilk is nutritious and to the children of the household to prevent stunting. Caregivers visit the families every week to check on their health and to reinforce the information from the workshops

I was part of a Global Volunteers team there. I taught kindergarten in the mornings and did home visits with the Global Volunteers caregivers in the afternoons. Kindergarten is two years, for five and six-year olds. They must pass a test to go to Standard 1. There were 107 students in the kindergarten and only one teacher! The three Global Volunteers, along with a translator, held classes for the fifty-five five-year olds on the soccer field. We read books, practiced numbers and letters and taught them singing games like “The Hokey Pokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” The school seemed to have no supplies or books for these students. The children didn’t have any toys so they made do with sticks and things they found. A soccer ball was made from strips of old fabric.



The women wore traditional dress, which is material draped around them. They used the material to carry their babies and toddlers on their backs or against their chests.



The people of the village were Christians. There were three churches in this small village:  Lutheran, Catholic, and Pentecostal. I went to a Lutheran service. I couldn’t understand it since I don’t speak Swahili, but the three choirs were fantastic.


The home visits were quite a revelation. I was concerned that I would be intruding, but I was warmly welcomed into homes. The caregivers were all college educated and spoke fluent English. They translated my words into Swahili for the mothers and their words into English for me. The houses were small and made of bricks that were fashioned from the red dirt and baked in outside ovens. The roofs were either thatched, tin or a stronger metal. The floors of the home were packed dirt. Most of the kitchens were in another building because they used word-burning stoves. The government had declared that all homeowners had to replace their old outhouses with new ones that flushed and hooked up to a septic tank. Not very many of the villagers had yet complied.


The homes were sparely furnished. I usually sat on a small bench that was no higher than nine inches. I was impressed that I was able to get up and down without assistance.

When I asked mothers what they thought was the most useful part of the project, most of them said either the hand-washing station or the seminars.


Global Volunteers doesn’t have enough money to give all the families the nutritious porridge. I went to several homes where the two year-olds weighed less than 20 pounds! It costs $25 to feed a family the porridge for a month. If you’re in a giving mood this season, I suggest that you donate to the project at and earmark the donation for porridge in Tanzania. They also need volunteers, no experience necessary. I highly recommend it. Volunteers pay for their own transportation to Tanzania and a fee that covers the cost of all meals and the guesthouse they stay in. All that is deductible on income taxes as a charitable donation. Go to for more information.