31.01.2009 - 31.01.2009
The NGO I a have just started volunteering for is establishing a childrens village which at the moment is still being built. There are a couple of volunteers and a big team of local labourers who have been working hard six days a week to get it done. It’s looking really beautiful already - a modern eco-friendly design by an Australian architect who has donated his time to this project.
As the new bursar, it’s my responsibility to pay the local labourers for all the work they’ve been doing, and today was my first attempt at it. The locals here in the tiny village of Sinon don’t have bank accounts (the bank fees alone would cost them a days pay, and the trip into town to get money would be a huge expense as well) so it’s all done with cash, and the records are all hand written. Considering the highest Tanzanian Shilling note is only 10,000 (about $10 Australian), going to the bank to get enough cash for the workers pays means carrying all the money in a big bag.. not too safe, really). So after working out the right amounts to pay everyone, it was time to hand them out. Mudi the manager normally does this part, but as he was unfortunately involved in an accident yesterday and can’t work for a week or so, I did it with another volunteer instead. On the walk up to site we were met along the way by some of the workers, each of them stopping for a chat, some proudly introduced me to their families and pointed out their homes, and I got to practise a bit of my Swahili with them. The locals live in very basic huts, some made from mud bricks, others just sticks and clay/mud with tin roofs, there are chickens walking around everywhere, goats, and donkeys tied to posts, and the occasional cow, and every day I see children filling buckets from the dirty water that runs down the side of the road, as they don’t have access to clean running water. So after being stopped about five times, we eventually made it to the building site where the rest of the labourers were patiently waiting for their pays, and as we handed them out I was introduced to them all. It’s hard to remember all the names at the moment, but there are some pretty memorable ones like Elvis, Goodluck and Roger Moore (he seen Roger Moore in a movie and decided he looked like him, so changed his name to that.. apparently that’s a very easy thing to do in Tanzania).
The best part for me today though was seeing the men who have worked so hard all week for their pay, put part of their pay back in their envelope to give back to me – we run a simple savings plan for them where we kind of act as a bank, and keep the employees savings safely stashed away for them so they can save for very important things like roof sheeting or cement for their house walls and floors, or school fees for their children. One of the ladies we employ, a seamstress who is teaching our mama’s (disadvantaged local women who’ll be looking after orphans and are being trained to start their own small businesses) how to sew, has started saving some of her pay to fix up her tiny sewing shop – at the moment the walls are made of boxes. It’s so great to be able to see how this small NGO is helping people to make a better life for themselves, and much more so to see the improvements on peoples lives on a personal level like this.