Africa's Children in Education

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“Poverty at a level I have never witnessed previously”

Until recently, volunteering was very much the privilege of the younger generation. For those of us of more mature years, there was rarely the opportunity to take time out to volunteer when we left school or college, whether as part of a gap year or for a shorter period. Now, like ourselves, the “baby boomers” are making up for it as they reach retirement!

Less than than two weeks ago, having retired earlier this year, Liz, one of our longstanding friends, departed to volunteer for three weeks at Arise School. Liz took with her a lifetime of experience, including bringing up her own children and, now, as a grandparent, and over 45 years working with children and young people as a professional child care social worker.

Never having been to Africa before, it was with great sadness that, only the day before she left, we asked Liz if she would represent ACE at the funeral of a young man who had died very suddenly just two days before. He was just 18 years old and we had known him since our very first trip to Tanzania in 2008.

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With no time to acclimatise, on her first day, Liz joined hundreds of others at his funeral in the family village on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was heartwarming to receive photos later that day which showed that so many of his young friends had come from far and wide to say goodbye to him. It was a respectful tribute that spoke volumes about how much he was loved and the high regard in which he was held. His older sister and younger brother who we know well are in our hearts at what is such a difficult time for them.

The following day, Liz started at Arise School. At the end of her first week, she sent us the following:

“My first week at Arise school has passed so quickly. I have spent weekdays in the school working with all age groups of children, reading, art and craft, singing and some number work. Games on Friday afternoon and the Saturday Kisimani club is great fun with very enthusiastic, happy children.

Home visits to families with Frank in the local villages are starkly shocking. Poverty at a level I have never witnessed previously. The need for sponsors for children to benefit from education continues – a first step in breaking the cycle of poverty. I had the privilege of attending a Maasai tube celebration on Sunday with Frank and Salome in the bush. The invite came from my security guard who is a Masai warrior – they are tough men!

My overarching impression is one of happiness, smiling children and, most of all, the warm welcome I have received everywhere – at Arise school, in Frank and Salome’s home, Anna’s home where I am staying, and in the villages.

The word “welcome” is frequently used and sincerely meant – one word in Swahili – Karibu…..”

Liz – we hope you continue to have a brilliant time at Arise and thoroughly enjoy your experience as a volunteer there. We know your experience and skills will enhance the work there. Asante sana.