On 29th July 2016 we returned from Tanzania having achieved what we’d set out to do. Most obviously, of course, we’d finished a library for the kids of the KYGN School, who were now able to read, borrow and access 1000 books between them – something they could only have dreamed about for years beforehand.
But that’s not all we’d achieved. If I can allow myself a moment of self-congratulation, we’d managed to safely navigate fourteen teenage girls – almost all of whom had never been outside of Europe – through Tanzania for three weeks. All of them described the trip with terms such as ‘amazing’ and ‘life changing’; equally as important they returned home safe and healthy. That’s no small achievement…
I’ve spoken earlier about how this trip was about their personal growth and development, and I think – to varying degrees, inevitably – they underwent precisely that. They learnt a lot about themselves and what they’re capable of, surprising both themselves and the adults with what they were capable of. In short, the fact the trip was such a success is down to them – so let’s put the spotlight on them rather than me now!
I could list all of the ways I’m so very proud of them, but that would be a long blog post in itself. But just a few of the successes we had that were down to them – the library looked amazing (better than I thought it would) thanks to their hard work, they managed to teach classrooms full of little kids despite having no idea beforehand that they would, they succeeded in the fine art of negotiation and haggling at markets and with hostel owners, cooked delicious meals for 17 people on a daily basis and didn’t panic on the occasions we got lost/stranded/missed a bus etc…and there was more than one instance of this happening!
Perhaps the best thing of all for me, though, was how they worked together as a team. They were by no means all the best of friends with each other beforehand – there was a diverse range of age groups participating and some of them hadn’t even met each other before the group got together for the first time, but they gelled incredibly well. If there was conflict within the group they resolved it themselves, and no one turned their nose up at the idea of sharing a tent with such and such a person: something which adults are certainly capable of doing, in my experience!
They did all return as changed people, and many of them have expressed a desire to return to KYGN. In fact one of the group, Claire*, is a budding Doctor and on the back of some work experience she did shortly after we returned to the UK at a Hospital in London, is looking in to providing mosquito nets for all the children of the School and improving their medical care. She is hoping to return next summer, and we’re already making plans to help her with her proposed return trip.
But it’s not just Claire who is returning. We feel that our work there is very much unfinished. Sure, the library is technically finished, but what good is it if we just open it up and then hightail it out of there, never to be seen again?
No, the library still needs books. 1000 books isn’t as much as it sounds, and the shelves are all still a bit on the bare side – so it’s very much up to us to ensure that we keep fundraising and sourcing books for the School to add to their collection. A library’s collection is never complete.
KYGN is also still in the process of expanding its school, and for this it needs continued financial support. So we need to ensure we continue our help on that front as well, and not just for the library. As it says on their website, what counts as a little money for most of us goes a long way over there – £5 a month, for example, can provide a whole class with exercise books, stationery and equipment for a whole year. So we’ll be looking at raising as much money and acquiring as many books for the library as we can…
Ahead of returning there in 2018!
Yes, I’m happy to report that our visiting KYGN is not a one and done thing. Another group of lucky teenage girls will have the opportunity for a life-changing experience themselves. It’s a long way off but preparations for this are under way. And I will, of course, be blogging about this in a new series of posts…watch this space!
*Names of the girls have been changed