Just like every year, time has flown by fast! Marin and I are approaching the end of our contract term here in Berega (rural Tanzania) and are both feeling a mixture of sadness and happiness. When we first arrived here, we were very scared and homesick. As we got more involved and prayed for peace and harmony, daily life in Berega got much better. The kids helped us, meeting new people helped us, and to put it plainly….understanding and getting comfortable with daily life in Tanzania helped us. So yes, we have had our extreme highs, but we have also had our extreme lows here.
Leading up to our trip to Tanzania, Marin and I were getting our hands on any books we could about Africa. We were in the “we are going to save the world!” attitude. We knew somewhat what we were getting ourselves into but all of the pictures and blogs didn’t do it justice when we first arrived. When we arrived, we couldn’t sleep. The nights were too quiet. Water was “clean” but not what we were used to. We came from a bustling city straight into the middle of the bush of Africa. Quite a culture shock, let us tell you. Times were tough. Those beginning times were rough and we thank God (literally) for being with us in times of need.
The school year has been a big success for teachers and students. At the end of the previous semester (Aug.-Dec.), the standard IV class took their national exams and scored the highest out of roughly 330 schools regionally and nationally scored 335/13,000 schools. Hats go off to them. As it was my first year of teaching, it was tough. WHEW!! I never taught kids before. I didn’t realize that those kids were going to suck the life out of me some days. I was feeling like a bit of a failure when I had bad teaching days, but rather I persevered and stayed confident. The kids at Bishop Chitemo are lovely but have a lot of energy particularly now as the semester is ending. We will really miss the kids but hope to come back to them next year during one of our breaks.
If anybody wants to visit any country in Africa for work, missions, or volunteering, do your homework. When arriving, respect the culture. Don’t come here thinking that the way we live in the U.S. is acceptable to act here. It’s a completely different way of life. When you arrive you will see poverty everywhere, but don’t behave instinctively and throw money everywhere because it doesn’t do any good for the long run. It paints a picture on us foreigners that we have money spilling out of our pockets and also it is false hope for the underprivileged.
To wrap things up, after living here for almost ten months witnessing high times and low times, I realized that most of the aid that is sent to Africa is wasted. Although people’s hearts are in the right place, its ineffective. Ineffective due to unstable governments, corruption, and lack of transparency of where the aid was spent. There are countless reports of international aid being siphoned from kleptocratic dictators into their off-shore accounts. That is another topic but, keep what I have shared in mind when you want to donate. I am not saying donation and international aid is bad, its just not the “golden thread” to fighting poverty in poor countries. Rather than sending money first, come here and know what is needed. Maybe you can build a new wing on a hospital for a prenatal or geriatrics unit, maybe two more classrooms need to be built for a school that is growing due to academic popularity, or maybe a permanent and safer bridge that will not cause people to be washed away and killed while crossing. If you can’t come, then invest into NGO’s or through mission organizations that have credibility. If you want to help, help with education and health care. If you educate, more opportunities come for them and if healthcare is good, they will be able to get educated.