Habari (hello in Swahili) from Okaseni

Oct 14th, 2007 | By | Category: Updates

On Wednesday, September 19, Dale and I flew out of Vancouver to Tanzania to visit Okaseni Village, the first partner of the Africa Village Project Association. What a trip! It was mostly a reconnaissance mission — we wanted to see the village for ourselves, meet the villagers, find out what was needed, and also perhaps get started on a few initial projects.

When we arrived  at Kilimanjaro International Airport, we were met by Tumaini Minja, our liaison who had been instrumental in establishing the Project’s partnership with Okaseni. It was great to finally meet him in person!

Tumaini had arranged for a ride for us to Moshi, where we would be staying for most of our visit. Moshi is a lively, bustling little town at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and affords some dramatic view of the mountain. Because of its location, Moshi is the starting point of many expeditions and is also know for the large amounts of money that pass through its banks. Thus, it is often the target of Kenyan bandits who drive through the open desert across the Tanzania/Kenya border. Two weeks before we arrived, 14 Kenyan bank robbers got into a shoot-out with the local police. None survived.

We felt safe though, and discovered that word about our arrival had spread quickly throughout the village. We were invited to a Village Council meeting mid-week at about 11 am. The day before, we purchased some supplies to upgrade the water system – a crucial project for the village. Just as we arrived at the Village Office for the meeting, the delivery truck rolled up and started unloading huge rolls of pipe for the water system. Needless to say, the Council members were extremely impressed. We couldn’t have planned it better for dramatic effect if we had tried!

It was wonderful to meet the Villager Council. They seemed shy and a bit perplexed and doubtful about who we were and what we were doing in Okaseni. As you can imagine, their lives are very hard, and they do without any of the amenities we take utterly for granted: clean drinking water in our homes, sanitary systems, access to health care, opportunities to make a decent living, etc.

Instead, they live in small brick houses with dirt floors and sometimes share this space with cows and goats. They walk for kilometres to fetch water in large pails and try to make a living growing bananas and vegetables. The women carry the burden of supporting the families as the men can no longer make money growing coffee. But in spite of their hardships, they are a very gentle and resilient people.

We were most honoured to meet them.

Cheers,

Sheena

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