Tanzania - Moshi Watoto Project - Simbas Footprints School

Moshi Watoto Project.... Asante Sana Elephant Branded (thank you)

"A group of 5 of us travelled to Moshi, Tanzania Easter 2013 where the main focus of our trip was to pick a school that we could help out in some shape or form!

"Like many pre-schools in Tanzania the school struggles to pay the teachers’ wages and therefore the school relies on the goodwill of the teachers to stay open (often the school remains closed with no teachers). After discussions with the head teacher at Visions Trust Nursery we decided the school had a lot of potential and with some support the school could make some massive improvements. That’s where we decided to step in, after months of fundraising in the UK we had raised enough money to pump into a project of our choice on our visit to Tanzania. After discussions we decided to work with the head teacher (Deo) at Visions Trust to carry out a re-furb on the pre-school, making two extra class rooms and a play ground. With the aim to increase the quality of the school along with the number of potential pupils. This would hopefully have a knock-on effect when it comes to parents paying their school fees which give the teachers a consistent wage allowing the school to stay open.

"Whilst in Moshi we visited Simbas Footprints, a Children's Home. For all of us it was the most humbling experience. In the family there are seven children living at Simbas with Frida (Swedish founder), and the first thing that became evident was that Simbas footprints is a family rather than an orphanage. The kids are amazing and gave us a very warm welcome to their home. Frida was happy to show us around and explain their story and their future plans. The children's home survives solely on donations, mainly from Sweden and Switzerland to feed, clothe and educate the children. Find out more about the amazing work they do here: www.simbasfootprints.org

"Before we left we handed out some gifts and games that had been donated. Each child was given an Elephant Branded bag donated to us by www.elephantbranded.com the idea behind the organisation is that you buy one ethically made, recycled bag or related product and they give one ergonomically designed school bag to a child in Africa or Asia. Sunderland fans had also donated strips for each of the children so what better excuse than to play football!

"We travelled to the Masai village of Monduli Juu to visit the Mairete village nursery school to hand out some more Elephant Branded bags. Along the shaky, shaky road we were all looking forward to meeting the Masai community. We arrived armed with bags, exercise books, and pencils. At around 2,000 metres above sea level there is a very different look to the landscape and climate, although it was still red hot even though it was over cast with the odd shower. We were struck with the sheer beauty of the place. Everywhere you looked it was a lush green, with crops and cattle as far as the eye could see. The local Masai families were very happy to see us and after introductions we gave out the bags and the children sang traditional songs to show their gratitude. We then went for a 20 minute walk up to the church where the school is situated and where we met the pastor of the church Father Gilbert Amani who showed us around.

"The school is a basic room which the church are providing so that the children can go to school. He told us about the history of the church and how he has been trying to help the Masai community see the value of education as in the past education has not been seen as important. This was evident as many of the local tribe did not speak Swahili and only their Masai tribal language. He said there is some progress however it is slow and their main challenge is paying the teachers. This echoes the same challenges we have encountered at the other non government funded or sponsored primary schools in Tanzania.

"The pastor, teachers and board of school governors told us that the community are very keen to set up a long term project that will raise money and then see work carried out to build a new classroom, a well for drinking water - they currently only have enough reserves during the wet season and the following three months -and a new bridge to cross the river during the rainy season so that the parents can take their children to the school. Based on our wonderful experience today it's an experience we'd all highly recommend.

Heather Steel Scholarship & Support Service Co-Ordinator Northumbria University Sport