Elpis Chrysovergis

Elpis Chrysovergis

Jul 30 2014

Volunteering for SANA in Gongo Village

One of the organisations that we will be collaborating while volunteering in Africa is called SANA. We have already introduced SANA to you through this blog as an NGO with an environmental mission that is currently running some programs in the sectors of health, education and agriculture so as to generate income for the local communities and reduce human impact on nature.

After discussing with SANA’s founder Mr Costas Coucoulis (Greek born in Burundi), we decided that the funds we gathered from various donors for charity would be more efficient towards equipping and repainting the dispensary that was built by SANA in the village of Gongo. It has been already operating since May but was ill maintained.So,we packed all the necessary for our 1 week stay there along with the medical equipment and paints we bought and off we went with Bakari and Ally to Gongo!

Gongo is a small village 4 hours to the north of Dar Es Salaam in the Bagamoyo District. It is actually so simple in infrastructure that it was not until 2012 that Pamoja Tuende charity installed a generator and a pump thus making water available to this village.The only other official building apart from the dispensary is the primary school. Imagine that still students walk sometimes even 2 hours to get to their school if they live in the outskirts of the village.

We saw women carrying 20 litre water containers on their heads, cutting their own firewood and beating down maize in huge wooden mortars.As you understand most of the house related chores are the sole responsibility of women while men are dealing with other types of jobs as we were told. We saw men negotiating food prices, cutting down trees and driving the motorcycles (pikipiki) but mostly they were just sitting discussing village matters. So life is difficult in the village and even for the simplest of meals they have to work hard since nothing is premade for anybody.

We came very close with Mze Sefou’s family who was taking care of us during our stay at the Miseni Forest camp, 6 km out of the village. It was inevitable for us to know more about their everyday life and the position of women in African culture.

Mama Zena was cooking for all the volunteers in the camp and along with her 2 girls they are staying in the warehouse. She is Mze’s third wife. Her kitchen  consists of several pots and pans laying on a grass mat after cleaned and the chickens are always walking around nibbling seeds.The stove is actually 3 rocks in a circle were fire is lit.She is always surrounded by her two daughters  Tishi (14) and Tuma (3) who help her with cooking and washing the dishes.

We were so amazed at  the difference with families in the western world. A 3 year old in Africa knows already how to use a knife and how to make pancakes and her playground was her mother’s kitchen.And all this was done ungrudgingly. We correctly guessed that african children do not have the luxury to live a carefree childhood as western kids do.

The girls come home from school and continue working in the house. Boys are free to go and play. This inequality was shocking for us, however we were told that nobody complaints since everybody accepts their role.The same happens when a husband decided to take another wife.The previous ones would still be asked first but relationships in Africa do not  have the same meaning with monogamous ones.The way we saw it is that they are more practical. If a man can provide for a woman and her children that’s all she can ask for even if he is not just “hers”.

Despite the harsh life, we saw nothing but smiles directed not only to us but to everybody. Everyday on our way to work at the dispensary, we were waived at from everybody.They were all welcoming us to their homes, to have ftari (typical Muslim meal during Ramadan which consisted of red beans with sweet potatoes and pasta) or they were offering us oranges,papayas, pineapples and coconuts from their gardens!

Having almost nobody to speak english to we picked up some basic Swahili too! Karibu (welcome), Mambo (hello), Habari? (how are you? ), Safi ( nice) , Ahsante sana (thank you very much), tutaunana badae (cu later) are only a few of the ones we regularly used! Other than that, we became something of an attraction as the only mzungus (whites) in the village and soon all the children were gathering around us shouting “Helloooooo  hellooooo”…

One day Ally and Bakari took us to Saadani National Park, where Mr Costas has built two amazing luxurious lodges. We had the luck to visit one of them, Saadani Safari Lodge and admire how beautiful this inspiring person has made this place using environmentally friendly materials. There you can experience untamed, untouched East African beauty combined with the beauty of the Indian Ocean.

The rest of the days passed with painting the dispensary and exploring the villages and in the nights we would finally eat ftari and seat around the fire where Ally (a SANA executive) would tell us stories of the Masai people, his childhood in Arusha and the beliefs of the Tanzanias to the spirits!

When it was time to take our lantern to our safari tent, we would here the bush babies (like small lemurs) crying at night and we had the most happy sleeps of our lives feeling that we could stay for long time in Gongo…

When the last day came and we had to say goodbye, we were deeply moved and we knew that this experience and the people of Gongo would not be easily taken out of our hearts. If you ever visit Tanzania and are interested in doing some volunteering work, please contact Mr Costas and ask about this place, you will definitely not regret it!

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One Response

  1. Christopher Tingus says:

    Costas,

    Bravo! Your work as a fellow Hellene is applauded – I need to have the name and email contact to the most prominent Greek family in Tanzania as I would like to introduce a mobile banking application technology platform for Tanzania whereby all can have mobile banking by an app on their phone which will greatly help those especially in the more rural areas, however still able to have a cell phone on hand — thank you — again, kudos for you commitment — also, kindly send me your email contact as well – my friend Alfred Abajoli grew up in Tanzania and he is returning to visit and I would like to make his introduction — chris.tingus@gmail.com

Let us know what you think!