With exams on the horizon and summer not feeling too far way, I have been reflecting on my last summer holidays and what I can do next. Last August I visited Tanzania for two weeks to trek up Kilimanjaro, meet the locals and explore their national parks. Whilst the views of the landscape were breath-taking, one of the most memorable moments was my visit to the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre.
Right back to a few months before the expedition has started; people from all over the UK were booking their trip to trek up Kilimanjaro. I had no idea who else would be on this trip but booked it anyway. There was an option to fundraise the entire cost of the trip plus extra and donate these funds to the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre. Whilst I did not have enough time to fundraise for such a great cause, I was glad to later find out that some members of the group had.
Upon arrival at the airport, we all met for the first time, not knowing that by the end of the two weeks we would have made friends for life. Before our trek up the mountain, we had a few days to explore the town of Moshi and its markets, and since we had arrived in the darkness of the early hours of the morning, I had not prepared myself for the hustle and bustle of the Tanzanian markets. The place was heaving with fruit stands, clothing, oil and rice. The market seemed to stretch over the entire town and 180,000 strong population of Moshi poured into the labyrinth of market stalls. It was mainly women managing the stalls, holding their children, and walking down the streets with huge baskets on their heads, whilst the men were busy farming or being mountain guides.
After visiting the market, those who had raised large sums of money for the orphanage centre asked to visit the place and see first-hand where their donations had gone. Since we were all interested to see how these children lived, we all piled into the mini bus and travelled down some very rocky and dusty roads, past people’s small houses and children in the street. As we drove past they waved and chased after us. Once we arrived at the centre we were greeted with a song and a wave of hugs. The children were all so happy and pleased to see us. They were so overcome with excitement, running around everywhere, giggling and screaming.
The Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre was set up about 8 years ago by part-time mountain guide Edward Lazaro. According to UNICEF there are approximately 3.1 million orphaned children in Tanzania and 2 million orphaned due to AIDS, and with the children requiring medical treatment and education, funds are running low. The children can be helped by charities and other organisations but only if they have enough donations. The charities can only run efficiently with the help of our donations. The people who had fundraised the cost of their trip had made the most significant effect yet any small donation made a huge difference.
After playing with the children for a while, talking to the teacher and visiting the building they were taught in, we all decided to make a donation there. Instead of donating cash, we decided to visit the market once again and buy the goods ourselves. Since the market was not close and we had the minibus, we drove over the bumps once again and scoured the market for a stationary shop. We completely wiped out their supply of pencils and exercise books and proceeded to a grocery stall. There, we used the remains of our donations to buy a huge bag of approximately 50kg of rice. Whilst the stronger men heaved this into the back of the bus, we set off once again.
The second welcome was just as warm and energetic as the first. To make sure the children didn’t get too excited, we talked to the teacher first about the gifts we had bought the children. Once they were all sat down quietly in the classroom, the teacher made his announcement and we managed to give a book and pencil to the children. They no longer had to write their numbers with a blunt pencil, or share their books and pencils. These children were really clever and had a great attitude to learning. They may have been young but they seemed so engaged and enthusiastic about learning their numbers in English and Swahili. Each member of our group got to teach them maths and mark their work and help them in their learning.
A tiny donation from our point of view went such a long way financially and emotionally. The teacher was so grateful and the smiles on the children’s faces were priceless. Whilst having donated to charities before, it was a completely different experience witnessing where the money went to and the impact it had on people’s lives. Whilst playing with the children they seemed really interested in our cameras, water bottles and the girls’ long hair. They loved being picked up and playing with the camera. This curiosity and excitement was so humbling and really left a lasting impression.
The orphanage is home to almost 60 children and Edward the teacher said that each one of them is his child. Along with his wife and the other volunteers he treats each child as if they were his own running almost solely on donations. To find out more and donate you can visit the website: http://www.kilimanjaroorphanagecentre.org/ and any donation will go a long way. I also strongly recommend doing any sort of charity work. Personally, I found that spending my summer helping others was much more rewarding than staying at home all summer or any other summer job. With the current famine in East Africa, there is always a cause which we can help with, and even a small donation from us here in the UK can go a long way to the people strongly in need of it.