Kathy Brick, Palms’ Victorian state representative, has volunteered in Samoa, South Africa and Bathurst Island. She recently travelled through Tanzania, voluntarily acting on Palms’ behalf to scope placements and discuss needs with our partners. Below are some excerpts from her very detailed and useful report.
I have been privileged on this trip to witness so many excellent projects. It is really heartening to know all the great work that is being done by inspired people with the most wonderful motives and with few resources.
My first stop was to a school called St Jude’s, which was established by a former Palms volunteer (Gemma Sisiai, nee Rice). There are a few volunteers at the school -some work in the office and some work as teacher mentors to assist the Tanzanian teachers with expanding their teaching strategies. Most Tanzanian teachers have gone through a system of rote and repetition, so it is difficult to adjust to a variety of strategies. This does not mean to say that they are unwilling to learn. After observing a lesson (a kiSwahili lesson, so I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on), the teacher approached me and asked me for feedback! He was very keen to learn.
Sinon School presently has three volunteers (not Palms, but Palms volunteers have been to the school in the past). These volunteers work with the year sevens on an intensive English programme designed to assist students with the transition from schooling in kiSwahili to schooling in English. The students alternate weekly between English and traditional classes. Although the classes are called intensive English classes, this does not mean they do English all day. They are run like a primary school class would be in Australia – with a teacher who teaches them all subjects. These teachers work with a local Tanzanian teacher, who has been experimenting with some of the methods used by the volunteers and has invited other staff members to observe.
St Dominic’s Primary School in Iringa has had a request for a Palms volunteer for some time. This school has over 600 students, including around 100 students who are orphans or come from single-parent families who cannot afford fees. The principal, Angelina, is keen to have some volunteers work with teachers from pre-primary to Year 2. These classes have at least one teacher and a teacher assistant. Angelina is very interested in having some trained teachers help improve the standard of English of the students. She is hoping very much for this to be an opportunity for cultural exchange between local Tanzanian teachers and Palms volunteers.
If I had been impressed with the self-sufficiency of some other projects, Chipole would probably have to take the cake. The community set up by the humble, simple but joy-filled Benedictine sisters is quite something! There is a primary school of 300 (including boarders), a secondary school of 400 boarders and an orphanage of over 100. Add to this a community of 90-100 nuns, and being self-sufficient is no easy feat! There is a bakery, a place where meat is processed, a fruit and vegetable “garden”, a “chookery”, a farm where pigs and cows are kept and an extensive garden where fruit and vegetables are grown. Oil is made on the premises and there is vocational training in plumbing/welding, carpentry, mechanics and sewing. There is also a dispensary and community outreach such as counselling and health advice for AIDS sufferers, activities for youth and a programmes for orphans for whom the sisters cannot cater. There are many opportunities for a volunteer to work in partnership with the Benedictine sisters or lay Tanzanian workers.