30.08.2011 - 28.09.2011
Hello from Tanzania! Sorry for not posting anything this past month. Lots have been happening and the project has been keeping me busy (more on what I am doing below so keep on reading). Plus electricity is limited where I am staying (I am hand washing all my clothes!) so I will unfortunately have to keep this brief. Right now I am in central Tanzania near the town of Iringa. Since arriving here a month ago, my experience has been amazingly positive because of all the warm and welcoming Tanzanians that I have met. Everywhere I go I hear: "Karibu!" which means 'welcome' in Swahili. Villagers have invited me into their homes and on one occasion, a woman kindly took my arm and led me to see her pigs. She was very happy and excited (the pigs on the other hand were not that interested to see me). Quite often when we are driving through the villages, kids would be smiling and waving at us with excitement, some would even be jumping and screaming out loud. I have visited primary schools where children want to touch my hand and my hair. This of course is because I am seen as a "white" person. I didn't mind being surrounded by twenty plus eager children, I thought it was actually a bit funny at the beginning. This led to a lot of laughter and excitement in the classroom. I gave them high fives in return.
So what am I doing here........I am here volunteering with a wildlife conservation organization called Wildlife Connection (http://thewildlifeconnection.org). The organization itself is still in the early stages of development while Sarah, our project director, completes her PhD, but lots have been happening in the past few weeks in the fundraising and education front. We now have a logo and will be selling postcards and t-shirts soon! (For me who likes to write postcards, I have been very disappointed by the postcards that are available here. So it's exciting that we will be making our own!) One of the main focuses of our work here is to educate and to empower the local people living close to Ruaha National Park located in central Tanzania. It's a park much less visited than the more popular area to the north like the Serengeti because of its location, but it is very beautiful and perhaps even better for animal sightings with less cars and people around. Unfortunately many of the people who live in the villages near Ruaha NP have never been in the park and they often have negative feelings toward wildlife (especially elephants) because they come into their farms and eat their crops (there is no fence around the park). So we strive to educate them by bringing them to the park and providing them with a positive experience around wildlife and conservation, which in the long run, we hope would decrease poaching in the area (elephants are still being killed daily for their tusks). I can’t accurately express how grateful the villagers are for this opportunity and the positive comments that we have received during the post-trip interviews. It makes me very happy to be able to provide this experience for them.
I have also been busy getting the school side of the educational part of the project going. I have made some visits to local primary and secondary schools, and have started a group that meets on Sundays with youths who do not attend secondary school (sadly not many teenagers receive a secondary school education). I will write more about this next time.