Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Final Thoughts

In the late afternoons, about 2 hours before sunset, I've been taking a 3 mile walk around the neighboring farmlands and Faraja School. It is a pleasant time of day, when the sun is less intense, a cooling breeze is out of the SE and the clouds that surround Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru usually have lifted. Many people are returning to their homes after working in the fields and the children, in their school uniforms, are coming from their classes. We greet each other with a smile and "Jambo". For me, it is the time of day for reflection and exercise. Today I stopped and wrote down these final thoughts.

As my trip to Siha is winding down, I am overwhelmed by all the wonderful people I have met and what I have seen and experienced. I look back to the first time I came to Siha. I had the vague concept of "voluntourism" [the term did not exist then] and how I envisioned the development of Adventure Aid. After several missteps and a period of inaction, I emailed Miriam Mg'maryo to see if she would be willing to help get AA back on track. It has been largely through her efforts in the community, that AA now has the trust and the partnerships with local organizations and programs which will make the volunteer's experience both rewarding and sustainable. I have used the analogy of a wheel to describe how AA works. In one direction spokes go out to volunteers and in the other side there are are community programs and projects. AA is the hub connecting the two. To expand on this idea, Miriam is the axle, the grease and the motor that turns the wheel!

During these 3 weeks, I have met many remarkable people, some of whom you have read about on this blog. Institutions like Faraja School for Disabled Children, Ndarakwai, Floresta and VICOBA, and Miriam's organizations of women, Bonde la Chem Chem, exemplify the vitality of the Siha community.

One project that I have not written about is the proposed new Siha township. Almost all towns and cities in Africa are a thrown together conglomeration with little planning or forethought. When the District was established several years ago, an extensive area north of Sanya Juu was designated for its new center. Now there is a plan to create a unique town which will be the model for other communities. What a great opportunity for people with skills in urban design, architecture, water and waste management, solar and wind power and business development, just to name a few areas, where one could get involved in this process. There must be many university programs that would also want to be a part this endeavor.

On the volunteer side of the hub, Cleven Mmari in Eugene, Oregon is working with Lisa Durrante in Dubai, UAE on a web site for Faraja. Lisa will be volunteering here in December. Aimee Fagent, from San Diego, conducted training for teachers to improve their ESL [English as a second language] skills. Katie James from Eugene will be here in a week to assist with business planning for Bonde la Chem Chem and other micro enterprises. This connection of people and ideas and what can come from them are the most remarkable and exciting aspects of Adventure Aid.

On the adventure side of AA, Siha is situated in the center of some of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is out your back door and is climbable for the hardy [or the fool hardy]. Ngorongoro Crater is 10 miles across and populated with thousands of large game animals. The Serengeti is magical. In the morning, you go out on a game drive and as far as you can see there hundreds of thousands of animals. The different cultures like the Maasai offer an insight into lives of the people who have lived here for millenniums.

And then there is the Mighty Mzungu. You have previously read some of his adventures. If Thailand is known as the land of a thousand smiling faces. Then Siha is surely the home of 10,000 smiles and jambos. The MM guy has become quite proficient with his right and left waving and jamboing but he warns you not to do this at the same time especially as you race through Sanya Juu on market day. You run the risk of hitting a goat and doing an endo!! I forgot to mention the model of mt. bike he is riding. It is called a "Hummer X".

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