Friday, December 30, 2011

Update on Schools on Ukerewe.

During our visit in 2011, the group gave more assistance to schools.  We had decided that a top priority would be to install a water supply to a school complex which comprised of a Secondary School, Primary School and Vocational School where there had never been running water before.   The distance from the main water pipe in Nansio, to the school complex, was 1.5 kilometers. 

We purchased from Mwanza, on the mainland, the two inch pipe which was in 150 meter lengths, and had this shipped over on the ferry. 
Fortunately, we had many helpers to dig the trench which had to be eighteen inches deep and one foot wide!  These helpers were mainly pupils from the Secondary School who gave up their week end to 'have fun' and assist.
Uncoiling the hose to go into the trench, was quite a difficult task, however, there was a lot of fun and laughter and some acrobatics!
Even though we could only give our helpers a banana and a bottle of water for their days labour, they all worked extremely hard and were keen to assist in getting water to the school complex.

Also at the Secondary School, we refurbished the library.  The students at the Vocational School assisted with the construction of book cases to house the substantial amount of books which had been donated in the U.K. and sent out in the container.
Thanks to the generosity of our local High School, we were also able to supply  much needed science equipment to one of the three laboratories -  which we painted out - again with the assistance of the pupils.
A good supply of sports equipment was donated by our local schools, this included footballs; football strips; cricket and hockey equipment.  These were all gratefully received and were soon put to use.  
After one of our appeals for tools, a very kind lady in Scarborough donated a wood working lathe which had belonged to her late uncle.  This was given to the Vocational School, along with lots of other wood working; metal working and gardening tools.  At this school, older pupils are taught practical skills with a view to them finding employment. 
Here is the Vocational Teacher demonstrating his wood turning skills, on the very same machine!
Another satisfying conclusion!

Best wishes,
Diane and Derek

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Maternity Waiting Hostel.

It had been decided prior to our second visit in February 2011, to give more assistance to the hospital.  This project was to turn a derelict building in the hospital grounds, into a waiting hostel for women with complicated pregnancies.  Some of the women walk very long distances to get there. 
The work involved included a complete new internal layout with the demolition of internal walls, refurbishment and decoration.  
After all of the hard work, the result was as follows.  We had created a twenty bed dormitory, complete with beds, mattresses and linen - with a mosquito net over each bed.  Adjacent to this room, we provided tiled toilets and showers.
Besides providing the dormitory, we also converted two further rooms into a dining room
and a kitchen, where the women could prepare
and cook their own food.
Finally, the outside of the building was painted; a ramp was made to make access easier to the entrance; and a local sign writer was commissioned to paint the sign for the new hostel. 
The new building was officially opened by the local District Commissioner.  Present, were doctors and staff of the hospital,  who were all  delighted with the end result.

Other work carried out at the hospital this time, was the installation of solar lighting in the operating theatres and labour wards, which would be of great benefit during power cuts.

More news on this second visit, another time.  Until then,

Best wishes,
Diane and Derek

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life on Ukerewe.

As previously mentioned, the island of Ukerewe is situated in the middle of Lake Victoria in Northern Tanzania, so fishing is one of the biggest sources of income.  The local people fish in very small boats, often with sails made of plastic,  to eke out a living. 
In the town of Nansio, the two main streets are full of small trading shops and stalls where a variety of products are available - from a £6.00 bicycle to a pineapple.  The garage in Nansio, which is where our hotel was, is also in the main street.  Again, because of frequent power cuts, it has its own generator to operate the pumps, when necessary.  This is one of only two roads which we saw were tarred.  Access to other areas is mainly by dirt road.

The shop where we spent a lot of time in, on both visits to the island, was Mr. Patels Hardware emporium.  When entering the shop you were always warmly welcomed by the smiling owner.  If he did not have what you needed in stock, he would endeavour to obtain it for you, even if this meant bringing it from the mainland, on the next ferry.   During our first visit, he was so happy with what we were doing for the local community, and also for our purchases, that he and his wife invited a group of twentyfour of us for an Indian breakfast at his shop.  Mrs. Patel was up at four o clock in the morning to prepare a variety of interesting and delicious food - which we all enjoyed!

We also used the services of the local Wood Yard.  Nothing was too much trouble for them to cut timber to the exact size you required, and this was done whilst you waited.
There were many different ways for people in Nansio to earn a living, but the further you moved into the island, and away from the main town, it seemed that the only source of income to many was to cultivate small pieces of ground on which they grew crops to feed themselves.  These included cassava, plantain, and fruit such as bananas, pineapples, oranges and lemons.  Also, some of them kept a few cattle or goats for milk and meat.

The next time, we will talk about the second visit to this interesting island.

Best Wishes,

Diane and Derek

Monday, December 12, 2011

Schools on Ukerewe Island.

On the first visit, in October 2009,  after the team had completed the work at the hospital, they had the opportunity to visit some of the schools on the island.   It was not unusual for there to be seventy pupils in one class,  but they were all very keen to improve their education.  The four schools which were visited all had limited facilities and in some cases the floors were just earth.  There was no electricity or running water,  and the toilets were of the latrine type.  The children were sent back to their village at lunch time as no food was available at the school.  School uniform is compulsary, and although some were not in the best condition, they were proudly worn, and both the children and uniforms were very clean. 
Painted on the outside of the classrooms, there are often 'times tables', world maps, and science subjects.    In all the schools visited this time, there were no sports facilities or equipment.  However,

this young man had made a football by using screwed up plastic bags stuffed into a larger one - and  hey presto, his own football!  See the lovely smile on his face!

We had taken with us plenty of pencils, and everyone was very happy to receive one.

It is quite usual to find three or four children sharing a desk designed for two and there was definitely of a lack of text books, reading books and science equipment, which we hoped to rectify in some of the schools, during our next visit.  But more about that later.

Until then, Best Wishes,

Diane and Derek.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Journey Begins...

What an adventure!  In October 2009  Derek  was part of a group of volunteers who traveled to the remote island of Ukerewe, which is the largest of a small group of islands, situated in the middle of Lake Victoria, in Tanzania. The only way of reaching Ukerewe is by a ferry which takes three and a half hours from the mainland town of Mwanza.

The island is home to a population of 350,000 people who only have ONE hospital.  The purpose of our visit was to refurbish the hospital operating theatre block and to furnish it with medical equipment that had been donated in the U.K.  Prior to our visit, a forty foot container, full of medical and educational equipment had been shipped out to Tanzania.

At the hospital the staff worked very hard, under difficult conditions.  Often there was no power, due to electricity cuts and the surgeon would then carry out operations using only a head torch, to see what they were doing.  Such dedication! 
This is a photograph of the sterilising room, before we started our work. The main reason for the dirty condition of this room, was that the autoclave for sterilising surgical instruments was not working, and the staff had to use kerosene heaters which give off black oily smoke.

The local people were very thankful for our help and were soon along side of us, painting ceilings, walls and tiling with great enthusiasm.

This is the same room after the painting and tiling had been completed. What a transformation!  On a later visit, hopefully, we can replace the autoclave.

 As you can see below, the difference to the conditions in the operating theatres was fantastic, especially when the new equipment was installed.

We found it strange that the patients at the hospital had to provide their own food, and take care of their own laundry.  A tap outside was used for personal hygiene and washing clothes.  There is a maternity unit in the hospital for complicated pregnancies, and some of the women walked considerable distances in the final stages of pregnancy in order to give birth.

On this first visit we also visited some of the local schools, and also assisted in the distribution of mosquito nets as part of REMIT, which is a Rotary project for the eradication of Malaria in Tanzania.  More about the hospital, schools, the malaria programme, and of course, the people living on Ukerewe, next time.

Until then,

Best wishes,  Diane and Derek.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Albinism in Tanzania

We are collecting items to fill the third container, which will depart around February 2012, and this week has been quite hectic with lots of  donations of goods from local schools and a local village community.  The villagers are particularly interested in helping the Albino population of Ukerewe.  These people are particularly disadvantaged as they also have very poor eyesight and without the pigment in their skin, they are very prone to skin cancer. The hot sun burns their skin and sun protection creams are very expensive, so often, the best they can do is wear a floppy hat and long sleeved shirt.

Unfortunately, that isn't all they have to contend with.  Due to fear and superstition, the people with Albinism are often shunned by  local communities in Tanzania. .  In extreme cases, they are mutilated and even killed for their body parts, which are sometimes sold to witch doctors, who use them in their traditional medicines.    Fortunately, Ukerewe Island seems to offer some sanctuary and a level of tolerance towards the Albino population.  The photograph below of a lady born with Albinism was taken by Mr. Harry Freeland, a Freelance Photographer who has visited the island.

The items donated this week include skin creams; long sleeve shirts; floppy hats and also sun glasses.  In addition, we have received lots of children's clothing; educational equipment; toys; beautiful books and  some kitchen utensils.  All of these items will help to enhance the lives of some of the local population of Ukerewe.

For further information on Albinism, please check out the following sites. and also

We would like to thank all of the people who have made donations so far.  Currently, we are packing goods for dispatch to Huddersfield, where the forty foot container will be loaded.   So far, we have filled 143 boxes.  Other volunteers in our group are also collecting items in their respective areas for Ukerewe.

Until the next time,

Regards, Diane and Derek.