Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas

We would like to wish all of our friends of "Smiles to Tanzania" in Australia; Canada; China; France; Germany; India; Latvia; Russia; South Africa; Sweden; Tanzania; Ukraine; United Kingdom and United States of America a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Healthy New Year.

Thank you for looking at our blog and taking an interest in what we are trying to achieve in Ukerewe.  Please feel free to register (it is free) and if you have any questions, we will be glad to answer them. 

Since we arrived back from Ukerewe in August, Alex and the Lake Victoria Children's Society - and also the families in the villages - have constantly been in our thoughts.  So much so that we have lodged our Registration for our own Charity also called Smiles To Tanzania.

Our long term aim is to build bigger premises to enable Alex to educate and feed more children and all of us in the team have already started fund raising for this.  But in the meantime, we would dearly love to send a container out next year full of clothes, shoes, soap, school books, bedding, material etc.  To enable us to do this, we need sponsors to pay for the shipment of the container.

There is so much we can all do to improve the lives of the orphaned and disadvantaged children and other families in Ukerewe.  Not only do the recipients feel good but the donors do too!  If you can help in any way, it would be greatly appreciated if you could contact us at

2013 will be a very exciting year and with your help we can send them lots of Love and Smiles.

Seasons Greetings

from Diane, Derek and the team.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Trash to Treasure - Buckets for Ukerewe

Hello again,

Steve Pratt has kindly written this blog for us.

Having volunteered in Africa twice before, we know the value of empty plastic containers - more specifically 5, 10, 20 and 25 litre buckets - and if they had lids that fitted, that made them even more desirable.

Prior to our first visit to Ukerewe, there were plans to start a bakery producing bread, and as Pat and I live just up the lane from Thomas the Baker's factory, we went to see them for advice.  The bread-making didn't materialize on that trip, but we saw that their mayonnaise, jam, mincement and syrups all came in 5 to 25 litre tubs - all with lids!

Why were we so excited?  Because if you don't have proper storage for your food, the mites, insects and other pests will soon find and contaminate it.  (This trip we also needed some large buckets for the briquette making project we had planned).

When the container is getting a bit battered or the lid has been lost, it can then be used to carry water.  This is usually a job for the women and children, and they have to carry containers with 15 -20 litres of water (thats 15 - 20 kilos) balanced on their heads for several miles a day.  The girls are started young with smaller buckets.

With so many empties Thomas the Baker was only too glad to let us have as many as we wanted.  We felt that 20 of each size would be all we could deal with on this trip, so they were collected (with lids) and washed out.  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to clean a bucket that had  had syrup in it, and how the smell of mincement will still be there months later when the container was unpacked!

Chris Chapman, quality assurance manager at Thomas the Baker said "Due to the quantities of ingredients used at the bakery here in Helmsley, we're inundated with large containers and tubs, and its fantastic that they are of use to the residents of Ukerewe and the orphaned children for day-to-day tasks such as carrying food and water.  Who'd have thought our old containers would be making such a difference to the lives of people half way across the world?"

Thank you Thomas the Baker - I'm sure we will be back for more.

Stephen Pratt.

Thanks Steve.  It is heart-warming to think that someone who has so little, can be helped with a simple bucket.  As you can see above, the empty plastic paint containers were soon put to other use at L.V.C.

Until the next time,

Diane and Derek.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lake Victoria Childrens Society win Award

Hello again,

During October, Alex Magaga of Lake Victoria Children, made an application to PANITA which is a Partnership for Nutrition in Tanzania, who work with Save the Children, for funding  to commemorate a day to raise awareness regarding nutrition.

Forty seven organizations in Tanzania submitted a proposal and ultimately LVC was selected to receive funding to commemorate the event.  It had been agreed by all African OAU Member States, that the 30th October would be a day to recognise African Food and Nutrition Security Day.

In Ukerewe the event was held in Bulamba Village, and Government Personnel and Dignitaries were invited.   LVC introduced the event which is specifically held to mobilise and create awareness across communities about the importance of food and good nutrition, especially for children and expecting mothers.

All the children from the LVC Centre were taken, to be involved in this event.  Furthermore, all of the LVC Ambassadors from across the island came to join in too. Here the LVC children are sitting so patiently waiting for the proceedings to start.

The commemoration kicked off at 2.30 p.m. in a spectacular fashion with a thirty minute demonstration from a Health Centre in Bulamba village, and then on to a football pitch where the event was to take place.  Participants were holding up banners carrying the message for the event.  Dunga Ngoma Group, the most popular one in Ukerewe entertained with their music and dance, and played a vital roll in attracting the maximum crowd for the event.  Unbelieveably the crowd grew from about 100 to over 700 in the space of three hours.  Here Alex is giving out leaflets to the crowd.

The guest of honour, Mr. Toto Mkama the Ward chancellor in the area said the time has come for people in Ukerewe to learn and understand about nutrition and its relevance to a healthy life, saying many children on the Island die not from witchcraft which is what many parents believe but lack of adequate nutrition and this makes children vulnerable to diseases such as frequent malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition.

Four extremely qualified individuals in nutrition stood up one by one and described the importance of good nutrition to life.  They explained how lack of nutrition at a tender age can permanently affect growth and mental ability and therefore ruin the potential of a child in later life.  "Without proper nutrition at early years of child development, is like a plant without fertilizer - it will never produce adequately", the crowd were told.

The need for growing and eating diversified nutritious foods was explained and residents on the island were urged to cultivate orange fleshed sweet potatoes.  The integration of Nutrition Services in all routine and outreach health services and programmes were needed.  Nutrition for sick children; pregnant women; lactating mothers and other women of reproductive age is vital and breast feeding is critically important for the growth of a healthy child, the crowd were informed.

Families in Ukerewe need to live in a healthy environment with good access to toilets and other sanitation services.  Boiling drinking water was important and the government at local level needs to improve,  and put in place effective health facilities and services, including nutrition services, such as micronutrient supplementation and nutrition education, the official said.

The audience asked questions and it was obvious that a large proportion did not understand about nutrition.  They now know that children with swollen bellies were malnourished and not bewitched as their parents had believed.

The Ambassadors from LVC went back to their own villages and passed on to the local population the information gained about nutrition.

Alex Magaga then travelled to Dar es Salaam to participate in the National Commemoration organised by PANITA - but not before the LVC children had been given a very nutritious meal back at the LVC centre, to celebrate!

Our thanks to Alex for sharing this special event with us - and our Congratulations to him for organizing such a successful event in the community.

Best wishes,

Diane and Derek

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A loving 'thank you' from Ukerewe.

Hello again,

A couple of days ago we received an e-mail from Alex Magaga.  We thought it would be good to share it with you.

Dear Diane and Derek, Steve and Patricia and Brenda and Robert,

Hope you are all keeping well.  I just wanted to share with you some feedback we have received from our Village Ambassadors following our outreach programme in which you fully participated when you came out to volunteer with our Organization. 

The reaction has been simply overwhelming.  We have received a lot of thanks from members of the community in the villages you went to with us.  We are thanked for the things we gave to people in the community and members of the community here send lots of love and deep appreciation for all your support.  Our organization has always worked to support people in the community in the same way, but we have never been able to reach so many people in so little time and be able to give so much to so many.  Our village Ambassadors are being thanked everywhere in their villages, and been asked to send lots of thanks to you all for coming out and be part of our community and support people in a way not many people have done before.  We are getting a lot of credits as an organization and it is all coming from the villages, but we feel you deserve the credits more than we do, as nothing could have happened without you coming out with so much for people in our community.

The village where I took Diane and Brenda the first day, the LVC Ambassador told us how one family said you were the first visitors to walk into their home and give clothes and soap, things that matter so much in their lives. 

The village Derek and I went to, one child told our village Ambassador that it was hard for them to understand how it was the first time we had met them, yet we loved them so much and gave them things they have never had all their lives (Shoes).  Hope Derek remembers the family. 

The village I went with Patricia and Stephen towards the end of your trip, the Ambassador was asked by one poor family (we gave toys and clothes first), 'When would you ever return to the island to see them again', as you were such lovely visitors.

The village we went with Robert and Brenda (Musozi) I think this was the village we gave out so much stuff in one go! the community was thrilled.  The village leader said to our Ambassador that how you helped people in the village was the best and most generous way people in his village have ever been served.  He asked if there was any way many volunteers like you could come to help people in his village in the same way in the future?

So you can see how the reaction has been from the community.  We are so happy you chose to help the community through our Organization and the name LVC has grown faster than ever!  Receive lots of greetings from all of us, Mama Lucy, Benjamin, the teachers (Mpuluko), the Tailoring ladies, Briquette ladies, Everest and all the children at Lake Victoria Children, Ukerewe.

This is what I wanted to share with you all,

Many thanks and Best Wishes.

Alex Magaga
Chairman LVC. 

Our thanks to Alex for his moving report. We will remember the time we shared with these lovely people as one of the most rewarding times in our lives.  Sometimes you don't have to speak the same language to experience a very strong bond. Just being there together, sharing smiles and understanding their hardships goes a long way to supporting each other.

Until the next time,

Best Wishes,
Diane and Derek

Monday, October 1, 2012

Update on Lake Victoria Childrens Tailoring Shop, Ukerewe.

Hello to you all,

Recently, we heard from Alex Magaga, Chairman of Lake Victoria Children, that the Tailoring shop was going from strength to strength. It was not only Alex's dream, but the wish of Mage and her team of machinists, for material from which they could make clothes as well as doing mending for the community.

Thanks to a local hospital in the UK who were replacing the ward curtains, we were given a large quantity of material which was transported in the container to LVC Tailoring shop, and the machinists are now busy sewing and the goods are successfully being sold.  The machinists get paid for what they produce, thereby helping the ladies to support their families.  For a very small fee, the ladies can also use the machines to make their own childrens clothes.

In the photo below, Alex and Mage are discussing the material.

We were also given a quantity of white bedding sheets, which had been discarded from a nearby Caravan Park.  The sheets had all been laundered and again these are in LVC Tailoring shop and are now being made into white school shirts, and sold.

On the left of the picture below is a wooden unit which Pat and Steve paid for, and some of the sewing goods which they also sent in the container.

It is truly wonderful that goods in our country which have become surplus to requirements here, can have a second life in a country thousands of miles away, and importantly, bring in revenue to help educate and feed small children.   It makes you feel good to be part of the process in helping others to help themselves.

Until next time,
Best Wishes,

Diane and Derek.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Village Stories in Ukerewe

Hello again,

A particularly interesting gentleman who we met was Sebastian. We were surprised and delighted to hear him speak in perfect  English. He asked where in England we had come from and was very interested in what we were doing on the Island.

Sebastian looks after more than twenty grandchildren. He explained that three of his sons had passed away. We were able to give clothes, shoes, soap etc to the family

Other family members.

In the next village that we visited, we met the Village Chief Executive and Alex explained who we were and what we were doing. We also met the Ward Health Officer and of course the Lake Victoria Childrens Ambassador. We were told there were 2953 people living in this village.

We were taken to the home of Rachel who has five children whose ages range from four to thirteen years. Her husband deserted the family two years ago. The children have never been to school or worn a pair of shoes. Rachel cannot send the children to school as she has no money for uniforms or books. She can hardly afford to feed her family. In the background you can see her home which is only nine feet by fifteen feet in size.

She selected clothes for her and the children ... ... ... ...

... ... ... ... and the children each had their first pair of shoes.

This is Kambona who has eight children. Her husband died two years ago. Five of her children go to school and Kambona gets help with uniforms etc. through a Christian organization. We left clothes for her and the children, and also shoes.

This is where the family live.

This nineteen year old is Reuben. He lost both of his parents last year with stomach problems. He has now taken on the roll of guardian to look after three brothers and one sister. He attends Secondary school in the mornings and in the afternoon he gets any work that he can in the village to try and support his family financially.

This is home for Reuben and his family

As we have said before, it was very emotional to meet these families and see the hardships which they face on a daily basis. We shall continue to work towards helping them in whatever way we can.

We will bring you more stories from the villages another time.

Until then, best wishes,

Diane and Derek

Friday, September 14, 2012

Life in outlying villages in Ukerewe

Hello again,

It was now time to distribute the goods which had been donated in England. Alex arranged for us to visit villages where his Ambassadors had identified families who were struggling to survive. At one village we were introduced to Andrew who had fallen ill in 2002 and is now semi paralysed in his legs and cannot walk properly.  He and his wife have seven children.

Alex explained to him who we were and through Alex, Andrew told us his story. We gave him some bedding, soap and clothes for the family. Later we were able to supply him with some crutches to help him with his mobility. The root vegetable that you can see in the photograph is Cassava which is usually ground down to make flour for porridge, or can be eaten raw - like Alex is enjoying!

Andrew and his family live in this house, he has a plot of land where he grows a few crops and keeps goats and chickens.  Sitting outside the house is the L.V.C. Ambassador for Andrews village.

The next family that we visited was Tongera and her seven grandchildren, who she looks after since their parents died fom HIV/Aids. One of the children has learning difficulties. None of the children go to school. Living nearby is her son and his wife with two small children. The wife is in ill health. We gave Tongera soap, bedding and clothes.

Tongera was very happy to receive the clothes and bedding, especially the black shawl for herself.

This elderly grandmother also looks after her three grandchildren. The children do not go to school as she cannot afford to buy the uniforms. We came across this situation a number of times, and although a uniform is not compulsary, the children feel "different" if they are not dressed the same as their peers. Pupils also have to supply their own writing materials. Lake Victoria Children's Society do help with these items, but there are far to many disadvantaged children for L.V.C to be able to support them all, due to the lack of funds.

When we gave the grandmother some bedding, she just couldn't stop smiling, although Brenda thought that she was very near to tears!

In another village we were taken to see Jacob and his family. He and his wife have ten children, which are five sets of twins. Only one set of twins go to school. Seven of the children are fostered or looked after by other members of the family.

We gave the family clothes,shoes,soap etc.

Jacob was very happy to receive a new jacket...  ...  ...  ...  ...

...  ...  ...  ...  and Mama was delighted with her new trainers

We tried to give the children some teddy bears, but they were not used to toys and in spite of us cuddling the bears to show them not to be afraid, unfortuneately the children were too frightened to hold them. We left the bears sitting on a table and hopefully the children would enjoy them later. It was quite an upsetting experience for us as normally children love a soft toy to cuddle.

Although our help was appreciated, it was clear that we need to do more to help these families and many, many more like them.

We will bring you more stories from the villages next time.

Until then,

 Best Wishes,

Diane and Derek

Friday, September 7, 2012

Supporting the Tanzania Albino Society in Ukerewe.

Hello there,

Before our recent visit to Ukerewe, many people had donated goods and money specifically to help support members of the Tanzania Albino Society who live on Ukerewe.  During our stay we visited the office and land which is owned by the Society.  The office is a place where the members can meet to discuss their problems and seek advice.

Mr. Ramahdan is the Chairman of the local Albino Society who explained about the condition and what the Society were doing for those people on the island with Albinism.  Where necessary, he visits them in their homes and any albino child which is born on the island is automatically registered and becomes a member.  Due to the fact that he only has limited English, Alex Magaga, who is a volunteer for the organization, did the translation for us.

Amongst the items donated in the U.K were suncreams, sun glasses, long sleeved shirts and sun hats.  All of which offer protection against the sun, as the lack of pigment in the Albino skin causes sun burn and in some cases, dreadful skin cancer.

We were also able to provide Mr. Ramahdan with various tools which would help him in his work as a Motor Mechanic.

 On the property there was an unlined well from which water was obtained by dropping a plastic container into the water on the end of a rope.

Through Alex Magaga we contacted a local contractor and arranged for him and his team to line the well to a depth of twelve metres, fit a cap to the top and mount a hand pump.

The rings were cast on site and the concrete kept damp to prevent it curing too quickly.

After the rings had been lowered down the shaft, the 'cap' was fitted.

Finally, the pump was fitted.  The whole project had taken ten days from starting, to water flowing from the pump.  We were privileged to be there to see Mr. Ramahdan operate the pump for the first time, and this was such an emotional experience for all of us.

The ground is approximately 2.5 acres in size and contains many different fruit trees which are looked after by a watchman who tends the trees and in exchange he receives a share of the fruit.  Hopefully, now that there is an easier water supply, the cultivation of the ground can be extended and if possible, other food stuffs can be grown.  Included in the goods shipped out in the  container were lots of gardening tools and some of these were given to the Society to help them clear more ground.

It was necessary to improve the security for the site so we arranged for the manufacture and fitting of a large double gate at the entrance to the site.

We believe that this was a very deserving group of people and we hope that what has been achieved will help the Society to support their members.  Our sincere thanks go to everyone who contributed to this project.

Until the next time,

Best Wishes
Diane and Derek

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Briquette Making at Lake Victoria Children

Hello everyone,

This blog has been submitted by Stephen and Patricia.

When Patricia and I first visited Ukerewe you could not miss the vast amount of combustible waste that was lying around.

I had previously seen a programme filmed in Uganda where briquette making had been introduced as a means of keeping the local people from cutting firewood in the forest, the preserve of gorillas, and also as a means of generating an income for those same people.

Google is a wonderful tool and eventually led me to the Legacy Foundation ( ) and discussions with them (as they were working in East Africa) proved interesting.  A set of manuals were purchased enabling a press to be made and all the other necessary equipment was purchased as well and left England in the container at Easter.

The hardest part was finding reliable Swahili speaking trainers willing to come to Ukerewe.  Alex Magaga of LVC did a wonderful job of co-ordinating once the trainers, Marieta and Zaujia were located a 1000 km away in Lushoto and booked for a week's training.  Alex also organized (willingly recruited) a group of 12 LVC Volunteer Women who gave up their time to be trained.

The training consisted firstly of the principles and benefits of briquettes in the classroom,

then practical training on production, and finally on marketing.  Marieta and Zaujia are extremely professional and have received national awards for their training - only the best for LVC!

Currently there is no market for briquettes on Ukerewe and it will take some time, even months, for the trainees to build confidence in what they are doing and for them to become proficient in producing them.  In that time they can be searching out markets.  The wood and charcoal sellers often claim that you will be poisoned by cooking with briquettes! 

At the end of the training each trainee was presented with a signed certificate and the trainers indicated potential leaders.  After Marieta and Zaujia left the ladies started slowly, but when we left were coming together to prepare and produce briquettes 2 or 3 times a week and had elected a chairwoman and secretary.

In full production a team will produce 700 - 1000 briquettes a day sufficient to supply 50 families.  Briquette making is ecologically sound and sustainable using only waste materials of which there is plenty around.  At the same time this will generate an income for a group of ladies and for Lake Victoria Children.

Our thanks to Stephen and Patricia for this very interesting article.

Best Wishes,

Diane and Derek