Charity Case

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Sunday, 9 June, 2013

Iringa, Tanzania

I’ve decided to do some volunteer work in Tanzania – mostly by offering my experience in the classroom.

However, to be completely honest, I’m going into this one a little bit blind and dubious. I mean, when you say the words, “I’m doing volunteer work in Africa.” Sure, you sound like a hero; however, I’m just not entirely certain every volunteer is actually benefitting the continent.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do hope that my scepticism is misguided and the experience proves to be highly beneficial; both for myself and the locals that I am offering my time to help. My first week just didn’t provide any sort of reassurance.

I have a class of eight-year-olds that I teach for two hours every morning – they are really receptive and switched on. Frankly, it’s a very enjoyable class, in which, I’m given a lot of free-range – allowing me to use many of the activities and games that worked well in South Korea. To put it simply, it seems to be a good fit.

Unfortunately, I can hear and see the two girls ‘teaching’ in the classroom next door. They chose the younger class – presumably because they look cuter – and spend all their time simply taking photos with the kids. Who is benefitting from that two hours of time? Through having those volunteers as their teachers, the children are actually losing an education as opposed to gaining one.

It was all just a bit frustrating to see, and very irresponsible on the part of the volunteers. If you’ve never been in a kitchen before, you’re not going to suddenly turn the oven on and start trying to make enchiladas. So, why does that mindset differ when volunteering?

That notion goes for most charity work overseas, to be frank. For instance, how well can you build a house or a school, if you have zero training? In fact, it would probably be more productive to pay local labourers to do the job – you would then be creating jobs, and in theory, more stable buildings. Just a thought.

On a more positive note, the house we (the volunteers) are staying in is really cool. It has multiple bedrooms with almost every bunk taken, basic furniture and a spacious living room area – thus, it was very easy to make friends early on. There is also a board placed in the main room with all the locations that require help, and from there, you simply just select whichever program best suits you. Obviously, for myself it was a teaching gig.

Accompanying the house is our security guard, the mysterious protector. He places himself beside the building, rarely moves and never talks. Some say that he killed forty-two wolves in a six minute period of insanity, while others believe that he is actually deaf, dumb, blind and just lost. However, there is not a living soul that knows anything beyond speculation.

There have been numerous occasions when our watcher has had many of us more jumpy than an actual burglar would. Imagine getting home late at night, you’re chatting away in the dark, and as you start to turn the key in the lock, you notice the eyes of an African warrior staring; not blinking and incredibly focused.

He reacts to increased volume too, picture the scene – a game of cards is getting nail-bitingly close, each hand results in a slightly giddier response than the last. When all of a sudden, you once again see those two beady eyes looking in from the window. It can be scary as hell, man.

I wonder if presidents get this nervous by the eyes of their protectors.

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Aside from teaching, I also decided to spend a few of my afternoons at an orphanage last week – where the orphans are aged three or under. The purpose of guests is to simply offer the children some adult attention – a place where hours of photos perhaps wouldn’t actually be such a bad thing.

I feel like this blog has lacked humour thus far, but don’t worry, the upcoming paragraphs on an African orphanage should change that. Sure, it’s not usually the go to place for a giggle, but a kid peed on me. So, I’m sure many of you will enjoy it.

I was clutching the kid close to my chest and spinning him around in a circle, as he laughed uncontrollably. Unfortunately, I soon realised that his amusement stemmed from the fact that he was just casually taking a wazz on my t-shirt.

I could suddenly feel his warm urine trickling down my t-shirt, the kid must have been really dehydrated too, because this pee was pretty yellow. Thankfully though, my t-shirt was also yellow, so the joke was on him. It’s almost as if I dressed to piss block.

I put him on the ground and then grassed on him to a nun. However, she didn’t react in the way I expected. She just nodded, rubbed his head and then changed his pants. The lad is just going to keep peeing on people, if he gets a head rub each time. So to conclude, these nuns need to step up their game and I need a laundrette.

Another lad that sticks out in my memory was little Tony. This kid wouldn’t stop putting the toes of the girl alongside him in his mouth. What happened to, ‘I’ll pick you up at seven’? – Chivalry’s dead.

Keep your daughters away from Suck-It Tony in the future, the kid was seen sucking toes on his mattress, and frankly, didn’t give a damn who was watching. I was half expecting him to ask somebody to throw him some ketchup.

I’m just saying, if he’s chowing down on feet at the age of one, you’d assume he’s going to be a peculiar chap in later life. That same kid threw up on himself at one point too – heaven knows why.

In other news, I’m staying in Iringa which is a rather large bus ride away from the capital, and on that long bus ride, I saw three giraffes chilling out at the side of the road – how cool is that?

It would certainly make that Monday morning drive to work a little more tolerable, if you knew that you might get to see some giraffes on the way – it’s an automatic spirit lifter. Unless, of course, you work in a call centre – you could see a lion hugging a hippo on your way to work and still be miserable in that job.

And with that, I’ll leave you with this…

Why was the giraffe late?
Because he got caught in a giraffic jam.

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