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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Safiri Kwa Handeni District (Part 2)

After a year, I had the opportunity to revisit Handeni.  I was there 2 weeks ago for 6 days to participate in the consultative meetings with the stakeholders of CAN’s (my organization) new project called “TUNAWEZA” (It’s a Swahili word which means “We can” in English).  I also took the opportunity to survey some primary schools with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in the Handeni Town for my small project funded by VSO Tanzania.  And a week ago, I was there again for 7 days to implement my OVC project and to assist a colleague to design some tools for the baseline data and Monitoring and Evaluation (M and E) of the TUNAWEZA project.

common sight in Handeni - they are so young to do this but they have to
During the survey of primary schools with OVC in Handeni Town
I want to have a picture with the children but they ran away

Finally, they agreed to have a picture with me
poverty and contentment  = happiness

Road Improvements and Gold Deposits
The first time I travelled there last year, the road was totally dusty and bumpy.  Now, the road is under construction.  Some portions (maybe 75%) are already paved but not passable yet.  The span is not more than 70 kms.  to Handeni Town (just after the well paved road from Dar es Salaam; the total distance from Dar to Handeni Town is approximately 128 point something according to the google map). 

excavated area beside the road

From the bus window, I saw the same sights I witnessed during my 1st visit.  I was engrossed of my thoughts when my colleague asked me to observe well on the areas that we will be passing through.   When he asked me again, I said, there’s a sign of progress as the district is becoming accessible through the newly improved road.  But what he was trying to point out are the excavated areas beside the road where some segments are with visible glittering matter which I thought maybe an effect of the sunlight rays.    He said that they are actually remnants of gold.  Well, perhaps he is right.  Since 2009, a foreign-owned company is engaged in gold mining explorations in the district located 35 kms. south of the Handeni Town (  And some of the locals claim that there are new exploration foreign companies in the area.

I tried to search the web the specific number of these exploration companies but there is none. But I saw at least 6 different names of companies that are granted of a license to operate in the area.

The Magambazi Hill in Handeni - this is the area of the on-going mining exploration activities

So, the most logical reason of this road improvement is the existence of the gold mining explorations activities in the district – which is not bad.  It will surely create business activities and opportunities in the area.  But I hope, it will benefit the locals and their environment will not be exploited.

Still Hamna Maji (No Water) in Handeni

The bucket with tea-color water at my bathroom
Throughout my visits, I stayed in the same hotel.  Every day and every night, I had to pester the staff at the hotel’s reception to bring me maji moto (hot water) for my bath.  One time, I was so annoyed that I had to remind the reception 3x to give me hot water for my morning bath and I had to go down from my room (located at the 2nd floor of the hotel) to go and tell them what I need. I forgot to push my tolerance and patience button at that time and had to remind myself always on the most common comment of mzungus  (foreigners) living in Tanzania -  “everything is pole-pole (very slow/no urgency) in Tanzania” .

Meat(Nyama) or Kuku (chicken) for Every Meal
waiting for our roasted goat - for our lunch
Handeni has a huge number of Pastoralists – they are the people mostly Maasai (major ethnic group in Tanzania) engaged in livestock (cattle, sheep or goats) production and move them (their livestock) from place to place to take advantage of pasture and water which are available at different times during the year.

The environment in Handeni is conducive for Pastoralism because of the vast areas of lands and hills densely vegetated with trees and grasses.

the green surroundings in Handeni

a maasai pastoralist selling his cattle

a typical maasai hut

Therefore, the widely available food is just purely meat – beef, goat’s or sheep’s meat and indigenous chicken which is also very popular.  Every lunch or supper –  no other choice but only meat.    The locals rarely or never eat fish, vegetables and fruits.  

with CAN Associates Family - after eating the roasted goat
 Cold, wet or cloudy and Konyagi or Pombe or Bia

I like the weather in Handeni.  Although it was always cold and wet or cloudy when I was there, it was a temporary break from the warm and humid environment of Dar.

The cold climate is so conducive to have pombe (alcohol drink) or konyagi – a local brand of alcohol beverage which has more than 30% alcohol content or beer (bia) anytime of the day especially during the night.


The objective of TUNAWEZA is to mitigate the prevalence and impact of HIV/AIDS among the women, youth and young girls (adolescents).  It is a project with muti-sectoral approach and strategies that include psychosocial services, social protection and network, HIV/AIDS counselling/ testing and skills development specifically entrepreneurship.  Based on the UHAI-CT (Universal HIV/AIDS Intervention – Counselling Testing) project of CAN in Handeni District, 72% of the HIV/AIDS MARPs (Most-at-Risk Persons) clients are youth from 14-30 years old.
These young people volunteered themselves to undergo HIV/AIDS Counselling and Testing
with the young people who were Counselled and Tested of HIV/AIDS

During the consultative meetings with the stakeholders, the FBOs (Faith-based Organizations) raised their concern on the effect of promoting safe sex (e.g. use of condom) to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.   They said that it encourages the youth to engage in pre-marital sex –– it’s about morality that people with religion convictions considered this (pre-marital sex) as a grave sin. 
How about our responsibility as adults? We can never dictate young people what they should do about their lives but we can guide them and present them the pros and cons of their actions or choices they want to have.

with the OVC and my colleague Redempta (CAN Associates)
Through individual donors in Tanzania, the VSO Programme Office was able to provide me a fund of GBP 500 to distribute school supplies (uniforms and assorted school items) to 90 OVC in Handeni Town.  It was so touching to see the happy faces of the children after they received their school supplies.
My colleague, John (CAN Associates) during the distribution of schools supplies to the OVC

The Market
It was Sunday and my colleague toured me around the Handeni Town Market.  Everything is there – live chicken, vegetables and fruits (nice to see those but I have no idea why locals here rarely eat them), cooked fish, mtumba (second hand or old) goods, etc.

mtumba footwear
live indigenous chicken
peeled mbe (mango) with chili salt
maasai sandals
no buyers yet?

Back to Dar

Now in Dar.  It’s a totally different atmosphere – the noise, busy streets and humid weather did not immerse to my system for a while.  But I realized how I missed the pleasure of washing my face every morning from a faucet with cold running water.

In life, there are trade-offs.  It is suffice to say that we can’t have everything in this world.
What would be his answer if he would be asked to choose 1; "Pot of Gold or Well? "

Monday, April 16, 2012

Please Support: Community-Based Touristic Income Generating Activity for the benefit of Choma Village

This project needs funding to develop camping site facilities at the Choma Village; situated on the foot of Ulugoro Mountain (western side) in Morogoro, Tanzania.  The beneficiaries are the Waluguru (ethnic group) people who are mainly dependent on agriculture for their economic livelihood. 

Karel is my friend and a former neighbor at the compound where I am currently staying.  He initiated this project and utilizing his own resources.  After his job in Dar had ended, he settles in Morogoro and spends most of his time to this project.  
To support and help Karel to make a difference in the lives of more than 800 Waluguru people in Choma village; please visit

The pictures below were taken in Morogoro last February 2011.

One of these mountains is the Ulogoro

The Mikumi National Park in Morogoro (80 kms. away from the Morogoro Town)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"do something good"

Yesterday should be my flight back home back to the Philippines.  But I am still in Tanzania.  I have extended until the end of June. I am wondering until now if the additional 3 months to be here would be a wise thing to do. 

I was ready to go.  I have packed all my stuff including some souvenir items for family and friends, have given away the rest of my personal things that my luggage can no longer accommodate, have rushed and prepared all the outstanding activities and reports to my organization and VSO, travelled outside of Dar es Salaam a week before my supposedly flight back home, have cleaned the apartment I am staying, and lastly; announced to everyone that I am going back home on 23 March. 
It was last minute that I made up my mind to prolong my stay.  I solicited advice from some people and weighed the situation emotionally and logically.  But what stirred me most was the text message from my sister.  “There’s nothing urgent that you will be doing here (home).  So, you can stay. Who knows, you can <still> do something worthwhile there.” And this helped me to decide.   Not 1 year as requested by my organization but I only settled for 3 months.  At least, I will not be leaving them with pang of guilt or regret.

Am I happy for this decision?  I don’t know exactly.  I believe that to be happy is a choice no matter what distractions or circumstances to be encountered along the way.  I will just enjoy what life brings me for these last 3 months in Tanzania.  And – “do something worthwhile” (?).

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

Monday, January 23, 2012

What does it take to make a difference?

I am almost a year in Tanzania.  The days moved so quickly for the past few days.  I was surprised when I noticed the calendar.   I remember during my 1st quarter here, the days were so slow.  I thought I can’t manage to stay that long. 

To make a difference is tough job with many challenges, frustrations and disappointments.  Some of us (volunteers) end up successfully with flying colors and some failed or quit.  But regardless of the duration we stayed in our placements, it’s a humbling experience to all of us.  We have realizations that we are so blessed and became appreciative of what we have materially.  We managed to survive with the economic level of what our monthly allowance could afford us to live.  The simple things like a good bed and clean water are luxuries which we took them for granted when we are in our own home land.
with fellow volunteers during the 50th Anniversary of VSO in Tanzania

We are not spared of many situations that test our limits and well being.  We know for a fact that change is a process but it takes longer than our expectations until our patience runs out.  We work hard to deal with people who are different from us totally –the culture, beliefs, ways of thinking, manners and characters.  Yet, we don’t like to give up our hope that somehow we can make a difference or at least we can share something that makes the world to be a better place to live for everyone. 
Now, as I count the days that I am here in Tanzania, and having all of these kinds of experiences, I am thinking if it’s really worth it that I chose to stay that long.  I don’t like to have regrets or bitterness feeling.  This self-confrontation made me ask myself if I still can take the plunge beyond my comfort zone.  I am in the process of debating with myself on weighing the situation of having enough or too much of Tanzania.  But sooner or later, it’s all up to me to choose – I know that decision is always have consequences that might be good or complicated.

with the women in my community.  They are aspiring to be self-reliant economically/

The anonymously written passage below is inspiring that distracts my tired spirit.  But in reality, they are hard enough to do them by heart (without pretentions).  At least, I will try.
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you may win false friends, and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.
The world is full of conflict. Choose peace of mind anyway.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Another year is coming.  In retrospect, my 2011 is not the best neither that bad.    Even life is too tiring sometimes, I have to hold on still and have many reasons to be grateful about for the whole year.  It also gave me the chance and opportunities to learn, grow and realizations.

Making a difference is not an easy job. So I pray for more hope and courage. 
And I wish that the year 2012 bring abundance of grace, kindness and miracles especially to the people who suffer from poverty, injustice, disease, abuse and unemployment.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Christmas and Am away from Home

It’s Christmas and I am in the continent of Africa – thousands of miles away from home.  I feel homesick and  longing for the familiar and the usual way of celebrating this day – the festivities, moments with family, relatives and friends, the exchanging and receiving of gifts, lots of food, etc. , etc.  Although in my heart, I know that these are not so significant on the true meaning of Christmas. 

with fellow Filipino volunteers at the big mall in Dar es Salaam

I am trying to fight the loneliness by reflecting the good and the bad things that I have and got during this year.  I believe that the good ones are blessings or maybe just pure luck.  The bad ones should be forgotten but they are meant to happen because they gave me lessons in life which shaping me to be a better person.

For all these things, I’m so thankful and glad to have the gift of life that the Creator gave me. 

I wish that my heart will be full of love, joy, forgiveness and peace this season and not loneliness or emptiness.  And I wish the same to all humanity.

May Santa fills this plastic bag with peace, joy, hope and love and be scattered around the world - not the plastic bag, only those inside.:-)
Have a blessed Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

crossing the highways

Crossing a highway is one of my greatest hurdles.   It happened when I was 7 years old.  I was hit by a fast motorcycle while crossing a busy highway.  I’ve got some bruises and fortunately, there was nothing major physical damaged on me except the visible scar on my left eyebrow.  This accident gave me occasional nightmares in my childhood and adult life.

But I have to face this fear.  I can not avoid crossing highways.  They are everywhere. I have no other option but to fight back the anxieties that paralyzes me every time I cross them.     And when there is no one to cling unto, I have to be brave and believe in myself that I can do it. I have to because I need to or else I can be stuck forever beside the highway and I can never go to where I intend to go.    

one of the pedestrian lanes along the busy highway of Dar es Salaam

It’s like facing life even it is so uncertain.  I had shares of pains and some left deep scars on me emotionally but life should go on.   I have to be strong to live fully or else my existence would just be totally wasted.  I have to take risk even it might hurt me. It is the natural flow of life which means that this flow knows where to go and have its own way to reach its final destination.   Therefore, I have to follow and go with it.  And maybe, this is the ultimate method to find the true path of life.   

Life isn't simple. But the beauty of it is, you can always start over. It'll get easier.
Alacia Bessette, Simply from Scratch, 2010