Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tengeru and the volunteer experience

The organization that Laura and I are volunteering with is called the Green Foundation. I believe this foundation was just started in 2005 and has not had many volunteers. The organization was started by a woman (Mama Gladness) who also started the Tengeru Cultural Tourism program. The tourism program provides coffee tours, lake tours, and town tours to tourists. The volunteer organization basically places volunteers with orphanages in the area and provides a home and food for the volunteers. The volunteers stay in a dormitory like home with the son of Mama Gladness, Lema and a friend of the family, Babu. Lema's role is to deal with the volunteers for any needs they may have. Babu's role is to keep the home clean, help volunteers with specific needs like transportation or getting around town, and serving meals.

Laura is working in an orphanage which has kids aged 3 months to 4 years old. There are about 24 kids at the orphanage. There are 10 mamas who do the basic needs like prepare food, wash clothes, etc. The volunteers spend their time playing with the kids and helping the mamas with whatever they need. The orphanage has very basic stuff... clothes for the kids, diapers, rice and beans. That's about it. There are hardly any toys, not many nutritious food, no baby wipes for cleaning up messes, etc. So, you're left to being innovative with your time. Many volunteers have contributed supplies like coloring books, crayons, formula, baby wipes, etc. So, summer time is probably good for these kids because quite a few things are provided by volunteers during this time. Our winter time probably isn't so good. One of the kids that Laura has gotten attached to, Baraka, looks like he is about 6 months old when in fact, he is 1 year old. These kids are getting a rough start to life.

I'm working with a tree nursery started by Mama Gladness. The woman has a beautiful home full of various kinds of trees. It's the place tourists are taken to join their coffee tour or Lake Diluti tour. The tree nursery is located on the main road between Arusha and Tengeru. My mom and Greg would love to take a tour through the nursery. There are a lot of tree species that I haven't seen before as the focus is to pot a number of indigenous tree species. My job is to get up and water the plants every morning and keep the general nursery area clean.

I know for sure that the trees in the nursery are sold to the public. What I'm not sure about is whether or not some of these trees are donated to schools, churches, villages, etc. They've told me that they are but I'm quite skeptical; I get the feeling the organization is set up more for profit that not for profit. That's a big reason why I have been quite disappointed by this volunteer opportunity. I feel more like the people are in it for my $20 per day than they are for doing something great in the community. Hopefully, that feeling changes.

Four more volunteers are joining us this weekend. All of them will be going to one of the two orphanages. Unfortunately, I'm left to fend for myself at the tree nursery. It'd be nice to have somebody join me!!

This weekend, Laura and I are visiting a Maasai boma. The Maasai are a unique tribe that live in the plains around Kilamanjaro and Meru. My next post will give more specific information and have some pictures.

8 comments:

J. Carrara said...

Does Laura have any pictures of the orphanage?

tonyp said...

Where do these tourists come from that go to this area? Bet you are right about your mom and Greg and the plants that you work with. Learn a lot from the Massai and we'll talk to you Sat. evening your time. LOVE DAD

Greg said...

Watering tropical trees in a nursery. Yep you must be in Heaven. Well at least from my viewpoint. Your mom and I will stop by tomorrow morning to help you. Wish.

From my reading and experiences both too high and too low birthrates cause difficult to solve pertubations - problems.

20 bucks or the good of the community? Interesting. Wouldn't all of us be in it for the 20$ until basic needs and greeds our preceived as full?

Maasai .. the old, lion killers. Your note caused reasearch ... just myth. So they say. But he who kills the lion is a more respected Man. What an open door for you guys.

Ok I'll stop. Can't wait to chat when you return.
1120 AM Friday 6-29-07

Anonymous said...

Hopefully you're wrong about the non-profit's intentions; otherwise, the name "Mama Gladness" will have some biting irony to it.

Greg said...

Hi J & L,
Talked to you Dad last evening, 7-2-07. Your momma got off to Italy just fine yesterday morning.

Ciao
Greg

Anonymous said...

I spent 3 days at the Tengeru center. Mama Gladness and Amos were as nice as can be. Amos showed me a great deal of the area, and were very accomodating to my interests. I was hooked up with them through "Biggie" (Armstrong Nyaka, a local guide in Arusha). I strongly recommend both of them.

Josh
MN, USA

spacedout568 said...

Mama Gladness was so nice! I went to tengeru, but I stayed with her son Lema (spelling?). I personally think he is too attached to his iPhone. I worked at New Hope Academy, which was just down the road. I also had a wonderful time, although rice and beans everyday for lunch was kind of tiring. I wanted to just say Mama Gladness makes the best Chipattes (spelling?) IN THE WORLD!!!! I miss that small village soooooo muuuuuch. I miss the school and all the kids, although technically I am still a kid....

wholesale fern said...

We are state certified tree nursery specializing in native plants and trees, shrubs, fern, and perennials as well as pond plants and wetland mitigation species.