Arusha Project

June 27, 2007, 7:37 am
Filed under: Abroad Program, Uncategorized

 Parking Lot 

Open the big metal gates to a stark cement courtyard filled with two to six year old children. This is the parking lot behind Women’s Education in Gender Monitoring Aids, or WEMA, that also serves their community with a daily daycare center for children too young to enroll in public school. Mothers drop their children off at 8 AM for four hours of supervision by two teachers, who paid measly wages, and a couple foreign volunteers for a fee of 100 Tanzanian schillings per day (the equivalent of 0.08 USD). The fee, we were told is used to pay for the watered down half cup of porridge the children are served midmorning. Today, Elana, Faina and I arrived to 50 children talking, playing and crying in a disorganized mass. It was a slow day, usually children number close to 90.


 Break Time


As Elana pulls out some small notebooks and crayons, the older kids scramble around her to get first dibs and immediately start to scribble on the blank paper. On the other side of the parking lot, Faina patiently tries to draw animals on the ground in chalk to teach the younger kids some English words. The children, obviously not used to any sort of organization, immediately start to smudge the drawings into an unrecognizable swirl of color. Sometimes the staff tries to get the kids all to sit down so they can listen, even though the process bores the little ones who end up staring sadly at nothing. As the morning progresses, Elana and Faina through trial and error find ways to keep the children entertained and tend to pay attention to a few children at a time and teach them letters, numbers, animals, etc.


It’s a long frustrating morning, but something the volunteers are getting used to. There really isn’t too much more that can be done, especially with a language barrier and lack of adequate local staff. There are just too many kids for too few teachers. In essence, it’s a different culture they face more than anything; a culture where kids take care of themselves, where four and five year olds parent their younger siblings and where kids are allowed to walk themselves home at the end of the day. Any form of discipline as we know it is shunned, as this is the children’s “time to play”. This means if they are hitting and biting each other or falling on their heads, it’s ok. If they are lifting up a grate and climbing down the hole, it’s fine. If they are crying, they are left alone to figure out their own situation.


We’ve regarded WEMA has been a controversial organization for a few reasons, but we still help out because if we weren’t there, these children would receive little attention and even less education. It’s a paradox: leave and let the organization struggle, or help this community center even though we don’t fully trust and believe in all of its policies. But it’s the people we want to reach, and by being there, we are. Still, for us Americans used to a very different form of parenting, the kids still cry just as much, and it’s hard to let that pass.




2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Kaia, you’re awesome. Keep up the good work.
(Denise just gave me your blog.) Check
Clarence Foundation; they might be able to
help. They find small grants for developing
enterprises and education.
And put your picture up! It would be nice to see you. -elissa

Comment by Elissa Mannheimer

Hi all. Cool site Google

Comment by Chix

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