Gongali Village School

Gongali Village School
children at the Gongali Village School, built by Primary Schools for Africa in Nov/Dec 2010

Sunday, 22 December 2013


Hello Friends of Tanzania

Primary Schools for Africa Society had a fantastic year, thanks to our new and continuing supporters;

Artist Alicia Lee of Victoria continues to donate 50% of the proceeds of her painting sales to us.
BC Ferries Corporation has achieved their goal of raising funds to sponsor the construction of a classroom. Their classroom will be built in 2014.
The Make A Wish Foundation of Canada has selected us to realize the dream of a quadruple amputee to build a classroom in Africa. Their donated funds will sponsor a new classroom to be built in May 2014.
Our first “Coins For Classrooms” partner, Glenwood Elementary School in Maple ridge, BC, is creatively fundraising to provide sports equipment, school supplies and perhaps sponsor the cost of a classroom. And 30 Glenwood pupils are now starting up a pen-pal relationship with their 30 Tanzanian counterparts at the Gongali Village School.
Four persons are signed up for our first "Climb For Classrooms" fundraiser; a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Sept 2014. Proceeds will build a new school building. After their descent, the climbers will be treated to the opening ceremonies of the new classroom building. 
A special thanks to the major donors of 2013: Michael Stringham, The Crafty Grannies of Victoria, Darleen Finlayson, Don and Sylvia Hatfield, John and Judy Lutes, The Edmonton Community Foundation, Don and Charmaine Lovell, Greg and Ginny Langham, Sang Han, Alicia Lee, The Victoria Foundation (Anonymous donor), Maureen Van Wyck, Leigh Bradfield, Chongin Im, Hyuk Im, David Tolman, Stuart Wormsley and Robert Roy.

On behalf of the Directors of PSFA; Danielle Bassett, Don Gordon, Mark Burrowes, Peter Daniels, Blaise Salmon, I wish all our supporters a....

Friday, 20 December 2013


UPDATE NO. 1 - 21 Dec 2013

Hi All

Greetings from Africa Tanzania

This trip involves some very exciting and new developments to our work here.

The first involves the design itself of our current project, the Teacher Residence building. The construction is well underway. The floor slabs are done and the concrete brick walls are being mortared in. The rains have delayed progress a little, but the weather has been wonderful in the past week, so the workers are going hard at it.

This is a milestone project. For the first time, the design of these residences features an indoor kitchen, toilet room and shower room. As far as I know, this is a first for residences in this region, if not the country. I’m enjoying spending considerable time discussing the plumbing design with Mathew and the builder because it will be such a major lifestyle adjustment to more “modern” facilities.

Cooking outdoor with wood and its associated respiratory dangers will be replaced with a more environmentally friendly stove (wood or gas) that will sit on one end of a smooth concrete countertop. A sink with water supply will sit at the other end. The toilet will be a tiled finished room with a proper porcelain fixture to replace the outhouse. There will be a separate shower room. All waste will drain to a septic tank system. The overall effect will be tremendously improved sanitation. I look forward to the reactions of the new tenants.

concrete brick walls - 80% complete

The Glenwood Elementary Connection

Another unprecedented experience is a the initiation of a pen-pal relationship between our first Canadian elementary school “Coins For Classrooms” partner, Glenwood Elementary in Maple Ridge, BC, and the Gongali village school here. Thirty enthusiastic kids at Glenwood, under the creative guidance of teacher James White, each wrote a letter for their Tanzanian counterpart. They also gave instructions for the Tanzanian kids to do “5-line” art. I will be getting letters and artwork back from them to take back to Canada. I gave the package to Mark Mollel, one of the teachers at Gongali and he enthusiastically welcomed this experience for his kids. How exciting is this? How about the potential effect of this on the lives of the children from both countries; of injecting third world aid energy into such young minds?

More later in the next update.  

Monday, 28 October 2013

UPDATE – 16 OCTOBER 2013 AYALABE VILLAGE SCHOOL – New Classroom 1, 2 Building

Hi All

Greetings from Africa (Tanzania)

The Ayalabe School Opening - First Two Classrooms

Back Row (L to R),  Dorcey, Virginia, Maureen, Suzanne,
Tour Operator Claud Goi and Ginny.
Front Row (L to R) Project Mgr Mathew Sulle, Alan and Greg
On 26th September, I anxiously waited at Kilimanjaro International Airport for the arrival of my wife Maureen and 5 of our friends from Canada.  I was with tour operator Claud Goi and our Project Manager Mathew Sulle, his wife Rose and daughters Lissa and little Maureen. This has been a long anticipated meeting for both Maureens. Little Maureen was named after my wife, and for the past three years, my Maureen has been sending presents and viewing photos of her namesake, but the moment has now arrived to meet in person. The exciting thing about this now is that Maureen did not know her namesake would be at the airport, so when she came through the exit doors and saw her cute little wide-eyed face, she burst into tears. It was an absolutely wonderful moment for both of them, and for the whole group, all of them in Africa for the first time.

Maureen and Maureen

Despite the weariness of 2 – 10 hour flights, the hour-long 4-wheel drive trip to our hotel in Arusha was filled with animated discussion of the adventures to come; the Ayalabe school opening, the safaris, the Zanzibar holiday, and generally the experience of Tanzania, its colourful culture and wonderfully friendly people.

Friday, 27 September. The group rested, or at least tried to, at the Outpost lodge, but was too excited to be there. So Claud taxied everyone to Arusha’s busy city-centre marketplace to experience the incredibly varied and colorful stalls of local vendors.  Later in the afternoon, we invited Mathew’s girls for a swim and snacks at the lodge’s pool; a rare treat for them.

On Saturday morning, after the 3-hour drive across the Maasai plains, we arrived at the Gongali school for a drop-in visit only, at least that was the intention, but Mayor Peter Hayshi would have none of that. No, all the plugs were pulled out. Peter, along with 50 – 60 villagers; pupils, men and women, joyously greeted us in their traditional way; overwhelming us with singing, dancing and offering plants that symbolized healthy future crop harvests. 

Villagers greeting us at Gongali
Maureen taken into the dance at Gongali 

After a tour through the teacher residences classrooms, we were invited to speeches and exchanges of gifts in the dining hall. The highlight for the village was our donation of a few soccer balls.

Suzanne donated her daughter's
ball to the school
celebrating a soccer ball donation

Within minutes after that, the men and children rushed out to the fields to indulge their neglected skills. Opportunities to play sports in the community are few and far between.

adults playing
children playing

Sunday 29 September 2013. The big day has arrived; the official opening of the new school at Ayalabe, where we are starting with a 2 classroom building. The celebration was a repeat of the previous day’s greeting at Gongali, only several times bigger, with more local villagers, students, and VIP’s.

the greeting crowd
Our land cruisers were blocked a hundred meters short of the site’s entrance by over 100 villagers chanting and “warble-whooping” (it’s the best I can do to describe the high-pitched tongue rolling sound the women make) as we approached along the dusty clay dirt road. We were enthusiastically hugged and given the same plant offerings, and then led to the new 2-classroom building, all freshly painted and looking quite resplendent. 

Adjacent was the canopied area for speeches and entertainment, but first we were required to experience the traditional initiation ceremony inside one of the classrooms. 

classroom initiation chant and prayer
An elder cheer-led about 80 – 90 crammed villagers with repeated chants that filled the room with a powerful resonance, and that was followed by each one of us having to drink “busaa”, a fermented maize concoction, from a large wooden bowl. The reactions from most of us were respectful, albeit somewhat comical.

drinking "busaa"

Outside in the canopied area, we were entertained with students from local schools warmly welcoming us with sweetly sung melodies. One was “jazzed” up (the students needing, I suppose, to break from tradition), but the highlight of course was the Tanzanian jump-dance. Unlike ones I experienced on previous celebrations, this one was choreographed extremely well.

Tanzanian traditional jump-dance
students singing for us

The impassioned speech from District Chairman Lazaro Titus, again, as in previous addresses, emphasized the need for kids to go to school, for parents to allow that, and for the community to support this project. As I mentioned in previous updates, this is a joint venture by Primary Schools For Africa Society and the Karatu District. The celebration ended with our donation of soccer balls and each one of us being “robed” in colourful maasai blankets to induct us into the community.

the head table speeches

The whole affair was an unprecedented and richly rewarding cultural adventure for the visiting Canadians, and for me, it was even more of a treat to listen to their reactions; “emotionally overwhelming”, “unforgettable experience", "a warm beautiful culture”, “such friendliness”, “joyful and colourful beyond expectations”, to describe a few. I previously experienced 8 or 9 of these celebrations, and I was still in awe of the strength of the community spirit in these small struggling villages and their understanding of the importance of education.

It’s impossible to relate the powerful effect of this experience to others back home; one simply has to come here to experience it first-hand. For me, and I’m sure for the others that have visited these schools and villages, it has been a life-changing experience. And after each building is complete I always return to Canada with renewed energy to promote and fund-raise for the next one (or two).   

So this is the start of yet another 8-building school project that we are now committed to completing in a reasonable time frame. The first two-classroom building is complete, the District is in the process of building the remaining two 2-classroom buildings opposite ours, and we are tasked with the funding and construction of the next phase of our responsibility – the Teacher Residences. We hope to start construction of the first Teacher Residence building in November, yes, next month.

Thank you so much to all the supporters who have generously donated funds for this building. The children of Africa bless you. Please continue to support.

End of Update 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

UPDATE - 19 SEPTEMBER 2013 - AYALABE VILLAGE SCHOOL – New Classroom 1, 2 Building

Hi All

Greetings from Africa (Tanzania)

I was greeted with the usual incredible enthusiasm at the Kilimanjaro International Airport by project manager Mathew Sulle and my tour operator friend Claud Goi. The two 10-hour flights seem to be getting a little easier with every visit, so during the 1 hour drive to the lodge, I was able to have some lively discussions about our plans and goals for the upcoming weeks; discussions with the Karatu District officials to plan future projects, final inspections of the school construction, and a recap of Claud’s itinerary hosting our Canadian group arriving in 2 weeks for the school opening celebrations and a safari experience.

After one night’s stay at the Outpost Lodge, Mathew and I headed to Karatu, my temporary home for the next two weeks. This was a new experience for me to be living in the district of the schools, to be enmeshed in their community and a part of the daily routine. I stayed at the Msimbazi Inn in the heart of town, a delightful B&B with tiny, but clean rooms and hot showers.   

At the meeting at the District Chairman’s office we discussed priorities of building at the three village sites; Gongali, Kilimamoja and Ayalabe. I met the District Planning Officer, The District Education Officer a Planning Engineer and of course Lazaro Titus, the District Chairman. The next project for Gongali is the final three classroom building; at Kilimamoja, a Kitchen/Dining Hall. The Ayalabe Village building program has changed. PSFA has just built the first two classrooms, but I was advised that the District now has the ability to cover the costs of the remaining classrooms, and in fact, construction has already started on them. Great!  We are invited now to consider construction of the Teacher Residences as future projects.

New Classrooms 1 and 2
I couldn’t wait to visit the Ayalabe site to inspect the two-classroom building that is nearing completion. It’s always such an eagerly anticipated event to see the first building rise up from what was previously an empty field. This site’s transformation to a level site was even better than expected. Builder Fabian’s increased experience is making for better quality construction with every new project. The tangerine red building looks great. The only remaining work is some paint touch-ups, installation of doors and concrete entrance steps and ramps. I was surprised to see the progress of the District Chairman’s projects; construction of two two-classroom buildings was well underway with the concrete floor slabs almost complete.

Jackson Kim Classroom
Builder Fabian (l) and Mathew
Tara Heuvelman classroom
I spent some time with Fabian describing the design of the steps and ramps to our building. The steep slopes won’t be to Canadian handicap standards but should work fine. This work was not anticipated in his price, so I agreed to reimburse him for it.

The plaques for the two classrooms commemorating the donor, Vancouverite Chongin Im, are installed but they looked oddly askew.
“Fabian, do you have a level to check these plaques?” I asked. He assured me they were meticulously leveled and his level confirmed it.
Concrete floor slab work
the school building nearing completion
“It’s got to be your level then”, I said, since everyone agreed there was a definite slope. I tested the level on a door jamb and the floor and sure enough his old beat-up level was way out.
women mixing the concrete
“Uh-oh” he said, “I will throw away and buy new one. Should we correct?”
“Why don’t we leave it” as I and the group chuckled, “It shows local character.”

The Msimbazi Inn where I stayed for 10 days

The Msimbazi B&B is managed and run by Raphael, a big, extremely likeable and friendly guy who hugs everyone at every opportunity. He does everything; the administration, shopping, cooking, laundry, and maintenance. I enjoy his specialty every morning; coffee, spanish omelette and peanut butter and jam on toast, followed by slices of watermelon and oranges. I accompanied him to the local market for my needed fruit, juice and water supplies. 

The layout of the 40,000 plus town of Karatu is simple; colourful business shops strung out for a kilometer or two along either side of the paved main highway that leads to the safari regions of Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. All other streets that extend several blocks from the main road are clay dirt roads that billow with red dust at every passing vehicle. 
Karatu Town's main street - the only one paved
- the safari traffic route

A typical shop in Karatu
There are such a variety of shops on these internal roads; used clothing, hair salons, dark bars, confectionery, B&B’s, mini-markets, and many one room places selling everything from beer to toilet paper to phone cards. With so much repetition of the same kind of shop, they unfortunately can only eke out an existence. Each morning, shopkeepers diligently wipe away settled dust from exterior racks of goods. And shops with typically tinny music from inexpensive sound systems compete with each other for the attention of passing customers. They are friendly to us “mzungu”s. “Jambo, habari za leo, asubuhi mjema.”

The market in Karatu
I ride my bike every morning for exercise. Oh, the story of my bike….! Ha!. Bear with me for this interesting story. I decided to bring a couple of bikes by plane for use by myself when here and for Mathew’s family and relatives when I’m not. Well it turned out to be an unforgettable challenge as oversized baggage. They are normally checked all the way through to one’s destination as long as all connecting airlines are in partnership, but this was the only time that my itinerary included a stopover in Nairobi where I changed to non-partner Kenya Airways for the last leg to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.

I had 1½ hours to get off the plane, retrieve my baggage, recheck it and go through security to board. I figured no problem. Except did you know that there was a big fire in the Nairobi Airport that virtually closed down all its built facilities and are now replaced with tents? After the plane landed, we were bussed to the tented Kenya Airways departure lounge about a half-kilometer away. How do get my baggage from there? A (very relaxed) agent managed to find a young fellow, Gabriel, to accompany me back to the landing area where offloaded baggage was stored, but we had to wait for an available minibus. When we finally got one, 3/4 hour had passed – leaving only 3/4 hour till departure. To make things even more stressful, when we got to the baggage tent, I had to pass through a security checkpoint at its doorway. The (very officious) officer needed to hold onto my passport while inside. Reluctantly handing it over, I went in with my young friend and managed to spot my bicycle box and suitcase being loaded onto a cart and about to be taken away to another “unclaimed baggage” storage room. 

We quickly loaded them onto a cart and headed back to the checkpoint to retrieve my passport, but the officer was not at his desk. He was some distance away, chatting with a fellow officer. I ran over, he fished it out of his pocket?? (hmmm!) and gave it back. I looked at my watch; 15 minutes till departure and the minibus didn’t wait for us. “We have to run for it”, I shouted, as we bee-lined across the large expanse of tarmac between the two tents, dodging speeding buses and power carts, and stopping a few times to reload the clumsy bike box when it fell off the cart. 8 minutes to departure. Back at the lounge, a female official was calling my name. “Get these bikes on the plane now,” I shouted to Gabriel, as the lady whisked me through security and escorted me onto the waiting plane.

I made it, but the bikes didn’t.

At Kilimanjaro International, I filled out the usual forms and was told to report back in the morning, and when I did, I was thankful to pay the 30,000-shilling bribe to get it through customs.

The moral of the story: it wasn’t worth the $100 saving in airfares for that stop at Nairobi, when I could have flown straight through from Amsterdam with the bikes below me in the belly of the plane the whole way. The good news: I wasn’t charged the $200 for oversized baggage when I checked it at Victoria. (When I mentioned my charity to the agent, she waived the fees).

In a few days, Maureen and our Canadian contingent will be arriving to be part of the school opening celebrations. I’m so looking forward to their reaction to the experience.

End of Update