Every now and then, something happens here in Tanzania which makes me stop for a minute and realize how fortunate I am and how easy life is and has been for me.
One of those moments happened during the Isamilo International School in Mwanza Saturday School Christmas party.
Halfway through my second teaching session, a little girl came running into my classroom, nearly in tears. But because I don’t speak Swahili (I teach them English and Art), I couldn’t understand why she was sad.
So, I asked one of the year 10 student classroom helpers to translate.
He explained that she was upset because she had lost her money, and that she had left it in my art room during my snowflake and Christmas card making session. But now it was gone. I asked how much she had lost, assuming it would be a small amount of money, maybe a 500 or 1000 Tanzania Shilling note (about 15p or 30p). She said 100 Tsh, which is approximately 3p or 2 cents. I looked down at her and she was now crying.
And so I had one of those putting everything into perspective moments.
I will paint a fuller picture for you.
The students who attend Saturday School are under privileged children from the Mwanza community, many of whom have lost either one or both parents to AIDS. And although they do attend local schools, many are in classes with 70 other students and children are regularly beaten if they get answers wrong.
So they come along every Saturday to enjoy the facilities at Isamilo School, a fee paying school, including English lessons, swimming sessions, football, ICT, art and music, thanks to teachers and students who volunteer their services and free time.
And this little girl was in such a state about 3 pence – 3 pence… crying over 3 pence. I’ve dropped i-phones before now, and smashed the screen, and was close to tears when I found out it would be £70 to fix. Blown £50 on a night out. I’ve spent £80 on a pair of shoes. I buy Chanel No 5 (and at this moment in time, I can’t even type the amount because I feel so guilty).
I found two 50 Tsh coins in the bottom of a draw and gave her the money and watched her as she skipped off, beaming, heading back to her swimming session.
This was the final Saturday School of the year when we have a Christmas party and in addition to the activities offered by staff and students, the children are also given some food and a present.
The present this year, bought using money raised by various charity events organized by Isamilo International School, was a solar lamp for each family who attend the programme. Many of the children do not have electricity in their homes and so this light will most certainly carry a ray of hope for the families.
So as I get myself and my family ready for Christmas; shopping like a nutter, wrapping too many presents, listening to silly music, cooking oodles of fancy food, over indulging – I remember that little girl and her 3p and her face when she received her solar lamp and pause for a while to count my blessings.