Ten days in Nkokoto, Vumilia and Urambo
Mary John – one of the students we sponsored and has now qualified as a student teacher
Returning to Nkokoto puts my life truly into perspective. A visit to our friends in Nkokoto is always a humbling experience. No matter what we read and hear about life in Nkokoto village, the reality of the poverty and the struggle that faces so many of the villagers hits you hard when you arrive. After leaving the comfort of my home here in Woodchester and travelling for 28 hours via Cairo, Dar es Salaam and Tabora, you could be on a different planet, not just 6000 miles away in East Africa.
Not a lot has changed in Nkokoto but there are two main developments. Firstly, there is now electricity supplied from the national grid to the village. None of the villagers have connected to the supply – they have no means of paying for it. There is one bulb in the village meeting room, and the school has one bulb in each classroom. The clinic is also connected. Secondly, there are now two boreholes, the second one which was completed 18 months ago, and both funded by the Link. I tasted the water pumped up from both boreholes and it was clean, fresh and warm, a wonderful improvement for the villagers now not having to rely on unpredictable and far from clean water from wells.
I had meetings with the village elders and village committee, the school teachers and held a meeting with the villagers. All meetings are formal affairs with welcomes, words of introduction and appreciation followed by general discussion on the difficulties faced by the people of Nkokoto and suggestions from them for help and support. In every case, water is still their greatest problem. It is available but of course Nkokoto is a large village with 4,000 people and the homes are very spread out over an area of probably (my estimate) 6 square kilometres, so the women and girls still have to carry their water considerable distances. Our discussions covered ideas for getting the water nearer to the centre of the village (mainly by means of a pump, with pipes to a central tank.) My list that I brought away from the meetings covered a great range of needs including more solar powered lights, books and equipment for the school; support for widows and orphans of the village (for help with buying school uniforms for the children and food for themselves, family and grandparents who live with them;) new teachers’ houses; a brick built all weather market for the women to have a village base for selling their produce and an extension of the micro-finance scheme that has been a great success for 20 or more of the villagers. All these plus some others requested are possible projects for the Link Committee to consider as future projects, using local labour, materials sourced in or near Nkokoto and overseen by Stima our local representative.
Visits during the ten days also included two days in Vumilia, the link town with Nailsworth, a visit to the FDC to meet and discuss matters with the Principal, meetings with the Urambo District Commissioner, the District Executive Officer, the Director of Education, Heads of secondary and primary education departments, meeting the students we sponsor at the secondary school, Stima’s Iman at the Urambo mosque, Stima’s wife and family and a great number of people in Urambo who have been responsible for supplying the goods and materials that the Link has purchased (such as books for school, uniforms, solar powered lamps, bicycles, etc.) We wore out quite a substantial amount of shoe leather that day!
The welcome, smiles and friendship that this Musungu received (Musungu – Swahili for White Man) was overwhelming. Children followed me everywhere wanting to touch and have their photograph taken, then bursting out with squeals of laughter when they were shown it on the LCD monitor on the camera. Being the only white man in the town of Urambo can be a little off-putting but you get used to the turned heads and stares! At no time did I feel unsafe or vulnerable, just a bit of a feature! Stima, Issa (his assistant who lives in Nkokoto) and Augustine (the Nailsworth – Vumilia Link local representative) bent over backwards to facilitate everything I needed to know and wanted to see. They are invaluable to both Links.
The next Gerry Robins traditional "Murder Mystery Evening" in aid of the Minchinhampton Nkokoto Link will be on February 23rd/24th 2018, not to be confused with the forthcoming ~Drama Group production of "Murdered to Death."