I travelled to Ughandi B village Tanzania in September 2003 a drought year. Most of the villagers were unsure of me because I was the first white person they’d seen, my every move was followed with fear and excitement. I was visiting the Ng’eni family whose son Abraham I’d met in 2002 when he was in the UK on a Christian youth worker course. Abraham invited me to travel back to Tanzania with him when his course was finished. I was overwhelmed by the greeting from his family when we reached Dar es Salaam airport, his mother came from the village to meet us.
Ughandi B lies in Singida Region Central Tanzania, it has no modern conveniences like electricity, water or flushable toilets. Journeying to the village was quite an adventure mainly because of road conditions and buses driven by maniacs. The final 15-20 miles we had to hire a vehicle with driver. Although we set off from Singida town the main town of that region early in the day, we broke down twice and ended up spending hours in sweltering heat changing wheels and finding bolts to fix our vehicle. Most of our journey was spent in ruts driving at a 45% angle trying to avoid protruding rocks and large trucks which sent out huge plumes of dust as they passed.
The last few miles we drove across open land until we reached Ughandi B and the Ng’eni family home. Many villagers had heard of my coming and were there to meet me. They looked on me as some kind of saviour and treated me like a VIP. The elders squeezed inside the small farm house and although they couldn’t understand my language they didn’t want to miss a thing, they watched intently as I drank their boiled tea.
Every move I made sent the village children running away from the door where they felt safe to observe me.
Abraham’s father then gave me a brief tour of his land and I was able to see where the maize and other crops had failed that year leaving villagers starving.
My Journey pt 2.
They were also suffering water born diseases from dirty water holes shared by cattle which had trampled through their crop of sugar cane. I was taken to the ‘garden’ an area close to the river bed and shown a hand dug well where water would later be carried to the house to prepare a meal for me.
Touring the village I felt very much like the pied piper of Hamlin, gathering more children as I went. If I stopped walking they stopped too. If I turned my camera on them they shouted picha picha.
Suddenly out of nowhere arrived one of the elders with a key to what was the equivalent of our town halls. I was ushered into this small brick built room to sign the visitors’ book, it felt like a very big privilege indeed.
I was then taken back to the house where the women were preparing our meal under a tree.
My Journey pt 3.
We ate a meal of Ugali made with maize flour, rice which is something only used on special occasions due to the cost, beans and one of the farm chickens which had very little flesh on it.
The house is brick built covered in white wash with a galvanize roof. Inside the rooms are small and dark even at midday with no lighting. The same small water hole has to provide water for cooking, washing, bathing and cleaning. Little wonder Abraham had told me as a child he only washed the parts of his body that were visible. They rely on the short rains of November and December and the longer rains of March to May for watering crops.
Their toilet is a pit latrine surrounded by sheets of galvanize with no roof, no privacy and nowhere to wash your hands. As a child Abraham suffered bouts of diarrhoea and it’s easy to see in these conditions how it can spell death to the weak.
To spend time with these people is humbling because their hospitality is astounding when you think how little they have especially in this time of famine. Everywhere I traveled the family made me welcome, fed and cared for. As we drove away from the village I knew I had to come back.
My Journey pt 4.
In 2003 I visited Water Aids’ office in the capital city Dodoma to study where they were currently working. Maps showed they were half way through a three year program for Singida Region but unfortunately this only included Singida Municipal area with no plans to move into the rural area which Ughandi B came under.
Nine months later I was back in Tanzania this time with my husband Richard visiting all the family members. I can recommend traveling on public transport to sample their way of life. Long journeys of ten or twelve hours on bumpy dusty roads with your head hitting the roof of the bus, sharing it with three times the amount of people it should carry plus bags of rice, live chickens and anything else they pick up along the way. Oh yes and slow trains which drop you in the middle of nowhere. We reached Ughandi B in July hoping to see an improvement in the situation, luckily the rains had come and crops were being harvested
My Journey pt 5.
Even with the rain families were still digging deep into the river bed for water.
Abraham’s youngest sister fetching water in a bucket which is the equivalent of carrying a full suitcase on your head.
We handed out sweets, balls and bubbles to the children who were much happier in my presence than they had been a few months earlier.
My Journey pt 6.
Money raised at home was presented to the family and local primary school. And once again we were invited to write our names in the visitors’ book.
Finally we had to leave them all behind, a sea of happy faces.
On returning home we kept in touch with Water Aid and SEMA a local NGO that I’d learned of on my first trip. Water Aid concluded their work in Singida Municipal District in spring 2005 and began its feasibility study on the rest of the region. Having not heard anything for several months we decided to launch the Ughandi B Water Project in August 2005. We hope to raise £12,000 to establish two boreholes and pumps in the village and provide training for two people to maintain the wells. Since then we have found out that Water Aid will be working in Iramba District which is the area adjacent to Singida Rural.
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Thank you to every one who is has helped us so far. We ask for your continued support as we carry on our work in this village community.
Bryony and Richard Loader
Ughandi B Village Project.