Another busy week in Tanzania!

  I’m still waiting to compile all of the reactions from our St. Joseph friends so in the meantime I thought I would share a little bit of what has been happening around the school as we prepare to close for the end of our second trimester (we reopen full time in September after the harvesting season).  It’s sometimes hard to explain where my day went and how the whole day was spent.  I tell people all the time I am very busy and many of the visitors comment that they didn’t know how much I would be doing all the time, but truthfully it’s still hard to recount all my days.  Just tonight while attempting to write this blog I spent an hour talking with a priest and a and then had a surprise visit from some Irish teachers who I know from 2 previous stays stop by the guest house for the grand tour and to schedule a day to visit the school!  I guess the best way to see how the days are spent is through the progress over the past week.

First off I know many friends are going to be excited to see, the roof of the two classrooms built by our guests from St. Joseph are already going up now!  They will then be closing it off this week with the iron sheet roof, painting it and getting the classrooms ready for the next term starting in September!  That means I can reopen the library and use all the new books that have been donated.  We received many books from St. Joseph school, friends of the foundation and even a former St. Joseph student of mine Isabella!  Isabella decided to not have any presents for her birthday and instead asked for books for the children in Tanzania.  It’s always inspiring when we can follow the example of an 8 year old child! 

As far as those books go…we are already using them again!  Even though our library is not able to function, I just cannot stand not using books.  The teachers in Tanzania are simply are not trained in how to utilize books outside of the government textbooks, so we have to learn toghether.  Also our library/storage/staff room it made them very difficult to even see what we have available.  But just today I had a lesson with a read aloud and had the children reading with partners and individually.  Now everyday I get to hear the children ask “are we going to read story books?” which is basically any elementary school teacher’s dream!  It takes a lot of training to use story books here because the children have so few possessions themselves it is a bit of a struggle to teach sharing books. One great thing we overlook is how blessed we are with possessions, most notably books that we could never imagine fighting just to hold one book because it had a picture we really liked.  With each lesson we will move closer to understanding that these books are “ours together” and for once they don’t have to fight to keep something close that they care about.
Last week I made the rather unhappy discovery that our children in P2 had been learning all year without English, Science, Math and other textbooks.  Also we were still missing all of the teacher’s manuals in P2 and P3 for our teachers.  Our teachers at our school have been working with only a blackboard and roughly 5 books per subject for a year and a half!  I had thought the order was filled last year when I came, but after that was lost they never seemed to get the books.  Many schools try to teach without the textbooks, but common sense tells you that just because something is normal does not mean it is right.  Not to mention those schools do not have the expectation that we want every child to go to Secondary School and University.  Just because some schools don’t have books does not mean that our school should.  I spent another couple days taking inventory and then going to various shops filling orders in town.  Now thankfully we are looking forward to the books arriving tomorrow so our children and teachers will be able to be successful together.

Another great addition was our brand new bulletin boards!  Something I always personally took for granted was how easy it is to hang something on the wall in America.  My classroom in St. Joseph was constantly rotating student’s work, themed units and fun art projects.  Here we cannot do anything easily, our classroom are fairly barren except for the vocabulary cards I made a previous time in Tanzania and the few teaching aids painted on the walls in the back of the room.  We were finally granted the “luxury” item of bulletin boards which we will be putting to great use after examinations.  Some friends and relatives of the Taylor family worked for days to create word walls and other teaching aids we are posting after examinations.  Even now as I write Becky Reilly and Amy Varney are still here and have been thinking of and creating every teaching aide we possibly can.  Luckily Becky has worked a lot with the children over this last month and has a great understanding of areas we need to strengthen.  Also Amy is an incredible artist so she has been working hard.  We have also commissioned her to create our school patch/logo that will hopefully be printed on our school polos and t shirts for our students!  Mama Lucy chose her favorite one today, so hopefully one day soon we will all be proudly displaying our new school patch on our chest.

All of this has been accomplished in the past week and every step is an adventure.  I realize many people have never had the experience of traveling to Tanzania to experience it’s many differences so I thought it would be good to share one of the many cultural differences so everyone can understand a bit more about Tanzania.  In order to put up our bulletin boards I had to hire someone to complete the job.  This lead to negotiations, arguments over prices, adding together seemingly random numbers on paper all to arrive at a price of about $30 for 3 days work and wood for hanging the boards.  Which then lead to me really paying him about $35 because the wood was more expensive than anticipated.  I realize how second nature it is for me now, but one shocking thing for people when they come from America to Tanzania is that it is a cash culture.  You cannot use your credit card, anywhere except an ATM.  You are always paying cash, and on top of that hardly anything has a price.  Every single thing from a banana to your daily pay for a job is a negotiation.  You might go to the market one day and spend $20 on food and the next day spend $30 for the exact same thing! 
Thank you everyone for continuing to read and sharing the work being done for these children.  There is so much for us to be proud of, so I just want to thank you all.  Every donation helps these children and provides them with a greater opportunity to succeed.  Also thank you for being patient with my posts, I promise to get this down eventually!  One final thank you to all of those of you reading and especially those of you commenting on my blog and sending encouraging emails, you all keep me working hard and staying inspired!


  1. Hi Terry. Thanks for your hard work making sure all of the Stella Maris visitors had a great experience! I really enjoy your posts and the beautiful photos and can't wait to get back there in October. I hope you will have a list of items I can bring over with me.

  2. Mambo Susanne? It is always fun to be the one that gets to see the children everyday and see all the guests so it's my pleasure! Thanks for the compliment though, admittedly most of the pictures are still captured by the children. I am sure you already assumed I couldn't take such perfect pictures though :) I will have your room all ready for you and start to prepare the children for your arrival!