Making Friends in Stone Town

By: Vanessa Murphy

Vanessa Murphy - Old Fort

Vanessa in Stone Town, Zanzibar

There’s a difference between travelling somewhere and living somewhere. Walking around Stone Town, Zanzibar, it’s very easy to see these differences amongst foreigners. The more I settled in to my life in Stone Town, the more I began to love my time there.

During the summer of 2014, I worked for YCI at their office in Mwanakwerekwe, Zanzibar, teaching a class to young people interested in working for NGOs as part of the Emerging Leaders Program. Stone Town was only a 20 minute dalla dalla ride from where I lived, and my contact point for the rest of the world. Mwanakwerekwe is a bustling market area for locals on the island and a truly authentic Zanzibarian cultural experience. For those times I needed a little more quiet and a break from being the only ‘Mzungu’, I would head into Stone Town to sit by the beach, drink a coffee, or do some shopping.

On my first few visits to Stone Town, I was hassled just like the other foreigners walking into the city. I was asked to ‘just take a look’ in the shops; questioned about what activities I would like to do that day; offered Henna painting and cheap Indian-inspired Ali Baba pants; and challenged with a wide array of Swahili greetings. This meant I was new.

However, the more I ventured into Stone Town, the more Swahili I returned the challenges with, and the more I joked with those approaching me, the faster I began to fit in. Being a ‘White Rasta’ helped me stand out and be remembered of course, but generally relaxing and speaking to people is the fastest way to turn from a money-toting tourist to a Swahili Rafiki.

Vanessa Murphy - Faki at Forodhoni Market

Faki at the Forodhoni Market

Zanzibarians are always looking for a joke, always looking to chat, and love making new friends. This is what makes the island the paradise it is. By the time I left Zanzibar I had friends all over the island, but the ones I had met in Stone Town were an interesting group…

Emmanuel, a young guy in the Old Fort who works selling tourist wares. He first wanted me to buy jewelry but in the end, he took care of my kitten called Moose and made sure he was fed and safe.

Okey Dokey, a fun-loving Rasta with big thick dreads who knew everything going on and every tourist in the area. No matter where I went on the island, he was there.

Big Mama, who first ripped me off by over-charging me for Henna painting, soon became a friendly face around town yelling ‘Vanessa!’ in crowded markets and along the street.

Faki, a past student of YCI’s with the biggest smile in town. He ensured I was well fed at the Forodhoni Night Market where he ran a table selling mountains of sea food, breads, and samosas.

By the time I left Zanzibar, I couldn’t walk into Stone Town without seeing and talking to someone I knew every 10 meters. I was no longer asked to buy things, but instead was asked how my day was. I was no longer offered Henna, but instead offered tea. I was no longer challenged with Swahili, but conversed in it. I was a friend in Stone Town.

Vanessa Murphy - Sun Setting in Stone Town

Sun Setting in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Vanessa Murphy was a YCI Youth Ambassador working in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

To learn more about how you can get involved with YCI’s projects abroad, and to view current opportunities to become a Youth Ambassador, click here.

Hidden Traffic Rules

By: Ting-Yu Wei

To know what the local rules are is critical for a newly arrived traveller. In developing areas, these rules can be unpredictable or implicit. One must learn from experiences. Here is my story.

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“You did not take your passengers to the destination and you charge me for the full amount?!” I stared at the fare collector of the tro-tro and questioned him.

I had been on the bumpy road for hours. This was the third vehicle that I was on. My first taxi was inspected by the police, which dragged the time. The second tro-tro crashed with a taxi and everyone, luckily unharmed, had to wait for another transfer. The fare collector of that tro-tro had returned the full fare to us. Now the third one announced that they were not going forward anymore. This journey should have been a straightforward one and under three hours. I should have been at my destination by this time.

The tro-tro crash

The tro-tro crash

Another passenger took me with him and found another tro-tro going towards our destination. However, the collector of the previous vehicle appeared and demanded the full fare of the ride. I had the fare ready, however I did not think that I should pay him as the tro-tro had failed to get us to the destination. He was busy collecting money, yet firmly blocked me from boarding the next tro-tro. I tried to reason with him, yet he did not respond.

The fourth tro-tro was about to depart. If I missed this one, I would have had no idea how long it would take for the next one to come. Irritated and tired, I handed over the seven cedis to the previous collector and re-stated my previous question; was he still making me pay even though he had not taken his passengers to their destination?

He let me pass. I settled on the seat and turned my stare to him again. The next moment, I found him paying the three-cedi fare to the fare collector of the tro-tro we are on.

I took a deep breath. I misunderstood his behaviour. In this case, I did not have to pay more for this ongoing tro-tro, as I originally suspected. Later on, I confirmed the rule with our local program coordinator. In Ghana, oftentimes, if one tro-tro fails to take the passengers on, they pay another tro-tro with the fare for the remaining journey to send the passengers to their destinations. Yet sometimes, they would return the full fare as the collector of my second tro-tro did after the accident had taken place. Regardless of which action is taken, people take responsibility and do their best to send you to the right place. Honourable people, the Ghanaians.

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It takes time to realize how things are being done locally. There may never be a standard procedure to deal with these incidents. There is always space to learn. Living in a foreign land, we encounter people who behave differently from what we are accustomed to. Any tiny bit of difference in perspective could cause misunderstanding, as both sides perceive things through different lenses. Be respectful, be receptive, be observant and be introspective in these encounters. You will find yourself not only able to connect with the locals you work with, but will also come to see yourself in a truly universal context.
Looking into the world, be wide and open-minded
Ting-Yu Wei is a YCI Youth Ambassador who worked in Ghana in August 2014.

To learn more about YCI’s Ambassador Programs in Ghana, Tanzania and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

From the Field: Adjusting to Life in Takoradi, Ghana

By: Claire Whitty, Jillian Head and Caroline Kent

Experiencing a new culture is very exciting, but it can also be overwhelming at times. Even though we are slowly settling into our surroundings, there are new surprises every day! Everyone in Ghana is exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Our home-stay family is intent on ensuring that we are comfortable and at ease in our new home. However, there are many things in Ghana that are extremely different than in Canada. Consequently, it is vital that we take extra good care of ourselves in order to avoid some of the negative effects of culture shock.

Our first view of Ghana from the plane

Our first view of Ghana from the plane

The food in Ghana is unique in comparison to other areas of the world. Local delicacies include fufu (dough that is dipped into a soup), fried plantain, and red red (a bean dish with fried plantains). The dishes usually contain a staple of rice or beans. Furthermore, the food is generally much spicier than most North Americans are used to. While enjoyable to those who like a little “kick” to their meals, it can be quite shocking to those who are not well-adapted to spicy dishes. Regardless of the spice, however, the meals are delicious. Therefore, the food is definitely going to be easy to get used to!

The sun in Ghana is very strong. Regardless of the time of day, it is constantly hot here. After a summer in Canada that was not particularly warm, the heat here was quite a surprise! We are always drenched in sweat, and finding an air conditioned environment feels like a miracle. We are lucky that water is widely available here, but you have to be careful what brands you purchase. Voltic Water has been a favourite! We are also lucky to be so close to the ocean, as the beautiful view makes the heat worthwhile.

This is where we held our first lunch meeting with the YCI staff. Beautiful view of the ocean, and very productive meeting

This is where we held our first lunch meeting with the YCI staff. Beautiful view of the ocean, and very productive meeting!

Nausea is something that has really hit us hard here. It is difficult to tell whether it is the heat, the water, or the different types of food that is upsetting our stomachs. We are assuming that it is a combination of everything. Additionally, certain types of malaria pills can cause nausea. Since we have arrived in Ghana, we have all experienced some kind of sickness due to the new environment. This was to be expected, though, as it is tricky to get used to any new environment.

Lastly, the difference in sanitary conditions is huge. In Canada, soap and clean water is generally available everywhere. In Ghana, however, tap water is not always available and is never clean enough to drink. Our home-stay, for example, rarely has water flowing out of the taps. We take bucket showers, usually with cold water, which has been difficult to master. We are down to about 4 buckets each, which we consider to be successful!

The view of Takoradi from our home-stay

The view of Takoradi from our home-stay

Overall, Ghana is a wonderful country with lots of assets. You cannot go anywhere without meeting friendly and generous people who want to get to know you. It is just a matter of getting used to a new way of life here. The food, climate and sanitary conditions are very different in comparison to Canada. We are gradually overcoming culture shock and beginning to enjoy the many things that Ghana has to offer. We are just lucky that we have so many supportive Ghanaians here to help us along the way!

There are lots of goats and other animals running loose around the neighbourhood Just another one of the neighbours

There are lots of goats and other animals running loose around the neighbourhood Here is one of our neighbours!

Claire, Caroline and Jillian are Youth Ambassadors currently working with YCI in Takoradi, Ghana.
To learn more about YCI’s ambassador programs in Ghana, Tanzania, and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

Development Projects in Takoradi, Ghana

By: Claire Whitty, Jillian Head and Caroline Kent

Development in Takoradi 2

To date we have been a part of two development projects. We have put on two HIV/AIDS workshops at the YMCA Vocational School. The school caters to girls from disadvantaged homes, offering them a high school level education in a trade of their choice (either catering or sewing). At the same time, the YMCA wants to ensure that they are educated in some basic high school courses like English and basic accounting. As young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, these girls are particularly vulnerable to a rising rate of HIV/AIDS in Takoradi among their cohort. We were able to spend two hours with each group of girls to teach them some basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS facts, transmission, myths, prevention and treatment. By offering an interactive workshop we were able to teach the girls some facts they will hopefully remember and share with family and friends.

Development in Takoradi 1Currently, Ghana is facing a cholera outbreak. This outbreak is fueled by an unsanitary water system and poor hygiene practices. The Ghana Education Service (GES) in collaboration with the YMCA and YCI put on a workshop for School Health and Education Program (SHEP) Coordinators. The purpose of the workshop was to deliver information about cholera and Ebola, while also teaching the SHEP Coordinators how to implement Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) practices in their schools to decrease the rate of transmission of any illnesses passed through water or air among children and teachers in schools. Our role was to give a brief information session about basic project management skills, including how to get funding for programs. The aim of our session was to encourage teachers to implement health and sanitation programs in their schools even if they think they need outside help and resources. Our goal was to give them the information and skills they need to design and implement a successful project or program.

Development in Takoradi 3In the coming week we will facilitate three workshops on environmental sustainability in schools in the community. These workshops will teach the students about the negative effects of poor environmental practices in their communities – such as excessive littering or open defecation. In the second half of the workshops we will do a neighbourhood clean-up with the students. We hope to encourage them to stop littering and to use sustainable environmental practices while also helping to clean up some neighbourhoods around Takoradi and Sekondi.

Claire, Caroline and Jillian are Youth Ambassadors currently working with YCI in Takoradi, Ghana.

To learn more about YCI’s ambassador programs in Ghana, Tanzania, and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

Third Time’s the Charm: Tanzania 2014

My name is Danielle and I am back in Africa for my third time but this is my second time in Tanzania with Youth Challenge International. I arrived in July and will be here until March 2015! Once again I am working at the most amazing youth centre, the Umoja Centre, in Arusha. I have many roles at the centre including teacher, dance club instructor, sponsorship coordinator and fundraising innovator!

I have another wonderful group of young adults who are at our centre because they want to further their education and improve their futures but they do not h ave the means to do it on their own. As the sponsorship coordinator and careers teacher it is my responsibility over the next few months to advise our students on their options upon graduation from the centre and to ensure that each student has a sponsor that will be able to support their chosen path.

Danielle and Emoja students

Danielle and Emoja Students

Currently, we have 10 out of 40 students sponsored and able to further their education in January. Unfortunately, without the support of sponsors, our students will not be able to continue their education after graduating even though they have the skills and potential to succeed. I have partnered with a few schools back in Canada who have chosen Umoja to be their development project. Each school will sponsor a student and conduct fundraisers to raise the fees. This will hopefully encourage individual families to also support Umoja and potentially sponsor a student themselves. My current general fundraising campaign are 50/50 draws in the workplace in support of Umoja. Tickets are sold for $2 and at the end of the work week one ticket is drawn from the bunch. Half of the proceeds go to the winning ticket and the other half go to support the Umoja Centre. We hope people will participate because a) they have the potential to win money and b) they are supporting a good cause.

In Careers, students have been identifying their interests, strengths, skills and attributes in order to select a suitable career path. To assist with their search, I have been organizing Careers Days twice a month in which a professional comes to the Umoja Centre to talk to the students about his/her career. In September Adam Bemma, a Canadian journalist from Farm Radio International, came to speak to the students about his work in international journalism. The following week, I took a group of interested students on a field trip to visit Farm Radio and see what Adam does.

Danielle New and Adam Bemma

Danielle and Adam Bemma

Through my connection with Farm Radio I was also able to connect with their mental health program through the Guidance, Counseling and Youth Development Centre for Africa. This organization is trying to raise awareness in secondary schools about youth issues affecting boys and girls in Africa such as mental health problems, HIV & AIDS, adolescent sexual reproductive health, alcohol and drug abuse. Their program will begin at the Umoja Centre in January and provides our centre with a full mental health curriculum, weekly workshops, training for our social worker, peer education training for our students and mental health support services for our staff and students. This program will greatly benefit our students as many of them are from backgrounds of extreme poverty, stress and disadvantage. This program will provide them with the necessary support to succeed and the tools for resiliency.

In October, the Umoja social worker and I will be attending a ‘Woman’s Career Day’ hosted by AfricAid in which successful Tanzanian women share their stories of how they made it in a male dominant work force and the challenges they experienced. We are hoping to meet with some of these women and ask them to come speak to our young girls at the Umoja Centre. The workforce is not a friendly place for many of our young female students and they often deal with issues such as discrimination, transactional sex and overall gender inequality. I hope that hearing some of these women’s stories will inspire them to push through and know that they have people on their side.

Danielle, Pascalina (office manager) and Chuki (social worker)

Danielle, Pascalina (office manager) and Chuki (social worker)

As a final note, I would also like to share a section from my personal blog. One of my early careers classes really impacted me and reminded me why I’m here helping these amazing students.

September 15, 2014: This week in my careers course we were talking about the challenges we all face in achieving our goals. As part of the lesson, I thought it would be a good idea to have the students share their stories with the class and tell us how they arrived at the Umoja Centre. In that class, I heard some of the most inspirational stories and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with these students and hopefully improve their lives. In this post, I thought I would share some of their stories in the hopes that you would want to help improve their lives as well.
The first student, he’s 19. He grew up in an abusive home where his dad beat his mom, siblings, and himself. His mom left and took her children with her. They lived on the streets barely making it by. None of the children went to school because his mother was afraid that the father would find them. This student stopped going to school after grade 3. He lived on the streets for 7 years helping his mom with odd jobs to make a little money. Over the years, he made friends with kids who were in school and would borrow their books so he could try to learn. He heard about Umoja through a family friend. He is now studying in his second year at Umoja because when he arrived last year his education was extremely low. But he is quite motivated and is continuously improving his skills. Next year he plans to continue school to either be a tour guide or an IT technician.

The second student is 23. He grew up in a Masai village and did not attend school. His parents wanted him to stay home and help with the farming. He always wanted to go to school but couldn’t because of his parents and the 4 hour walk to school. At age 11, he was finally old enough to make the journey to school on his own and asked to enroll. The school denied him because they didn’t want an 11 year old starting primary school (grade 1). He persisted for days until the commissioner of that area was contacted and ultimately let him attend school. He studied hard and was at the top of his class. At 17 he was ready to start secondary school – which is grade 8. He worked hard to save his money and convinced his parents to sell a cow to send him to school. His parents agreed but on one condition – if he failed once, that was it. The first 3 years he did well and passed, but in the 4th year he studied hard but failed. That was it for his schooling. He stayed at home for one year, working on the farm while his family tried to set him up with a wife. But he knew that this was not the life for him, he wanted more education. One day, he received a call from a friend who told him about the Umoja Centre. His friend had just finished his year at Umoja and told him that they were having interviews the next day for the class of 2014. He was hours away from Arusha and had no money to get to the city. So he went to the nearest shop in his village and sold his phone to get enough money to make it to Arusha. He made it to the interview and was accepted into Umoja. He is now doing well and plans to pass form 4 (which is in secondary school) and become a doctor.

The third student is 14. He came to Umoja last year to interview to be a student. He failed the interview and did not get in. After that, he sat outside the gate of the school from 8-4 every day waiting and asking to be able to come to school. The teachers kept saying no and told him to go home. However, once the director heard about this stubborn boy sitting outside she knew she had to talk to him. He had so much motivation and determination that she had to let him in. After a while of being at Umoja, the teachers realized that he was a broken kid who was getting severely beaten by his step father. Everyone could see he was a great kid with a lot of potential, but his home life would not allow for him to succeed. The director referred him to live at a local children’s home called House of Happiness where he now lives. He has flourished and become the happy kid everyone knew he could be. He is in his second year at Umoja, since he lied about his age the previous year to get in. He is thriving at school and will go to secondary school in January. His plan is to be a journalist.

These are just three of the stories of the many students that Umoja helps. It is heartbreaking to hear their stories, but they all realize that education is important and they want to succeed. If helping these youth is something you are interested in, please consider visiting the Umoja Centre website www.umoja.com.au or emailing me at sponsorship@umoja.com

Danielle is a Youth Innovator currently working with YCI at the Umoja Centre in Tanzania. To learn more about YCI’s Innovator positions and how to apply, click here!

Work Placement in Paradise

My six-week work placement in paradise (aka Nungwi Zanzibar) had me working from the local office of Labayka! Labayka specializes in environment, social activities, and entrepreneurship. In my first week here, I jumped in with both feet and toured the town and ran interviews to help me understand life here. This was crucial for me to understand environmental issues so that I could re-vamp a presentation on the environment created by a past YCI volunteer. I modified it to make it into a two day workshop for local trainers of trainers. Seeing the town dumping sites and fish markets were definitely highlights as they are so central to the environmental issues in the area.

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I have been really busy in my second and third weeks, running 8 days of workshops for a total of 80 people coming from a variety of Northern Zanzibar villages! This has been an enriching experience for both the participants and me. I put my facilitation skills to use and learned how to work with a translator. It was also interesting working with people from various levels of education and how their learning needs varied greatly. I am hoping to run a follow-up workshop at the request of the participants in my remaining weeks as well as to draft a project proposal for future donors.

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 Megan Firth, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2014 

To read more about YCI’s Innovator programs in Tanzania, click hereTo read more blogs from our volunteers in Tanzania, click here.

 

Home Stay

It’s been three weeks since I landed in paradise (aka Zanzibar)! Even from the beautiful 20 minute puddle-jumper flight, Zanzibar showed-off its beautiful beaches lined with palm trees and people so friendly and welcoming, you feel at home upon arrival. I find myself living in the beautiful northern village of Nungwi for six weeks to run environmental workshops with the community.

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Megan and the puddle jumper

I am living with a local family throughout my stay which is helping me to better understand the daily life of people in the village, their food and of course Swahili. My home stay dad is the only one in the family who speaks English, so he helps me to understand what is happening within the home and how I fit in. While my Moma does not speak much English we communicate with a lot of gestures and plenty of laughs!

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There is always something new for me to experience, whether it is learning how to do laundry by hand for first time (much to the amusement of my Moma, her two friends and the 14 children who watched me learn how to do laundry in my first week). Or getting used to having a family of chickens living in our front room. The children definitely find it very funny that the chickens that accidentally wander into the kitchen while we are eating dinner, are constantly startling me!

I am very thankful to have breakfast and dinner provided to me, carefully made by hand each day. But more importantly the time that my host family spends with me during the meals, often humoring my wide range of questions! They definitely do their best to make me feel welcome and at home.

- Megan Firth, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2014 

To read more about YCI’s Innovator programs in Tanzania, click hereTo read more blogs from our volunteers in Tanzania, click here.