Community Events: Zanzibar

Hi, my name is Ben Bloomfield and I am a volunteer with YCI in Zanzibar for the June-August project.  This past Friday our group conducted a joint health outreach section with our partner Social Economic Development Organization(SEDO) in the Chumbuni community.  We have been working with SEDO for the past month on planning and executing a series of workshops and outreach events to build the organizational capacity of SEDO and to help improve the quality of the environment in the area.  The event on July 8 was the first event we have conducted in the Chumbuni area to directly impact the community.

YCI facilitated SEDO’s involvement in the planning of the activity to maximize their contributions and ideas in order to make the process a learning experience for the organization.  Sitting down with the group to map out the planning process took a lot of time, mainly due to the necessary translations of each step and idea for the event.  SEDO had a very traditional layout in mind for the event in which an audience of secondary students would sit and listen to a series of presentations around health and hygiene, whereas YCI saw the event as an opportunity to directly engage the community in a series of interactive events to improve community knowledge.  A compromise was reached after some discussion and we settled on an approach that would include both perspectives.

The YCI Team

On the day of the event our group put the final touches on our presentation materials.  This process was a lot of fun and took us back to our arts and crafts days at camp.  We made a large poster of what could pollute a community, several water bottle devices to kill flies and pour water, a hand painting and washing activity, and a storyboard of the oral-fecal cycle.  After getting our materials together we piled into the van and headed off to Chumbuni.

At Chumbuni we made camp in the office of the school’s principal and waited for the school day to finish.  It was pretty fun to see the students peering out the windows of their classrooms with curiosity at what the wa-zungus were up to at their school.  Once class let out, chaos erupted.  There must have been over a thousand kids running around happy at the end of class and revved up to see what YCI had in store for them.  We went up to a courtyard at the center of the school to begin setting up our events.  This process was a little hectic because instead of the audience of 70 students we were expected over 600 showed up.  The group took the change in stride and quickly figured out how to scale up our demonstrations.  After the students filed in and took their seats the MC gave a brief overview of what the event was going to consist of and made a series of introductions.   After that a local drama group gave a presentation on the perils of environmental degradation and the importance of hygienic practices including hand washing.  The drama group was animated and was followed by a young female community member who sang about the environment who was, in turn, followed by a lecture from a Zanzibari health professional about hygiene.

The drama group performing a skit about the importance of sanitation

The crowd began to get antsy right in time for YCI to spring into action with our fun interactive activities.  We split up into 5 individual areas with the assistance of local volunteers to translate and help facilitate the activities.  The kids at the event were extremely enthusiastic about our approach and quickly began to help teach their peers the basics of our programming.  It was a little bit difficult to move the crowds to the different stations due to their size and the general anarchy about the event at this point.  Our partner organizations were very interested but a little bit dubious of the nature of our programming.  We explained that frequently children learn best while doing, and that the interactive nature of our educational programming might help to really have the information stick in the heads of the kids.

A series of interviews and surveys of the participants who were leaving the event showed that most attendees learned new information bout how to wash their hands and when to do so.  The partners were pleased with the event because it raised their prominence in the community and gave them some exposure to ministry officials.  Our team was very happy with the event  as well because it gave us an opportunity to directly go into the community and interact with youth.  We also feel like we made a contribution to the general welfare of Chumbuni.  We are looking forward to conducting more events in Chumbuni improving SEDO’s ability to organize and execute effective health programming.

– Ben Bloomfield, YCI Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011

For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category.

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