This blog was originally posted at benjaminintanzania.blogspot.com
When we landed in Morogoro, we took a long taxi ride to our homestay, traveling through Morogoro town and down dirt roads as we headed to our homestaty. We came to the big red gate that has become very familiar to us now, and a smiling young man opened the gate for us and welcomed us in. As our taxi drove through the front gate, Makho simply pointed and said, “That’s Frank, he is a local volunteer with YCI.” Little did I know, I would have the pleasure of meeting and working with an amazing person that has yet to put himself before any other individual.
Our second day here, we found a ripe coconut in our yard and Frank peeled it, cracked it open, and grated the nut out so that we could taste "real tanzanian nazi/coconut"
From the moment we arrived, Frank Kilongola (AKA Frankie or Frank Star) has been a priceless support to us in our time here in Morogoro. From helping us build a bed (so I didn’t have to stay on the floor) to ensuring we had phone credit and his phone number on speed dial, he made sure we had everything we needed to get settled in our new home, lifestyle, environment, community, workplace and country. Sacrificing his time to help us get orientated to Morogoro and life in Tanzania, Frankie took us for a guided tour of the city, providing us with helpful hints and tricks along the way to ensure our health and safety.
Myself and Frank in town running errands for a training session
Frank is the type of person that constantly offers help and aid even when most would not see an opportunity to lend a hand. Casually walking from home to work, he notices you have two bags and he has none, he will politely ask to help and share the task by taking a bag from your hands. This may sound trivial, and even as I type I feel like something is lost transferring my anecdote to page but you get a true sense of how selfless an individual he is. Everyone is equal in his eyes and I have yet to experience anything different.
Frank has been volunteering with YCI for seven months now and still recognizes his commitment by coming in everyday. Not only does he work for us on a volunteer basis but he also commits to a paid job with a local mobile phone company as a sales rep. Working several jobs is nothing new to me as you all know but for a person to commit almost a full work week to help us succeed in our local projects is admirable.
Myself and Frank riding the Daladala. Frankie was laughing about the fact that these mini-buses were definitely no built for people my size.
You get feel of the impact Frank has on people very quickly as you walk through our neighbourhood (KilaKala) or even downtown Morogoro. Every corner you turn, there is another person smiling and yelling “Mambo Frankie.” He smiles at everyone he meets, and quite frankly, all the time. Even when we were at 6500ft above sea level, having climbed for six hours, in 30 degree heat, breathless, Frank was ahead of us smiling and singing to us to keep us motivated to continue. I think this is when Julie finally broke and asked him “do you ever not smile?!” Frankie automatically began to laugh and said “Of course I do…. Maybe once or twice per month?” If we can all learn one thing from this amazing young man is the power and influence a smile can have on your own well being but on others’ as well.
Everyday you hear people complaining about their life or the people in it. We don’t appreciate what we have or the people in our lives as much as we should. How many times a day do we judge people? If we look at the world through Frank’s eyes, I truly believe that he sees everyone as equal. I am not innocent of this and everyday I spend with Frank, I grow and develop by recognizing my negative thoughts, assumptions, and stereotypes. To this day, I have yet to hear Frankie judge another person or complain about anything.
Thinking back to our climb to Bondwa peak, remember when we were maybe a quarter of the way up the mountain (not very far) but we in direct sunlight and it was over 30 degrees Celsius. We were sweating and breathless already. We came across a young boy pushing his bicycle up the dirt road carrying multiple bags of bread and other staples for hi village. Instead of merely walking by, Frank got in right behind him and helped push his bike and supplies to the top of the road without hesitation. That is when I realized I had met someone who was truly noble and selfless.
Frank the Monkey
Even as we continued up the mountain and through the jungle, he knew I really wanted to see monkeys, so he climbed a tree and made the best monkey noises he could. Some people might see this as a goofy childish act but for me it further demonstrated his altruistic personality as he is always keeping others in his thoughts and making sure people around him share in his love of life.
I have only known Frank for four weeks but already I can see he will have a lasting impression on my life and those around him. His kind acts and genuine personality can be a lesson in selflessness for all of us.
Asante Sana Frankie!
– Ben Yurkiw, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011
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