Jambo from Arusha!
My name is Zoe Rae Rote, and I am this year’s TFFT Summer Field Intern. I will be spending nine weeks in Arusha, working with TFFT and tutoring at Usa River Academy. Although today is only my fifth day, I love Arusha and the TFFT team already!
The highlight of the last few days has been meeting the incredible children with whom I will be working. On Tuesday, I visited Usa River Academy, and the children were unbelievably energetic and welcoming. I practiced my elementary Swahili with the children (even though all of them are fluent in English as well as Swahili, and learning French). I had my first big language gaffe when trying to ask if a student was ten years old. Instead, I said something that prompted giggles from the mob of children around me. The great thing about practicing a language with children is that if you make a mistake, they will laugh at you and then teach you how to say it properly. Thank goodness the Scholars corrected me!
One of the students, Veronica, acted as my tour guide and introduced me to other students while showing me around. I was amazed to see the dormitories, and how little the children have. Most of them are orphans, so their lives are centered around the boarding school. Yet, each child is so full of joy and life and hope. In the words of a good friend of mine, “Happiness is a choice.”
Mary Hill Brooks, a high school senior from Charlotte, arrived on Tuesday for three weeks in Tanzania. She will be staying and working at Matonyok, which is a children’s home and school for orphans. Yesterday, we visited Matonyok (and dropped Mary Hill off), and I was absolutely amazed by the place. It is incredibly peaceful, with Mt. Meru in the distance and the Maasailand countryside surrounding the grounds. Mama Emi and her husband began taking in children, and they now have 37 who live at Matonyok. I bonded with an adorable almost-four year old named Jifti. Mama Emi told me that she took in Jifti when the baby was 29 days old. Her mother died two hours after childbirth, after a C-section gone-wrong, malaria, a very high fever, and an overdose in the IV. Jifti’s father visits once a year, but is not a significant part of Jifti’s life. The adorable little girl only speaks Maasai and Swahili, so in an attempt to communicate, I kept saying, “Mambo, Jifti rafiki yangu,” which means “Hello, Jifti my friend.” My mzungu accent elicited smiles from Jifti and giggles from the other children.
I hope to spend more time with Jifti and the other students at Matonyok, assisting with the Baby Class (i.e. preschool). In addition, next week I will begin tutoring some of the TFFT scholars at Usa River Academy in English literacy. I am very excited, and I hope to learn even more about the Tanzanian school system and the background stories of these amazing children. Until then, kwa heri! (Goodbye!)