This week’s blog was written by Brian Fitzpatrick. Brian is a participant on our Insight programme this year. He is graduate of Community Sports Leadership in DkIT and just started his new role as DkIT Student Union President.
For me Insight 2013 looked like it wouldn’t happen due to other commitments. However after speaking with Bobby McCormack, Development Perspective’s co-founder, I was convinced that even making 2 out of the 3 weeks would be very beneficial, and of course he was right. Having just completed the first 2 weeks of the programme, I feel like I’m leaving Tanzania with a greater understanding of Development and Sustainability, as well as a better appreciation for everything I have in my comfortable life here in Ireland.
Phase 1 of the programme took place in Sonairte, the national ecology centre in Laytown. We had 3 workshops over 3 different weekends where we got together and prepared ourselves for phase 2. This consisted of teambuilding exercises, talks form experts in different fields and smaller workshops on useful topics such as Global Development and Tanzanian Political Structures and some of it’s history. After these were complete we were fully equipped with the knowledge and guidance to make the most of our time in Tanzania during phase 2.
The trip started on the 17th of June when Sarah, Sharon, Wayne and I arrived at Kilimanjaro airport and took a taxi ride to nearby Arusha. With a few days to spare before the start of the programme we decided to go on a 3 night Safari before we started work. Despite the Safari being fascinating (getting to see lions, leopards, elephants and more in their natural habitat), we knew it wasn’t the real African experience as the species we had seen most were Muzungus (white people) riding around in big safari jeeps with expensive cameras.
It was not until the 23rd, the day after we met up with the other DP participants that we experienced real Tanzanian and African life. We packed ourselves into a dala dala (basically a Hiace Van packed with seats and people – the preferred mode of transport) and set off for our new home for the next few weeks 1600 feet above sea level towards the peak of Kilimanjaro near a small town called Mwika. I can safely say it was absolutely nothing like we expected. I personally imagined a vast dusty and dry location but instead we arrived in what looked like one of the greenest places on the planet. Everything was hidden behind different types of trees, plants and bushes. Our house was a lovely small bungalow cement walls and floors throughout. Our beds were thin mattresses on the ground beside what seemed to be an entire colony of ants, our toilet was a hole in the ground and our shower was a bucket of cold water we’d throw over ourselves over the new toilet. At first all this was so daunting. Some of the gang were afraid of bugs, some couldn’t handle the cold water, but we all had to get over it, and we did, as there were more important issues to be dealing with.
For a lot of the DP participants, the greatest part of the experience was meeting new people from completely different cultures and backgrounds. Luckily our programme was partnered up with participants from Uvikuta, a Tanzanian youth organization. So along with the 11 of us from DP we had 8 Tanzanians living with us from Uvikuta. These included two leaders Lawrence and Sam and our cook called Miriam who’s very natural and freshly cooked lunches and dinners were to die for. Living with Tanzanians meant we all engaged in conversation comparing standards of life, sharing ideas, beliefs and stories. After 2 weeks the house that is packed full of interesting and vastly different personalities is still absolutely harmonious and I’m sure that will continue for the final week. `
Outside of the house we connected really well with the local people. For some particular reason, all of us DP participants seemed to breathe a new lease of life up the mountain and went running up and down the muddy slopes basically every day. This definitely broke the ice with the locals as they all found it hilarious to see crazy white people pointlessly running around the place at all hours of the day. The local people were so welcoming. They really appreciated the work we were doing and the interest we had in their sustainable way of living. One person in particular that we tied a bond of friendship with was Mama Lucy who owns a small coffee plantation close to where we were staying. After showing us the entire process of how to make coffee from scratch, she was delighted to hear that some of us were interested in growing our own coffee at home in Ireland.
Mama Lucy Coffee, you heard it here first!
Our work consisted of two sessions each day. Between 9 and 12, Monday to Friday we took part in ‘work camp’. Basically we placed ourselves in the hands of the local community and did what they felt would be most beneficial for them. Some of us taught English in the local primary school (in Tanzanian education, kids learn through the native Swahili language in primary school before making a severe transaction to secondary school which is taught through English). Some of us worked in a tree nursery, filling pots with fresh soil and compost and tapping into one of their inspiring methods of sustainable living. As for the rest of us, we were renovating classrooms in the secondary school. The group of us doing this felt we were the real workers as we had the painful job of sanding cement walls that looked untouched for 50 years. We did this with a limited supply of sandpaper before slapping on many coats of with what seemed to be more water than paint, but in the end the 3 classrooms looked great.
Our afternoon sessions consisted of educational workshops. In the two weeks I was there I learned about Sustainable Living, Global Wealth, Millennium Development Goals and plenty more. We also visited a coffee plantation, local markets and a tree nursery that was also an orphanage. It was work camp that left me with a great sense of accomplishment, but the workshops that left me with a far greater knowledge of the world and life outside of Ireland. I owe that to the great work of our four DP leaders Adele, Ana, Sheila and Colm whose facilitating skills are second to none. After completing both work camp and a workshop, our day would be done. We would have dinner, have the banter with the guys in the house and then go to bed looking forward to a well-deserved sleep.
Insight 2013 for me will go down as the most inspiring few weeks I’ve ever experienced. I was devastated to have to leave Tanzania, especially a week earlier than the rest of the guys. This is because each day I spent there I became more knowledgeable, and more aware of how different life is for people outside of western society. When I landed in Tanzania on the 17th of June it was a massive culture shock. However when I landed back in Dublin on the 8th of July it was more of a culture shock. I was used to being surrounded by people who had nothing but food and shelter but most of all happiness. Now I am back home, where we have so much material wealth, but we’re not happy unless we have more. Insight 2013 has opened my eyes to what the most important things in life are and it has shown me the damage we are doing to our planet by wasting energy and resources. I cannot wait to meet back up with all the fantastic characters I worked with for phase 3 to hear what different things each person took from the programme. I would like to thank all my family and friends who made this happen for me through helping with fundraising. I would also like to thank Bobby McCormack and Development Perspectives for the fantastic programme that develops and empowers individuals to do more for their communities and their planet. This truly was an experience that I’ll never forget. Roll on Insight 2014!!