WHAT AND WHERE
The Arise Community School is located in an impoverished village, Sanya Juu, in the outskirts of Moshi. It is built among fields and consists of a huge playing pitch, an under-construction playground, a kitchen, a standard looking school toilet room, a house for the children staying in overnight and 6 classrooms (with one of them under-construction) – and the most important thing is that the school is built of concrete.
The School started off as a small-scale school back in 2013 consisting of one class of 11 students. The Arise Family has now grown to around 250 students – taking some huge strides! In the meantime, since some children do not have supervision or care back home during most of the day due to their parents working long-hours, Frank decided to start hosting 33 of the children for overnight stay at the Arise Home, next to the school. The children are looked after by a wonderful lady, Lucy in term time, and visit home during holidays(we bought the school a washing machine, using a portion of the money we fundraised, for Lucy to use as she previously spent an average of 5 hours a day washing all the clothes the 33 children in the Arise home) . The school also provides food for all the children attending to ensure that they have at least one proper meal a day.
Children between the ages of 3 and 14 can attend the school which provides pre-primary and primary education to them (children in Tanzania finish primary school when they are 14). Even though in Tanzania primary education is Swahili based and secondary and higher education are English based, the Arise school aims to teach children in both languages in order to enhance their language skills. Each year consists of one class of students and a different teacher responsible to teach the children basic subjects. The students move to the higher level after they pass successfully their current year’s exams.
Whoever knows me well, also knows that I am not the greatest when it comes to handling children. This time, however, I really felt like I was enjoying myself around them.
My first encounter with them was on a Saturday afternoon during the Kidsmaini Fun Club – a Saturday afternoon playing session for all the children of the community. We spent hours and hours playing all sorts of games with them – these kids are pros at sports – I felt a 70 year old woman compared to them! After that, we had a snack and lollipops – I established that sugar drives everyone crazy…universally! During the evening, when we were left with the 33 ‘inmates’ we decided to polish the nails of whoever was up for it – as you would imagine the boys were in the beginning indifferent about it, but to my surprise, a brave one, Daudi, came to me and asked to have his nails done. The following pestering from the others was a great opportunity for me to teach them about stereotypes Vs gender-neutral behaviours – by the end of it I had a bunch of girls AND boys showing off their freshly polished toenails – Win! What a day.
Throughout the following month I was stunned by a couple of things about these children. To start with, they may have nothing, yet they are the HAPPIEST children I have seen. No laptops or internet, no expensive toys or holidays, yet they had smiles extending from one ear to the other. I am in deep thoughts about this age of consumerism we live in and the effects it has on our society – a society starving for money and goods, missing the entire point of life – investing in experiences which pay off better and create memories which last for a lifetime. I guess that the happiness I saw reflects not only how different their perspective on life is from ours, but also that the school must be good to them – it embraces them as a family. There is no chance (based on my experiences from the school) that those children would shine consistently with such joy and happiness if there was the slightest thing going wrong in the school. Anyway, back to my initial point. Another thing I admire about these children is their manners. The Arise Family has done and keeps doing an amazing job in cultivating the children’s behaviour and it does reflect in the fact that I never saw any child bully, mock with mean intentions or isolate another child. The school is inclusive and welcoming: girls play football and that’s OKAY (so different from the mockery I faced over a decade ago when I expressed I did not want to talk about Barbies with the girls and instead wanted to play football with the boys) and boys can get their nails polished without being labelled with awful remarks. The greatest of all was watching girls being a lot of the times the captains in mixed-gender teams – GO GIRLS! As a result of gender equality, there is no segregation. In addition to that, there is also equality in attention received, opportunities and responsibilities.
KIDSMAINI FUN CLUB
Playing is not part of the lives of Tanzanian children. Children are often viewed as a pair of working hands and therefore are most of the time encouraged to work whenever they have the time, something that puts education and playing last on the list of priorities.
Kidsmaini fun club is held every Saturday afternoon at the Arise School with the aim to encourage children to engage in playing activities.
You can imagine the importance of this club particularly to those children who are not part of the Arise School and therefore only get one chance a week – the Kidsmaini Fun Club Day – to be carefree.
FRANK AND SALOME
Frank and Salome are the people behind this. Frank, the founder of the school, is from Sanya Juu and has a degree in project development. When his parents gave him some fields they had next to their house, he decided to use them in a way that the entire community would benefit from them, rather than just use them to satisfy his own interests. On top of that, his parents gave up their house in order to house the 33 children staying there overnight, and they moved to another house – talk about altruism and selflessness!
Despite the fact that children’s parents pay a small fee for their children to attend the school, none of it is used by Frank. The school does not receive yet any financial support from the government, and therefore, any money collected goes towards the running expenses of the school (electricity and water bills), expanding the building (thery were building new classrooms and a playground when I was there), and paying for the children’s food and the teacher’s salaries. Frank therefore, has to work a second job to support his family – he in charge of his own building team, undertaking different construction jobs.
His wife, Salome, works full time at the school and his children are all students at the school.
I was impressed by both Frank’s and Salome’s hospitality and the love and care they put into the school, and I was very inclined to learn from their actions. I think the most significant messages they passed on to me throughout the month we visited the school were –
- Altruism – doing good without expecting anything in return makes you a happy and content person.
- Take initiatives – despite how impossible it was for Frank to achieve what he achieved taking in consideration the circumstances, he believed in himself and the good of the people and managed to create something extraordinary.
- Invest in education – I mean we all hear all the time that investing in education is perhaps the best way you can spend your money, nevertheless, I never really grasped the idea until I visited the school and realised that the education it provided to its children would be a game changer in their lives and perhaps the only means through which change forward could be brought in their community.
Frank, Frank and Salome, and Frank’s Parents.
Some of the money we collected went to buying Lucy a washing machine and building playground equipment and new classrooms.
For more information on how to sponsor a child please contact Sue and Ron Hayes (ACE Charity)