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School to visit near Arusha

London, United...
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School to visit near Arusha

Following some PM's asking about the school that I spent some time visiting on my recent trip to Tanzania, I have written up some information about the project and its founder in case it's of any interest to future visitors.

The Voice School Trust (TVST) is a new school in the Usa River area (Arusha region). It was founded in early 2013 by Daniel (I will keep his surname private), who was previously a director at another local school.

In my (limited) experience of Tanzanian schools, I found that most schools were fee-paying, state or charity-run. Daniel’s ambition was to set up a school that could sustainably be run as a business but that could be used for the good of the wider community. It’s a tough ask. Specifically, Daniel is passionate about opportunities for women in Tanzania (he studied gender studies in the UK) as well as about the protection and integration of albinos into Tanzanian society. For those that are unaware of the problems and danger faced by albinos in Tanzanian society (as well as in other countries around Africa), a simple Google search reveals a lot.

Currently, there are only 4 schools known to accept albino students in Tanzania. One of those (where Daniel used to be a director) is struggling and may be facing closure in the not too distant future. Another is TVST – currently 4 of the 60 students there are albinos paid for by Daniel personally.

Daniel started from modest beginnings and was late to go to school. His achievements blow my mind and his vision and desire to do good humble me. He has built a team of compassionate, bright and motivated individuals, wholly committed to the cause. With limited resources, Daniel has moved the female students into his own home (he has a small separate building next to his main house) until he can afford to build dormitories. He has links with a local orphanage, from which two students will be joining in the new year. I think we could all learn something from his efforts to do his part to build a society in which no one is marginalised, everyone has opportunities regardless of background and where people are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Before I first visited Tanzania, I desperately wanted to find a good cause to support. The problem that I came across time and again was that it was impossible to directly trace what was happening to my money; where it was going, who was benefitting from it. Was money even the best thing to be contributing? Since meeting Daniel, I’m confident that I’ve found as good a cause as anyone could hope to find to support. As I settle back into my everyday life, a bit of my mind and a lot of my heart remains with Daniel, his wife and three young girls. With a career in finance, I am well-placed to assess whether this project is likely to succeed or not. I spent a lot of time on this trip going through line by line with Daniel the relevant numbers for the running of the school as well as the investment required over a long period of time to make his dream a reality. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible.

I am helping TVST in every way that I can. If anyone would like more information about the school or would like to visit, please feel free to contact me.

Findlay, Ohio
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1. Re: School to visit near Arusha

I am on the board of a secondary school in Tanzania, and i know of many schools which accept openly Albinos, male and female. The problem in Tz with Albinos is not in their acceptance in anything (they are everywhere, in parliament, in business, some will own businesses, etc.) it is with some of the traditional thinking. There are some of the tribes which believe that they have special powers and if they use medicines from them they will be cured of most anything. Thus, there are some who will kill them and hack off their body parts for sale to these "medicine" people.

There are more urban legends in Tanzania (and Africa for that matter) than there are acacia trees.

London, United...
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2. Re: School to visit near Arusha

Interesting - thanks Karl. Speaking to some of the albino students attending school in Usa River was really interesting for me. They all have fascinating (and often very sad) stories to tell. Often they are cast out of their local communities, disowned by one or both parents. It's common for the fathers to believe that a woman giving birth to an albino indicates that she has had an affair with a white man. Having an albino in the family is seen as a source of shame and at least half a dozen I spoke to had fled with their mother (and sometimes siblings). I bow to your superior knowledge of schools in the country - from what the students were saying, they were not welcome at their local schools and had to move closer to a large city to find a place they could go. But this may be for reasons other than schools actively refusing to take them. I stand corrected on the number of schools accepting albinos - perhaps this figure was meant to refer to those providing support rather than just accepting; either that or something has been lost in translation!

Bristol
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3. Re: School to visit near Arusha

We visited a school in Arusha with our safari guide. It was the school his daughter attended and she had an albino little boy in her class. There was no mention of there being a problem accepting albino children into their school or any other. Infact that there was no mention of him being albino at all. He was treated exactly the same as any other child in the class. So I'm not sure if this is correct that there are only 4 schools in Tanzania that accept albinos.

I agree it is difficult to sometimes to find a good cause to support. As regulars on here know we support a social enterprise in Moshi. We have visited them on several occasions and spent 5 weeks with them this April so are confident that our money is being used as we intended and is benefitting many in the local community.

Good luck with supporting this project. I hope you find it as rewarding as we have found supporting our chosen organisation.

Findlay, Ohio
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4. Re: School to visit near Arusha

There are about 80,000 registered albinos living in Tanzania. Thus, they are in more than 4 schools, they are in many. I am constantly buying sunglasses for them when I'm there. They always need to have two things, a broad brimmed hat or cap to protect their eyes and sunglasses for the same reason. Their skin needs to be protected from the sun also so they should always have clothing to protect their skin. You will see their skin dried out quite a bit and they should have some oils to put on their skin, and their lips are typically severely dried so if you want to help get them some lip medications. I am always startled when I visit the Ocean Road Cancer hospital in Dar, there are always many young albino children there for treatment of skin cancers.

Their eyes do not have a proper iris thus they get a lot of light into their eyes, especially when they are outside. And this causes them to see things blurry. And a reason why some will not do well in school if the teacher does not know how to work with an albino (and there are taboos to associating with an albino, so many don't know how to react to them).

Albinos have a tough life and sometimes a short life. However, some excel in their studies and school; these are those who typically have gotten over the low self esteem which comes when you are different. It is rather common to see albinos, especially in the rural areas. When you happen upon them and want to help them, get them sunglasses and broad brimmed caps.

Bristol
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5. Re: School to visit near Arusha

Thanks for the information on albinos Karl. The little boy we saw at Barbra School seemed very happy and seemed to be mixing well with the other children. Let's he he does ok.

I think eye care is something that many Tanzanians often need but can't afford. In the last year we have paid for eye tests and glasses for one student at ACTT and also for the work experience lad that we support there. Both were having problems with headaches and feeling unwell and both suspected they had problems with their eyes (especially noticeable being at ACTT and working with computers). However neither could afford an eye test let alone the glasses. For about £20 ($30) we paid for the eye test and prescription glasses for each of them. Both were exceedingly grateful and both say the problems are completely resolved and they are having no further problems.

So helping with the costs of eye care is something that is within the means of most visitors to Tanzania and can make a real difference to the lives of those individuals you help.

Edited: 07 November 2013, 19:14
melbourne
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6. Re: School to visit near Arusha

Just a quick observation...the small government rural schools I visit would always have albino children in them if they were in fact living in that community.

Findlay, Ohio
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7. Re: School to visit near Arusha

Shepard... I don't know if you are aware of this but Moshi has the only School of Optrometry in all of Central Africa. It is located behind the KCMC (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre) hospital in Moshi. A rather small school, but doing great work. They will test people there and provide glasses. Also the KCMC hospital has an eye clinic.

Honolulu, Hawaii
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8. Re: School to visit near Arusha

Icb47 thank you for letting us know about the school that Daniel is running in the Arusha area. Sounds like a worthwhile project. Don't think you meant it to turn into post about albinos, whom like all handicapped people have a hard time in Tanzania. The missionary couple I know in Arusha are bringing in a container of wheelchairs from US to distribute.

Karl talking about glasses. I was wondering if there is a need for used prescription glasses?

Findlay, Ohio
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9. Re: School to visit near Arusha

You are better off giving prescription glasses to either a Lions Club or if there is a VOSH chapter (Volunteer Optometrists Serving Humanity) near you that might be better. We have a VOSH cleaning and sorting center near to me and that's where I typically take my used glasses. Most Lions will take them there also. At these centers they clean the lenses, sort them as to the kind of lenses, and take them to clinics which offer glasses to those who can't afford them.

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: School to visit near Arusha

Here, pretty much every storefront glasses company - and my optometrist - take your old prescription glasses and distribute appropriately.

I would not take Rx glasses to Tanzania, but I did stock up on simple reading glasses even from the dollar store. I know the teachers appreciated them as did my driver. It at least tides them over until they can get Rx glasses.