Fitchburg Resident’s Project for Tanzania

06 Nov

Returning to Tanzania for the first time in 15 years was a revelation to Edna Eliamani of Fitchburg. Her home in Dar Es Salaam looked the same but it was now in a more crowded area and there were many more people than in her memory. Most impressive to her was the change in the general demeanor of the people. Fifteen years ago, Eliamani said Tanzanians were known for being very laid back. But on this trip she found her fellow countrymen to be very busy, more like people in the US.

In preparation for her trip, Eliamani thought about what she could do to help out the residents of Tanzania, especially those in remote villages where some of her relatives lived, and where there is a greater need for help of all kinds. She decided to collect as many pencils and pens as she could, knowing how precious those items were to her as a child. Last spring prior to her trip, Eliamini asked Applewild School students to help her with the project by gathering and donating new or gently used writing implements. Eliamani’s two children attend the school. Through the school and other local connections, Eliamani was able to gather over 100 pounds of writing implements. The two large suitcases that contained the items were over the weight limit for the airline.  In an effort to avoid additional baggage charges Eliamani had to convince the supervisor that these were to be donated and that she was not going to sell these items. She pointed out that many of the pencils were “used”.

The writing implements were given out in several places from cities like Dar es Salaam, rural areas, and even to villages of other relatives in Kenya. At a neighborhood church Eliamani her sisters held a program for children in the area, where the pencils were given out at “graduation,” as part of a gift bag of school supplies. In the villages, the two Eliamani children enjoyed passing out pencils to any child they encountered. Each was gratefully and excitedly received.

Recently, Eliamani returned to talk to the students at Applewild to tell them of her trip and how appreciative people were for the many pencils collected by the children. Her two children, Nan’kware, a daughter in fifth grade, and Abdueli, a son in second grade, also shared their experiences with classmates on their first trip to Tanzania. Nan’kware, who speaks fluent Swahili, and her brother were surprised to make so many new friends, both Swahili-speaking youngsters and more surprisingly, English-speaking young people, more common in the cities.

In addition to giving out pens and pencils, Eliamani decided to give away all their clothing from the trip, other than what they needed to get home. This gesture was very much appreciated by the recipients but also became a life-lesson her children, who recognized the need to give to others who had so little.

Abdueli, who is called Kachua, said his fondest memory of the trip was eating sugar cane. He also enjoyed chasing chickens in the village and visiting Ngorongoro Conservation Area where the family saw multitudes of African animals. Kachua highlighted elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebras, lions and gazelles.

Nan’kware also enjoyed the visit to Ngorongoro and both children were fascinated by a bird known as the King of England, because it appears to be wearing a tuxedo. Nan’kware also spoke about the church program that her mother held and about how delighted the children were with their “graduation” gift bag of school supplies, including the pencils brought from Fitchburg. She noted that children in general receive less supervision in Tanzania, where it appeared to her to be a safer environment overall.

Edna Eliamani is already thinking about her next trip to Tanzania and hopes to take more supplies to share with the people in her home country.  Anyone wishing to donate to this project can drop off pencils, pens, notebooks and other school supplies at Applewild School, 120 Prospect St. in Fitchburg on school days between 8 am and 4 pm, or items can be mailed to Eliamani at her 38 Mechanic St. home in Fitchburg.