Saturday 2nd November:
(Written by Steph and Katie)
The team travelled from across the UK to meet in London Heathrow to begin the journey to Tanzania. After traveling through Dubai and Dar Es Salaam (where we picked up our Canadian team member), we arrived into the small airport in Mwanza at 9pm on Sunday 3rd. We were greeted at the airport by Pastor Samuel, Elly and Sinéad where we got on the choir bus. On the choir bus we tried to learn the Jambo song, although nobody but Elly knew the lyrics. When we arrived at the Mipa Hotel in Mwanza, we were welcomed with a delicious buffet and WiFi!
Monday 4th November:
(Written by Steph and Katie)
After a lie in we woke up on our first day in Tanzania. Today we were extremely lucky to get a surprise visit on the Jubilee Hope medical vessel which was due to go out on expedition the following day. We were again welcomed by Pastor Samuel alongside the captain and the medical team. The team told us a lot about the amazing work they do and we got a tour around their facilities. We were amazed by the work and the number of patients treated onboard the vessel.
We then had our in-country orientation at the Talapia Hotel where a lot of the team tried the local fish, Talapia. During our orientation we learned some more Swahili, particularly greetings as we will need this on our first day on site. We began the journey to Sengerema which involved a beautiful ferry crossing and a couple of hours on the Choir bus. 12 team members are staying at the PN Hotel and the other 7 are staying at the Golden Stone which is 5 mins away. We were greeted with another very warm welcome and a delicious buffet cooked by Titus. Early to bed now ahead of our first day on site tomorrow!
Tuesday 5th November:
(Written by Damien)
I had an early rise this morning as a building near our accomodation had some very exciting steel drums performing, definitely an immersive experience!
Our first breakfast in Sengerema was definitely what we needed for the day: toast & honey, sausages, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, and lots of coffee.
When the rest of the team joined us from the other hotel we sang some songs with Elly, which by now was becoming routine and we believe it or not we are getting really good at the Swahili songs!
The drive from Sengerema to Kazunzu took us over some rough terrain, which Elly welcomed us to as the 'African Massage' Road. The drive was eye opening, the number of different people going about their daily life in such parrallel ways to us in the UK was amazing. So many happy, humble people, and the children were the cutest little humans ever!
Arriving at Kazunzu, we were all pretty breathtaken with the sheer beauty of the area. Firstly we met with the local fundi and after taking turns at introducing ourselves, we set off for a tour of the site, walking the boundaries from high up on the rocks to way down by the shore of Lake Victoria.
Following that, we were shown to the site where the two houses we are supporting the construction of will be. We regrouped with the fundis and they handed us pickaxes and shovels, and we were told to get stuck in, which is exactly what we were looking for, (following an in-depth dynamic risk assessment of course).
I don't think for one second anyone knew how much harder phsycial work is in temperatures breaching 30°C! However we cracked on as a collective team of fundis and mzungus, and we were able to complete the digging of the trenches for the foundations to both houses.
The bus journey home was good, as we all needed an African massage to throw us about to loosen off the muscles! We arrived back at the accomodation to realise some of the Vine Trust team on a seperate visit had popped in to say hello whilst touring the projects. It was great to meet with the team and tell them firsthand about our experiences.
Then it was dinner time. Titus had prepared some rice, beans, veg, mashed potatoes and some pan fried fish fillets for us. It was so welcomed and delicious that some of us had to go for second helpings! After dinner, we played some evening games- including 'One Night; The Ultimate Werewolf', you really should try it. Then it was time for bed, and a well deserved sleep!
Wednesday 6th November:
(Written by David)
Day five - our second on the work site - started off with another fantastic breakfast. After eggs, beans, and bread, we were treated toa tomato, cheese and ham pancake which disappeared rapidly! After some light-hearted banter, our trip out to the work site was underway, with the African massage as eventful as the first time around! Along the route we were greeted warmly by the local communities that we passed through, with waves and smiles freely flowing. As with yesterday, the enthusiasm of the kids was astonishing and heartwarming with some of them literally running up to the bus just to wave. Suffice to say, they put us in a very good mood to start off the day.
Upon arriving we got into the working mindset with some songs and dancing to loosen us up after the drive. Ready to work, we set about moving rocks into place for the fundis to lay into the foundations, followed by moving buckets of sand for mixing. We helped to dig part a six foot pit which would be used to house a septic tank for the nearby buildings with a communal toilet.
It goes without saying that we were exhausted by the end of the day, and we all headed back to the bus where we were greeted by a crowd of kids waiting for us. Elly suggested we get a group photo together and the result was a beautiful shot I will treasure for a long time to come!
After everyone got washed up, we reconvened for dinner (fantastic food as always) and had a little birthday celebration for Steph's 24th, including the best cut cake ever conceived, some high quality bunting, and some much needed fizzy pop for the hotel bar. Afterwards when the other team had returned to their hotel, we played a few games before finally heading to bed. Day 2 on the work site done!
Thursday 7th November:
(Written by Kalen Lees)
Today was our third work day and upon waking, my muscles were certainly feeling the previous two. Breakfast was pancakes, liver stew, boiled eggs and coffee; perfect fuel for another day of lifting, shovelling and bucket relaying.
It had rained the previous night so the morning air was cool and fresh. We filed into the bus just before 8am and rolled through Sengerema. The streets were quiet save for a few ambitious rice vendors and motorbike taxi drivers who were washing and shining their prized steeds.
Within 10mins we hit the dirt road to Kazunzu for our daily “African massage” as our guide Elly calls it. As we drove the sun started peaking through the clouds, illuminating the lush green corn leaves. We were greeted by several groups of kids along the way. Their smiles, waves and excitement of seeing us rumble past is now my most favourite part of the day.
Once onsite we split into two groups. Group 1 continued digging the septic pit. The other group progressed the foundation walls which were already being built up and levelled with concrete.
Today was planned as a half day of work so we could go see the Sengerema market. We left the site around 12:30 and made our way back to town; waving and smiling along the way.
It was great to walk about town and to get a better sense of life in Sengerema. The market was colourful and vendors were friendly. A few people from our team placed orders for custom shirts made of their select vibrant print.
After the market we made our way to the town church to watch one of the bands rehearse. The music was lively and complemented with a dance group. If this is a sign of what’s to come then I am very much looking forward to church on Sunday.
The remainder of the evening consisted of dinner (stewed chicken and rice) followed by games. Another great day in Tanzania.
Friday 8th November
(Written by Ed Blackwell)
The day started with the usual breakfast sustenance of eggs, beans, and sausage. By now we have started to recognise the various welcome parties of waving/smiling children as we pass through the villages on the way to the construction site. The carefree and happy attitude of the locals is extremely infectious - everyone on the bus has a smile on their face as we arrive at the site.
Laying foundations was the main aim of the day and we were straight into what became routine for the day - move sand sand, mix cement, add stones, fetch water. The mixing action of these four ingredients is similar to the feeling in some of the groups stomachs - although the food is delicious, our mzungu digestive systems have not quite adapted to the Tanzanian diet yet.
The chosen receptacle for moving the various building materials was our good old friend - the plastic bucket. By now the team was very adept at forming the human chains required to pass the concrete to where the fundis directed. The empty buckets were then passed back to the start of the chain.
This routine continued throughout the day, with brief interludes for singalongs, dancing and lunch. For those following the blog purely for the details about food, it was: omelette, cinnamon roll, and the group favourite of mango juice.
Before long it was time to head back to the bus after a full days graft. Shower time was a little longer this evening as everybody was caked in the concrete mixture we had been passing all day.
Those that were staying at the PN hotel had the honour of an invite to the Golden Stone Hotel for dinner. After which, we relaxed in the bar area for, the new favourite, “Salad Bowl” game and cold sugary drinks. We retired to bed ready for another full day of work tomorrow.
Saturday 9 November
(Written by John Abey)
After a well deserved night’s rest and a good breakfast we set off in the choir bus for another full day on the site. The journey to and from the site is always a highlight of the day thanks to the excited welcome we receive from the local children en route, frantically waving as we pass by.
Work on the houses is progressing well and with the foundations finished the fundis are starting to build the walls.
Our day started with transferring buckets of sand to level the floors of the rooms within the houses, followed by moving the large bricks from the stack on the side of the site nearer to where the fundis were laying them at a frenetic pace. The work is hot but very satisfying.
After a brief and well deserved lunch break we continued with shifting the bricks and finally moved all 500 to their required position. As the last brick was moved to its new pile Elly led the team in some impromptu dancing and we were joined by some of the fundis and local children. As ever a large number of local children had gathered to watch us work and the team took the opportunity of an early finish to play with the children. A football was produced from the bus and a disorganised game commenced with the children laughing and chasing the ball around.
We headed home along the ‘massage’ road for a well earned shower and a much anticipated dinner ready for the next day’s adventure.
Sunday 10th November
(Written by Cam)
We began the day with an early breakfast and headed to the church to be greeted by the church Pastor. We walked up the grand steps into the church to our reserved front row seats. The service began with a speech from a local lady while the church continued to fill with brightly dressed locals and then the music began booming out of the church - Tanzanian concert!
We were welcomed up to the stage by Elly and the Pastor where Vine Trust leader Sinéad began to speak to the congregation of around 400-500 people. David then took over and introduced us in Swahili - the church crowd went wild for a Swahili speaking Scottish Mzungu! Next up was Steph who spoke about why we are here followed by Kalen who gave a brilliantly engaging and emotional speech about why he wanted to be part of this project. Patrick finished off the speeches by thanking everyone for welcoming us so warmly and we then individually introduced ourselves too.
We had a pleasant lunch in the church and then said goodbye to Pastor Samuel at the PN Hotel. Some people managed to connect to Elly’s hotspot today meaning that they could make brief contact with their families back at home. For the first time since we arrived, we’ve had an afternoon free of any work or activities which we ended up filling with game playing, relaxing and gathering back together again for dinner under the dark thundery clouds with the occasional lightning strike.
Dinner tonight was possibly my favourite so far - a beef dish, a vegetable dish along with chips and an ‘inflated flatbread’ which some of us chose to call it. A brilliant dinner with great company in addition to us sharing some hilarious stories has ended the weekend off perfectly!
Monday 11th November
(Written by Becky)
We started the day with another yummy breakfast which consisted of sausages, boiled eggs, pancakes and coffee!
This morning was the one I’ve most been looking forward to as we went to visit the local church pre-school which was for children under 6, we were greeted with the loveliest smiley faces and lots of hugs and Hi-5’s!
The children greeted us with the cutest little song they had learned in English and sang ‘We are happy to welcome you’ it was absolutely adorable.
We then split up into mini groups and played with parachutes, paint, bubbles and footballs (Julie got a green felt tip pen manicure from one of the children which was very.... pretty) the children were so happy and excited and they completely tired out 20 adults.
When we came to leave they sang a goodbye song to us (also in English they had learned) which tugged on many heart strings!!! It was so beautiful to hear them singing and in the short amount of time we had been there we all felt we had made little friends for life.
After we had left the school we headed along the ‘African Massage’ road down to the work site, we’ve started recognising certain characters from the various villages we have to travel through to get there which is nice as they are always happy to see us and we always look forward to seeing them too!
We got to the worksite and today’s job was to pass cement to the fundis to build up the walls, we pass the buckets in chains of people as we’ve found it’s much easier than running from one place to another with a heavy bucket of cement. We saved a goat too which was wrapped around a tree and said ‘Jambo!’ to the children who live around the village.
Back onto the Choir Bus and along the bumpy road back to the hotel - the children sprinting towards the bus and frantically waving and smiling will never get old, completely melts our hearts!
We’ve just had a lovely dinner which was rice, curried chicken, cooked plantain/banana (which has divided opinions) and the firm favourite - BEANS: Titus Style! Also got treated to a little pot of ice cream which was wonderful.
I’m now writing the blog and then going to settle down for the daily card games and Ultimate Werewolf - early night is needed ready for our final day on the worksite tomorrow.
Tuesday 12th November
(Written by Lorna)
Up at our usual time of 6:30am this morning for a fabulous breakfast of pancakes, bananas, sausages and omelette; it was perfect to line our stomachs for a final day of hard work on site!
We had our final drive to site this morning along the ‘African massage’ road. The team waved at everyone we drove past to make the most of our final drive, and many will say it’s the bit we look forward to the most!
Today was great as we had Titus and Pendo join us to help out in the morning! It was great for us to see their reaction to the difference a week’s work can make! We spent the morning first moving buckets of soil to fill the floor of the rooms in the houses and we then started moving more of the heavy blocks!! The blocks were even heavier today as there was a lot of rain last night, so more work for us! We work well as a group, even more so when the music is playing, we’ve even managed to get the fundis dancing!
Lunch was delicious, we had beef, sliced potato, a banana and mango juice! It was after lunch we said goodbye to Titus and Pendo as they needed to get back to prepare dinner.
The afternoon was full of moving blocks and water breaks; many were needed due to the incredible heat today! As we finished for the day, we had a lovely congratulations from head fundi Matayo, who was impressed with the level of work we have achieved during our time at Kazunzu. We had plenty of photos taken with the fundis and the houses before we left. We also donated our boots, hats and gloves to the fundis as a parting gift.
We hopped back on the bus for the final return journey from site, and waved at all the people we came across! We have had a lovely dinner this evening which was definitely earnt! We’ll be playing a couple of card games to finish the evening and I will certainly be bathing in after sun after such a hot day! We are all looking forward to seeing the children at AICT tomorrow once more!
Wednesday 13th November:
(Written by Mark Ritson)
Today we all woke with mixed feelings. A sense of achievement of what we had done over the last few days was combined with an air of sadness that the end was nigh but still also with excitement for tomorrow's safari.
We had an interesting breakfast that included a beef intestine and plantain stew. This was received with mixed opinions but overall was very nice!
After breakfast we said our final goodbyes to Pendo and the P.N hotel which had become our home from home and then set off to see the children at AICT. We were greeted by the children who again sang their songs to us - "we are happy to say welcome" and then "we are sad to say goodbye". After a brief exchange of high fives and goodbyes we were back on the choir bus and on our way back to Mwanza.
We returned to the Tilapia hotel for lunch - it now seemed a long time ago since our previous visit, and we reflected on how we had all grown closer over the past days.
After lunch, Elly guided us to some nearby souvenir shops where we all exercised our bartering skills trying to get the best deals with our remaining shillings.
It was then a short bus ride to the Mipa hotel - where luxuries such as air con and sit-down toilets were appreciated!
With some welcome free time in the afternoon, the majority of us went to explore Mwanza's markets and did a bit more souvenir hunting, before returning to the Mipa hotel with a couple of hour to relax.
We gathered in the evening for a few more card games followed by the safari orientation meeting. We met our guides and now we are all very excited for tomorrow. After another hearty dinner, we all retired for an early night so we would be ready an early 6am departure.
Thursday 14th November:
We awoke for an early breakfast at 05:30. After filling up on pancakes, meatballs and fruit we piled into the four Toyota Land Cruisers which would be our transport for the day.
We set off in darkness with the sun soon rising.
After a couple of hours drive we pulled in to a car park, where we discovered a second breakfast was on the itinerary! Result!
After filling up again on omelettes, peppered beef, melon, mango juice and teas and coffees we were all well fuelled to start the day.
We arrived at the gates of the Serengeti national park, to be met by monkeys, who soon became the focus of our photography skills. This was quickly ended when one of the team got a bit close to a monkey who took exception.
We soon jumped back in the 4x4s and were rattling down dirt roads into the park. Straight away we saw herds of Zebras and wilderbeasts. It didn't take long to add bison, giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, vultures and more to the list of animals we had seen. A highlight was seeing a female lion with her cubs.
We stopped for lunch in the park, and had packed lunches consisting of a toastie, a chicken piece, a boiled egg, a banana and mango flavour drink. We were all slightly nervous in case a lion suddenly appeared but our guides assured us it was safe. We were accompanied for lunch by many small birds and mice.
After lunch the safari continued with more animal sightings as we explored more of the Serengeti.
On the way out we stopped at the park entrance to visit the gift shop and use the toilets. Unfortunately one of the team dropped their phone into a squat toilet! Thankfully, Sinéad showed her dedication to the team and leapt to her aid - going well above and beyond her call of duty to retrieve the phone from what could have been a very sticky situation!
We then drove back to the Mipa hotel in time for dinner, where we all compared what we had seen and reflected on how great the day had been! After another good feed we headed for bed as it would be an early breakfast to catch our flights home.
Above: Vine Trust's Elly!
You could be next to go to Kazunzu, find out more about our building expeditions and get your team together!