The final part of my 76-day gad about the world took me to a new country, to Tanzania for a 10-day adventure with The Giving Lens, an organisation that uses the medium of photographic workshops to bring volunteers and much-needed funds to local NGOs at the same time as providing their participants with photographic training and a more genuine, less touristy travel experience.
I first got to know the folks at The Giving Lens back in 2012 when the founder, Colby Brown, brought a team of photographers to Picaflor House, the NGO I was then managing in
|With my two students (photo: Kate Siobhan Mulligan)|
We then spent several hours full of fun and laughter giving fourteen delightful teenage girls their first introduction to photography on point-and-shoot cameras our team members donated to the NGO. We had barely any common language – the girls had a little English – but miming, pointing and smiles worked just fine, and the girls loved it. After looking at the basic workings of the cameras, we took them on a scavenger hunt – ‘take a photo of something round’, ‘of something red’, etc. It was a hoot!
|Checking pronunciation (photo: Trudey Peterson)|
After relocating to the little
township of Karatu that afternoon, we spent some time the
following morning visiting the AC Day Care and .
It was set up by Angela (above left), a retired teacher who decided to use her retirement money to help the local
children, and what beautiful children they were. Despite their dirty, tattered
clothing and snotty noses, their smiles and need for hugs touched our hearts. Orphanage Center
Here again, our task was to document the plight of the orphanage and the children, to try to solicit much-needed funds to support the school and to obtain sponsorship for the children. If I wasn’t already sponsoring two children elsewhere, I would certainly have taken on one or two of these. Although I took lots of photos of the kids, I also spent quite a long time with just one or two of them. It was a special time and affected me deeply.
On the last day of our
trip, we had one more stint of volunteering. In Karatu, we visited the compound
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania to meet their team and hear about the work they do supporting local people who
have AIDS or are HIV positive. I am not a fan of the methods churches use in
their interactions with the locals in underdeveloped countries, offering
assistance in exchange for religious conversion. And while I salute the support
this church is giving to local people, I was very disappointed to learn that
they were making no effort to educate their congregation about the positive
effects condom use would have in preventing the spread of this disease. In
fact, when I asked why the disease was so prevalent in the town, they giggled -
hardly a mature attitude! I found out later that Karatu is the base for the drivers and tour guides
who take tourists on safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, so there is a
high incidence of prostitution to ‘service’ their needs. Tanzania
|The type of house the poor of Karatu live in|
Personally, I thought this photography very invasive and, although they had agreed to it, potentially overwhelming for the people involved. Also, as the families live in constant fear of their disease being discovered and thereby being ostracised, I thought the presence of a group of Western photographers was potentially damaging for them - I saw neighbours watching from behind raised curtains. For these reasons I declined to take part in this volunteering, as did some of my fellow team members for their own reasons.
It was a sad end to our volunteering experience but I don’t want to end this blog on a negative note. The plight of the children of
affected me so greatly that I intend returning in the future, hopefully in
2015, to do some voluntary English teaching with Art in . And
if any of my readers feel inclined to help, here’s a link to the donations page
of their website. Every little bit helps!