After a week of living at Peace Matunda I have comfortably settled in. I honestly cannot believe that I will be moving on so soon. I can see how people spend months or years in places like this.
Peace Matunda was founded by a man named Kaaya Unabwe. Kaaya was a former tour guide who realized there was a need in the area for an orphanage and free/reduced cost schooling. Peace Matunda School and Orphanage is funded in a few different ways. The first way is through the donations of volunteers through the Ciciley Foundation based in the UK. Secondly, volunteers that visit the school and orphanage to spend time at Peace Matunda also contribute. I paid a fee to come to Peace Matunda – part of this fee covered the volunteer visa, another part went towards my food and board, and the rest was put towards funding Peace Matunda. The third way Peace Matunda is funded is through tourism. Since Kaaya has a tourism background he has organized tours for which people can sign up. The profits of the tourism assist in funding Peace Matunda. Some of these options are tours common to Tanzania such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, climbing Mt. Meru, cultural tours to learn about the surrounding area and orphanage, safaris, and the Maasai tour that I took when I first arrived here. The tours offer really authentic experiences and are comparable in price to other tours offered. So why wouldn’t you take a tour with Peace Matunda and know that the profits are going to a good cause?
Peace Matunda functions like a small community. Everyone has their jobs and when individuals work together it runs smoothly. Jackie and Claudia are in charge of organizing tours and taking care of administrative concerns. The “Mamas” make sure that dinner is cooked and laundry is done. This is a full time job because the beans need to be peeled and the laundry has to be done by hand in a bucket then dried on the line. The volunteers (myself and Matias) teach some of the classes at school and play with or entertain the kids in their spare time. The children are in charge of keeping their rooms clean and helping with chores such as cooking, washing dishes, piling firewood, sweeping, etc.
There are 25 orphans that live at Peace Matunda and they range in age from 2-13. The totos (translates to babies in Swahili) live in the Amani House with a full time Mama to take care of them. There is a house for the older boys and a house for the older girls. The children attend school Monday to Friday, but these 25 kids are not the only ones who attend Peace Matunda School. There are about 220 students who attend. If the families can give $5 a month for them to come to school, they do. If the family cannot afford for them to come to Peace Matunda the fee is waived so the child can have education regardless of the financial situation. Children here are fed lunch which is usually maize and beans. However, on their way to school they must pick up a piece of firewood and bring it to the kitchen after opening exercises in order to earn their lunch for the day.
After investigating the education system more I have learned that Peace Matunda is actually a very good school. They teach English starting with the Primary age. This sets the students up for success because when they get to secondary school the entire curriculum is in English so they have a better understanding of the language and content. Also, in the government schools the families need to pay for uniforms and books for the students. There are up to 100 students in each class. I have trouble reaching the individual needs of 25 students in a class so I can only imagine the quality of education in a government school. Furthermore, sometimes the teachers do not show up to teach the classes.
A typical day at Peace Matunda means waking up around 6:30… if you are lucky enough to sleep that long. The roosters start crowing as early as 4:00 and there is a cow that I swear must come over and moo right into my window to wake me up around 5. The kids are running, screaming, and playing by 6. How do they have that much energy in the morning!? If there is water you can have a quick shower.
Breakfast is set out by Mama Shani and consists of instant coffee (which is a shame because one of Tanzania’s cash crops is coffee beans), white bread, peanut butter, and red plum jam.
We head over to the school around 7:45 where the students partake in opening exercises. They sing their national anthem as well as some hymns. Announcements are made and then the Tanzanian flag is raised. After exercises children run to give the House Mama their firewood to ensure they get their lunch and then scramble to their classes which start at 8:00.
The classes last one hour and twenty minutes! This is without the entertaining interaction of smart boards, fancy powerpoints, and the variety of other exciting resources that we have in Canadian schools. The classrooms are basic with wooden benches and desks and a chalkboard, but they are clean and not overcrowded. The students get a 20 minute break to play at 10:40. At home this is lunch time but at Peace Matunda we don’t get lunch until 1:00. Lunch usually consists of some sort of rice or maize and beans. Unfortunately, meat seems to be non-existent here. After lunch there is a different activity every day. Some of the activities include debate time, dance and drama, religion, or the most popular, sport time. In fact, there seems to be a lot of sport time that gets substituted for class time. These kids (and maybe the teachers too) could play Football for HOURS! Around 3:30 or 4 students are dismissed to go home.
The children at Peace Matunda have time to do their chores and then free time. Free time usually consists of, yup, you guessed it, more Football! Sometimes the girls will play different low organized games or care for the younger children who are not yet able to keep up with the game. Sometimes I will run a “workout class” in an attempt to tire the kids out. Dinner isn’t until 7:30 or 8:00. I’m not going to lie, this kills me. I’m used to my 3 square meals a day with snacks in between, and a diet rich with meat or other sources of protein, and vegetables. Dinner, again, is usually some sort of carbohydrate and some sort of bean. After dinner we watch some TV or read. There’s usually about 10-15 of us piled onto a couch and a few chairs. There are no personal space bubbles in Tanzania so children are flopped all over each other (and me) like a litter of pups.
After being here a week I have started to get into a routine. I find myself looking forward to certain things. For instance, I look forward to Tuesday nights because we get Chips Mayai for dinner. This is essentially homemade French fries baked into an egg omelet, with some cabbage and watermelon on the side. SO GOOD! I also look forward to Friday and Saturday nights because the other volunteer, Matias, brought a projector all the way from Argentina and we watch movies from his laptop projected onto a white sheet on the wall. I like Thursdays because we get Chupatta’s and beans for lunch. Chuppatas are like a thick fried wrap or pita. But out of all the days Friday afternoons are my favourite because we have a BIG football game.
Football Fridays consist of walking for 25 minutes to get to the real soccer field which has wooden goal posts but still no line markings. The male teachers and all the bigger boys or younger boys who are incredibly skilled get to play. I joined in and played on Friday in the hopes that I would be a role model for some of the girls to join in as they usually just watch or play other games on the sidelines. I’m not going to lie, I got schooled by a few of the kids; their speed and ball control are phenomenal. The teachers scored most of the goals. They weren’t going easy on the students! Overall I was holding my own and I was OK with that. I just wanted to show the girls that they could play Football if they wanted to. It was lunch time and the game was tied so one of the teachers yelled, “Next goal wins!” This really increased the intensity of the game as everyone wanted to be the scoring hero. Lucky me, I was in the right place at the right time and as the ball crossed the net I was able to get a foot on it. My team erupted in cheers like we had won the World Cup and I’m not going to lie, a big grin spread on my face and I may have done a little victory dance. Not only could girls play football, but we could score the winning goal! For the rest of the day I got lots of high fives, fist bumps, and congratulatory handshakes on my big goal.
So just as I am starting to fit into everyday life at Peace Matunda I will be leaving. I can honestly see why people spend months or years here. It is such a welcoming, safe and easy atmosphere to be in (as long as you don’t mind being constantly followed or surrounded by children with the speed and energy of mini tornadoes). I know already I will miss some of the kids. Aaron always jumping at me looking to be spun around, Amanda with her sweet, curious eyes always asking questions, Steve with his contagious and incredibly adorable grin, Diki who is only 3 feet tall but can carry a soccer ball well enough to compete with the adults, Godson the smart aleck who’s always correcting me on my knowledge of Tanzania or pronunciation of Swahili words. Ferraria is the tallest boy and he accompanies me on walks to town, translates for me, then insists on leading a special route home that takes an hour longer than the shortcut we could have taken. I will miss Margaret, the 13 year old girl who cares for the young ones and rolls her eyes like a typical teenager when the others poke fun at her, Happy who is ironically usually sulking in the corner or hitting someone, Shani the youngest one who follows me around and climbs all over me like it is her job while not speaking a lick of English. I will even miss Itchy. Itchy is the dog who also follows me everywhere. He has grown on me despite the fact that I don’t really like dogs. Yes, I will miss them all but a part of me is glad I am leaving so I don’t get any further attached to them. I simply could not imagine leaving after staying 6 months or a year. Matias will be taking one of the orphans home with him to Argentina and Claudia will be going home for Christmas then coming back. I’m not sure when or if I will ever be back. As of now, my dream is to one day have a family of my own and bring them to Peace Matunda so I can then share this incredible experience with them. But that is many adventures away, first more traveling for The High Class Hobo!