Meeting Daniel

A few weeks ago, myself and a fellow volunteer, Emelie, took a very long, hot and dusty bus ride (13 hours each way!) along the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, through the beautiful Serengeti, passing numerous Maasai villages until we eventually reached the town of Musoma in the very north of Tanzania. We were in search of a boy named Daniel Meshack.
The Serengeti on the bus ride back to Arusha

Lake Victoria in Musoma

Daniel is a 16 year old orphan who suffers from a disability with his legs and struggles greatly when walking. He knows very little about his condition and due to a lack of money, his parents were forced to stop any further treatment after one operation that he had as a child.

He is being sponsored largely by a woman named Susan Green to attend Tabora boy’s boarding school, as well as by The Small Things who are assisting in covering the rest of Daniel’s school fees. Thanks to some amazing donors and Susan, who read Daniel’s story and immediately knew she wanted to make a difference to his life, Daniel has been given a wonderful opportunity for education, and his passion for studying was clear to see during our visit.
This was our chance to meet him for the first time, to see how he is enjoying his new school (which he began in January 2013) and to find out his plans for the future.
He is currently living in a community called Nyakato with a 66 year old lady called Ms. Pelagia. She is a remarkable woman who has taken in many other orphans and children who are in difficult positions, which has led to 16 people living in the household at present. She is referred to as ‘Bibi’ (grandmother) but is not the biological grandmother of Daniel. Ms. Pelagia saw Daniel on the streets and did not hesitate to take him in and provide shelter and care. It was lovely to see the clear bond that Daniel and Ms. Pelagia share, as well as the help and support she tries her best to give, despite her own difficult living situation.
Daniel using Ms. Pelagia to support his weight as he stood for the photo to be taken

From the outside, the house appeared large with two smaller out-buildings. However, as we walked in we saw the crumbling walls and the bare rooms. It was clear to see that the overall construction was unfinished and not in a very good state. Ms. Pelagia and her husband had to take out a loan in order to build the house but, due to a lack of money, they were unable to complete the building and are now unable to repay the loan.
The main house building

The two outbuildings situated on the right of the main building

The living room

On the other hand, Daniel himself is doing brilliantly! He loves school and is thriving there. Every test paper we saw was graded between 80% and 100%! We were unable to see an official school report as he is still in his first term and will receive the report at the end of term. His favorite subjects are biology, chemistry and physics but his ambition is to become an accountant. We could see his face light up when he spoke about school. It was wonderful to see such a contrast after having to go over the difficult part of speaking about his heartbreaking past.
A variety of Daniel’s test papers

One test paper where Daniel scored 100%
Another great test paper! Daniel scored 93 out of 100
Additionally, during the vacation periods from the boarding school, the students usually have to take extra tutoring in order to catch up with any work missed when a teacher at the school has been absent. The tutor has been kind enough to give Daniel a discount because of his condition, but it is still another payment for them that is not easy to find.

Daniel is burdened by his condition but he certainly does not let that stop him.

Instead of one pair of shoes that a Tanzanian would usually make do with for a couple of years, Daniel has to go through at least two pairs a year as they wear away so quickly from the way he has to walk.
Travelling to school at the beginning and end of term isn’t straightforward. He cannot walk for long without having to take regular breaks, so he has to take a taxi from home to the bus stand in Musoma, then a bus from Musoma to Mwanza where he then has to stay for the night. His journey continues the next day with another bus ride and a taxi. Transport alone is costly but necessary. It is time consuming yet worth it for the joy and respite that education offers Daniel.
Through this inspiring visit, The Small Things would like to assist Daniel to get a hospital consultation for a thorough checkup of his legs. We would like to see if there is anything that can be done to improve or cure his condition. We also plan on discussing options for helping Ms. Pelagia and the other children that live in the household, perhaps by funding their primary school education. Daniel also has a younger brother of 9 years and a sister of 12 years. One lives in Dodoma and the other lives in Morogoro. Unfortunately, Daniel is unsure of who they are living with as the siblings were all split up when their parents passed away. We would love to try and track them down and to explore the possibilities of reuniting them.
Another child who lives with Daniel. She was intrigued by the camera!

Another child living with Daniel. She shyly came over as she wanted her photo taken too

Daniel has had an extremely hard childhood. He lost both parents in the space of a year, lost a friend named Zackaria who died in an accident when he was helping Daniel find a school, he has lived on the streets finding food remains to live on for six months and, throughout it all, he has had to battle a painful problem with his legs. Despite all of this, his thirst for education and enthusiasm for learning is completely awe inspiring. Daniel is an extremely intelligent boy who has the ability and motivation to succeed. He has another three years of studying at Tabora Boy’s School and he then wishes to study at University. If you would like to contribute to his future, please click here to donate for Daniel.

Emelie and I hope to visit Daniel again in a couple of years. This was not just a ‘business trip,’ it was a very emotional and inspiring visit that touched us both. Meeting Daniel put a lot into perspective for us and those 13 hour bus rides didn’t seem worth complaining about after all.

Emelie, Daniel, Ms. Pelagia and Bethan
A letter from Daniel
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