Innovation, Social Enterprise and High Impact volunteering

Chris Hardwick--a talented craftsman & long-term volunteer who embodies the ethos of TST's mission-- has certainly made an impression on the community of Nkoaranga since his arrival in mid November! Thanks to Chris, a new studio aptly called "Speak to Us of Love" has emerged at the base of Mount Meru that teaches local students how to create jewelry and craft unlike anything seen prior in the Arusha region. His mentorship extends beyond the boundaries of pure technical skill and we have seen great excitement in the studio as he urges students to explore their creativity, to experiment and to take pride in the work they produce. Truly, we are grateful to host him.

Read a bit about his experience thus far, and learn how you can contribute, no matter where you are based in the world, below! 

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The idea of volunteering at the The Small Things that surfaced in April 2016 and involved me selling most of my possessions to fund the venture, has proven so far to be incredibly rewarding, challenging and fulfilling. Of course it has not been perfect, indeed a roller-coaster ride of joy, sadness, some tough days which have been so outweighed by such extraordinary people who have taken me into their hearts and show such love and respect to me.

I arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport around mid-afternoon on November 18, 2016 with 89.7kg of luggage. Three suitcases packed with tools, metal (brass, copper, aluminum, titanium, and some silver, copper and brass wire) came off the airplane after a 26-hour journey.

Of the three cases only one attracted attention, the one with $AUD1000.00 of metal that was to provide material for the first months of the studio classes and opening the case provided a fabulous and insightful experience of Tanzania bureaucracy Some hours later after much laughter and bon homie, USD260.00 and a bulk packet of Kit Kat lighter, I joined Teressa and Emmanuel for the drive to The Small Things at Nkoaranga, Usa River, Arusha.

Early the next morning, we all piled into the bus for a bumpy trip to the Arusha Christmas Market where student work made under the tutelage of Reuben, was being presented to the purchasing public. I had also brought from Australia a heap of sterling silver jewellery, which went on the stall.

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Two days later a very exhausted Christopher had networked the whole market, made some valuable contacts, was offered a job teaching jewellery at the biggest International school and found cheese and Danish bread. The market was a great way to meet the folk who on the Monday were to become my students.

The tools that were in my luggage and the metal, aluminum, copper, brass and some titanium, I purchased before leaving Australia provided the means to start a class on Monday 21st November. Saw piercing was the initial lesson, cutting straight and then spirals and curves, then piercing out shapes, mind you the only hole making was done with a hammer and nail. Introducing the studio to the range of tools and then getting a chart done with their Swahili translations was a definite first perquisite. I also made the decision to provide funds for lunch for the students as most had obviously not eaten before they arrived and by lunchtime everyone was wilting, it made a huge difference and the bonds between us developed more quickly.

Everyday there are challenges as a clearer direction for the studio emerges and the different skills and abilities of each student start to become much clearer. Working and collaborating with Reuben has seen an incredible development in the students, Kaima, Godfrey, Mesheck, Juliette, Noela, Emmy and Maclenna. Within the first 2 weeks they were sawing backwards with a blade not much thicker than a horses hair.

It has been interesting observing various skill sets and inclinations surface with each student and learning how to encourage those various abilities. All around the Arusha area there are many examples of homogenized Tanzanian culture expressed in jewellery and we are seeking to stay true to the historical tropes yet develop wearable art that is quite distinctive and marketable.

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I would like to apologize that none of the work of each student has been individually attributes so you may follow the progress; the logistics are a bit of a nightmare after a long day of teaching. I will look for a system that may provide more of an individual display of each artists body of work.

The tools purchased from Cape Town, South Africa finally arrived, although it was after much angst, frustration and exasperation, very valuable lessons were learnt. These were important lessons, as most of the materials and tools for the studio will need to be sourced from outside Tanzania in the future. I am delighted to be meeting other smaller silversmith’s and jewelers in and around Arusha and they are quite excited about what we are doing through the Social Enterprise program at The Small Things in Nkoaranga. There is a long-term plan evolving that will provide a continuation and success of the jewellery school not simply as a teaching program, but also a manufacturing and design enterprise for wedding and engagement rings and contemporary, high quality Tanzanian jewellery.

Considerations are being given to opening a cooking school, a sewing school/manufacturing facility to make surf and casual wear using traditional Kitenge fabric, an art/history/theory/… class, drama, script writing classes and to have regular community concerts showcasing what is being done through the Social Enterprise program.

The ongoing support for The Small Things by you is appreciated and all endeavors of the jewellery school within the Social Enterprise program are geared towards healthy children, healthy families and healthy communities.

Asante Sana, Sana, Sana,

Babu Chris/Mr. Chris

To read more about his experience and the progress of the students enrolled in "Speak to Us of Love," visit Chris' blog here or check out his jewelry and craft page on facebook here

To get involved, no matter where you are based, be sure to check out some of our current volunteer and internship opportunities as well! Karibu (We welcome you)! 

#GivingTuesday: Why do you choose to give?

There are countless reasons to give, but one defining feature reflected in all giving is that we must decide for ourselves to participate. Giving is in no way compulsory. You may opt to donate time or resources because a cause resonates with you, because you seek external validation (don't we all in some form?) or simply - because you can, and because doing so signals to the world who you are and what you care about. In a time of darkness, your donations serve as a beacon of kindness, declaring that kindness always matters. 

 Asa Kelleher, a 10 year old student from Thetford, Vermont, recent visitor to our facility and new friend to all here at TST discusses his experience in Tanzania and shares with us why he personally chooses to give back!


Q:Can you tell me about the cookie fundraiser you ran to support TST? Why did you decide to organise this event and to give back?

A: I was very interested in TST when I first learned about it, and I really wanted to help kids at TST so that they could have the same lives as kids like me.

Q:Were there any moments that surprised you while in Tanzania?

A: Short answer, Yes. Long answer, I was very surprised at how much the children could run around and how much they liked to play with my family and I, probably because they do not get very many visitors. I also did not no they had such an amazing playground, or even that they had one.

Q:What was your favorite memory of visiting Tanzania? 

A: Probably TST because I have wanted to meet all of those amazing kids since I first learned about them. My favorite part of TST was either staying at Baba Gertrude's, whose house is like a mini hotel, or getting to meet all the kids.

 
Q:How would you like to stay involved?

A: I will still be sponsoring Johnson and might do more cookie sales and also hope to return one day to Tanzania and TST.

Q:What would you tell other people who are interested in The Small Things?

A: It is a very inspiring place that tries to keep kids and their family's together, It is also a very warm in lovely place for kids to stay if their family's can not keep them even if they just sped the days at TST and sleep at home with their family's. 

It was truly a pleasure for us to host Stephanie, Asa and Rori during their time here in Tanzania and we thank them for their continued contributions to our cause. Please help us continue to spread the word by sharing our campaign or donating here

 

 

Social Enterprise Spotlight!

It is with great excitement that we announce the launch of a new social enterprise initiative in Nkoaranga—a bead craft and jewelry production workshop!

Lead by our Outreach Coordinator Reuben and managed by Rehema, this program aims to teach vulnerable families and children of the Meru District skills that will help them form businesses and increase house-hold level income. Rehema and Reuben are pictured below—eagerly setting up shop!  

The new facility is located a few store-fronts away from TST HQ and has already been stocked with an array of beads, wire supplies and basic tools that our team will use to create wearable crafts and traditional Tanzanian jewelry.

Why Jewelry making?

TST holds tri-monthly meetings with all of the enrolled and graduated mamas of our family preservation programme. During these open forum discussions, the participants are encouraged to share best business practices, current challenges, possible resolutions and ideas for future growth. Our outreach team facilitates organic discussion on what has and hasn’t worked and uses this time to listen to the community and note any trending issues that we might be able to assist with.

Overall, these meetings are a great way to build rapport with local families and strengthen community bonds. Moreover, they are also an excellent time to collect feedback on our program and its progress and to record suggestions for future initiatives. After facilitating a few of these group discussions, we soon realized that many individuals expressed uniform interest in jewelry making!  Given this feedback, we decided to brainstorm how we might be able to actualize these rote requests into a reality for the entrepreneurs of Nkoaranga!

After discussing program possibilities at length with our team, management decided that we had the capacity to launch a new social enterprise initiative aligned with the majority of community requests we were fielding. Thus, a jewelry crafting workshop was conceived!

The new workshop will allow individuals to explore their interests and build creativity while creating rich crafts that will help increase house-hold level income and quality of life.

The first class was slated to occur on October 22nd and has eight students from our outreach program enrolled thus far. Priority was given to youth enrollment and the class is at its current capacity. We aim to provide this inaugural group of individuals with new skills, the opportunity to earn a higher income and moreover, an increased sense of confidence. As the program continues to grow, we hope to increase class size and eventually, separate learners into classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced skill levels!

Volunteer Support

In conjunction with this new program, we are delighted to welcome a talented craftsman & incoming TST volunteer who embodies the spirit and ethos of our mission.

Welcome Chris Hardwicke!

Given his extensive jewelry making experience, Chris will help guide and manage our new initiative as it evolves. He is scheduled to arrive on November 18th and will plan to stay with us for upward to a year assisting, training and working with our local staff. Chris brings with him years of experience, enthusiasm, supplies, tools, equipment and in kind donation material for the village of Nkoaranga to use during the first year of program development and beyond. We can’t hardly wait to see what kind of gorgeous crafts the community will create!

 

The Day Care is Open!

Thanks to the success of Small Things Summer Campaignthe new day care at Happy Family Children’s Village’s Community Center officially opened its doors to the public on October 3, 2016 and now cares for 15 children from needy families in our community!  As you can see, the children and the teachers are already comfortably settled in and everyone is eager to start learning.

The setting is clean and brightly coloured-- a natural buttery light spreads itself over the open floor plan and offers an encouraging ambiance for our new students. Standard operations run from 8AM to 4PM, Monday through Friday and inside, the center contains three oblong tables that face a raised blackboard, several cribs, a game and activity station positioned in the rear of the class , two latrines and a separate cooking area with stove and perishable storage.

There is also a playground on site, shared with the residents of our HFCV, that all children have access to during recess hours! 

WHY DID TST LAUNCH A DAY-CARE INITIATIVE?

The Meru District is one of the poorest regions in Tanzania and many of the surrounding families struggle to support the basic needs of their children. The government has done its best to provide assistance by abolishing school fees-- however, a large majority of individuals are still living in poverty. After conducting several problem-assessment surveys with the local community, it became evident that one way to effectively provide aid to the vulnerable families of Nkoaranga would be to host a need-based day-care service.

It’s a difficult statistic to digest, but about 28 % of Tanzania still lives below the poverty line. Despite the high economic growth rate the country has experienced in relation to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, families still struggle to better their situation. To fund the basic needs of a child, one must be able to earn a sustainable income, and this is increasingly difficult for families with young children that require constant care and attention.

The TST Day Care project--rolled out thanks to the support of our global network of donors and friends--targets vulnerable families in the surrounding area, children who used to live at Nkoaranga Orphanage or Happy Family Children’s Village prior to reunification, and any individuals unable to provide attention and stimulation to their children during the working hours of the day.

THE IMPACT

The Nkoaranga Day Care Center  provides opportunity to  hard-working entrepreneurs struggling to support the financial needs of their family without compromising child-care. Moreover, the facility employs local caregivers and educators, provides children and families the ability to access basic education in a safe and stimulating environment, encourages creativity, and increases both the local and foreign volunteer presence here in Nkoaranga. In the long term, this program will be able to prevent more children from entering orphanages, and allow others to move home much sooner than they would otherwise have been able to.

 

By strengthening the children and families at the household level, we strengthen the community and empower individuals to break the cycle of poverty--one small action at a time.  Join us! 

 


 

Community Center Opening Day!

Happy September, friends!

Small Things Summer has officially ended, and thanks to your concerted efforts we have managed to hit 96% of our campaign objectives (scroll down for pictures!) For the past three months, we have witnessed a pool of global endeavors support one unified dream-- all brought together by the belief that small, but intentional action can produce big impact!

We are humbled by the passion and involvement of our friends around the world and would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of this project.

We know that it hasn’t been easy! Despite time zone differences, resource limitations, and the invariable commitments we must juggle day to day, you continued to support the dreams of vulnerable families and children of Nkoaranga.

And, because of you, their dreams have been actualized.

Your generosity enabled us to animate two fantastic and sustainable initiatives.

The Small Things Summer funded a new bus (announced in the first half of our campaign) and supported the launch of the first community center in Nkoaranga! The bus was a HUGE step in TST’s development, allowing us to shuttle more than 30 kids back and forth from school daily, and setting us up for many years of expansion in the future, as more kids join us. The kids, as you can see, are also pretty psyched!

Wait--tell me more about the community Center!

The community center is a facility that houses a need-based day-care, a library and workshop space for supplementary educational programs. 

The construction of this center was funded, in full, by three wonderful donors who have closely supported TST from the beginning: Shazi Visram and David and Dorothy Goldberg. The gifts honour their parents- Amir Visram, Max and Hilde Goldberg and Hazel and Ian Ross Russell. Thank you Shazi, David and Dorothy for all that you have done and all that you continue to do here in Nkoaranga.

Children, grandchildren, visitors from adjacent villages, international volunteers, people who may never meet you--they will all use this facility and be impacted by your contributions for years to come.

And thanks to all of our supporters, we were able to outfit this center with the necessary book-shelves, books, desks and supplies that will help make education possible! Small, collective efforts really helped materialize a beautiful dream!

As you can imagine, the availability of this new resource marked an exciting occasion for the community of Nkoaranga! As such, TST hosted an opening day celebration meant to highlight the accomplishments of the village thus far and, well, to acknowledge the fresh opportunities ahead! Opening Day was received with tremendous warmth, gratitude and happiness in the village. Hundreds of villagers arrived to participate in various festivities , to tour the facility and to celebrate the future! Preparations were made up until the morning of the event as we all worked together to dust, clean, and organize the grounds for our incoming guests. The watoto were particularly pleased to help shelve books, collapse boxes, wipe down chairs and pitch in with various activities in HFCV. Oh--the anticipation! The energy surrounding the event was palpable--you could literally feel the excitement coursing through the air as we waited for the festivities to begin!

Around 12PM, our guests began to arrive and were led to an open area where dozens and dozens of chairs were laid out above the Children’s village. There was a main banquet table situated in the center and the sitting area afforded all of the guests a panoramic view of the space. Your ongoing efforts have really helped us achieve so much and in that moment, when eager guests poured in and when our staff stood on the sidelines laughing as children weaved between rows of chairs, all of our hearts really did swell with pride as we saw the impact we had all made, together, in Nkoaranga. It’s kind of hard to articulate and even harder to wrap your head around the idea that small actions really do produce big impact. Even though this is a maxim you hear a lot around here, sometimes, in certain moments, it really hits you.

Overall, the event was a success and a wonderful way to bring the community together!

There were wonderful dance and song performances led by the children and mamas of our HFVC!

We feasted on a buffet of food and even had an mbuzi caki (GOAT CAKE) typically reserved for all the most honorable of occasions. 

We also had many reunified and outreach families in attendance, which was really inspiring for everyone.

Mostly, this was a day filled with love, appreciation and immense hope for the future. Your individual campaign efforts did not provide a finite version of charity—they provided chance and opportunity. Moreover, they provided a renewed belief in what can be achieved. 

We will continue to move forward here in Nkoaranga, fighting for families and these incredible children, and we are so proud and honored to have you, our amazing supporters, by our side.