Usangi, Kiliminjaro, Tanzania 2011
Our final project of 2011 took place in northern Tanzania, about two hours from Moshi in the Pare Mountains. Our team of 13 volunteers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho partnered together with a Peace Corps Volunteer and Lomwe Secondary School to build a basketball court on their school properties. 900 kids ages 13-23 attend the school, some of whom walk long distances every day, while many board and are bored due to a lack of opportunities. There is a dirt soccer field that is the only source of extra curricular activities for the students; however, it is often limited to a select group of boys. The court will primarily be used for basketball, which in this part of Tanzania, is more socially acceptable for both girls and boys. As a result, it will be a great asset for this school and for the development of their youth. There was a previous court that was dirt, with crooked baskets and divots throughout the dirt that made dribbling nearly impossible. This court is a huge improvement and led one faculty member, albeit with clear exaggeration, to say that this new court is one of the 5 best courts in all of Tanzania. I doubt that assertion, but don’t doubt that this is the nicest court within a couple hours and will be a big boon not only to the kids at Lomwe but also from surrounding schools and communities, who will also have access to it.
Our team stayed in a house in the community and enjoyed many cultural activities in addition to the court work. The highlight was probably a structured question and answer time with students from the school. Our group, especially our own high school and college students, were incredibly impressed by their enthusiasm for learning and their base of knowledge. They kept our group on their toes with quesions about Libya, the Marshall Plan, US tax structure and other challenging questions. It was apparent that they have fewer opportunities in Tanzania and so many students are doing everything in their power to take advantage of those limited chances they have. This was undoubtedly a big inspiration for our youth.
Building the court was hard work, no question there, but honestly I haven’t had a more rewarding experience in my entire life. The way the school was so grateful that we built the court and the way they considered us such good friends was overwhelming.
I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. The people were great; the experience was life changing and one that few people get to go through. I now have memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Our trip has taught me to be grateful for every little thing that I have, to take advantage of the opportunity and blessings I have, and to continue to help those in need, making new friendships all over the world.
I enjoy seeing how people in other parts of the world live and how their lives are different and also the same as my own. One of the biggest highlights for me on the trip was the time we got to spend playing basketball with the kids, first on their old dirt court and then on the new court! Basketball and kids are two of my favorite passions in life and to experience them in another country with my mom and my sister was a dream.
A special thank you to our court sponsors:
Josh and Hilary Gibson
Kevin and Annemarie Ryan
Sean and Ashley Rybar