TAU Student Union Brings New Life to Adopted Village in Tanzania Monday, December 17, 2007
Ongoing project is saving children, building schools, teaching human rights
Trip organizer Yael Samuni in Africa.
Student Liat Grunner leads children's activities in Minjingu.
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir first stepped foot on Ghanaian soil in 1958 to provide help to African nations. Students from the Student Union ofTel Aviv University recently continued this forty-year tradition, by adopting and supporting a small village in Tanzania.
Twelve students sponsored by the university’s student union travelled to Africa in October, their destination Minjingu, a poor Tanzanian village with an unusual number of orphans and children with bone deformities among its 900 inhabitants. It was the students’ second journey, and this time the students brought over half a ton of equipment and supplies. Last year, 15 students came with food and medical supplies and are credited for helping save the lives of at least two children.
“Some of these children are hidden away partly from shame, partly because they cannot walk,” explains Yael Samuni, an M.A. student at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Labor Studies, and head of the trip’s organizing committee. “They are becoming deformed from the contaminated water they are drinking, but are afraid to take advice or operations offered by white people.”
Samuni and the delegation joined forces with a local organization in order to build, with the locals, much-needed recreational activities and a school. The goals were to lighten the sombre atmosphere in the village and to decrease the “gap” between Africa and the Western world.
Volunteer work wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the local organization Mongaza in Tanzania, and the Israeli organization Brit Olam, says Samuni.
Liron Yochai one of the founders of the project - commented on the scope of the student’s aid. “Last year we brought food and formula for babies donated by Materna. With the help of the students, we saved two babies’ lives and supported a number of surgeries. This year the students have built recreational facilities for a community that comprises a million people in its periphery and no doubt the impact will be huge,” said Yochai. “This unique experience, lets student explore and experience Africa in a very different way from being in the classroom.”
Recreation and Learning
Work begins on the construction of a basketball court.
Student Noam Dvir (right) teaches a village boy about dental health.
This year, in eight short days in October, the students built a basketball and volleyball court with supplies brought from Israel; and showed the locals how to play these two sports. They also rebuilt a kindergarten. The long-range goal for the university students is to build a permanent community center in Minjingu.
Samuni comments, “It was filthy, but we cleaned and painted it with brushes and supplies from Israel. After three days this dusty and unhealthy building was transformed to a place where kids can study.”
The students had been preparing months in advance by collecting donations, raising money through parties, and participating in training sessions on the Tanzanian culture and African history in general. They learned from Africa as well: they visited Arusha with university students from Tanzania, who escorted them to the United Nations court on genocide in Rwanda. “We went to a trial, had a tour and learned about the Arusha Accords and Rwandan genocide,” notes Samuni. “It was important for our delegation that the students learn from Africa too.”
Love: The Universal Language
The students also learned some unexpected lessons on love and appreciation, “We discovered how loving African children can be — they held our hands and jumped all over us,” says Samuni. “We just kissed them all the time. Not knowing the native language Swahili was not a barrier to communication at all.”
The students also brought toys, clothing and school and building supplies. The students also prepared activities that taught the Africans about basic human rights.
“Being part of this delegation is not only about going to Africa for a week,” explains Itai Perry, a Tel Aviv University M.A. student from the Porter School of Environmental Studies. Perry, who is studying water management, first proposed the project to the student union after volunteering at the village two years ago.
“We are in this for the long-term. Each trip requires many months of preparations and all of the students continue to support this project as volunteers now that they are back home,” Perry explains, adding that challenges still exist. “We still need to work on helping the children get the orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation that they need and work to overcome cultural problems. But when I proposed the idea that we help this village in Tanzania, the Student Union rose to the challenge. I would say based on what we left behind, that we were very successful.”
Volunteer Liron Yochai with Ingy, a Tanzanian child.
Villagers and TAU students enjoy a basketball game together.
The TAU group and some of their new friends pose for a portrait.
TAU students and kindergarten children in front of a renovated and repainted school.