It is difficult for most of us to imagine life without such basic facilities as sanitation toilets. For school children living in Bargish, North Tanzania, this was the case, until the arrival of one Ballymoney volunteer and her team.
Hannah Sankannawar (22), from Ballymoney, recently returned from an expedition to Tanzania. Working with Raleigh International ICS; a sustainable development charity, inspiring young people to be agents of change, the 10 week expedition focusing on health awareness and constructing hygiene and sanitation facilities.
She explained: “Bargish is a rural community in North Tanzania, people live in poverty with no running water, electricity, most living in mud huts. On top of this, there is poor hygiene throughout the area, where washing your hands and keeping clean is easily taken for granted. Poor sanitation and hygiene has had a devastating effect on Bargish’s health and productivity, locking the whole village, like many others, into a cycle of poverty.
“This hit home for me when our team was invited to a funeral. I expected it to be a typical funeral, where everyone was grieving and wore black. It was quite the opposite. All the village women, in their brightly coloured kangas (traditional Tanzanian clothes) were cooking around huge pots and socialising, while the men chatted and took it in turns to help dig the grave. It was a common occasion. When the funeral began I was shocked to see the face of a 12 year old girl, lying on a table covered in a white sheet. She had become rapidly ill from poor hygiene, resulting in diarrheal and vomiting, where her body could no longer cope after the fifth day.
“This pushed me to work harder. We were able to complete four sanitation blocks for the local school, and tippy-taps, with the help of our project partner; DMDD (Diocese of Mbulu, Development Department). This will provide over 600 children with access to clean toilets, where before they had to use mud-huts; the stench could be smelt standing one hundred meters away. This was just one step, as I discovered that no matter how much you build, how much you buy or create; behavioural change will make the biggest impact. Our team spread awareness on the importance of hand-washing and purifying water throughout the village, especially through weekly classes with the primary school.
“Living in Bargish, particularly with a Tanzanian family, has been a life changing experience for me. I have never met children so happy when they have so little, and mothers so generous with what little they can give. It is a constant reminder to be thankful for what we have, appreciate the little things in life, and give to others when we can.
“There is still so much that needs to be done to alleviate poverty in the short-term as well as creating the climate for further advancement in the future. I would recommend everyone to challenge themselves to change the world. If you are between 18-25 years you can apply for International Citizens Service at http://www.volunteerics.org/. A special thank-you to everyone who has supported me.”