Insight into Life in Nkoaranga – Guest Blog

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One of our remarkable volunteers, Mark, has recently left Nkoaranga after volunteering for 7 weeks with The Small Things. A teacher by profession, Mark brought his insight and experience into the lives of our children, leaving them with memorable and positive experiences. In this guest blog, Mark describes his experience volunteering with our Pilot House Program, as well as his experience with his host family in Nkoaranga. We can not thank Mark enough for his dedication and commitment to our kids, and are proud of all his hard work!

Mark with Ester

A Guest Blog – By Mark Russell Benedict

Since I’ve taught and worked with kids for many years, The Small Things asked me to be involved with their older kids while volunteering in Nkoaranga, Tanzania. So two days a week, I would ride with the 9 kids in the Pilot House Program to their school: The DINKA School is an English medium school, which is also a Dutch NGO initiative that teaches all lessons (except Swahili Class) in English. The NGO provides a beautiful setting and great student-teacher ratios (there were 12 students to 2 teachers in the class that all the pilot house kids attended) for high quality learning.

DINKA Class Room

On the way to school, I would pass around books that the kids would look through and attempt to make out a few words during the long drive. School began with the morning parade (a couple songs, a prayer, and a march to class), then lessons until porridge break/recess, more lessons until lunch, and then activities after lunch such as drama, art, sports, or music. Lessons focused on Phonics, Swahili, Mathematics, English, and Art. They lead teacher would instruct and drill the students while the assistant teacher and I would circulate the class and help with follow up and focus.

At the DINKA School

Being with elementary students is certainly much different than high school aged adolescents (the age I’m used to teaching). They need a lot of direction and focus, but I could tell that the kids from the Pilot House were making great strides in learning their numbers, letters, basic math, and word identification. After our ride home from school, the kids immediately began their homework with assistance usually from a Mama and prepared for their next day of school. In a country where kids can be up to 100 students in a class with poor quality food and facilities, together with teachers who may not be caring, it was encouraging to see the quality education the kids were getting the DINKA School.

I also had the privilege of staying with a host family. They had two extra rooms in their house with its own bathroom and shower. The accomodations were really comfortable and living with the family allowed me to understand more about Tanzanian (especially the Meru Tribe) culture. As well eat lots of delicious local foods! The family truly embraced me a not only a guest but a family member. One of the children even started referring to me as his brother. It was a great way to enrich my time in Tanzania.

My host family and I

The Small Things is always looking for volunteers of all different backgrounds. Whether you’re a seasoned teacher, or still a student, TST is always in need of an extra set of hands. If you’re interested in volunteering with The Small Things, please visit our Volunteer Page.

Additionally, the Pilot House Kids require sponsorship in order to attend the DINKA School. With 4 new kids joining the program next week, additional funding will be required to ensure the continuing support and education for our kids. If you’re interested in helping us send our kids to school, please visit our Education Sponsorship Page.