Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Scramble

I've been so busy updating the second blog I've got going for our school lunch project here in Tanzania, that somehow I've run out of time to update my readers on this blog.  Hopefully, most of you have seen what I've been up to at  For those of you who haven't, let me catch up you!  And for those of you who have followed the other blog, let me give you some more details!

The Green Living Planet is currently working with 5 different schools in the Arusha area, one of which has become very dear to my heart - Terrat Primary School.  There are about 1000 students at this school that most of us would say sits in the middle of NoWhereville.

We went to plant trees with the students earlier in April and my eyes were opened up to the needs of the school and the community.  Since that visit, with the help of friends, family and several primary, middle school and high school classes back in WI, we've started to raise funds to build 8 sustainable African-style keyhole gardens which will provide the basis for a school lunch program for the students at Terrat.  Last Sunday, May 6 (International Permaculture Day), we went out to the school to build the first of the 8 planned gardens.  You can check out the video recap from our day here:

If you watch the video, you will see how hard the students worked.  Every single child got involved.  We asked for 30 kids to come, but throughout the day over 85 students showed up.  We were actually unprepared to handle that many kids and hadn't brought enough food to feed all of them, so we spoke with the headmaster in the morning to ask him if some of the kids could go home and come back the next weekend to join us on the next build.  I guess that was one of those silly, "I-come-from-America-and-in-order-to-run-things-efficiently-we-can't-have-all-these-kids" ideas.  The headmaster, who may I just say LOVES his students to pieces, told us he couldn't send the kids away.  They were too excited to be there!

Benson and the headmaster

So, let me tell what happened on Sunday:
All 85 students worked.  We got the garden completed within just a few hours and then all 85 students waited around for another hour to get some lunch.  While we were waiting one of the little girls built a replica of the garden and she and some other students sat around reviewing the layers and steps to building the garden so that they could go home and teach their parents.  

Then, guess what happened?  When lunch was ready, somehow (kinda like the 5 loaves and 2 fish), all 85 students, 7 volunteers, 2 parents, 2 school chairmen and the headmaster, ate lunch.  And with only three jugs of water, all 97 of us drank until their thirst was quenched.

I'll be honest though, in the midst of the joy (and relief) I felt that everyone was fed, there was a slight ache.  After the headmaster had made sure every child got an equal portion of food, he returned to join the "adults" for lunch.  I brought the left-over food we had to the students, adding it to the rice that remained in the kitchen.  When the students saw the extra food, chaos ensued.  Arms, plates, hands, all rushing to get any extra food available.  Yelling, pushing, shoving.  These normally respectful, well-behaved students were clambering for any extra bite of food they could get into their mouths.  I stood for a moment, unable to move, and just watched.  Then, when I brought out the water, the response was nearly the same.

Never in my life have I known what it is like to feel that I needed to scramble for a bite of food.  Not once.  So, while I will never be able to fully relate, I am thankful that, in that moment, I was given a glimpse of the importance of this project.  It isn't just a cool idea or a trendy cause.  For these students, who are willing to work so hard to get it done, it is a game changer - a reminder that people in this world care about them and a promise that maybe someday the scramble will end.

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  1. That was a really powerful story. I applaud you for spending your time and energy in an effort to help so many people. I also have to say I am very impressed that you have managed to make a connection from De Pere WI all the way to Tanzania. Good on you for that.

  2. Hey Bekah~ What a life-changing event this has been for you. I can't believe how much difference you have made in the very short time you have been there. I am proud of you- for giving not only of yourself, but for taking it to the next step and giving MORE than was required.

    The family is anxious to have you home and I know that it will be good for you to be on home ground. I also know that you will leave a piece of yourself there. God bless you- xo Diana