Sunday, December 8, 2013

Computer course for the CLC (Comunity Learning Centre)

By Kate Driver
Read Kate's complete Blog on

Almost 24 hours after leaving Hong Kong I flopped down onto my bed in my hotel room in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Having very little sleep the night before the flight had been a bad idea. I’d hoped I would crash out on the plane, but I just couldn't get comfortable so I had a very restless night, followed by a long-ish stopover in Dubai and then more discomfort on the second leg when my seat wouldn't recline. I was feeling quite spaced out by the time I finally arrived in Dar!

But it was great to be back! I’

I had forgotten how warm and gregarious the Tanzanian people are... and this stood out even more after my experiences in China! The visa on arrival “process” was so slow and disorganised that it was almost comical, but the staff were so jovial that I couldn't possibly have got annoyed with them. Everyone makes you feel so genuinely welcome here, and that is a really nice feeling.

Of course I’d come back to Tanzania to do some voluntary work at Mambo Viewpoint, so after an early dinner and an early night I was up at 4:45am to take the bus up into the Usambara Mountains. It was a six-hour journey to Lushoto and from there Herman kindly sent a driver to bring me the final two hours to Mambo.

Along the way I gazed out of the window as the scenery became increasingly spectacular. The local people – working in the fields or walking along the dusty roads – stopped what they were doing to give a wave or a nod or even the occasional thumbs up. And of course the children were as sweet and funny as ever – calling out and waving and then squealing and jumping up and down with excitement when I waved back! I really do think this is one of the most beautiful places I have visited… both physically and on the inside too!

If I felt happy to be back in Tanzania, I was delighted to be back at Mambo Viewpoint. As the car turned up the final steep slope and the familiar buildings came into sight I felt a rush of contentment. It was great to see Herman, Marion and Ndege again… and this time we greeted each other as friends.
Puting up solar panels at the CLC

My main focus during my 3-week stay will be helping to set up the Community Learning Centre. This will be a place where the locals can go to use computers and the internet, do printing and scanning, read newspapers etc. Since most of the people here have never seen a computer before, they will need to have lessons before this will work and that’s where I come in. One of the local guys, Henrish, will be the new computer teacher and I will be working with him to get a basic computer course up and running.
The project is actually sponsored by UNICEF and the Worldbank and they will be donating two laptops, but since they’re a bit slow-moving Herman has already purchased four notebooks so that we can get started sooner. So my first job was installing Windows 7, MS office and various other programs on each of these.
In my second week I really got down to some hard work on the computer lessons project, and it proved to be a lot more challenging than I’d originally anticipated! There were a few specific issues.
First off, most of the people taking the class will have never seen a computer before in their lives, so the training needs to cover things like how to turn on the computer, how to use a mouse, how to type, etc. It’s really difficult to identify of all those little things which I just do on auto-pilot, and then to think of how to explain them to a complete beginner. I also discovered that the computer teacher, Henrish, doesn't know all that much about computers. Well, it’s all relative of course. He knows more than most other people here, but he’d still be classed as a complete beginner in any other situation. What he does know, he’s taught himself, which means he sometimes has a really round-about way of doing something very straight-forward. Also while he knows how to do a few relatively advanced things, he's missing some of the real fundamentals. It’s difficult to figure out what he does and doesn't know, due to the third and potentially biggest issue: communication. His English is good, but not great. It took me a while to figure that out as he is constantly smiling and nodding and agreeing with me and it was only after we had several incidences of crossed wires, that I realised he must have misunderstood half of what I'd said. Oh and he’s not a natural teacher... and neither am I!
Scuilpture from artist Isaak
I'm also getting to know the staff a bit better and know their different personalities and joke around with them a bit more. It’s a really nice atmosphere. There’s Asnath and Hatibo who work in the kitchen – very young and a little shy, but with big smiles! There’s Mr Hoza who is trying to teach me Swahili. There’s Peter who works in the restaurant and at first seems very serious but having noticed a twinkle in his eye I have decided he's actually just good at deadpan. He knows about my love of avocados and mangoes and always gives me a secret smile when they appear on the dining table! There’s Saidi the chef who cooks the most amazing dinners including cheesy mash this week, which was a real treat! And of course my old friend Ndege who is just one of the loveliest people I've ever met…. still working hard on his website which is looking really impressive now. He can tell when it’s going to rain due to the pressure behind his eyes. He knows everything about the local area and birds and wildlife. His name even means “Bird” in Swahili.   
I feel very lucky to be staying in such a beautiful and special place. Whenever I'm wandering around the property I look around me and smile. The air is fresh and clean and smells of eucalyptus and bark. At night, the sky is a blanket of stars. I love being up at this height, where some of the clouds are below us and we see so many weather patterns each day. A blue sky and scorching sun can disappear behind a white mist of cloud within half an hour. Storms are sudden and occasionally violent, but usually over quickly. We often have rainbows and this week we had two beautiful ones, where the whole arc was visible. The first was even a double rainbow! It really does feel like we’re at the top of the world here!  

At the start of the 3rd week we reached a bit of a turning point in the computer course. We sort of hit rock bottom first, when we had our 3rd practise run-through with a pretend student, and Henrish was still getting the simplest things wrong. My frustration must have shown on my face and in my voice as after the lesson he came and sat next to me and with a very sombre look on his face, said “Madam, I'm sorry. I know I've disappointed you. I am going to do better and make you very happy”. I felt like such a bad person! So of course I had to tell him not to worry, and that I had confidence in him and knew he could do it. Then the next day when we came to run through it again he had improved ten-fold! I think he must have practised all night. This time I gave him lots of smiles and nods of encouragement as he gave the lesson and his face lit up. I clearly have neither the aptitude nor the patience to be a teacher, but I can see how rewarding it must be at times.  

Too quickly, it was time to leave. Lots of the staff gathered to say goodbye and I was choking back the tears! I hate saying goodbye at the best of times but this was particularly hard as I just love the place and the people so much and feel like there is really something special happening here. Just like last time it felt like I left a little bit of my heart behind! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Contributing to Scholarships and Extra teachers in Mambo

By Andy Wittenwiler Silvia Bretsche

We live in a very small village in the east part of Switzerland. We are both teachers. Andy works in a psychiatry for children and youth. Silvia teaches in a primary school grade 5 and 6. Both of us have also a practical background. Andy was working as a bricklayer for 5 years and Silvia as a carpenter for 4 years.

It was always in our mind to take a break from our daily routine just to get other impressions, experiences and to open our horizon.
A lady in a travel agency recommended MamboViewPoint to us and we got in touch with Herman.

Because of our experiences in education, he wanted us to help in different education projects.

During May to July 2013, we were here for about 8 weeks.

As a contributing friend in MamoViewPoint, you are lucky to be at a beautiful place. From sunrise to sunset you can enjoy the breathtaking views, experience nature and enjoy the beautiful surroundings with the bungalows, the gardens and trails. The clouds that pass by every day around lunch time and sometimes which are sometimes hanging on mountain peak cannot disturb the great feeling.
We were amazed, that we may carry so much responsibility, despite to the short stay. By our self we could plan the tasks and could discuss everything with Herman and Marion regularly. Through the support of Mr. Hoza we soon get in touch with the school and the important people. Mr. Hoza was always a big help to discuss our concerns and to clarify issues.
Since we were often walking for various projects, we got a good insight into the culture and life of the local people. It was beautiful to see how kindly we were welcomed everywhere and how much time the people took for us.
Working on the diverse and complex projects was a big challenge. However, we are happy about working in education but not to be directly involved in teaching.
After about eight weeks, our stay is already over. We think, that we brought many things on a good point. The output of the projects is still open. To bring something to an end is never possible in education anyway.
We hope that the first selection with the new committee will be successful. We have a good feeling with the various members of the committee and the process structure.
Through the work with the sponsored students and the link to one of the Staff, we hope that the relationship of the individual students with MamboViewPoint will be intensified and become more transparent. It is certainly important that the staff will be alerted to their task again and again. We were pleased that we have already sensed the commitment of individual employees.
Due to the many students and the poor conditions in primary school, it seems to be very difficult to make positive changes. We believe that the solution with the extra teachers is neither sustainable nor brings the desired progress. However, perhaps it is simply a step further on the way. Therefore it is very important that the project will be evaluated carefully in the end of October. After that, further considerations and ideas can be approached.
The weekly English activity with the sponsored students was a good variation to the other, more theoretical projects. Because of the regularly interaction with the young people, we could better understand the problems of the Tanzanian education system. It was good to see their progress in being creative and asking questions. We are glad that we found someone who continues with these activities according to his possibilities.

After the first encounters and meetings, we realized that a project here in the Usambaras cannot be successful, if you approach it with a European perspective. It is important to understand how local people think, feel and act. Without observing that, it could come to misunderstandings, which can be funny but also frustrating. Therefore, we share the attitude of Marion and Herman that it’s very important to show people how they can help themselves. It’s not beneficial just to support them with donations. For all projects it’s so important that Marion and Herman are on the spot, that they always generate new ideas and that they found persons who can take over some of the responsibility. Only by this, sustainable projects are possible.

We thank Herman and Marion for the stay here. It was nice to feel the familial warmth atmosphere. From the beginning we felt good understood. We leave MamboViewPoint with many new impressions and a little melancholy. We are sure, back in Switzerland in our daily routine we will remember several things and many nice details.


At the time we were helping at MamboViewPoint there were 11 students, who are supported by scholarships to go to the private secondary school in Sunga. After two years in secondary school, the students should pass the exam to go further. Last year most of the students failed in this exam.
To be responsible to the donors, it is very important to have an over view about all the students, the results and the attendance. It’s also important to know about problems at school or at home. 

Therefore we: 

  • linked every student with one of the staff who works at MVP and  lives close to the student
  • taught the staff how to bear responsibility for the students
  • created a form for the report of the staff
  • taught the staff in how to use the computer and the report file
  • compared notes with Upendo about the students
  • discussed with Mwanasha and her Mother about boarding school
  • had to inform Haji and his caretaker that Haji is no longer part of the project because he has not  attended school for half a year
  • completed the students forms for the donors on PC

English activities

In the school system of Tanzania the students learn English in  Primary school only few lessons per week. The focus is on grammar.
After primary school, in secondary school, all subjects are taught in English. All the exams are in English. Very often the students don’t understand the topic or the questions because their English level is too low. The students are not creative. In school they learn how to copy and how to fill in gabs but not to think by themselves. It is often not allowed to ask questions or to build own sentences.
The idea of MamboViewPoint is to support the sponsored students with extra English lessons and activities on Sunday.
We started with the activities in the first week we were here and continued every Sunday. During school holiday they attended for a whole week (6 days).
To improve their English and to develop the creativity we looked for a teacher who will continue the English activities on Sundays.  We found a young motivated teacher from Kokai . He joined us during two Sundays and we are happy that he agreed to continue. We will pay him 10 000 TZS every Sunday till December. It is important to do a short evaluation before continuing.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

The four day trip through the Usambara Mountains

A four day trip through the Usambara Mountains
By Andy Wittenwiler and Silvia Bretscherfrom Switzerland

This trip started on a Monday morning from MamboViewPoint on the way to Lushoto, the most important city in the Usambaras. This distance is too far to do in one day, so we did it in three parts.

The first part was about 12 km hill up, hill down through a very nice area. Our first overnight was at the Rangwi Sisters, a kind of catholic convent, led by the sisters. We arrived here at around 3 pm. When we arrived, almost immediately a lunch was served. That was a very nice welcome.
On the terrain there was a guesthouse, where we could stay, it was very lovely and clean. It was a new experience to stay in a convent, this was the first time for all of us. The convent was originally built by German missionaries, in the time when Tanzania was a German colony. In the convent was also a secondary school, the first in the Usambara Mountains.
There was an aesthetic and tranquil garden, so that we could relax and charge our batteries for the next day.
After the very nice dinner we went early to bed, because the next day we had to wake up at 7 am for the second hiking day.


This second day led to Papa Moze’s Lodge, the second stop on the way to Lushoto and named after the owner. The distance was about 14 km through very nice green and fertile area. This area is also known as the biggest supplier of vegetables for whole Tanzania and abroad, because of the ideal location in the Usambaras. It is not to hot here and it is wet enough for fertile ground. It’s possible to harvest three times a year.

Papa Moze is a known Lodge for Backpackers and almost the only one in the area on the road to Lushoto. It was a small and cozy lodge and we were on that moment the only guest. After a nice cool bear we took a shower and dinner was served at 7 pm. cooked by a lovely, talented lady. Papa Moze was joining us for dinner, he is a very funny, nice man.
After dinner he asked proudly, if he could show us his coin collection. A big bag appeared with hundreds of coins from all over the world, which he spread on the table. From almost every coin he knew something to tell. I asked him, if he had already Euro coins, he hadn’t. Luckily I had some in my wallet and I gave it to him. He was very pleased and showed it directly to his son. He thanked by giving a very old Tanzania coin and a red Gemstone.
After dinner we took a nice Konjaki and we went to bed. The walk of today was very tough.

The next morning we went up early and we had a nice breakfast. The sun was shining brightly, that was a nice start of the day. The distance to Lushoto was still too far to do it by foot.
Originally the plan of today was, to take a daladala (local minibus) to the starting point of the day. This was not necessary because Papa Moze gave us a lift in his own car, that was much more comfortable, if you compare it with the daladalas.
The walk itself was shorter than the previous day, that was actually good, because the next and last day would be very tough. In between, we stopped in Mullers Mountain Lodge for lunch. This was a nice, in European style built, lodge with a very nice garden and a known place in the wide surrounding area.

After the good lunch we were heading for Lushoto. There we stayed in the Tumaini Lodge, a good address and not expensive.

The 4rd and last day we started by car, 2 ½ hours from Lushoto to the foot of the Mountain where MamboViewPoint is located. The starting point is on 600 m and MamboViewPoint is on 1900 m. So we hat do climb 1300 m in high. We started in the small village Mkundi Mbaro. In the village was a very small local shop, where we bought water. Like often in Tanzania were a lot of children around the shop.
I brought some balloons in my backpack and decided to give them to the children. Suddenly there were many hands to take them. The funny faces of the children were very nice to see. Especially when we started to blow up the balloons. It’s very nice that the children here are happy with something small and simple, something almost unimaginable in Europe.

The walk started flat and we passed a dry riverbed. After that the real job started. It became steeper and steeper. In front of us walked a 10 year old girl in bright colored clothes, carrying a big bag on her head. Our guide told us, that she was from Mambo Village. It was very hard to follow her with the same speed.
Down in the level country, it was very warm and we were swatting a lot, much drinking was necessary. Fortunately for us the sun was not to bright that would make it even more tough. After some short breaks we decided to take lunch after half way. 20 min. later we continued to climb the hill, on our way we passed the mambo Footprints. In a rock along the path you can see some footprints of prehistoric people and animals. Interesting to see and not yet very well known to the big public. Several steps higher, the lodge became into sight and the path became less steep.
Once we arrived in the Lodge there was a warm welcome and cold drinks.
Thanks for the last days, it was a beautiful walk we really can recommend it to everyone!

Ask a quotation for your own hike in the Usambaras:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Anthropological research in Mambo

Anthropological research in Mambo

by  Mark de Waard, friend of Mambo

A couple of days after the start of the year 2013, I arrived at Mambo to do a research for MamboViewPoint in combination with my study. At this moment, I am a master’s student in Social & Cultural Anthropology at the Free University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. My aim for this research was to find out more about the perceptions of the people in Mambo village towards the development projects facilitated, and how this would influence their behavior. The contribution I would make to MamboViewPoint with this research was that they could improve their communication with the villagers. My duration of stay was almost three months. If I did not had to return to finish writing a thesis, I would have definitely stayed longer at this amazing place…

The arrival
At the moment I arrived, I experienced a beautiful place in the Usambara Mountains: A stunning view over Tanzania and Kenya while I sometimes could catch a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro. Before this time, I have been in Tanzania three times for holidays and an internship, but that I missed this place felt as a missing for my previous trips to Tanzania.
Before I arrived at this place, I had some serious doubts about how I would experience these three months. First of all, I am really a person who loves cities and busyness around himself: My internship for my former study was mainly in Arusha. During this internship, I went for a program towards a very remote area for one week, and at the end of that week I really felt ‘homesick’ to the big city. Now I was going to stay at a remote area for three months, which is way longer than this one week during my former internship.
Another point which I was a bit worried about was my level of Kiswahili. Before arrival, I spoke a bit of Kiswahili, but this was on such a level that it was not really useful to work with. Despite of these worries, I also looked forward to this adventure: This would become a personal challenge for me, and I would try as much as possible to contribute useful anthropological knowledge to MamboViewPoint.
The worries I had at the beginning quickly disappeared after my arrival. I noticed that Mambo and MamboViewPoint is a nice place with a friendliness of people, which I did not experience that much as during my travels around the world. Herman, Marion, and the rest of the staff gave me a very warm welcome, and because of them, I knew I arrived at a good place.

The start
Since almost one year before my departure to Tanzania, I have already started reading literature and scientific articles about this topic. At the moment I arrived, it was time to assess all this knowledge in ‘the field’. I started with just observing what was going on. Luckily for me, shortly after my arrival I was brought by one of the staff members, Kipimo, to a general village meeting. He really took care of me, and could explain me good what was going on. Together with Ndege, the local manager, I discussed in the first week how to come in contact with the people. He had some very good ideas which helped me to present myself more to the people of Mambo. Another staff member, Amiri, brought me into contact with the younger generation of the village. He is one of the members of the local football team ‘Dogodogo Stars’, and since the first week I also became a member of this football team. Also Herman and Marion helped me a lot during some brainstorms about what is going on in the area, and provided me a clear picture of Mambo by telling about important and less important happenings.

The process
Like always, the start is the most difficult part of a research, and in the beginning I was worried about how to start. In the first two weeks, I conducted interviews with only two villagers. These two were staff members of MamboViewPoint, so I could not be satisfied. However, I also put a lot of effort in the beginning by just talking with people, participating in development projects or social activities. It turned out that by doing this, I built the foundation for a large numbers of interviews in a later phase of the research.
In the beginning I was struggling with finding translators. The guides of MamboViewPoint were did a good job, but they were very busy with trips for tourists which made it difficult to make appointments with people. I was very lucky that I met Hoza, who became my research assistant. I already knew him, because he was participating in a tree nursery project. It turned out that his level of English was satisfying to me, and he had good ideas on how he could help me. After his first time translating for me, I was convinced that he was the right person who was going to help me making this research a success. Thanks to him, I adjusted my goal of 25 interviews towards 30 interviews, which became in the end 33 interviews!
During my talks with the people in Mambo village and surroundings, I realized that people really enjoyed my visit. Most people experienced the interviews not only as being a passive research subject, but also as sharing knowledge in two directions. Just visiting people at their home and listen to what they think made people very happy, which get symbolized by the disappointed reactions by some people if I did not interviewed them yet. Additionally, of all the people whom I have interviewed, there was only one person who was not willing to be interviewed.
The interviews and participating in meetings and social activities resulted that it was for me not possible anymore to walk in the village without meeting people. While I left for walking to the village, I heard my nickname ‘Maliki’ called by many people shouted. In the beginning of my stay I was always 10 minutes too early for an appointment, while at the end I was always 5 minutes too late for an appointment. This was because I had to greet so many people on my way.
The importance of anthropology is that the researcher is his own research tool. This means that I had to come closer to my research subjects by talking and participating in their lives. This will open doors to achieve more results by making use of my senses. I feel like I really achieved this in more ways. People opened themselves a lot to me. First of all, the people in this area are very open and friendly by themselves, and show a lot of hospitality. However, I think I increased their openness by really showing interest towards their lives. I talked with them, stopped for a greeting while walking in the village, hang out with the people in the village center, and participated a few times in voluntary village works. Also my Kiswahili at the end of my stay really improved. Whereas I could only say ‘Hello, how are you?’ at the beginning, at the end I could introduce myself and present the aim of my interview fully by myself. This was partly because I have spent many hours sitting with the MamboViewPoint staff and just talking in Kiswahili.

The end

I already knew it a bit, but after this research I discovered I am studying the best study there is: doing research by communicating with as much as possible with people. Fortunately, the people I researched in this case also turned out to be amazing friendly people. This also resulted to me that I felt very sad in the days before my departure. Despite of this, because I was almost leaving, I knew I had to enjoy every moment of being here even more.
But with the coming of the end of this research, it is also time to analyze my findings of this research:
First of all, anthropologists always have the tendency to argue the good things bad, and the bad things good. However, Herman and Marion made it very difficult for me to criticize their projects they are implementing. The reactions of the people in the village made me realize how much the people appreciate MamboViewPoint. During my conversations, it turned out that many people saw MamboViewPoint as a new alternative to bring more development in this area. This is because the ones who are supposed to facilitate development, the local leaders, are experienced as being not reliable. The people in the village experience MamboViewPoint as much more reliable in facilitating development, so people depend more on them. However, this could be a disadvantage, because in the end it are the people themselves who should develop the area. Still, people are very happy with certain developments on which they had to wait for many years, but are brought by MamboViewPoint very fast.
Another very important thing I found out during my stay here is that the willingness of people to participate in development project is very high. However, they put some restrictions on their participation: As long as the project is transparent and the facilitators can show what the benefits are, the people in Mambo are very willing to contribute their efforts to a development project.
These are some of the main findings during my stay here. But at the moment I arrive back in The Netherlands, I have to analyze all my collected data and start writing my thesis. This means that I am going to spend my time for three months in the university library. While analyzing and writing, I will constantly think back of this great time here: In this period, I noticed how much I love this country and its people, and how much I want to come back to the place where I had one of the best periods of my life!

For Dutch blogs written during my time in Mambo, visit or