When I needed a neighbour ….

There was a hymn that we sang at school. If you are of a certain age you will probably remember it.

The chorus went …

When I needed a neighbour,

Were you there? Were you there?

When I needed a neighbour,

Were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter,

Were you there?

The song is a bit ’70s and maybe a bit twee but it is one which has come to mind a lot recently.

Tanzania and specifically Mwanza (since we have only visited this town) is a place of contrasts. There are some fabulous places – both natural (Dancing Rocks, Bismarck Rock, Lake Victoria) and man-made (Malaika Beach, Tunza Lodge). We live on a lovely compound in a nice house and work in a good school, but there is another side.

There is poverty here! Great poverty.

People scratching a living to make ends meet. People living on the streets because they have no home or the home they had was too unsafe to live in.

Walking into town as we do we see both sides. We are immensely wealthy compared to many of the locals, and as Wazungu (white people) we stand out. We are often approached by people for money. It would be physically impossible to give money to everyone and indeed if we did we would very soon be poor ourselves. More importantly giving to an individual on the street may not be the best thing to do. Where it is an obvious disability and we have small enough change ( giving over a 10000 TSh note would lead to a stampede and would almost certainly be stolen from the one to whom it was given) we have given a 50TSh or 100TSh coin or 200TSh coin. Our criteria has been obvious disability (e.g. Elephantitis), or deprevation. In one case Anita bought a meal of Chips Mayai ( Chip Omelette) for an obviously hungry street child.

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However, we could not possibly do this for everyone and it is a challenge. One way we have attempted to help is by buying goods from those who are trying to support themselves through making bracelets or necklaces – recently we bought three bracelets from a guy we have got to know so that the funds could allow him to buy more string for more bracelets. Even so we saw him yesterday and did not buy – another day we will.

Other places have been set up in town to support street children or else Forever Angels (a local charity for babies and young children). We have bought  art work to make our house nicer whilst helping others. The cynic in me would think that there are scams to make money – but I am convinced this is not the case and the people are sincere.

Yesterday on the way into town we passed a guy on the street who fixed shoes. He had obviously noticed my sandals and called out to offer repair (the soles were coming loose). We came back and he did a fabulous job by hand, fixing my footware. In conversation (he spoke good English) he mentioned that he had had no business that day. At the end he charged 2000 TSh (about 80p) – we decided to give 6000 TSh.

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In the wider sense by frequenting the hotels and cafés, by buying from the markets or by hiring a house worker we are giving employment and spreading the wealth a little.IMG_8849

Even so it is hard to turn down a beggar and the song still haunts me a little – but hopefully we are doing something positive to help here.

4 responses to “When I needed a neighbour ….

  1. Pingback: Cutting Off Their Nose To Spite Their Face | Tanza-Longs

  2. Pingback: Monopoly Money | Tanza-Longs

  3. It must be so hard to be in your position – seen as ‘rich’ because you’re Western and indeed being so much better off than those who are so poor, and yet unable to help everyone! What you are doing looks like the best way to help a few. Good to see the street scenes and read the detail of life around you in Mwanza..

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  4. Well said, bro. That must be so hard. Very thought-provoking. Thank you.

    Like

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