July 17, 2017: Rob arrives in Zanzibar

My name is Rob Lindfield, I’m 18 years old and I’m currently living and working in Zanzibar for ZL4LF and the Zanzibar Schools Project. I’ve just finished my A-Levels at Varndean College in Brighton, and I’m hoping to start studying Swahili and International Development at SOAS in September. My first three weeks here have been hectic, chaotic and a lot of fun! My role here is teaching English and French at ZL4LF as well as English twice a week at Unguja Ukuu. In addition to this, I am a co-founder of the microfinance project which I am managing, and I am working closely with Gasica helping him with office work such as replying to emails and attending meetings which I find very exciting. I also discuss future plans about the organisation and plans for Gasica’s new school and help to organise this.

Getting settled and graduation (not mine): My first week was mostly spent getting settled, meeting lots of people and travelling around the island having fun and working on my Swahili which has been coming on really fast! When I arrived here it was during Eid celebrations at the end of Ramadan, which meant everyone was dressed to the nines and in a very festive mood. There was a lot of dancing, singing and a big party in the park just outside of Stone Town. During this time I rediscovered (for better or for worse) the vuvuzela; a relic from the South Africa world cup. Gasica took me on my first day on a trip to a spice farm (pictured below) and I spent the rest of that week meeting family and friends, as well as planning for the graduation!

Saturday 1 July: we went with a huge group of students to Fumba beach, the site of the famous Safari Blue day trips, to take part in a clean-up operation. This felt like a really worthwhile environmental project, structured as a competition we all were challenged to fill our sacks as much as possible, with the winners receiving prizes. All three winning students were from ZL4LF. We then received generous portions of pilaw and soft drinks and laughed about the day’s events.

Thursday 6 July: we had the ZL4LF and Daraja Foundation Graduation Ceremony. This generated a huge buzz in the local community and the students were bouncing off the walls. We even had TV cameras and a local news team! Mohammed and I were the MCs, I introduced and commentated for those who couldn’t speak Swahili. Gasica and Arsheen explained how they met and started to work together, they were very entertaining but their love for their work and for these projects really shined through. Some previous ZL4LF students spoke about their stories which had several people in tears. I personally found this deeply emotional.

 At times I think I can lose sight of the extent of tragedy that some of these young people have endured. I was profoundly moved and freshly motivated by the stories of students like Khamis Waya, Zahra and Keyrah to name a few. Then we had words from a few of ZL4LF’s partner organisations such as Zanlink, Zanzibar Palace Hotel, Safari Blue and the Rotary Club (both of these were represented by Eleanor in impeccable Swahinglish - a Swahili and English mixture). After this there was a DJ and everyone stayed and danced and celebrated late into the night.

My work at ZL4LF: I’ve been working closely with Gasica, helping him reply to emails, talking about ideas and trying to help him keep this amazing project moving forward. I’m genuinely thrilled to be involved here, I feel it is a genuinely sustainable institution which provides real long term benefits to the community, not just through education but through business and employment opportunities. I am the Founder and Orchestrator of the Microfinance project which aims to allow hardworking students to pursue ambitions and their entrepreneurial spirit through small interest-free loans. With the assistance of Gasica at ZL4LF, Ann from ZSP and Arsheen from Daraja Foundation I designed the application process.  With help from Varndean College Students, I raised the funds to allow students to start their own businesses. This has been very successful and there will be a much more detailed report on microfinance in the immediate future, detailing successes, failures and future plans; short-term and long-term.

Last week I started teaching. I’ve been consistently amazed by the level of English spoken by the students in the advanced class at ZL4LF. We had some really tough lessons tackling the conditional tense and some hilarious ones discussing the various accents and dialects of the English language. The improvement in some students’ English has been astonishing and I love being with this class because the levels are high enough for us to be able to really dig into inferred meanings and colloquialisms which is really enjoyable. French lessons have been coming along well with a small group of very enthusiastic students who have been studying independently so teaching them has been surprisingly easy and fun.

Unguja Ukuu: As we’ve been so busy with graduation, we’ve only visited Unguja Ukuu and the school twice over the last couple of weeks.  Teaching officially started again this week and on Wednesday I’ll start teaching there again. When I’ve visited over the last couple of weeks it has been wonderful to see so many familiar faces and briefly listen to the improvement in the level of English spoken by the students. I was amazed that they all remembered me from last year, and we had a hilarious time with the students briefly flipping the script and examining my Swahili speaking ability. They were satisfied when I proved I could sing a song by Diamond Platinumz (Tanzania’s biggest and most well-loved singer), and everyone had a giggle! Still not sure if they were laughing at my Swahili, my singing or both…

Thank you…for taking the time to read this update, it’s lovely to know that people are interested in what we’re all doing here. If you have any questions at any time, even strange ones about life in Zanzibar, please feel free to email me at zanzibarl4lf@gmail.com - which is essentially my email address for the next 3 months.