A visit from Sheenu

I had the pleasure of visiting Zanzibar for about a week in February, 2018. This trip was an initiative to see Safari English Club’s current progress and challenges as well as to identify areas where I can make any contribution to improve the quality of life of the children attending Safari English Club and Unguja Ukuu students in general.  I arrived in Zanzibar on an early morning flight and was feeling very excited at the potential possibilities of working with young minds and meeting the students at Unguja Ukuu. Caroline picked me from the airport, we drove home had breakfast, freshened up and headed out to Unguja Ukuu!!!!

On my first day I met Gasica, a young ambitious man who demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities. Gasica helped set up Safari English Club and recently had the privilege of travelling to Canada to talk about his work and raise funds for his new school project.  When I visited Safari English Club he shared his experiences of visiting Canada, telling people about the many challenges that students face because of cultural differences, traditional values and lack of educational resources and opportunities in Zanzibar.  It’s a very conservative Island where a good education is a rare privilege. Girls and boys lead very separate lives and have different domestic responsibilities. Understanding these challenges and striving to overcome them for a better tomorrow paves the way for many Zanzibar students and Gasica is aiming to pioneer in bringing these changes in Zanzibar.

On the way to the school, we picked up one of the most amazing teachers and personalities I have ever met; Sadiq! Our bonding was instantaneous it's what I call bruv luv!! Like two peas in a pod we were singing and laughing all the way to Unguja Ukuu! Sadiq has an amazing class presence and his love for teaching and his students is evident in the manner he conducts his classes. He’s very patient with the children and his teaching methods are enjoyable, bringing positive vibes into his classroom which further energizes his students who need recharging after a full day at school.  He makes afternoon classes bearable and convinces children that learning English language is fun!

Then came Haroun, a young ball of energy who is full of life! It was Haroun's birthday on my second day at the school and he had a special cake prepared for him to celebrate with his friends. Haroun's joy was immeasurable when he saw the cake! The children sang him a birthday song in English and Kiswahili and he even received the birthday bumps from Ann, Sadiq and other students!  Haroun is so inspiring because he is very ambitious and self motivated. I believe a great deal of his motivation stems from the fact that he passed his high school with great results and is now geared for further education. Haroun is constantly seeking advice on how to improve his quality of life and loves being a mentor to the younger children!

Haroun never spoke a word of English prior to joining the Safari English Club and during his time at the school, he often faced setbacks and discouragement for pursuing English Language from his teachers and family. But there’s no stopping this energy ball! The setbacks only fuelled his drive for learning.  He’s a great role model – he gives up his free time to volunteer at Unguja Ukuu and helps the teachers with  lessons. He’s always motivating the young minds and encouraging them to work hard and achieve their goals. Haroun's father wanted him to become a fisherman like himself.  But Haroun has other aspirations and wants to continue his education and attend college. He currently works as a diver and is learning about marine biology and life saving skills. His employer is also incredibly supportive of Haroun's ambitions and encourages him to seek further education, also promising him a permanent job after completion of his education. He wants to be known for his achievements despite his adversity and dreams of becoming "a big man in Zanzibar one day!" I see the sparkle in Haroun's eyes every time he talks about his big dreams and aspirations and can't help but love him for his ambitions and motivation! He is very inspiring and a lovable young man!

My trip went by so quickly, and the highlight was attending the "Sauti ya Busara" festival on my last day in Zanzibar! Ann, Caroline and I headed to Stone Town with about 30 of the older students to see the opening ceremony of the festival which was very vibrantly colourful and musical! There were various artists showcasing their talents in gymnastics, drum beats, traditional folk dances, stilt walkers and other amazing performances that took the streets of stone town toward the Forodhani Park! Safari English Club had made arrangements for older children to attend the festival and provided snacks and drinks for them as well.  Without the club’s support the students would even have known that this important African cultural event was taking place! It was a hot sunny day with the sun blazing down on us but the festivities kept us dancing until almost sunset and it was time for the kids to return to the village.

The trip was filled with enriching experiences of love, kindness and generosity extended to me during these five days. Ann and Caroline welcomed me warmly and were always there to listen and support me with the ideas and suggestions I would bounce off of them for the club. From arranging my accommodation during my stay to sharing meals, they made me feel so welcomed and comfortable I did not want to leave Zanzibar!!! I am planning to return as soon as possible for a longer stay where I can actually conceive the ideas and suggestions that we shared during this trip including starting Yoga classes, choir and Unguja Ukuu anthem to welcome visitors at the school! I’m looking forward to associate myself with the Safari English Club and Zanzibar Schools Project for a long term partnership!