Tell me more, Charlie 4!

30th August 2013

A few weeks ago, following a really positive mid-term review, I had the pleasure of deploying with Charlie 4 to their project village for a few days.

In addition to helping them out with construction of a large cattle trough and hearing about plans for their awareness raising campaign, I took the opportunity to ask some team members a few questions about their ICS experience to date, and how it compared to any preconceptions they had.

As we arrived into Haydom in our bus and began to unload personal belongings and food into the awaiting 4x4 vehichles provided by the project partner, I was reminded of the excited yet slightly unnerving feelings I experienced when I visited Charlie 4 at their project site for the first time. That was when I set out from fieldbase a week into the programme with a packed vehicle to restock their food supplies, pass on their mail and check on the general wellbeing of the team. Similar thoughts ran through my mind this time although, on this occasion, I felt a lot more excitement as I was surrounded by members of Charlie 4 who were all keen to get ‘home’ as they called it and were pointing out many landmarks along the way.

The only way in to the remote community of Mongo Wa Mono by road is through use of 4x4 vehicles and, as you bump and weave your way from the dry, dirt track to the floor of the Yaeda Chini valley, you really feel as though you’re in a privileged position to be driving such a little travelled route.

As we drew close to their camp I was shown the secondary school where they have been teaching lessons, the football pitch where they have spent lots of time having fun with the villagers and the fruits of their labours in the form of the pressure points they have constructed as part of their contribution to bringing the new water supply to the village.

The enthusiasm about their project and the people they are living with is infectious and I find myself visualising the next few days in his special community and planning how I can best get involved and get a full understanding of their project.

Upon arrival at their camp, all of the team jump out of the vehicles and eagerly greet the young Hadzabes who have been keeping watch over their gear whilst they have been away.  There are hugs, handshakes, Swahili greetings and smiles all around and it is lovely to be a part of it.  I am welcomed by the guards in a similar fashion (although maybe not quite as enthusiastically!)

For the next couple of days I accompany Charlie 4 to their work site where they are now contributing towards the construction of a large cattle trough, which will be used by members of the Iraqwi trivbe. I get involved with the team; cleaning dirt away to lay foundations, brick laying and placing rocks in the base to later cover with concrete. It is incredibly hot but there is a gentle breeze. As I have some time out drink some water and reenergise I take a few minutes to look around. Construction of the water trough and the scene I see before me is a brilliant illustration of why it is such a pleasure to see a successful ICS infrastructure project unfold. Overseeing the activities and ensuring the quality of the work is a member of DMDD staff. He is providing guidance to the members of Charlie 4 who are all – Tanzanian and UK – working together to divide up roles and help each other along.  Mixed in with the ICS team, a number of the villagers want to get involved. Some of them have been in communication with DMDD and our Charlie team before construction of this trough even began, ensuring that it was something they felt that the community would benefit from.  Therefore, now that construction is underway, they help out wherever they can; digging trenches, foundations and moving bricks.

It is wonderful to watch all of these people come together from across a wide range of backgrounds, and work so well in order to deliver a project that they are all clearly engaged with and passionate about completing.

Between the spells of hard work there is time for me to chat with some members of the team individually. I ask each one of them the same questions:

Why ICS? How does being here compare to any expectations you had? What have you found the hardest so far? What has been your biggest achievement?

First of all I ask the team leaders.

 C4 AndyElisha                     

Team Leaders, Andy and Elisha

Andy , 24, is currently working in the outdoor industry and has a master’s degree in terrorism and security studies:

I am interested in doing work related to international development. I went on ICS as a volunteer last year and it was an amazing opportunity where I learned so much. I saw being a team leader here as a good opportunity to learn more about people and to be forced out of my comfort zone. Another reason was that I wanted to see was Africa. ICS gives you the opportunity to see more than most people would as you live within the community and get under people’ skin in a way that you can’t seem to with any other programme

Regarding where I have been put (in terms of the programme) this is exactly what I predicted. Raleigh Tanzania is relatively new, as is their relationship with the project partner so things were a little slow to start. Regarding the environment, I had no expectations; I came here with an open mind.

The hardest thing has been managing volunteer’s expectations about the programme; helping them to realise that this is real sustainable development in action so there is no strict timetable to follow.

One of the volunteers was very down and having a hard time, feeling low, and I managed to turn around their outlook through looking after them and speaking to them. Seeing the team work together very well makes me feel very chuffed!

Elisha, 25, is the other team leader and is has worked as a credit officer in Dar Es Salaam:

I came to ICS to get experience of different issues; I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally.

I expected it to be challenging. Before ICS, I perceived people from the UK to be very different from myself. However, after living and working with them, I realise that culturally they are different in a small way, but we are all people!  The hardest thing has been coping with different people’s behaviour and realising that everyone is different

My biggest achievement has been learning about leadership and learning that I can adapt my style to different people. I realise that it is easy to understand the theory of how to do this but in practise it is much tougher.

 C4 NeemaNat
Neema and Natalie
Neema, 21, studying arts and sociology:

I came on ICS as I wanted to help the community and to achieve new knowledge. In Morogoro before I came they gave me a good explanation of how it would be when I got here and so the project is how I expected it to be.

The biggest challenge has been living with and getting along with all of the different personalities in the group, but I have learned to adapt to this and through doing so I feel I have bettered myself.

My biggest achievement is putting into practice everything that I have learned in theory about sociology and leading this cross cultural life.

Natalie Gower, 22, currently a student of ‘early c hildhood studies’:

I went to Uganda on a short 2 week placement last year and so I wanted to do something similar but for a longer amount of time. My friend applied and got accepted to an ICS programme and when I heard about it, I liked the idea of staying in one community for a length of time – allowing you to really get in there and make connections.

I didn’t have any firm expectations, I was pretty open minded about what to expect. When I was told that I was in Charlie 4, I was worried as I thought, due to the location, it was going to be very tough 24/7 and physically challenging. Now I am here, I am really pleased to be in this team!

Everything here has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I don’t do anything physical at home and I eat whatever I like, so everything is a challenge! If I had to choose one thing it would be sleeping in a tent and getting used to sleeping on the floor…. It is my first time in a tent!

My biggest achievement has been overcoming my fears. Here I just accept things and get on without moaning.

C4 AimmeeFlo
Aimee and Florah
Aimee Middleton, 20, just finished performing arts at college: 

I spent a long time looking for something to do in Africa. I came across ICS and saw that it would be the first programme with Raleigh International. It attracted me as I wanted to be a pioneer.

At the moment it matches up well with my expectations.  I found the first two weeks very challenging, but now that the project is better understood and we have a clear set of plans for the day, it meets my expectations and kind of exceeds them!

The first two weeks where there was no stable work was the hardest thing. Getting my head around what was going on and what was expected of me was tough. In order to overcome this, lots of things changed; the team came together, we understood the project partner and what they wanted and we started to communicate properly as a team.

I’m not sure how to put biggest achievement into words. Overcoming everything, gaining the ability to take everything as it comes.

Florah, 24, just finished university where she studies management of social development:

I see ICS as way to help me help society. As I have just finished university , experience of leading and team work is very valuable to me. ICS gives me the opportunity to develop these skills.

I researched Raleigh ICS in India and talked to Martin (the National Volunteer Coordinator) about how the experience would be. So, I knew it would be in a remote part of Tanzania and I thought it would be like this.

The biggest challenge has been dealing with personal behaviour from other members of the group, both Tanzanian and UK, but everyone is from different backgrounds so I expected this.

My biggest achievement has been to help the village of Mongo Wa Mono get a water supply. Also I have learned so much about leadership skills. Now I know that leading is about flexibility, it is about learning about other people’s minds and the ability to change.

C4 LilShaz
Lilian and Shaazia
Lilian, 22, studying community development:

I wanted to come on ICS to experience new things and get new ideas. Also, I enjoy community work. This experience matches any expectations I had very well,.

In the first few weeks I found the limited food that was available to us to be the biggest challenge but that is OK now. I have learned so many things about the community and about the Hadzabe tribe, so that has to be my biggest achievement so far.

Shaazia, 22, just finished university (Geography and English) with a place to start her PGCE secured:

I wanted to do something with my Summer and to get involved with a project that tackled development issues. In terms of the project I had very few expectations, but I knew that as Raleigh were new to the country and we were working with a new project partner, there would be challenges. Also, I have done something similar in Ghana in 2010 with a different company.

The biggest challenge for me has been sleeping in a tent for such a long period of time. I see the biggest achievement is that we have really settled in and made the camp very homely. Also the project was a little slow to start so people weren’t ‘up for it’ immediately. That has changed now and everyone in the team is now really engaged and we want to complete all of the tasks that we have set out to do before we leave.

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I hope you gained as much enjoyment from reading the views of our volunteers as I had in collecting them. When the time came to wave goodbye and leave the team in Mongo Wa Mono, other than my feeling of sadness as having to leave such a special place, I left their community and project feeling incredibly positive.

I am now eager to meet up with the team again over the next few days so that I can hear about everything that they have achieved and feel inspired all over again!

Finally, I should mention that my journey out of Charlie 4’s community was a lot quieter than my journey in! I was fortunate enough to have the company of my friend and one of the superb drivers from Raleigh Tanzania, Karume. He is super reliable, he always has the biggest smile, and he knows when to chat and when to leave you at peace with your thoughts during those long journeys home from the project sites…

 

SK Karume2

Karume and myself in front of one of the Raleigh vehicles