Karibu! – which is welcome in Swahili. It’s already been one whole month since my charitable and fair to say adventurous journey to Tanzania began. Heavy backpacks and long flights plagued this day, but the next was the day that will be remembered that bit more fondly. The Amani Children’s Home.
One whole year flew by as I wore my Hope for Children t-shirt on endless occasions pestering the public. Packed high-streets, pantomime intervals and primary school assemblies were the audience to a repetitive bellow “Donate to the Amani Children Centre”, but nobody knew enough about it. Now, after donating my £2990 and seeing where your contributions go, it’s my turn to share my incredible experience so those who did not know can know just how great Amani is.
Rescuing Children. Restoring Home. Transforming Lives. These are the words Amani live by, and once founded in 2001, their high expectations have been delivered to children all across Tanzania. From the streets of Moshi, Arusha and Singida, children who have been neglected to the point of an unknown age, drug addiction and full-time work are rescued and taken into a home; a home that acts as a family. Through the doors of Amani resides a joyful community of cheerful children in the midst of rejuvenating their once fearful lives. Currently led by an inspirational man named Meindert Schaap, this Tanzanian centre now boasts talented children who are the product of a social masterclass.
Here’s my story…
Our team of 14 eager students offloaded the mini-van to a warm buzz of energy. Unexpectancy was the dominant thought in our minds, instantly wiped by surprise. To greet us was Meindert, and behind him, an entourage of dancers. The girls of the group had devised a traditional dance to welcome their guests, which for these children is just as exciting as we find the project visits. With the singing and dancing in full flow, we knew immediately this place was special, quite simply because there was an aura of happiness amongst everyone. The onlookers, the dancers and mainly, me.
We toured the bedrooms, the playground and the canteen to finish our guided visit in the play area. Our first interaction with the children was to introduce ourselves and the British flag, something they weren’t so familiar with. What struck me was the desire to learn and to collaborate with one and other to find out as much information as they could digest. They are after all equal to us, but they show a hunger one has yet to come across in life. They’re always smiling. We taught them how to draw the flags, and how to add different colours to make the flag look as funky as possible for decoration. They loved it, even the older kids.
It was time for me to be a kid again. Something that I’ve always dreamt of is playing the beautiful game with children who don’t have the luxurious facilities England do. This has been a dream because in England, we are spoiled, and to share the game on someone else’s soil with the bare minimal is what football should be all about, and sure it was. Hope for Children versus Amani in the most exhausting, but happiest 40 minutes of my life.
In these moments, you forget everything around you: the context and your surroundings and you simply enjoy whatever happens on the pitch. Saying this, we lost 5-4 – but that’s what makes it that extra bit special. They deserve it because we’ve adopted this talent. They’ve created it.
To end the day, we were treated to another colourful performance. This time it was acrobatics and the standard was higher than the football. Flips and tricks were demonstrated by both the boys and the girls of Amani in a rehearsed routine that made us sit in awe. All we could do was clap and wax lyrical about how he untwisted himself and how she flipped over him while he was doing it. It was a real example of practice makes perfect. There was song and dance and many, many photographs shared in our last moments in perhaps the cheeriest place in that moment on the planet.
I’ll sure miss Amani and the children, but a thank you is in order for Hope for Children for allowing me the experience to become an official partner of the home. A day I’ll never forget, and I’m sure those children won’t either.
Amani… Asante Sana and until next time.