Community spirit and Health and Safety

Moshi Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 6 › view all entries

Since arriving here, I have been determined to immerse myself into the local community, see life from their perspective and try to find out what makes these people who have virtually nothing to their names and so many problems live life with a smile on their face. I have been fully aware that I am never going to appreciate the situation totally when something as basic as your skin colour seperates you from the crowd and I cannot escape from the fact that I have had a very privilidged (comparitively) upbringing in the UK gives me a huge head start. But living with the Oreo family has been an incredible way of getting a real insight into the lives of the local people. I have been able to see first hand so many facets of the day to day living of the family and friends and I have seen how people live out of each others pockets. For people who have so little, what little they can offer means a lot. Everybody in the neighbourhood looks after one another and people trade goods with each other, do favours and exchange knowledge. They look after each others children, feeding them and treating them as their own, they make an effort to help out the ill or elderly and are some of the most hospitable people I can imagine. The older members of the community are looked up to for their experience and wisdom, Mr Oreo providing me with the perfect opportunity to see this in action when people keep calling round to his home to to ask him for advice. I have seen him help people with legal advice, travel and logistical problems and advice on cultivation of crops and livestock and I am repeatedly amazed by how the information is accepted and appreciated, then paid for in some way, be it a favour, money or fruit. This from a man who has 9 children (the oldest being my age with children of his own and the youngest being 3) and is essentially a cripple who walks on his hands. I am also equally flattered when he soaks up any information which I can give or any help I may be – he is still just so eager to learn, despite being an actual pillar of the community.

The children are also a massive part of life here. They are everywhere and are involved in prettymuch everything. It couldn’t be any more different to my home in the UK where parents are terrified to let their children out of their sight, let alone allow them to walk miles to the shop or to school or a friends house alone at just 3 years old. You see them fetching cigarrettes for the parents or getting fruit from the market, playing on the streets or working in the garden. Everyone knows each others children and they all keep a watchful eye over them. However that does not mean there is any kind of health and safety regulations being followed out here, in fact it is almost as though here in Africa they are trying to prove such things are not necessary. Gifti Oreo, a 4 year old boy was hacking up a mango with a super sharp 15 inch machete on the first occasion I met him and nobody blinked an eyelid. Him and many of the other boys have a habit of putting everything in their mouths whatever it is and wherever comes from. Not a slap of the wrist in sight, I am fairly sure the philosophy here is that kids will learn from their mistakes. Kids work here if they are not in school, from any age doing almost any job. I have seen 11 year old mechanics, 8 year olds working the farm and street sellers from the age of 6. On my project, most of the work (that myself or the other volunteer nick don’t do) is done by a 13 and a 14 year old. The other kids also help out doing various jobs.

And of course as in most communities, the ones who keep life going, doing all the forgotten and tireless jobs are the women. As in the west, they spend much of their time gossiping whilst carrying out tasks like washing clothes, cooking dinner, buying food and necessarys from market or cleaning (or sometimes building) the house. You see them in the streets carrying huge amounts of shopping on their heads or sweeping out the garden in their colouful wraps and headscarfs, bending at the waist to wash children or pick weeds from the ground without bending their knees and seem able to hold the position for hours. They always seem to have a permanent grin on their face whenever you take time to speak to them and will always try to offer you food or drink. Most of them are expected to bare many children and they relish the job of motherhood. However nice I make them sound though, I must warn you that there is nothing on earth as terrifying and an angry African Mama! So always be nice to them…

It has got to the point now that I know many of the people in the area I have been working and as well as being virtually adopted by the Oreo family, I have been accepted as a part of a sort of giant extended family. Beyond the fact that everyone wants to know about the Mzungu, they ask for help if they think I can be of assistance are always offering food etc. I never thought that in a place crawling with lizards and cockroaches, stinking of livestock, litter everywhere and people with AIDS and Malaria everywhere I go I would be able to feel comfortable. But I do. This is only possible because of one thing, the amazing sense of community I feel all around.



margaretinlondon says:
What an amazing blog! I had to keep reading until the entries ran out.....
Posted on: Jun 11, 2008
kelleeoo says:
Thank you for sharing this entry. Glad you are experiencing the real Africa.
Posted on: Jan 31, 2008
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