Tears and laughter; shock, humility and inspiration – just some of the emotions which underpinned Michael and Janet Butler's recent visit to see Ester, who they sponsor in the Kilimatinde community in Tanzania. Below they share more about their visit.
Admittedly the tears were tears of joy, and being overwhelmed by the gracious and generous reception we received everywhere we went.
When the time actually came to see Ester in the flesh, the little girl we've been writing to, the sense of awe was almost palpable. It was truly such an honour to meet the staff who carry out all the invaluable developmental work about which we care about so deeply.
So, off we went, riding on a tide of good humour, camaraderie and new-found friendships. Our small team of sponsors and team leaders (Katie and Michaela) weathered the long and bumpy journeys across the country from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma. From there we crossed the Great Eastern Rift Valley to Kilimatinde. What exuberance, colour and music greeted our arrival! The women’s drum/dance/music/singing group were the first of several who entertained us in greetings and farewells during the week. A feast for the senses.
One of the most impressive lessons of our visit was the degree of democratic involvement of the whole communities with the World Vision initiatives. We were left with no doubt that it was the village committees who take responsibility for the delivery of the development programmes which World Vision help to provide through training and financial support. Our visit included meeting representatives of several groups who demonstrated the growing successes of savings schemes, nutrition training, economic opportunities like selling honey, chickens and rice and of course, the vital component of education for all children. Of all these components, the one which is still by far the most needy in terms of resources, is education. We think it is fair to say that we were thrilled to see all the children looking so healthy and well-nourished. However, we were very saddened by the obvious lack of educational resources.
The democratic principles and social cohesion which seemed a feature of life in the country, were well-demonstrated by our morning with the Children’s Parliament. We were overwhelmed with the quality of their presentation to us, and then their deep and searching questions about life in the UK. Questions of political and constitutional issues, the rights of the child and the expectations of young people all had us thinking carefully before replying.
We played a series of silly games with balloons and ropes, much to everyone’s delight. Cue smiles all round!
And so to the main focus of the trip – our visit to our sponsored child, Ester. We were in the first group of the week, and possibly endured the longest series of formalities and introductions which contributed to one very nervous little girl. It took a while and few little toys to induce a smile; but maybe it was just the shock of two white-haired, white-skinned people which had frightened her! The family were charming; extremely hospitable and welcoming, and her brothers and sisters seemed to enjoy our visit even more than Ester.
From their very simple accommodation and cooking facilities, Mama made us a delicious lunch and we really enjoyed the opportunity to explore the surrounding area. We were showed where the washing was done, the mud bricks made and where the goats were raised. Dad Philipo’s carved wooden animals became a familiar sight as we visited other homes too. It was a real privilege to be invited and to be received with such grace.
Our prayer is that the future for Ester and all the children we met will be blessed by the devoted and diligent staff of World Vision Kilimatinde and the efforts of all the members of their Tanzanian community.