The Bandari School in Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania is one of few schools to have a playground, thanks to a group of south-west volunteers and donations.
While the visiting volunteers also built a new classroom in April, it was the slide, spinning wheel and sandpit that the children were most excited about.
The school opened in July last year and is the brainchild of Port Fairy's Catherine Ryan and Seif Sakate who grew up in the region.
It has been a labour of love for the couple and south-west volunteers who have helped build the school. The Port Fairy Rotary Club and the Port Fairy Folk Festival have also helped fund the building’s construction.
Twenty children are enrolled in kindergarten at the school and will continue to progress through the year levels as new classrooms are built.
Ms Ryan said the eight volunteers built one classroom during the visit and the concrete slab for a third classroom has been poured.
A round of new kindergarten students will begin at the school in January.
“The kids loved the playground,” Ms Ryan said. “It was one of the highlights. Over there you don’t have playgrounds, not in local schools, so they’re excited about that, which is great.”
Ms Ryan said they were fortunate to have former principal and volunteer Jo Levy on the trip and she worked with the school’s teachers to develop a curriculum, similar to the play-based learning model that is used in Australia.
Ms Levy will continue to work with the teachers via fortnightly Skype catch ups.
Another initiative at the school is the women’s project, which aims to educate and upskill single mothers and enable them to gain employment.
The women are currently managing a chicken farm on site where they sell the eggs and take care of the chickens.
The volunteers helped to establish a fish farm, which will be part of the women’s project in coming months.
The volunteers also helped to teach English to the Women’s Project participants and some of the parents while they were there.
People who gave their time included Port Fairy’s Jo Levy, Carolyn Crowe and Tim Doeg; Warrnambool’s Ashley, Trish and Emily Porra; and a Melbourne couple.
Ms Ryan said they couldn’t believe how much the project had achieved in a short time and thanked south-west residents for their help.
“Things have progressed so much faster than we anticipated (when we began),” Ms Ryan said. “We’ve done so much more than we thought possible.” A second trip is planned for November. To register your interest email email@example.com
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