Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wals and Wags and Angi, Oh My!

Hello dear readers, I hope everyone is well this week.  Things continue to go swimmingly at Toa Nafasi and big changes are afoot.  I mentioned last week that we had moved classrooms and are now properly ensconced in a real darasa, so that has been a great improvement on the dilapidated shack we were using before.

With the move have also come significant changes in personnel, and I am pleased to say that we have had a lot of movement through the program in the last six weeks or so.  The title of this post refers to this movement with the additions of walimu or "wals" in Sarah-speak, "teachers" in Swahili, wageni or "wags" (visitors), and Dr. Angela Stone-MacDonald (early childhood education expert and Toa Nafasi consultant extraordinaire), all of whom have touched us in some way in recent days.

First off, we have hired a new teacher to help Vumi and Yacinta with the individual lesson plans.  Her name is Dorin and she's very young and quiet, but I think under our tutelage, she will flourish and develop some skills as a private tutor.  I don't have a photo of her just yet as she has only been working for about a month and two weeks of that time I was on vacation, but you all will come to know her face soon!

It's nice to think that, in addition to supporting slow-learning primary schoolchildren, Toa Nafasi can also provide employment opportunities to these young ladies of the village and help them to grow their experience and expertise as teachers.

Next, we've welcomed a lovely, young Western volunteer into our fold.  Evelyn is from Ireland, and was referred to the Project by a friend of mine who runs a hostel here in Moshi and has included Toa Nafasi as a possible volunteer site for the expats who roll through (asante sana, Rhiannon!!).

Evelyn has a background in physical education for children with disabilities and knows how to use sports and games to promote academic development amongst slow learners.  She joined us in June and will stay on until the end of August.  Thus far, she has been a great addition to the Project; "ready, willing, and able" would be the understatement of the year!!  Vumi and I have not hesitated for a second to put her to work and she is even studying Swahili and making materials for the classroom in her spare time.  Here she is with Julius, a student from last year, working on math.

Around the same time Evelyn joined us, Vumi and I were taking some of this year's Standard One students on referral appointments to KCMC and Gabriella to see if various other issues (poor eyesight, psycho-social issues, etc) were causing their low academic performances rather than an actual learning difficulty (a blog entry on our exploits at the hospital will follow shortly....).  

On one such outing, I met an American doctor of orthopedic surgery who examined a child with a bum arm.  He asked me what I was doing in Moshi and I told him about Toa Nafasi.  He then recommended the Project to his girlfriend and college-age daughter as a volunteer opportunity and they joined us for about a week, doing arts and crafts and playing games with the children.  

It was my first time to welcome wageni to Toa Nafasi and I hope I came correct!!  Back in the day, pre-TTNP when I was working for the other NGO and just volunteering my spare time at the nursery schools, I used to bring friends who visited me in TZ to Msaranga, but this is quite different.  Not only were Kelly and Andrea strangers to me, but the onus was on me to explain the Project well and to show them a good time.  I hope I succeeded!!

Kelly, in particular, came with a lot of great ideas for stuff to do with the kids so we really let her run with it and Vumi and I just hung back and helped with the language barrier.  We organized arts and crafts projects which then helped to beautify our new classroom and also taught the kids dodgeball which, you might imagine, they LOVED as there's truly nothing more satisfying than pegging your fellow classmate at top speed with a rubber ball.  Check the photos below!

Another Kelly idea was to help the kids count by tens using tracings of their hands.  Here she is getting down and dirty with a few of them, and then a couple students taking the reins themselves and finally, the end result!!

She and Andrea also helped the kids to draw their houses and yards.


Enter dodgeball, that happy pastime described by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller in the eponymous 2004 movie as a sport of "violence, exclusion, and degradation."

I jest....but really, it can be a rather dangerous activity if left unsupervised....

So, I think we're all clear on the "wals" and "wags," but what about Angi?!  Well, I am pleased to announce that the good professor has returned to Moshi for a second year of service with The Toa Nafasi Project!!

This time around, she is spending a bit less time in-country, but that certainly doesn't mean she is any less significant to us or doing any less work - trust me, if I am not a hard task-master, which I am, Vumi is even worse and she has put Miss Angi to work right and proper.  Here's Evelyn and Vumi observing Angi as she tests a student from last year for the third and final time.

Once we have completed all those exams and analyzed the data, I'll be sharing with you all what we have learned from our first full cycle: the original assessment followed by referral appointments when necessary and the start of private tuition; the second assessment after six months' time; the continuation of tuition and the last assessment.  For the most part, it is very happy news!!

No comments:

Post a Comment