A day in the life of James, our Village Manager
At 6:00 a.m. the sun has just risen over the Children’s Village in Mkuranga. A cock is crowing; smoke rises from the charcoal fires of nearby houses.
Running water can be heard as the children shower and get dressed, a little more leisurely than usual as June is a holiday month in Tanzania and there is no formal school. Two mothers are already by the stoves outside, preparing mandazi (a type of doughnut) for breakfast for 64 children and their mamas.
James Kalinga, our Village Manager, is also up and about. He has already replied to four emails from trustees in Europe and is now planning the day ahead. He will sit down shortly for breakfast with Emanuel, his Deputy, and Julius, the Technical Manager. Discussions with Julius centre around the technical specifications for a new borehole for water, and the plastering of the children’s rooms, the latter possible via a generous donation from the Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam. Discussions with Emanuel involve a detailed appraisal of the exam results of 33 of our children, focussing particularly on the less academic and on concrete ideas as to how to help them.
At 8 am James leaves in the van to visit the regional Welfare Office. There he is greeted by the Welfare Officer and three frightened children.
Their stepfather has been beating them regularly and has also threatened them with a knife. Malaika Kids agrees to take them into our Village, the paperwork is completed, and James drives back again. He has already decided on which mama will look after them and they will stay together in the same house. Slowly they begin to speak and by the end of the day are playing happily with the other children in the Village.
After a quick lunch, James is on the phone dealing with daily issues. First, he calls the Welfare office to confirm that the children are settling in. However, Welfare are already aware of another desperate child who needs our help – she will stay in our Reception Home in Dar re Salaam for a few days before transferring to the Village. He then calls Peter, the Manager of Lifewaylight Primary school, which 22 of our children attend. While many of our children are near the top of the class, two are struggling badly and strategies for them are needed. Finally, he calls an organisation that runs a similar Children’s Village to ours in Dar; our mamas would like to visit in order to compare and contrast the two. An appointment is made.
Then it’s back in the van again, this time a short drive into Mkuranga to buy a new tyre and get a huge bag of maize dehusked and ground. This will then be cooked by the mamas into ugali, a staple part of the Tanzanian diet. James takes two of the boys with him, as a little treat, as they have been particularly helpful in weeding our pineapple crop.
In the Village excitement is growing as tomorrow a big external trip is planned. Starting at 7 am 20 children and their mamas, plus James and Emanuel, will travel to the capital. It is only 30 miles away but the traffic is unpredictable and the journey can often take over two hours. They will enjoy a short train ride – most of our children have never been on a train before – and then visit the National Museum and next on to fun at the beach. Two more similar trips will take place over the next week so that every single child takes part in the outing. On his return from Mkuranga, James checks on who is going tomorrow and that the van is in good working order.
At 6 pm, dusk falls suddenly and shortly afterwards everyone gathers for supper. The chat centres around the trip tomorrow and also the debate to be held at 7:30 pm. James organises these debates once a month – all undertaken in English and with strict formal rules as to who can speak and when. This time the motion is that “Teachers are more valuable than Doctors”. Some children as young as seven take part, but the undoubted star is an older boy who speaks very good English and is passionate in his defence of doctors.
Time for bed for everybody – it’s an early start tomorrow. But James’s day is not quite over. At 11 pm a mama knocks on the door of his house. One of the younger children in her care has developed a high fever. Everybody in the Village knows what that could mean – malaria. James drives both mother and child to the local hospital three miles away. There the child is rapidly tested; the results are back in half an hour. No, not malaria, but flu. Take paracetamol and go to bed, is the advice. Hopefully the child will be well enough to go on the trip in a few days’ time!
Tomorrow… well that’s a new day, full of new challenges!