Returning back to Tijhza
At first I thought it was the children that drew me back to Tijhza. That would be the easiest conclusion to draw, as their natural curiosity and friendliness is certainly a highlight of any volunteer trip, and under the pretence of supporting the annual Exodus vs. teachers football match (sorry guys yes we are really watching) the supporters usually enjoy time spent with local children. The more confident girls will engage you in learning their names, playing clapping games and exchanging nursery rhymes. The shyer girls will sidle up and without speaking gradually building up the courage to grasp your hand content just to smile and listen to you talking a funny language.
The boys are more interested in borrowing your camera, and if you trust them you can be rewarded with some great natural shots of the children.
I think it’s a combination of the locals and the positive effect that the project is having that is such a draw for me. For the first time the trip was fully subscribed which included a doctor and three nurses which led to the first ever clinic held in the valley. We are lucky enough to take our access to healthcare for granted but for the villagers, it’s a minimum of an hour’s journey to the nearest doctor and pharmacy. The villages desperately need their own doctor and we are hoping that the women of the village will start to pressure the elders to into pressure the Caid (local mayor) to getting a doctor permanently in the village.
I was lucky enough to watch some of the nurses get involved in teaching the school kids about dental care, head lice and the importance of hand washing. The children were very enthusiastic and the older children all seem to be very committed in teaching younger siblings or classmates anything they have just learnt so the impact of these demonstrations should go much further than those who were there.
Having a full team meant that we could get lots of painting done too. One of the most frequently asked questions from friends and colleagues is “Why don’t you just send some money and let them do it themselves?” The reasons are partly a lack of knowledge, partly a lack of experience in what to buy with the money to have all the correct tools. Whilst many of us would tackle a DIY project with no experience at all and bravado of not needing to follow instructions, painting and decorating is seen as a skilled trade.
There are always villagers willing to help us when we arrive, willing to learn, and happy to follow instructions. The villagers we help are those who rely on handouts from distant family as they have no immediate family to support them. Their reception room is their very public space, and having a brightly decorated room can have such a positive impact on their lives and restoring some personal pride.
For the first time this year we had a tree planting day (225 trees planted including five extra planted at the forestry commission) although I suspect Mohammed’s Uncle Hassan broke ground for at least half of those – what a superstar! Again there is no reason why the locals can’t do this themselves, but it’s also showing them that tree planting is so important that people come from other countries to plant trees. I’m looking forward to seeing our trees growing over the years to come.
As you’ve probably gathered by now there is so much that can be done on the volunteer trips and no skills required just lots of enthusiasm and a can do approach required. For me there are only two hard parts to this trip. The first is squeezing all the donations in to your luggage when packing, thanks to very generous friends and colleagues, the second is leaving the village at the end of the trip. However, every time I walk out of the village I know I’ll be back again soon.
By Beverley Ann Phillips, Exodus client