I have just taken on a volunteer position with the UN to mentor a worker to redesign a project website which aims to integrate various educational, economic and cultural programmes in tandem with a number of national and international NGOs as well as local government in Tanzania.
The project appears to be impossibly ambitious, embracing cultural and economic change, gender issues, health, and agriculture. But everything has to start somewhere and a lot of work has already been done on the website – www.Foundationhelp.org -built by another volunteer, which could be rescued if I could only access it.
The worker assigned to me, whom I believe to be a young Tanzanian man, but have not yet confirmed this, is a social worker cum engineering technician with no website experience, but he is positive he can do this given a template and some advice.
So I have another huge learning curve ahead. Not merely more up-to-date site building (I threw away all my HTML and Java files thinking I should never need them again), but getting to grips with problems of climate change, wildlife conservation, water supply, HIV and STDs, poverty, cultural conflicts such as the reassignment of a widow to her brother-in-law, male and female genital mutilation, economic development conflicts such as agriculture, human settlement, small industry, eco-tourism, big game hunting, power generation, and saline extraction, as well as cross-district conflicts and political conflict with neighbouring countries.
Well, I wanted to do something useful and get my teeth into another adventure. I even had visions of uprooting myself again for my last few years in order to work on the ground, but I am only too aware of my own health and finance issues and the antagonism my presence could provoke. There is also the slight problem of 17 different tribal groups and languages, apart from Kiswahili and English.
So I have decided to work sideways through the other organisations linked in various ways and set up a newsletter in the first instance to document what is needed and what is being done.
In the meantime, my designated colleague, Chacha, is trying to track down access codes and host contracts as well as the original designer, and examining his own objectives and priorities so that we can identify a practical starting point.
As I have said many times, “Life is never dull.”
Mean while, back at the farm, a little rain has changed the finca to a workable milieu. There is lots of stuff to harvest and process, and a capable problem solver is working on my irrigation system, having extended his remit to include river water direct to my little Wendy house for loo-flushing, shower, laundry and sink.
I shall still have to bring fresh drinking water in bottles from a village faucet for food preparation, dish-washing etc.
On the financial front, I now have a steady copy-writing assignment on African wildlife conservation and tourism, but am gutted by a stupid mistake that cost me a day’s work, necessitating repeated research and a total rewrite of a 2,000 word article I was very pleased with until it was corrupted when my phone line was interrupted as I was uploading. I had not saved a second copy. Well, I have learned something new and now need to revamp my Sunday off, cancel a picnic and get my head down for another 6 -12 hours of hard graft, depending on my mind-set and level of concentration, as well as lack of interruption.
A word of prayer and a session of relaxation and focusing seems called for…