“Many things” is the answer, but it very much lives in people’s experiences and shared conversations.
I am privileged to be in Tanzania with a family of five teachers from the diocese of Leeds visiting Tanzanian schools that are linked with their schools in the UK.
So what are the shared experiences?
For me being met by smiling faces and waving hands as we were greeted by children singing at school after school that we visited.
Being moved to tears by the warmth of the welcome from head teachers, local government officials and Bishop George, the Bishop of Mara. Finally, learning just a few phrases and then hesitantly introducing ourselves in Swahili in front of the whole school.
The shared conversations were many; teachers talking of their experiences sharing their hopes and dreams for the children in their care and maybe just coming to realise that although separated by huge distances geographically and economically they were very close to Tanzanian colleagues in wanting the best for their school and their children. The learning from those conversations was a two way street and I think the journey will have changed our group.
Emotionally, it is hard to watch classes of sixty and over being taught sometimes in buildings that are little more than four crumbling walls with a corrugated iron roof.
Children sitting on the mud floor and not at desks. Children who may have walked 5 km to get to school for a 6 am start and who will be expected to clean the school compound and buildings before school starts.
Yet time and time again we experienced just small steps that the church and community working together were making.
Life enhancing, life giving chances set against the reality that some of those smiling happy faces will not survive into adulthood because of diseases that with appropriate treatment and medication can be treated but in Tanzania often aren’t.
The link then is about life about common humanity and about a faith that refuses to look the other way but stands shoulder to shoulder with our Tanzanian brothers and sisters. Bega kwa Bega.
Rev’d Stephen Rochell
Benefice of Roberttown, Hartshead with Hightown and Scholes.