Volunteering changed my life
20 November 2008
by Mashaka Mkesso
Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania: I am young man born in 1972. I was chosen to join the University of Dar-es-Salaam in 2005; my father wanted me to study law. But I didn’t want to create misery for people because law means prison. I wanted to end people's strife and misery. This was because of my experiences with the poor.
I lived most of my life in urban areas, particularly Dar-es-Salaam, but I visited some rural areas in Songea when I was in grade seven. There I discovered the worst life in the world.
What shocked me most were the unnecessary deaths of children and pregnant women. I was told that pregnancy means half-dead half-alive, so it is normal for pregnant women to die. I doubted that.
At university, I found about sociology which guided me to solve such mysteries. I took it. After completion, I joined the Dhahabu Arts Group to volunteer using arts to lobby, advocate and campaign on policies and build capacity for communities to bring their own development. Transform their lives. To change their behaviour for a better life.
My greatest achievement was when I helped people in one of the villages I visited in Singida in 2006 to build a dispensary. They had none and the nearest dispensary was about 50 kilometres away. So many pregnant women took the risk of not going to a clinic because there was no transport and almost no road. The District Council provided cement and iron sheets, and nurse and a doctor.
At first I was afraid to be a volunteer, fearing that I will never get people's and Government support, but thanks to my animation and facilitation Skills, I managed to convince such villagers to find out by themselves the problem they are facing and decide on what measures to take through participatory theatre.
This project, under Dhahabu Arts Group and its partner Utu Mwanamke was extended to five regions, 10 Districts, 20 Wards and 60 Villages. Now pregnant women and babies' deaths have declined.
I am still thinking of the remote villages we have not yet visited, what is happening there? How many women and children are dying daily because there are no clinics, money to pay for services and health nutrition?
Sometimes later I will initiate my own project, maybe with interested partners to build not only clinics but also roads and economies for remote rural areas. I know resources are available around all rural areas, however people with skills and who are committed must do something.