A new Harambee, a new adventure

11 July 2014

It’s Harambee time again and the July team are off and running – to the airport! They’re flying on Saturday and will be telling us about the Harambee experience in regular blogs over the next few weeks. Today, however, one of the team’s volunteers, Ned Dwyer, tells us a little about getting ready for this year and his memories of a previous visit. And if Ned’s enthusiasm inspires you, don't forget – there may still be November team places open.

Over to you, Ned…

Everything to be packed is lying on the spare bed (with a few * on the items we still have to get or buy). Going back to Londiani for the third time we know about those little things that make a difference: a bar of 70% dark chocolate, a mini hair straightener (not for me!), and of course a complete set of fresh clothing to wear on the last night. After almost three weeks in the same two T-shirts and the same two trousers it makes a nice change to be wearing – and seen in – something new!

But we all know that this trip is about something much more important than chocolate and new clothes: we are going to Londiani to work with the local people in helping to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities. In particular, we will be helping to install smokeless stoves in people’s houses.

In 2011, when I last went, this programme had just started. There was a real satisfaction in completing a stove, asking the woman of the house to light it and watching the smoke – not filling up the room this time, but going out through the chimney. And in knowing that a few hours’ labour was going to make a life-changing difference to each of these families.

And it really is life changing. No smoke in the house means no respiratory problems for women and babies who spend much of their time in the kitchen. No open fires – which people sometimes fell into – mean no burns. More efficient cookers mean less firewood and fewer journeys to the forest to collect it – and more free time for the young girls whose job it is to fetch that firewood.

It’s easy to read about these facts, but when you see the smile on a woman’s face – and realise that she has carved ‘FOL’ and hearts into the mortar of the new stove! – you know that you have made a difference. You’ve made a difference to a life, to a family and to a community in a small but practical way, and, even though you’re covered from head to toe in mud and mortar, that knowledge gives you the energy and enthusiasm to head off and install another stove before sundown.

So roll on Saturday July 12th 2014 (no strikes please, Air France!), as we head off to Londiani and a new adventure.