No schedule at Wipahs is ever set in stone. One day you’re a teacher, one day you’re admin, and one day you’re a marketer and some days you are all three. You really never know what the next day brings. Every single day is so different because of the spontaneity of this place but I will attempt to explain an average day.
My eyes generally open at about 5 am to the sound of a child’s voice reciting a dua (supplication) on the loudspeaker. I can hear it in the far distance with the background noises of the crickets outside my window. If I can sum up the courage I try and go to mosque for my morning prayers. Every prayer here is congregational prayer, the whole school comes to pray together, each in their own mosques. Primary school has their own mosque, Secondary girls have Zainabiyya and Secondary boys have the Ali Centre. I get out of bed, take a shower and as I leave my apartment I hear the beginning of the Adhaan. It is still pitch dark at this point and apart from the sound of my shoes against the gravel, all I can hear are the crickets and the Adhaan resonating throughout the campus.
Between the Adhaan and the beginning of prayers there are several supplications (duas) that are read. I see the students and teachers and we say salaam to each other and sit down. There is something really magical about waking up at this hour and hearing the voices of young children reciting Qur’an and performing our prayers together. After prayers, the girls go back to their dorms to prepare for the day and I go back home hoping to maybe try and sleep for an hour or two. At this point, the weather is pleasant and cool, the sky is cloudless, slightly grey and the orange sun has just risen over the horizon.
I live on the third floor of my apartment building and as I climb past the lady who lives underneath me (she’s from India and works at the school), I hear her call out my name and she calls me in for tea. This may be normal usually but it’s 6 am! I am taken aback every single day by the random acts of kindness I am shown by everyone here (I have been invited for several evening teas , Sunday breakfasts and even 6 am tea now) and it is not just my neighbors but everyone here including the students. The first thing you will learn here is Karibu! Welcome! If someone is eating, Karibu ! Come join me and eat with me. If I am looking for a student in the dorms: Karibu! – Please come in to my room, Stay if you want! Welcome! If I meet someone for the first time : Karibu, Welcome to Tanzania. It is in their culture to be so welcoming. I feel right at home already.
So, when I am not invited for 6 am teas.. my actual day generally begins at 7:30 when I go and eat breakfast, then go to work. Work can be whatever you choose it to be. There is a shortage of manpower here and so there is work to be done everywhere. If you want, you can take a book and read with the orphans or you can take a game and play with the them. You can also go to secondary or primary and can become a teacher for a day. If teaching is not your thing, you can start any project you want or carry out a workshop with the kids after school hours. Things are really in your own hands here and it’s up to you to find where you are useful.
Personally, I have 2 classes that I teach English to twice a day and then work at the office till 3. I have been working on sponsorship reports which entail telling a sponsor how Wipahs is doing, upcoming projects, progress, shortcomings, and how their sponsored kids are doing. This gives me a great overview on the organization. I am also trying to get started on a textbook project as most of the kids here can’t afford textbooks. This means that more time is spent writing down information from the blackboard than learning new concepts. It also means the kid has less to go home to and revise and slows down the whole learning process. Further, it relies heavily on the skill of the teachers who are not always that skilled nor dependable so giving the students textbooks helps them have more control over their grades.
After 3, I like to spend time with the Secondary girls. If anybody does not understand a certain concept that they learnt in school, I try and fix that and try and re-teach them that lesson. I try and talk to the girls and try and realize the challenges they are facing. The second part of my day is just as important as the first because I feel like the first part gives me a bigger picture of WIPAHS and then being with the girls in the afternoon helps me be in touch with what is happening on the ground, the smaller picture.
After being at the girls secondary, at about 5, I walk up the sandy hill towards the orphanage and try and read with them until evening prayers. I These kids are so keen to learn. If they see you with a book they gather around you and hope you will choose their class to read with. “Fundisa Mimi, Fundisa Mimi teacher!” – “Teach me, Teach me! teacher” they call out as I choose a class to read with. After reading with them I head back home and hear the last call for prayers for the day.
Wipahs truly has a world of possibilities. You want to be part of so much yet you do not really know where to begin or how to go about it but there is great potential. Everyday seems so jam-packed but at the end of the day you do wonder if you really achieved anything substantial. “Making a difference” is such a cliché saying and is not as simple as it sounds as there are no instant results anywhere and so you cannot really tell if you are making that difference you want to make.