Our first visit to Tabora Region was in 1984 with the 15th visit in 2015. Students have been involved in many successful projects funded by the Lenten Appeal and other fundraising activities.
The expeditions would not have been possible without the backing and support of FUM which has been active in the region for over 50 years.
In Tanzania our visits are planned and organised by the Regional and District governments who generously deploy staff and resources such as transport to ensure our visits pass without a hitch.
With their help and support we are able to stay and work in the most remote villages in the Region.
In the early years lorries were used for transport but, thanks to improvements in the roads, more comfortable coaches became the norm.
No link can be one way and at the outset discussions were held with our Tanzanian colleagues concerning reciprocal visits. It was agreed that we would invite teachers from the Folk Development Colleges (FDCs) and local primary schools to visit Cranbrook.
We run a cycle of reciprocal visits alternate years visiting Tanzania with a party of students and the following year inviting two Tanzanian teachers or officials to visit Cranbrook. While they are in the UK we arrange a comprehensive programme of visits and tours for them. In return they spend time with our classes and in visiting local primary schools, talking to pupils about their country.
During the years that the project has been running, more than 200 Cranbrook students and 36 staff have visited Tabora Region while we have entertained 23 Tanzanian visitors to the school. We have generated a huge amount of goodwill at the Tanzania end and now our visits are eagerly awaited. The Cranbrook/Tanzania School Link was one of the UK's longest running school links with the developing world.
The 15 project visits have been almost problem free. Care was taken to ensure that anti malaria drugs were taken at the prescribed times and that food and water were always safely prepared. Whenever the teams ventured out into villages the Districts always ensured that cooks, usually domestic science teachers, accompanied them to ensure the quality of the food provided by the villagers. Minor stomach upsets were common and once a student contacted amoebic dysentery through eating an ice cream bought from a street vendor. Occasionally sunstroke was a problem.
For the first few visits the local authorities, convinced that we would be frail and unable to withstand the living conditions, provided us with our own paramedic with his case of medical equipment but this was soon recognized as unnecessary. Only twice was a short stay in a local hospital needed and the care given in both cases was excellent.
The one serious incident occurred in 2013 when the group working in Utimule village were hijacked along with several other vehicles by a group of armed bandits.This was a terrifying experience leaving the group traumatized but somehow they managed to rise above their trauma and decided to remain and compete the expedition rather than fly home at once. This is testimony to them but also illustrates just how determined Cranbrook students were to work hard and do their utmost to improve the lot of the people of the Region. It is also testimony to the superb leadership of Angela and George Daly, the two staff members leading the ambushed group. Their calmness, we are sure, did much to defuse the situation andallow a peaceful termination of the ambush.