One July in Zanzibar
Maybe my canoe is bigger than yours but sea is the same. If there is no fish, we both go hungry – Zanzibari proverb
Being a student of the Geneva School of Diplomacy means not just getting excellent education and having proficient professors, it also means having an opportunity to be on the ground and get your own experience. With the help of the GSD team, I was lucky to get a chance to go to the magic African Island of Zanzibar – where I could share my knowledge and learn something new, work with knowledgeable people and serve the Zanzibary community. To serve the community is the main goal of the Zanzibar Outreach Program (ZOP), which is essentially a local non-governmental organization that was founded in 2006 by a team of passionate Zanzibaris. ZOP functions on a volunteer basis, so thus any member does not even get a cent from it. However, the impact that they have already made and keep making is absolutely precious.
The ZOP programmes are community based and focused on improving access to health care in outreached communities. In addition to this, they have established a school for the deaf and run a water supply program – luckily, when I was in Zanzibar, I had the chance to see their work in action.
My first “out of office” experience was at a mobile clinic at Tumbatu Island. Tumbatu is a small island not far from Zanzibar. Foreigners are not welcome there as local people are very conservative and want to keep their culture original and intact. That is why it was especially exciting for me to experience it and see it with my own eyes. There, I met nice and friendly people who have been deprived of basic needs that are so common for others. Sadly, it is so hard for them to have access to medical care; therefore, it is important that ZOP brings medical care to them. On a personal note, they also taught me a few words in Swahili which I will surely remember.
The ZOP makes mobile clic to Tumbatu a few times during the year and brings with them a team of doctors that includes physicians, dentists, ophthalmologists and gynecologists. I saw a never-ending line under the burning sun, and doctors paying qualitative attention to each patient. All of them were doing this absolutely for free such as providing check-ups and medicines. They not just paid attention, they spread kindness from deep within their heart.
In my opinion kindness is a ruling power for many things; after a visit to the ZOP School for deaf I have become even more concerned about this. This project started in 2013 and now the school has around 30 kids from 3 to 8 years old, and 5 teachers. Children with hearing problems are prepared to go to primary school equally as others. Most of them cannot make any sound when they first come, but with the teachers’ help and their creative approach, they progress.
Often, parents cannot afford to provide special treatments to children with hearing problems because of the difficult economic situation on the island; for some, even bringing their child to a ZOP school is unaffordable. Therefore, every morning a school bus picks up the kids all over the island and brings them home in the afternoon. Each time it takes three hours, I know this because I once rode in the bus with these precious souls. How the school team cares about those children touched me.
The care about children has brought ZOP to another project. This time, in collaboration with Infant Club Foot Appeal of UK. In essence, ZOP runs a program on Club foot management which includes transport and free medical treatment; I visited the Mnazi Mmoja hospital early morning and saw a long line of parents holding little babies. It is difficult to explain why children are born with this sickness, but treatment is needed within the first week after birth. It is a long process, particularly because children are living far away from town and do not have the opportunity to come to the hospital often. Thus, the attentive medical personnel do everything possible to help these little angels. My heart was broken when I saw such small children with their endless tears and suffering. Nevertheless, I also saw the result of doctors’ work and it is beyond fantastic.
ZOP deals not only with medical issues; it works to help people in the future to improve their life conditions. An example of this can be seen through the ZOP Community Water Supply Program, which is focused on providing water to areas of a minimum of 500 people. The first village I visited was Kinuni village with 2000 inhabitants. There, ZOP installed 4 water caring stations. Before this, people had to go far to get fresh water. Usually, they used fresh water only to make food and for household purposes they were using running water that is not very clean and not healthy at all. Now people do not have to walk a long distance to reach fresh water so they can use clean water all the time. This has tremendous influence on the health status of the population; and, consequently, impacts the future.
Then, I visited Tomondo village. It was a very special mission for me because the water station that was under construction at that moment, was sponsored by GSD. Local people were so happy and grateful. I was so proud of my university whilst watching the builder carve the name of Geneva School of Diplomacy on the wall. After the ceremony, I was honoured to be invited to the house of one of the locals for lunch. It is one of those moments that I will never forget. It was not just a lunch; it was a touch of the pure Zanzibari culture. I have had the chance to look what is “behind the curtain” and share happiness with these super friendly people.
However, the greatest honour in this trip was the trust that ZOP team gave me. My main job was in the ZOP office. I was given the task to convert a progressive idea into a real project – when I realised how many people can benefit from it and the level of responsibility… I got scared! But when you work with such people like Shinuna Kassim and Dr. Naufal, you believe that you can do everything and anything. They were explaining to me their ideas and vision. I was doing research and tried to combine all this on paper. Of course, one month was not enough to finalise everything as I had to leave Zanzibar. However, we keep working at a distance and I am waiting for December so that I can see the result of our work.
One July in Zanzibar has taught me to be patient and tolerant. I saw hard working people who care about others. I was warmly welcomed wherever I went. I met so many friendly people and saw so many shining smiles. I got a chance to be useful, implement my knowledge and be a part of a project that will change the lives of thousands people. And my personal achievement – now I know, that my dream job exists, and I am able to do it.