The destination for our outward visit is in the Rungwe area in the district of Mbeya: this lies in the South West of Tanzania over 500miles from the seaport of Dar es Salaam.
We fly out to Dar es Salaam where we stay for 2 or 3 nights before travelling by train or bus to Mbeya where we are met by our hosts. We then travel by school bus to Lutengano which is our main base for the trip and somewhere where we have long standing associations and friendships.
Over the years we have built strong links with a number of secondary and primary schools in the area and we work with our sister committee in Rungwe (the Rungwe Cumbria Community Link) to organise a programme of activities and events. This includes school visits with active participation in school activities, culture exchange events such as music and sports days, visiting local sites of interest and rest days. There may also be some time spent on working with our Tanzanian friends on projects we have funded. This is more symbolic than anything else as the local labour force is far better at building work than we are.
The purpose of our exchange is primarily to promote international friendship and understanding through learning about and sharing each other’s culture and lifestyles. In Tanzania participants will witness conditions very different, in many ways, from those they are used to. Some people we meet may live in very rudimentary houses, often without electricity and running water. Average earnings are very low compared to the UK. However, we always receive an enthusiastic and warm welcome and on past visits participants have often commented on how happy and generous the folk in Rungwe are.
Our base in Rungwe is hostel accommodation in Lutengano. From here we travel on a daily basis to local schools and community institutions either by foot or motor vehicle. The group will spend about ten days in local schools or communities. Half way through the visit we take a break and head for Matema Beach on Lake Nyasa for some well-earned relaxation. At other times we will also visit some of the local natural attractions such as Kaparugwe Falls, The Natural Bridge, Ngozi Crater Lake, Tukuyu market.
Whilst staying at Lutengano we will be cooking for ourselves for about half of the time. This means everybody will have the experience of shopping in the local market (in a small group with a leader) and the chance to try out some KiSwahili. We all participate in cooking, washing up and other household tasks.
Everyone will have the opportunity to spend an occasional night homestaying with Tanzanian friends known to the Link. This often includes staying with the families of students and leaders who travelled to Cumbria the previous year and allows friendships to be renewed and deepened. Participants go on homestays in pairs or occasionally bigger groups. This gives a real insight into daily life and a first-hand experience of Tanzanian Hospitality.