Working for Wasa: what you already know, what you have always wondered and what you might not expect
Last Tuesday you had a taste of what Students for Humanity project in the village of Wasa means, for both the local community and volunteers. Through Diletta’s words you have discovered more about what we do, why we do it and for whom. We would like to make you feel as much as possible how passionate volunteers are and how the daily life in Wasa looks like.
So, enjoy the second part of our interview to Diletta and remember to come and see us at Bookcity!
Here are the dates to write down:
November 14 to 30 at Velodromo Building (Piazza Sraffa 13) – “Si scrive Wasa, si legge Casa” photographic reportage
November 15 from 6.30pm at Libreria Egea – “Afriche, storie non stop”
For more information and for registering to the event, visit Bookcity website.
What has been your role in the project during the three months you spent in Wasa during this summer? How did you manage the coexistence of the institutional duties towards the organization and the personal responsibilities towards the community?
My role this summer was to ensure continuity for the improvement of new and huge projects which were the result of the work conducted during the previous year. This was crucial, since the whole Working for Wasa project hit a turning point, as I will explain.
In the end, the role that I actually covered was the one that the people of the village gave to me, and which not always was consistent with what was originally supposed to be.
Their culture stands on symbols and symbolism: they define the people thanks to the role they have in the society and in a very natural way, based on trust. So, of course, I had to balance my commitment to the project and the expectation for the fulfilment of our objectives with the personal and spontaneous relationships that I always had with the local people. It has not always been easy, but the constant dialogue with the other volunteers helped a lot.
In the last few year, you have followed the project very closely: how did it change? What is the current role of the Organization?
During the last years, Students for Humanity and the volunteers have mainly ensured continuity to the project from one year to the other, and put the basis to foster and sustain long-lasting results. We engaged the community, received the trust of Wasa inhabitants, collected the resources needed to improve. However, it is mostly during last year that we gained the ability, both monetary and institutional, to really move towards Wasa’s self-sufficiency.
We invested knowledge and money to equip the school with all the materials, spaces and machineries required to be officially recognized by the Tanzanian government as an educational and training center, and thus grant a diploma accepted by universities, professional schools and firms alike, allowing the students to further their studies or start their professional career. We are giving the students the tools to learn and to be innovative, to believe in themselves and in their dreams and ambitions and to make them real, to build their own brighter future. We are working towards the community’s empowerment through the young generations and by providing, with each passing day, less aid and more mentoring.
Volunteers spend most of their time with the students of the Vocational Training Center. Can you tell us how does it feel like to meet them for the first time?
Of course, each volunteer experiences the first meeting with the students and the people of the village in a different way and builds a different relationship with them. Not everyone finds it easy to empathize with guys of their same age but living in such a different context. I, too, was worried.
Then, the very first day, entering the classroom for the teaching hours, I was caught by the expressive eyes of a boy, Anjelo: he was looking at me, a bit confused but curious. So l stuck my tongue out, and what followed was the very first smile I saw in Wasa - from that moment on, we became inseparable. A simple gesture, a joke, as spontaneous as any relationship in Wasa.
What are the best and most rewarding moments for the volunteers? When did you feel you were really making the difference for the community?
I think the most beautiful reward we get from the students are their smiles, the authenticity and the curiosity they show when they start to see the results of something done together, and they almost cannot believe to their eyes, so they start laughing and showing how proud they are about their job.
My happiest and most rewarding episode is about Amoni, a student so shy that he seemed rude at first glance. But I saw that his eyes were glowing under his hood, and I understood that I had to try and find a connection. He rejected me several times, until I finally came up with an inside joke, our personal way to say “hi” to each other: an high five. He told me goodbye with an high five my last day in Wasa - still, I thought I had not been able to really connect with him. When I came back to Wasa after one year and he saw me, he run, gave me an high five and told me “Look Didi, I studied English during this year to speak to you” and then our friendship began. When I first arrived in Wasa, Amoni could not speak English and did not believe in himself. Today he is one of the more capable in English and the best carpenter in the school. He does not wear a hood anymore and he dreams about becoming a teacher for the Training Center.
Amoni taught me that, very often, what they really need is someone believing in them - then, they can make it by themselves.
Were there difficult moments during which you lost confidence in your work in Wasa?
I think every volunteer experiences the feeling of not being able to give enough to the community.
We might wish to understand and answer their needs constantly, and to provide them with everything we have and are used to, immediately. But then we realize that good and long-lasting projects require times, that we have to gradually proceed, together, at the same pace.
I will tell you about a precise event that happened during my second week in Wasa, in 2017. Among other duties, we were taking care of the vegetable garden, at least for two hours per day. Despite the time spent and the effort put by us and by the students, we could only see sick leaves growing, and nothing that could be cooked and consumed. I could read the disappointment on the guys’ faces - they were looking forward to eating vegetables instead of just ugali, and I found myself thinking “What am I doing? It is pointless to keep trying”. Still, we carried on tending the garden, and so did the other groups of volunteers after us. Today, not only is garden perfectly flourishing in the middle of the Training Center, but there are other four growing hectares within the village!
Can you tell us something about Wasa that you think is perfect exactly the way it is and that you would never change?
Finally an easy question to answer: the kindness, the purity, the unconditional love and the persistency the people of Wasa are capable of. They are used not to give up or complain, they are perfect in their being simple and grateful for what they have. I hope nothing will ever change the way they communicate love to each other and to us, without even being aware of it.
Can we say that Wasa really means Home for you? When did it feel that way for the first time?
Wasa is not Home for everyone, but it certainly is for those who see Wasa through its people’s eyes.
Wasa is home when the guys of the village stop telling us they are always fine and talk about their issues, when they make fun of us because we are not as good as them in dancing, when they share their ugali with us and when they walk with us on Sundays, without the need to fill time with words.
Wasa is home when Amoni asks us to come back when he will be 30 years old, to play with his kids, or when Antony and Anjelo travel for hours from other villages just to come by.
Wasa is home when they tell us we will not be missed, because we are in their hearts, and when we are not able to go to sleep before saying them goodnight.
Wasa is home because we can be far for months, but when we come back, it feels like we never left.