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Ben Greeves Featured Image Author: Ben Greeves
Posted on: September 26, 2018

Delivering a completed project is always an exciting and emotional time. Seeing the culmination of hours of planning and hard work is so rewarding for everyone involved.

This is something that Kate Flanagan and the other Raleigh volunteers experienced as they officially handed over the newly constructed toilet block to the local community in Msunjilile.

Throughout their time in Tanzania, the Raleigh volunteers never lost sight of the importance of working in partnership with the local community. By empowering the people of Msunjilile, through knowledge and education, the Raleigh team were able to deliver an end result that has the potential to make a real difference.

We believe there are some powerful messages here that can benefit us all. Just think what we can achieve if we all value and believe in partnership, empowerment and understanding!

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As volunteers, our time in the rural Tanzanian village of Msunjilile had a definitive endpoint. At the end of three successful months of planning, construction, teaching and mobilisation we had to address the fact that the process of behavioural change, sparked by the project, would continue to progress without us.

On our last Saturday in the village, we hosted the Opening Ceremony of the new school toilet blocks. Both the sense of fulfilment, and sadness about leaving made it an emotional day for all of us, as the months of hard work and exhaustion came to an end. It was a day that was individually the most symbolic and significant of our entire project – the official handover from us to the community.

Like our Action Days, there was music, dancing, singing and drumming. We played our final Raleigh vs Msunjilile tug of war and the school water, sanitation and hygiene (SWASH) club performed in front of the hundreds of community members present. Their last song to us was ‘goodbye, Raleigh’ and the twenty most enthusiastic students within the SWASH club received certificates in recognition of their role as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) ambassadors. This will hopefully provide an impetus for them to maintain their enthusiasm and energy. Our volunteer team sat on plastic chairs behind the Village Executive Officer, Engineer and Kongwa District Council men, and alongside Mama Agness (the school headmistress, a remarkable woman) and our most trusted builder, Franki. Following speeches by Kongwa District Council members, the Engineer addressed the community and called for their ownership of the project. The ribbon to the toilet blocks was cut and the community rushed forward to explore what we had constructed. When a group of male village elders and the council members stood within the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) room this, to me, felt like progress – a small yet definitive step towards the realisation of equality.

After tours of the blocks, the ‘stakeholder’ meeting of teachers, village council members and village elders began. It was led by the Engineer and Council members who delivered the overarching message of community responsibility in maintaining the new toilet facilities and upholding the project goals. The teachers, who had been our partners throughout the project, received a ‘SWASH guide’ of our lesson plans in Swahili as inspiration for their WASH teaching. Official Tanzanian government booklets, with practical information to physically maintain the new toilets, from repairing locks to fixing plumbing, were also handed over. It is the teachers, as advocates of WASH, who have the most potential to instil such values in the children of Msunjilile and within the wider community. 

The Opening Day was the culmination of all our efforts to ensure the sustainability of our project, and the symbolic handover was incredibly significant. It is vital that the community, empowered through education, take ownership of the project. The day reiterated their part to play in ensuring that their project continues to progress and behaviour continues to change. Only then will the water, sanitation, hygiene and health of Msunjilile and other similar communities be truly improved.

The corridor of the new girls’ toilet block. Community involvement and engagement will be essential to the maintenance of the physical project as well as the behavioural change that accompanies it. – Image by Amber Whitelock