As I zipped into my sleeping bag, I reflected on this totally crazy, awesome experience, and in many ways wondered how (why) we are having so much fun. This is -- by far -- the best trip we have ever taken as a family and perhaps even my best trip ever. Everything is an adventure. We are living it rather than observing it.
"With the beauty, the simplicity, the strength and comedy of this place, each day becomes an adventure to be anticipated."—GCN trip participant
The GCN team will be living and working with the Maasai and Pare people in Kilomeni, a community high in the Pare Mountains, about ninety minutes from Same (pronounced “sah-may”). GCN’s host contact in Tanzania is Fr. Mansuetus Setonga, Director of Development for the Same Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, which covers Mwanga & Same political regions and encompasses approximately 83 villages and 370,000 people. It is the largest and poorest region in Tanzania. Kilomeni is expanding a secondary school so children in the area can continue their education without leaving home. Neighboring communities also want to expand and renovate classrooms in their primary schools due to structural issues with the old buildings. GCN has been working with the community members to build and renovate classrooms and expand the staff housing at the Kilomeni Primary School.
Sunflowers sprout up in the middle of uncultivated fields, wild flowers line the road and corn grows from the side of a mountain. Team members will arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) and take a taxi about ninety minutes to Same, where they will stay overnight at the Elephant Motel. The next day, the team will pick up any supplies they need for the community project in Same, and drive on along the scenic route up into the mountains to Kilomeni. The team will meet with the hosts upon arrival and get settled into their accommodations at the Catholic Church. Most participants arrange time before or after the GCN experience to take a safari in the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Mkomazi or Tarangire game reserve, all within easy reach from Same. Additionally, many like to visit the Serengeti or trek nearby to Mt. Kilimanjaro for the 19,000+-foot "walk up".
A Day in Community
The day begins with pineapple jam, bread, fresh eggs, half cakes (a lot like donut holes), coffee and tea for breakfast with a cool breeze running through the trees. As the team gets to work on the project of renovating the school and building a staff quarters, the day warms up as exotic birds fly over head. The team takes a break for a lunch of rice, meat, potatoes, cabbage and bananas for dessert. The team may return to the project site after lunch, visit the church choir, play soccer with the kids, or take a stroll to Mlevo, a nearby community. Others may enjoy the beautifully lush nature preserve with breath-taking vistas and see the animals. The day ends with friendly waves as the team passes farmers herding goats and pressing sugar cane on their walk back to their hosts. The team may enjoy a dinner of ugali, rice, beef, yams, banana chips, salad and a mango-banana-papaya cocktail called “pudding” for dessert. The team settles in for the evening with a game of cards or writing journals before heading to bed.
Nearest Hospital: Community Clinic
Altitude: 2,943 ft. above sea level
Food: Rice, beans, chicken, ugali, sambusas, samosas, fish
Program fees cover on-site accommodations (lodging and meals), in-country transportation, orientation materials, a donation to the project, emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and a team leader to manage logistics and facilitate your cultural immersion experience. Airfare to/from Kilimanjaro and costs relating to activities outside of the village are an additional responsibility of the individual participant.