About an hour’s walk from the centre of Songea town in the south-west of Tanzania is Ruvuma Juu, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the area. The red earth-brick houses and grass roofs are set against an impressive backdrop of tree covered rocky mountains. Its beauty is undeniable but in this part of town too many families barely survive on less than 50 pence per day.
You might ask how it’s possible for a family to get by on so little? The adversity families face is overwhelming and the hardship unimaginable. Somehow, families find a way to endure, to live and to care for one another but this everyday struggle for a better life is far too commonplace.
Children of Songea Trust work alongside local communities to tackle poverty and help vulnerable children and their families to thrive. We provide free health care and medicines, school clothing, education resources, and basic household materials for more than 100 families. Our work is coordinated by community volunteers, who liaise with the local social welfare office, and offer day-to-day support to children and their carers.
On a recent visit to Songea, I met Manshula, aged, 12, and her mother, Fatuma. Manshula attends the local primary school and is the youngest of seven children but the only one remaining at home. When she was just one year old her father left and has not been in contact since. Fatuma, has taken care of her children alone and has no other family to help her.
Their house is in very poor condition - the walls are crumbling and daylight shines through the roof. Inside, there are two small bedrooms, and a place for cooking and eating. They use a charcoal stove to cook and, with no chimney, there is a strong smell of smoke. Mother and daughter sleep on mats on the earthen floor and a mosquito net give some basic protection from mosquitos.
Fatuma has a small plot of land and can earn a small amount of money from selling the vegetables that she grows there. On a good day she might make 500 shillings (approx.20p). This can buy her some maize flour to make ugali, a staple in East Africa, to eat along with the vegetables she doesn’t manage to sell.
Fatuma has no other means and cannot afford to buy basic essentials such as clothes, household goods, medicines or educational materials for Manshula. Her home is deteriorating with every rainy season, and no longer feels safe. She has high blood pressure potentially caused by poor sleep and a lack of good nutrition. She worries about Manshula, who suffers from epilepsy, which makes it extremely difficult for her to take part in ordinary activities and impacts on her education. Nevertheless, Manshula enjoys school and is doing well. She hopes that next year, she will pass her national exams and continue her education at secondary school.
Children of Songea Trust, through our partner organisation, support Fatuma and Manshula through our education and health care programme. We are currently raising funds to help refurbish their house so that it can once again be a place they can feel safe and secure.