Sober House Art

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The future Art Gallery and Cafe

When wandering through the alleys and byways of Stone Town, every once in a while you’ll come up to a little square, a little breathing space. It’s at one of these that I am to meet Kasim Nyuni and Saleh, the driving forces behind an upcoming art gallery. When I get there – through the able guidance of my fellow AIT volunteer Sue Wagstaff – we find Kasim negotiating with a carpenter in rapid Swahili. The whitewashed house with the L-shaped patio will not only serve as an art gallery, but also as a cafe and Bed & Breakfast, Sue explains, so new furniture is required.

When we sit down to talk, Kasim and Saleh explain to me that this won’t be a regular art gallery. All the art for sale will be produced by recovering addicts and the proceeds will flow back to the NGO that supports their recovery. “Quitting drugs isn’t enough,” explains Kasim, “You need to change your outlook on life.” Kasim, himself a former addict, has devoted his life to helping others recover from their addictions. In the sober houses, recovering addicts can take part in various activities: English classes, computer classes, art classes. “People don’t come to us because they want to be artists, they come to us because they want to stop being addicts. But in the course of their programme, we often discover their talent and help them develop it.”

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Meeting the “fundhi”, the carpenter

Sue, who worked as an AIT volunteer at the sober house last year, is back to help them set up the art gallery, as well as teaching art at the sober house. “These aren’t trained artists,” she explains, “They’ve been on the street, on the outside, their art comes from a different place entirely.”

Soft-spoken Saleh is one of the many who have been helped by Kasim. Once an addict, he is now a fashion designer and painter, who in 2013 exhibited his designs at the Zanzibar Fashion Week in front of hundreds of people. “During the show, we shared my story with the audience. It was great to feel their support. It’s important that we fight prejudice against addicts,” he says, “We want to show the community that we can change, that we can be valuable and productive members of society.”

Kasim agrees. “Addiction takes everything from you. Addicts are disconnected from their families, from the community. We help them bridge that gap.”

Through the art gallery and cafe, Kasim and Saleh want to generate some income for the organisation, so they are less dependent on donations and subsidies. Equally important, however, is that they try to involve the Stone Town community. “We want to keep the prices at the cafe as low as possible, so ordinary Zanzibari can come, have a cup of coffee and see what our recovering addicts can achieve.”

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From left to right: Kasim, Sue and Saleh

 “Every morning I wake up and I think ‘What can I change today?’” says Kasim. It seems to me that, slowly but surely, they are teaching the people of Zanzibar that addiction is a disease, not a sin, and that it can be overcome.

An opening date for the gallery hasn’t yet been set, but keep an eye on this blog. (Originally published on Apr 30, 2014)

Pupils from One School in Dar es Salaam receive donations through AIT

By David Kiarie (Originally published on Nov 1, 2013)

Pupils from One school of Tegeta in Dar es Salaam are a happy lot following the completion of a modern sanitation block at the school.

The toilets were constructed with funds from a volunteer at Art In Tanzania who saw the need for the school to have clean sanitation facilities.

The funds also saw the school connected with piped water by Dar es Salaam Water and Sanitation Company (DAWASCO), bringing to an end the problem of water shortage that the school had to contend with for a long period of time.

“We are glad the pupils now have clean sanitation blocks for both boys and girls and a reliable source of clean water that is safe for domestic use,” said the school head Obedi Rusumo.

Rusumo said although the school had been funded to put up a sanitation block, the administration minimized costs and saved enough money to buy a water storage tank and have piped water connected.

“We used to order between 200-300 litres of water daily which cost us between Tsh. 15,000-Tsh.20,000, about 10-13 US dollars. We no longer need the services of the water vendor and we can use the money we are saving for other purposes.

” We have also managed to clear a Tsh 2 million debt that we owed DAWASCO after connecting us with clean piped water,” said the school headteacher Obedi.

He further said that the ministry of education officials who paid a visit to the school that was facing closure due to poor sanitation have hailed the project and have already registered the education centre, as a nursery school, with the government.

The government has also promised to donate land to the school to enable it grow into a primary school. Presently, pupils who study at the private nurserly school have to join other schools for primary education.

The school with six teachers has two levels of baby and middle classes with pupils age ranging from three and six years old.

The school also plans to have electric power connected and has mobilized some funds for the same although they have a Tsh 700,000 deficit. The total cost of the exercise is Tsh 1.2 million according to Rusumo.

”I credit our school development to Art In Tanzania through whom we meet our esteemed sponsor Carol Wood who has stood with us for this long,”

Carol, a former volunteer with Art In Tanzania, also sends monthly donations that goes into purchase of flour to make porridge for close to 200 pupils at the school.

The sponsor also donated sleeping mats which are used by baby class pupils who have to take a nap every day at the school before they go home at noon.

The headteacher further expressed his gratitude with AIT for offering volunteers to teach pupils at the school.

”The volunteers and interns teach our pupils both written and spoken English among other subjects,” Rusumo said adding that it has helped to improve their performance in class. Another volunteer from Art In Tanzania Rick Jonnes also built desks for the school several years ago.

Art In Tanzania organizes free HIV testing at Kunduchi public beach

By David Kiarie (Originally published on Sep 26, 2013)

Over 30 people from Kunduchi village in Dar es Salaam are now aware of their HIV status thanks to a free HIV counseling and testing exercise organized by Art In Tanzania last Thursday.

A total of 38 villagers most of them youthful men took the bold step after a team of AIT staff and volunteers conducted a HIV and AIDS sensitization campaign at the beach village.

A health officer from PASADA, one of the 483816_10151200538731930_1590266374_n-300x225Unicef children agenda partners, offered the testing services.

By the time darkness fell, a number of villagers who had registered for the test were still queuing to have the important test done. A big number of them were advised to go for the test the next time AIT takes the services at the village.

According to Tanzania Health Demographic Survey 2010, the HIV prevalence of people between the ages 15 -49 is 5.7 per cent.