Principal's Blog Trips and Excursions

Surval Service Project in Tanzania

02 May 2024

Surval Service Project in Tanzania

Our Principal, Nicola Dudley recently had the privilege of supporting and participating in our Surval Montreux Service Project in Tanzania. Read more on her experience below.

"It is difficult to sum up the week spent with the Kindwitwi community and the Better Lives team of volunteers - it will certainly go down as one of the most memorable in my 25 years’ experience of running school trips.

The brilliant group of 12 students embraced an incredible week of new experiences and learning, hard work and team spirit. From the moment they arrived in Kindwitwi, a remote community 7-hours drive from Dar es Salaam, they stepped up and embraced the experience in full.  

Their engagement with the local children was particularly warming and the resounding highlight for the students.   On arrival, as we drew closer to our campsite where we would be based for the week, the crowd of local children following the bus increased.  From the moment we stepped off the bus to the moment we left a week later, the children were a constant presence during the day around camp life, and were the children we met in the local pre-school and supported with our project work.  For various reasons, not least the pandemic, we were the first project group to visit Kindwitwi in the past 5 years and felt the warmth of the welcome from the very first moment. 

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Getting to know and spend time with the people who will be directly helped by their project work ensured a strong impact on the girls. Whether in digging and planting the banana tree plantation and vegetable patch for the preschool breakfast farm, or in painting educational murals in the preschool classroom, their strong work ethic and engagement throughout the project was driven by the knowledge of the longer-term impact they were having on the community.  Digging a trench to enable the family home of one of the Better Lives volunteers to be connected to water was another particular highlight.

Prior to our departure the team worked hard on fundraising towards the work of Better Lives. The money raised will go towards supporting a number of sustainable projects in Kindwitwi over the coming year.  During our week we came to understand the careful thought that goes into allocating funds and ensuring sustainable impact, through trialling initiatives before wider rollout.   

Empowering women through the donation of sewing machines and materials to support the production of reusable sanitary pads will help tackle period poverty and the absence of teenage girls from school. The project is being driven by Better Lives and the local Women’s Sewing Group in Utete.  The girls met the Women’s Sewing Group and enjoyed a morning with the girls of the local Bibi Titi Mohamed High School for Girls who will be supported through the initiative.  One of the Better Lives volunteers who supported us during the week has been empowered through a loan from Better Lives to purchase a sewing machine which is enabling her to grow her own business - we saw the fruits of her labour and her beautiful girls’ dresses.

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Since my return I have enjoyed reading  ‘The Moment of Lift - Empowering Women Changes the World’ by Melinda Gates.  In the book’s description of the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it highlights so clearly the link between women’s empowerment and the development of societies and countries.  Melinda Gates’ work has focused on empowering women and girls by reducing barriers which hinder their growth and development and which in turn hinder the wider growth of a nation.  It meant a great deal to Surval students to play their small part in empowering the women of Kindwitwi.  

With us now returned from our project trip and settled seamlessly back into our daily routine, it is natural to question the depth of impact of just a week-long experience.  The girls are buzzing from the trip, remembering fondly all the incredible people we met and the joy and smiles of the children with so little.  They recognise the joy they brought to the people of Kindwitwi through their visit and warm engagement with them.  They feel proud of their work to support the community, the huge impact of building a water trench for one family, the longer-term growth and fruits of the plantation, and the educational mural that will be there for years to come. They recognise how their perspectives have been opened.

From a personal challenge perspective, the girls rose to the challenge of cooking and looking after themselves and the team on the campsite. The girls showed incredible resilience in coping with the natural environment, heat, humidity, outdoor showers, bugs, not to mention heavy rainstorms. By living closely alongside the community, they observed first-hand their daily routines, challenges and needs.  They also shared in their joy in preparing and eating communal meals, singing and dancing.

Whilst we are very quick to revert to our usual habits, I have absolutely no doubt that this experience has left a lifelong impact on the students and staff alike, myself included. We have all gained a greater awareness from first-hand experience and have seen the direct impact of carefully planned sustainable initiatives. I am certain that this experience will empower Surval students to continue to look for opportunities to make a difference in their future.  It has demonstrated to each girl that by being compassionate, kind, open-minded and open to challenge, they have it within them to make a tangible difference."


Watch the girls in action here and read our blog from Surval Girl Victoria on her experience. 

Enquire today to become a Surval Girl, we would love to hear from you!

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