First Donegore Presbyterian Church

First Donegore Presbyterian Church, Main Street, Parkgate, Templepatrick, Ballyclare, BT39 0DG        

email: info[at]  - See us on Facebook

Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC 104851

Below you will find the series of newsletters from John & Grace McCullagh when they were in Tanzania in 2016

1st Newsletter from Tanzania

Sunday 29th May

Well here we are again!

We arrived at 02.35 in the morning of Wednesday 18th May at Julius Nuyrere Airport Dar es Salaam followed by a short stay in a local hotel and a departure by coach at 10.30 for the long journey of 400 Kilometres to Dodoma. Following an uneventful journey which we were very thankful for given the standard of driving over here we arrived at the bus terminal in Dodoma where we were greeted by Jackie Robinson and David Ntandu and it was rather good to see two familiar faces.

Memo for the future – don’t sit in the front seat of the bus if you are of a nervous disposition!

When we arrived at the kids4school lodge we discovered a large gathering of people who were in involved in a wedding committee following the wedding of Stephen Ntandu (Nephew of John). It seems committees are a big part of life here.

Part of the agenda for the meeting was a meal which we were invited to join and we were only too pleased to do so given that we had not eaten much on our journey!

Out first task was getting unpacked and organised for our 10 week stay but being very familiar with the environment that was speedily sorted out.

John then made his first visit to the Academy site since last year and he was keen to see what progress had been made. It was good to see that despite difficulties accessing the site during the wet season,that the walls had been completed on the first Vocational Training Centre and work was under way on installing the roof trusses.

At the weekend we said good bye to Jackie who had been in country for three months taking intensive Swahili lessons. Jackie has bravely volunteered to come back out for a two year period to look after administration and we look forward to seeing her again in July. In the meantime Grace has been adopted by Psii her Alsatian dog, it is great to have such a friendly companion!

Work is ramping up now both on site and with pupil registrations, we have been renewing acquaintances and visiting familiar places, it seems sometimes that we have never been away. The weather continues to be glorious with temperatures during the day around 28C and a pleasant 15C at night. No one talks about it here the way we do at home simply because it is so predictable. Interestingly though the wet season was unseasonably wet, in Dodoma there is rarely much rain but in the early part of the year it positively teemed down with one downpour lasting for 36 hours, causing roads and bridges to be washed away and mud huts literally melting. You can still see some evidence of this in the lush vegetation where last year there was just withered plants.

As I complete this newsletter we have no electricity which seems to be the norm for Sundays, let’s hope battery power hold out or I will have to start the generator!

Goodbye now until the next time and if you wish to drop us a line you can do so at the email address below!

John & Grace McCullagh

2nd Newsletter from Tanzania

Monday 20th June

We hope you enjoyed reading our first newsletter and found it of interest in keeping everyone at home in touch with our various adventures.

Here we are almost 5 weeks into this year’s adventure, sometimes it seems like ages since we left home and then at other times it is only like yesterday.

Work continues on the Christian Academy with one Vocational Training Centre (VTC) building ready for roofing, a second VTC up to ‘wallplate’ level and foundation work completed on the Admin Block. After some delay the roofing sheets arrived on Thursday last and work has commenced on fitting them.

As you can imagine we need a good water supply on site and we have a borehole with a submerged pump which does just that. Recently the water pressure seemed to be significantly reduced and this was traced to leaks from the main pipe which goes down about 100 metres into the well. The pump was lifted out and the supply pipe completely replaced, an interesting operation as you will see in future photographs. The pressure is now so good that leaks have appeared on the above ground pipework so more work to do!

An important part of the kids4school ministry is the delivery of food to sponsored families and we have been trying to get as much as we can delivered before the schools close for holidays. The usual procedure is to collect the pupil from their school, they guide us to their home and we leave off the food. If the schools are closed we have no way of getting in touch with the families hence it is important to get things done before the school closures.

Following one of these delivery rounds at Bwawani School we had a deputation to the Lodge from some of the other mothers who thought they all should have been getting food. We explained to them that it was in the hands of the individual sponsors to fund food although we would do our best to encourage people to do so. We told them to be sure their children wrote good informative letters to their sponsors as this would also help. I promised to highlight the sponsorship programme when I was in touch with home, you are reading about it now so I have kept my promise!

On one of our delivery runs to Nzasa B which is quite a remote place, we were welcomed by one of the parents and invited to see his home, a mud hut, which had collapsed in the recent heavy rains. This man was most appreciative of the delivery and insisted on giving a bag of peanuts in return! A nice gesture from someone with so little. If you have followed our progress on Facebook you may have seen some of the photographs of the children at Nzasa B so wide eyed to see the food supplies arriving.

We had some big news on Thursday 9th when Psii our guard dog delivered five lovely black puppies! Jackie was thrilled to hear the news and cannot wait to see them when she returns in July. We are waiting for them to appear from their hiding place underneath one of the shipping containers so keep looking out for pictures when they do venture forth!

This past Sunday we attended communion at Dodoma Cathedral which was celebrated by Rev Judy Gale from Melbourne. The English Service as it is known is attended by many like ourselves although there is quite a lot of local people who also come along. There was a visiting choir from the nearby Lutheran Church who gave an excellent rendition from ‘The Messiah’!

On our way back from the cathedral we came across an accident between a Daladala (the local minibus service which is best to be avoided!) and another vehicle, a fight had broken out between the drivers and passengers and David stopped to see what he could do, needless to say we did not join in! It seems in the end it was not so much an accident as a case of very bad driving followed by road rage, it was left to the police to sort out!

We will sign off again now and will be back with a further issue in two weeks. As before if you are into Facebook keep an eye on the kids4school and firstdonegore pages where we will continue to post photographs of things as they happen!

Goodbye now until the next time and if you wish to drop us a line you can do so at the email address below.

We would especially thank those who have already contacted us either by email or Facebook, it really does keep us in touch with home!

John & Grace McCullagh

3rd Newsletter from Tanzania

Thursday 7th July

Time continues to fly out here as we now find ourselves with just over two weeks of our adventure left. When you get to this point in a project you begin to wonder what we have forgotten to do especially as it seems the days left are counting down ever faster!

Tomorrow we will be receiving a very large Team of 21 from home so I am writing this before things get too hectic! Tom Robinson the kids4school Director arrived here a week ago and has been busy ever since getting things prepared including the purchase of additional beds. These are literally being made and should be completed today ready for collection. It’s going to be a busy time with lots of logistical problems as transport is quite limited and the team members need to get to whatever duties they are assigned. Schools have resumed again so there will be many visits to them amongst other things to hold Bible Clubs, to do maintenance such as painting and no doubt most rewarding for many will be the deliveries of food to families in their homes. We look forward to greeting everyone on Friday around lunchtime and hope that they enjoy their stay in this fascinating place.

One thing I have not mentioned is the ongoing work to the Arusha Road which is the main road just outside the Lodge here. Work ceased a few years ago when it seems that funds dried up but it has recommenced and is moving quite quickly now. The road at present is literally a dirt track as those who have been here will testify to but it is now being levelled out and graded in preparation for a proper surface to be laid, it cannot come soon enough!

Grace continues with her work in ensuring enough uniforms are ready for distribution to those pupils who have been newly registered. The current count is up to 93 so it has been another busy time both in preparation and delivery.

On the Academy site work continues apace with the roof now completed on the first VTC (Vocational Training Centre) and plastering almost complete inside. This will allow electrical wiring to commence and we are aware that some team members wish to be involved in that work. The second VTC will soon be ready for roof trusses to be installed and they are being constructed on site at present. It’s interesting to see the old but very effective techniques which the joiners are using to cut and assemble the various pieces of treated timber into the finished article. Treated timber has to be used as the area is hiving with what the locals call ants but what we would call termites! They eat any wood in sight in quick order so all wood has to be properly pressure impregnated with chemicals to stand a chance of surviving. I experienced their voracious appetite last year when some of the timber that was being used to mark out the site levels was eaten through in some six weeks!

One final report that we need to make is great progress on the puppy front! You will remember that Psii our guard dog had produced a litter of five puppies. That was four weeks ago today and they are all running around now and provide endless amusement as the play around your feet and growl and bark at you just like real dogs. I posted some pictures on Facebook and no doubt there will be more so keep looking!

Goodbye now until the next time which will be our final newsletter, thank you for reading and if you wish to drop us a line you can do so at the email address below. We would especially thank those who have already contacted us either by email or Facebook, it really does keep us in touch with home!

John & Grace McCullagh

Final Newsletter from Tanzania

Friday 22nd July

It is hard to believe that almost 10 weeks have flown past and we are now in our last few days here.

As I began to write this final newsletter the large combined team from k4s and LIFT (Labour in Faith & Trust) had just departed for their visit to Mikumi National Park for their short safari experience before heading home. The Lodge is so quiet now with us being accustomed for the last 10 days to all the hubbub from 20 additional “lodgers”!

We had been a bit apprehensive about being descended upon by such a large group of people after being here by ourselves for so long. We had no need to worry however because they were such a great bunch from across NI (and beyond) and we had a very good time together whether on the Academy site, out in the schools or delivering food.

It is indeed perhaps time to review where the construction project is now and it is good to report that much progress has been achieved with the last couple of weeks being especially productive because of all the help from the Team. Of the five buildings whose foundations were commenced last year we now have one large building roofed, wired, plastered and painted internally with plastering almost complete outside. The ceilings will also be completed by the end of this week leaving just floor tiling and the fitting of doors and windows. A second VTC is in process of having roof trusses constructed and it should be ready for roofing in about a week. The third VTC is up to window level and work will begin again there soon. The Admin building and Primary School buildings are about to have their concrete floor slabs poured and building up of their walls will then commence. The main aim at present is to get the seamstress training and uniform production transferred to VTC 3 as soon as is practicable allowing more people to be trained and uniforms to be produced for the growing number of pupils now being registered unto the sponsorship programme.

On Sunday last the entire team visited Buigiri School for the blind and to say it was a touching and revealing experience would do it injustice. The pupils there have in many cases been more or less abandoned and are living in what can only be described as primitive conditions with poorly maintained buildings, a lack of good bedding and very unsanitary toilet facilities. Some children are totally blind, some partially sighted and quite a few are albinos with all the eyesight problems and skin conditions that albinism brings with it. After a tour of the school buildings they sang to us having waited quite a while to do so. We got the distinct impression that they only had each other to lean upon and it was obvious that they were very caring to one another. We resolved that something needed to be done to assist them and Tom Robinson indicated that kids4school would certainly be taking the boarders at Buigiri unto the programme and would be providing bedding and additional mosquito nets as required. It was heartening to learn next morning that there had been very generous donations from some team members to allow this work to begin immediately.

This visit was a salutary reminder that there are so many children living in conditions that are unacceptable and brings into sharp focus what the work of kid4school is all about.

It is therefore good to report that Jackie and Grace went to Buigiri and registered many pupils unto the k4s scheme, following this they did a survey of what was required and found that the donations mentioned above were sufficient to allow all necessary items to be ordered, a great result!

In closing then we have been privileged to have been here once again this year, Africa is something you have to experience at first hand and once you have done so there is no turning back! There is always something new to be seen or experienced and this time it was an earthquake which registered 5.1 on the Richter scale!

My diary for the 13th of July reads:

“This morning we were all awoken by an earthquake! The tremor occurred just after 6 am and sounded like an express train approaching followed by fairly violent shaking which then died away quite quickly. The epicentre was just 40 miles north of us near a place called Msanga. The quake was 10km below the surface of the earth. A scary enough experience when the earth moves beneath your bed.”

As you may have gathered over the past weeks we love it here but all good things come to an end and it is now time to say goodbye, thank you for being with us throughout the journey and here’s to the next time!

Tanzania kwaheri, asante sana! [Tanzania goodbye, thank you very much!]

John & Grace McCullagh