Academic Solutions is proud to support the United African Alliance Community Center, based in Imbaseni Village, just outside of Arusha, Tanzania. Founded and built from the ground-up by American-born Pete and Charlotte O’Neal, the UAACC is home to 20 children on the Leaders of Tomorrow programme, as well as hosting education programmes for adults of the surrounding village. The 20 “watoto” came from disadvantaged backgrounds, but are now growing up in a nurturing environment, in which education is a priority. The UAACC is a hive of activity- there might be five children wrestling Bobo the dog trying to flea-bath him, others playing basketball or braiding their teacher’s hair, while adult members of the local community learn English with visiting American students or learning sustenance farming from volunteers, all to the soundtrack of musicians playing elsewhere in the grounds.
The Children’s Home is overseen by Mwajabu Sadiki. Mwajabu’s name is prominent at the UAACC- she also runs a boutique that is stocked with gorgeous clothing, bags and jewellery designed and handmade by herself and the children, to build their skillset. Visitors can buy their pieces, which helps support the UAACC’s work.
Another member of the UAACC community is Max, a talented artist who paints vividly colourful images of African animals and landscapes on cloth, through a technique known as “batik.” Max volunteers for the adult education programme, which relies on volunteers to help build the skillsets of adults in the local village. Max teaches art, and creates beautiful works himself. He has three young children at home, so to support them and pay for their education, he sells his paintings to visitors. They are small and light- the perfect gift for loved ones back home!
Music is a major part of life at the Centre. Charlotte – known as Mama C – lives for rhythm! She can be heard strumming her nyatiti and singing with the sunrise, or having an occasional jam session in the Red Onion (the covered, open-air space in the centre) with friends and guests. One of the other musically-gifted members of the community is Ema. He is part of the Masai tribe, and grew up in a very rural part of Tanzania as a cow-herder. He came to Arusha because he had heard about the UAACC and wanted the opportunity to gain an education and broaden his skills. He learned about film-making from a UAACC volunteer, and his first documentary was about teaching his Masai community about the dangers of female genital mutilation. He is a very talented musician, and he sells his CD (recorded in the UAACC’s own music studio) in Mwajabu’s Boutique. He has even invented his own instruments, which he plays on the album.
The skills taught to the local adults can differ based on the volunteers teaching them- topics might include architecture, web design, film-making, music, geography, art (with Max), or health (such as HIV-AIDS prevention). Students also learn computing skills and improve their English, which can greatly improve their employment potential in Arusha.
Alongside the local members of the UAACC community, there are frequent visitors from all over the world- including study abroad groups from the US! The UAACC has several buildings that can host groups on-site. High school and university students can frequently be seen around the centre, laughing with the kids, talking with Pete about his past as an exiled Black Panther, or jamming with Mama C. The summer group pictured below were treated to a demonstration of various styles of dance from multiple Tanzanian tribes- then they joined in and shared some of their own favourite moves (you might see some Electric Slide moves at the next “traditional Tanzanian dance” demonstration). A visit to the UAACC is an exceptionally unique opportunity for educational groups. Not only will students see East African culture first-hand, they might get involved in sharing their own skills (such as by leading a yoga class) or helping the kids with their English homework. Pete – or “Babu” (grandfather) as the kids call him – takes the time to sit down with every group and talk candidly about the journey that brought him to Arusha over 40 years ago. Articles from newspapers around the world about the “Panther in Africa” line the inside walls of the buildings, and his DVD collection includes documentaries filmmakers have made about his life. Pete O’Neal is truly “living history” and meeting him is an incredible opportunity for young people interested in social justice and African American history.
The 20 watoto are the life and soul of the UAACC. When they file back into the centre after school at 3pm, they come through the Red Onion and greet whomever is there with a hug and a catch-up about their day. Every Saturday night, they drag their mattresses and blankets into the Red Onion, the projector is set up, and the movies play until everyone is finally asleep (sometimes at 4am!).
The Leaders of Tomorrow programme ensures they have a safe and loving home through childhood, their education is supported, they eat well, and have their medical needs cared for. The programme is supported through individual donations and supportive groups, as well as the funds that visiting groups bring in. There is always a need for more help- whether to install solar panels to power the centre, or take the kids on a trip to the seaside. The current fundraising project is called “Give a Child a Smile” and hopes to provide each child the $75 teeth-whitening treatment to reverse the damage done by the fluoride in the local water supply. If you are interested in an East Africa-bound group from your university staying a night or a week at the UAACC, and supporting their important work, please contact Academic Solutions.
Arusha is wonderfully located for groups also fitting in a safari to search for the Big Five (elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo) in the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater or ambitious hikers tackling Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
The UAACC is a welcoming, nurturing environment for the watoto who call it home and the many adults who have formed the community centred around education and learning skills. It is a joyful place of laughter, music, art, and peace, looking forward to welcoming the next group!
by Emma Armshaw