Canteen Chaos

Our week got off to a productive start with the education team embracing the local culture – taking a day off in recognition of the national public holiday ‘Nane Nane’ (Farmers’ Day). After a “well-deserved” rest, the team split into two: one going to the schools to learn more about the problems students are facing, and the other exploring opportunities to expand the reach of the Think Big Challenge through collaboration with BRAC, the largest NGO in the world. Following our meeting with BRAC, the education team were happy to welcome a select number of girls not in formal education to participate in our competition.

Mid-week, the planning for the upcoming Saturday workshop was underway. Organising 4 hours worth of activities for 50 participants (around 35 students and 15 girls from BRAC) was no mean feet. Despite the occasional power-cut causing the team to go on a quest for a working plug socket, the workshop was ready. Students arrived on Saturday eager to take on the problems they faced at school. After 2 problem-solving-filled hours, stomachs were rumbling and the biggest pot of wali maharage I’ve ever seen was ready to be devoured (wali maharage = the local delicacy – beans and rice). Students were fuelled up and ready to design their solutions to problems ranging from gender and religious segregation, to drug abuse. Back in their schools and communities, the participants will take the first steps in carrying out their plan for implementing initiatives.


The “multi-purpose” canteen

Back at Ardhi University, CDI’s home in Dar es Salaam, the education team crashed at the ‘multi-purpose’ canteen after a hard day’s work. At different points of the day, the canteen (pictured left) transforms from its standard dining area into a ready-made office space lined with laptops and multiple four-way plugs all plugged into one power socket (no blowing of the fuse … yet). The CDI family are not, however, the only residents of the canteen. Malcolm, Backspace and her three illegitimate children (Undo, Undid, and Undone), and the infamous Cliveisha roam the canteen, providing endless entertainment and drama for the volunteers. To clarify, these are residents of the feline variety. Malcolm can often be seen owning his rightful place as king of the canteen, looking as gorgeous as ever (pictured below). The real drama happens at night when Cliveisha frequently plots a takeover of the canteen. Fear not – Backspace with a strong right paw never fails to redress the balance … but I digress.

Cliveisha the cat

Cliveisha the cat

The week ended with an impressive performance from the education team in CDI’s very own Olympics. The Olympic spirit was definitely present with team Kundunchi displaying over-enthusiastic hand slapping and encouragement across multiple events. The education team had a successful games, coming away with a medal tally of 2 golds, 2 silvers and a bronze. Training for the next Olympics is underway …

CDI Olympics!

CDI Olympics!

Written by Ollie Preston – Volunteer on the Education Project.

The Volleyball Match

The Health Team faced the match of their lives. A match that would determine whether Afya Yetu, their project for the summer, could be implemented or not. PSI, Afya Yetu’s main product supplier were only willing to negotiate product orders when the Health Team convincingly won all five sets. The health of the population of Vingunguti was at stake.

But their opposition, various governing authorities with the power to grant business licenses stood in the way. We weren’t willing to step aside. It was time for the Health Team to dig, set and slam their way to a win.

The first set was against the TIN (Tax Identification Number). Some strong rallies ensued, but we clearly maintained control until we came through with a win (25-10 if you want to know the score). However, we were well aware that the TIN weren’t our strongest opposition as they were never going to put up much of a fight.

The second opponent we faced was the VAT (Value-Added Tax). However, we weren’t allowed to step onto the court until we had proof that we had paid our taxes. And unfortunately, as we were in the process of doing so, the set had to be postponed until we proved our eligibility to play.

The Business License stepped onto the court for set three. They promptly handed us some forms to fill out before leaving the court again. Again, we needed to sort out some paperwork before they were willing to play some ball, the second of three sets delayed. We had known the match was going to experience some interruptions, so we continued on, keeping morale high.

By this point, we were desperately keen to get back on the court and play a set. TFDA (Tanzanian Food and Drug Authority) provided a good opportunity for us to do so, our fourth opponent. Rhys and Ocheck, our key play makers moved to the front. Before we had a chance to rally for serve however, the TFDA declared they were the ‘wrong team’ for us to play as they were the central team, and we needed the zonal TFDA team. A quick team change followed and we were ready to play again.

The first few rallies were contested evenly by both teams, until the TFDA managed a lovely set and smash combination, with the ball flying into our half of the court. Unfortunately, Rhys’ stomach was on the receiving end of the ball, knocking the wind out of him. The TFDA were unable to fit our model into their existing models for licenses and consequently, we would need to register as a pharmacy. This would require the renovation of our current premises to fit the physical requirements of a pharmacy, which would be both expensive and likely delay the business opening. We took a time-out for Rhys to recover, and to change our game plan. We drew out some alternatives to the renovation plan the TFDA had provided us with, alternatives that would meet the TFDA’s pharmacy requirements, but that would require fewer physical alterations to the premises.

Before re-entering the court, we wanted to get some advice from the central TFDA office, the team we were to originally play. After looking into our case further, they began to question whether our set with the zonal TFDA office should have been played at all as they concluded that we didn’t need a TFDA license.

We then approached the TFDA zonal office with many questions as to why they stepped onto the court in the first place. We knew it wasn’t a good sign when each of the six team members gave a different response, and left the court more confused than when we began.

Our prearranged set five against the Pharmacy Council was placed on hold when their team didn’t show – we instead gave their representative a letter asking for a match in the next week. We finished the match having won one set out of the five (TIN), one set suspended mid-set (TFDA), and with three sets delayed (VAT, Business License and Pharmacy Council).

After an intensive team chat, we decided that we would not pursue a rematch with the TFDA as we believed we did not need a TFDA license. However, our relationship with PSI was dependent on us winning all five sets, including the set against the TFDA, which would ultimately provide us with all the licenses we needed to operate.

With the results from our volleyball match in our pockets, we approached the PSI offices with trepidation, uncertain as to whether they would pursue a partnership with Afya Yetu without the TFDA license. We were greeted by a big grin, courtesy of Mzee, our contact at PSI, and all began to relax a little.

The meeting began with a rather significant backward step in that we discovered that our community health workers would be unable to sell the oral contraceptive pill and delivery kits for Afya Yetu as they need to be prescribed by a pharmacist. However, our mood was quickly turned around when we discovered that this meant that we no longer required the TFDA and Pharmacy Council licenses. Although our current product portfolio had been reduced, we left with the knowledge that PSI were both keen to work with us and happy to allow us to order the remaining products when we wanted to.

We continue to pursue rematches with the VAT and Business License. Our prospects are looking strong as we look forward to getting all the licenses required for the opening of Afya Yetu.

In other news; the health team also continues to dominate CDI-wide volleyball. Natalie is learning to not close her eyes when the ball comes to her, Sam can now dig the ball towards the net instead of outside the court, Fran has begun to understand that you can play volleyball tactfully instead of using brute violence, Jack continues to up his sledging game and Rhys is slowly but surely becoming a little less competitive, which everyone appreciates.

The Launch of the Think Big Challenge!

On Monday of Week 2 we decided it would be a brilliant idea to hold a formal launch for our Think Big Challenge. This meant for a busy week ahead, but it all paid off and the event was a major success.

The week was spent selecting the winning entrants, printing personalised certificates and t-shirts for them to wear to the workshops at Ardhi, securing sponsorship, and finding and decorating the venue. We sent out invitations to teachers and were honoured when Professor Yunus Mgaya PhD accepted our invitation to speak as guest of honour at the event. We travelled around Dar informing the press, including the BBC and The Guardian Tanzania, about our launch and representatives of both companies attended the launch. The Guardian even published an article about it! (read the article here


The Guardian’s report on our Think Big Challenge Initiative.

The launch was filled with inspiring speeches – from Matt Hopgood, president of CDI, who spoke about CDI’s ethos, and Madam Chanafi, headmistress of Salma Kikwete who explained the legacy of CDI in her school, to Professor Mosha, a representative for the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Ardhi University, and our guest of honour Professor Mgaya who detailed his work in the global community. Highlights of the event included Arun’s impressive Swahili speech, and having representative students from each of the schools give short speeches on what the Think Big Challenge means to them.

Project Directors Arun and Ade with a representative from BRAC, the world's largest NGO.

Project Directors Arun and Ade with a representative from BRAC, the world’s largest NGO.

The speeches were truly inspiring. Some of our favourite words from the High Table members included:

“Our leading philosophy is that changing the world begins with local change makers, empowered with the skills and knowledge to make sustainable differences. We believe students can be catalysts for this change. The spirit of CDI is innovation and creativity. Try something new, pushing the boundaries in striving for sustainable. These values are reflected in our Think Big Challenge. We believe that through determination, teamwork and a spark of inspiration, every student in this room can be a change maker in their school. Creativity has no boundaries on how young or old you are. In fact, young people are often the most creative and imaginative. So I want to encourage you, take the initiative, support your team-members, and you really will be the ones to improve your school.” — Matt Hopgood, CDI President

Matt Hopgood, President of CDI gives a speech at the launch

Matt Hopgood, President of CDI gives a speech at the launch.

“Thinking Big’ usually comes for those who are older. But now I see a reverse. I see young people here, from all corners of the world, who want to think big and solve immediate problems. Is that not already a success?” — Professor Mosha, on behalf of Ardhi University

“We realized that most of our learners in Tanzania, not only at the secondary level but at universities and colleges, are lacking the initial skills needed to sustain their lives… We might get out of the education system with a lot of theories but we fail when it comes to putting those theories into practice…On behalf of my fellow heads of schools, may I thank CDI for opening our eyes. Their coming helped us to see the big picture of what we are doing in schools.” — Madame Chanafi, Head of Salma Kikwete School

The selected students take to the stage.

The selected students take to the stage.

“To quote Gandhi, why don’t you be the change you wish to see in the world? No one is going to do it for you. You cannot just sit back and hope that everything is going to be ok. It all begins with you boys and girls. Whatever you do to improve the quality of life in your community, no matter how small, makes a huge difference and it goes a long way…You don’t have to be a billionaire. There’s so much you can do at your age. You can organise and clean your streets, you can visit orphans and the sick, give them food clothes or just the simple joy of your company.” — Professor Mgaya, Guest of Honour

“The youth of today want to take control of their own lives as much as they can. Career development does not start at university level or graduate level. It starts when young people still have room to be whoever they wish to be. The result of these young people participating in the Think Big Challenge is not the prize they will receive at the end of the competition, but the impact it will have upon their lives. The experiences they will have during these two months will be experiences that most people don’t have until they are 40 or 50, and will contribute hugely to their career development.” — Ocheck Msuva, Founder of Bridge For Change

Our first workshop at Ardhi with the students.

Our first workshop at Ardhi with the students.

After the launch we hosted the first workshop with the students, and treated the teachers who had attended to a lovely lunch at one of our partners’ restaurants. The workshop went smoothly and the students looked brilliant in their personalised t-shirts. The lunch with the teachers was a lovely end to a productive morning, and a brilliant time to get to know them personally and build on our relationship with them. Overall, it was a wonderful end to Week 2!

High Table guests with the selected students.

High Table guests with the selected students.

Lunch with the teachers after the launch.

Lunch with the teachers after the launch.

Written by Imani Jeffers, Volunteer on the Education Project.

An Engineering #ThrowbackThursday

Simplified sewerage construction has started in Vingunguti today! Expect another blog post soon. Brings me back to the same day on the project last year, before I was project director. These days I just sit around in the café sipping on Coca Cola and munching on chapatis, but those days I did actual work (or so I have convinced myself). This blog post is one from the vaults, never read before, an exclusive and unadulterated view into the life of CDI Engineering 2015.

Written on August 5th, 2015:

Following weeks of tedious materials sourcing, careful physical surveying, and generally important decision making, route planning, and community mobilization, the pick axes are in the ground in Vingunguti! The engineering team couldn’t be happier. Or sweatier. Some of us struggle a bit in the heat.

tristan blog 1

We all coped in different ways.

It only took a couple awkward swings for us Cambridge students to show our utter incompetence with wielding anything other than a pen or calculator. A brief lesson from the Ardhi students on the basic use of shovels, hoes, and pick axes ensued. The ground in some areas was surprisingly unyielding – direct strikes with the point of the pick axe could only dislodge a handful of earth at a time.

Don’t let his confident facial expression fool you; Matt is about to find out that he has no clue what he’s doing.

Don’t let his confident facial expression fool you; Matt is about to find out that he has no clue what he’s doing.

Sunday saw the arrival of materials – the Ardhi students expertly oversaw their distribution to all the houses on the network. The rest of the materials arrived on Monday – their efficient distribution was again a gargantuan task. Two and a half tonnes of cement is certainly not a negligible quantity, especially when everything is carried by hand. Neither is 1000 buckets of sand, 175 buckets of aggregate, or 1000 concrete blocks. Matt and I had a vague attempt at carrying a 50 kg bag of cement on our heads – turns out we’re not very competent at that either. But the real highlight of Monday was the pipe delivery. Never have I been so excited to see 390 metres of piping. They radiated with new, blue uPVC plastic exuberance, a seeming reflection of our own glowing spirits. Their full 6 metre length lay stoic in the back of the truck, a testament to our unwavering quest for free materials. Yes, our endless dalla dalla and bajaji rides had paid off. Plasco Ltd’s generous donation of pipes was here.

Rhea’s big blue belled-end pipes.

Rhea’s big blue belled-end pipes.

Monday also saw the arrival of the technicians. We were slightly worried about getting them up to speed with the whole project, but it turns out they know everything about everything, and can do just about anything with blocks and some mortar. Between the four of them, we expect the first five new toilets to be completed by some time tomorrow!

A PPE-ed worker is a happy worker.

A PPE-ed worker is a happy worker.




Basically, this week has shown us that everyone is better than us at everything. All we really need to do is walk around with clipboards and make sure people have everything they need to do everything much more efficiently than we ever could. We’re very optimistic about the next few weeks, stay tuned for more *groundbreaking* news from the engineering team.

Back to the present:

Yes, that blog post never got published last year because I forgot to send it to our publicity person after I wrote it. Yes, it has just been sitting on my hard drive until now, and yes, the fact that I’m reusing material from last year is a reflection of how little work I actually do this year.

The fact that I have so little work to do is a testament to the excellent team I’ve got. Samad, Julianna, Frank, Charmydory, Syed, Mduda, Will, Eunmi, Justus, Isack, Duckie, Izhan, Maisam, and Faustine have been harder working than I ever could have imagined. You guys have driven the project forward to do great things – practically all I do as director is slow you down. John Mullett, our biogas guru, has been invaluable in helping sort out every problem the digester has thrown at us. Finally, John Rutahiwa, my fellow project director, has been CDI’s own Energizer bunny, with an unparalleled work ethic that makes me look like an unmotivated sloth.

Dream team? Check.

Dream team? Check.

Written by Tristan Downing – Engineering Project Director.

Community Engagement

Community engagement. Sounds simple, but how exactly do you engage the community across the monumental language and culture barrier between Tanzania and the UK? Flying over on the plane from Doha to Dar es Salaam, I couldn’t help but fear that I had bitten off far, far more than I could chew.

Short hair for Tanzania

Short hair for Tanzania

Let me explain: my conundrum began when I sat down across my Project Director (all hail the Great Leader) who said to me ‘Eunmi, the reason CDI were so successful last year was due to community engagement. This is effectively the most important part of our project’. For those unfortunate few who are unaware, Cambridge Development Initiative’s engineering project is a pilot for Simplified Sewerage – the first of its kind in Tanzania. Simplified sewerage is laid at shallower depths than its western cousin, making it cheaper and easier to install and maintain. This year, CDI engineering is creating a new network of 12 houses to join the two previous CDI routes in the peri-urban settlement of Vingunguti, home to 100,000. In Vingunguti pit latrines are most common: holes in the ground that are costly and dangerous to empty, these pit latrines often overflow in the monsoon season and poison the groundwater. In all global child deaths, 35% are caused by diarrheal diseases. The most effective means of preventing these diseases are handwashing, safe stool disposal and safe water supply. CDI targets all three of these by replacing unlined pit latrines with simplified sewerage, improving health, and by running health awareness campaigns alongside the construction (also my job).

Pretty self-explanatory

Pretty self-explanatory

So how does community engagement factor into all this? Well, the engineering project works by empowering the local community and giving them power over their own network, and teaching them the skills to run it. A Sanitation User’s Association (SUA) is set up alongside every route: it is made up of one representative from each household and several elected members. This elite body oversees the network and makes sure everyone pays back their loans on time. That’s where my job becomes important. How exactly do you pressure a group of adults half way across the world to pay back the money they owe for the latrine built, without actually contacting them? After all CDI UK is only here for 8 weeks. CDI being the game changer that it is, has already figured this out: get their friends to do it.  Rural Tanzania is very community-minded, therefore rather than strange ‘Mzungus’ (Swahili for a white person/westerner) or government invoices asking them to please pay back the money they owe, it is much more effective to get their fellow SUA members to do so. Even more so when you get the well-respected Local Government Chairperson on board with your innovative idea: we’re the carrot, he’s the stick.

Sanitation Users Association (SUA) 2015

Sanitation Users Association (SUA) 2015

CDI has been running for three years now, and being smart fellas we learn from our mistakes. Sustainable development is only possible when community  memebers themselves want it, and have ownership over the development. You see, year one of engineering we did not focus enough on this. We effectively thrust the network on them, almost for free, and they saw it as a wonderful gift from us to them, not something they were responsible for. Hence the loan repayments were, how do I say this, not good. Luckily for them, my wonderful partner Duckie and I have the task of amending this. Fast forward to last year, and our loan repayment rate is over 96%- higher than the famous Grameen bank. Understand my situation now? How on Earth am I supposed to improve on that repayment rate, when much larger, richer organisations with more experience in micro-finance loans cannot! Well, this is effectively just another Cambridge term I suppose! emoticon (2)

Our Great Leader

Our Great Leader

Massive shout out to Duckie who is also working on community engagement. This was really an overview of the Engineering project – next time, if I can be bothered, tune in for how CDI and CDI engineering is expanding! The Government taking on our program and Harvard University (yes HARVARD) following in our footsteps. As much as I complain, this is why I love working for CDI- I feel like I am an active part in something much larger than my measly self, working towards something I believe in, something that will make a positive change and is rapidly approaching us. CDI has progressed so much in the short time I have been here – maybe in five years time I can say I was part of the bottom-up approach that led to something great.

Written by Eunmi Ha – Volunteer on the Engineering Project.

Meet the CDI Education Team!

After an early start on Monday 25th July, the UK volunteers for the Education team met at Heathrow ready to board our 9-hour flight to Dar Es Salaam. Most of us were feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement, as travelling abroad for two months to volunteer was something many of us had never done before.

However we knew we had planned well and so now it was just a case of executing our plans! We also knew we had a brilliant team, so we were ready to face the challenges ahead!

View from the plane en route to Tanzania.

View from the plane en route to Tanzania.

Our plan for the two months is to carry out a competition, called the Think Big Challenge, which aims to get students from three schools to implement initiatives to improve their schools. The competition consists of three phases. Phase one consisted of workshops being held at the schools to encourage the students’ personal development and to help them plan for their future and began even before the UK volunteers arrived in Dar, thanks to the help of Ocheck Msuva, founder of Bridge For Change charity, who delivered the workshops at all three schools. Phase one also consisted of getting students to think of ways they could improve their schools, and inviting them to enter the Think Big competition. Phase Two involved selecting the students, after all the entrants pitched their ideas to judging panels from our team. Phase three consists of inviting those students to Ardhi where we are helping them to implement their ideas, and is now well underway!

Ocheck Msuva leads a workshop at Salma Kikwete school.

Ocheck Msuva leads a workshop at Salma Kikwete school.

We arrived at Ardhi on the Monday evening, excited to meet the Tanzanian volunteers on our team and ready to face week 1, which would consist of visiting the three schools we’d be working with to see how Ocheck’s workshops were being carried out. The workshops were on Problem Solving and Creativity, Understanding Myself and My Future Plans. At the end of the workshops we handed out entry forms for the Think Big Challenge, where students could propose their initiative ideas, and created posters with the names of those who had entered the competition. It was a busy week but we all enjoyed visiting the schools, meeting the students and the Bridge For Change volunteers, and settling into life at Ardhi!

The CDI Education Team

The CDI Education Team

Written by Imani Jeffers – Volunteer on the Education Project.

Dar Week 2! (Health Team)

Monday dawned bright and early, with us eager to start our pre-project survey. After working on this in the UK, then improving it and translating it with our Tanzanian counterparts, I was excited to finally get it started and see how well it worked. For once the Tanzanian traffic was on our side with our journey to Vingunguti taking only twenty minutes (previous trips had taken up to an hour and a half!). This seemed like a good start to the day.

With the help of John (Tanzanian Director of the Engineering Project), we enlisted two enumerators from the community and they along with two of our Tanzanian volunteers began surveying people. Back in our business premises, we began our NGO research, looking into more products to sell and education collaborations we might be able to make.


Our successful first day went a little awry as our bajaji took a ‘shortcut’, instead getting lost and taking us an hour to return to the university. To top it off, I discovered that somewhere along the way our room key had run away… Turns out it was the only key to our room! Luckily, Monday night had some people moving accommodation to nicer rooms, including Fran. Natalie and I moved into one of the vacated rooms (‘Bug Room’ woohoo) and we all managed to scrounge some sheets and nets off the other volunteers.

Tuesday morning we got to watch as our room was broken into, it was surprisingly quick. They even changed the lock straight away so we didn’t have to move rooms. The rest of the week commenced similarly to Monday, with students and enumerators conducting surveys, translating surveys and researching.

Highlights of the week included Jack’s arrival on Tuesday afternoon! The Health Team is now fully complete and to celebrate we went out to eat at Cape Town Fish Market. Wednesday, our bajaji broke down on the way back from Vingunguti! Jack and the driver had to wheel it off the road before our driver went looking for fuel.


Later that night we had karaoke and sang an enthusiastic – if pretty bad – rendition of Adele’s ‘Hello’. Surveys were finally finished on Thursday, with us managing to collect a grand total of 167 responses. On Saturday, Natalie and Jack attended a focus group with our Tanzanian volunteers, and the Community Health Workers, while Rhys ran around trying to sort out our business licenses. (There was a bit of a worry that we would have to knock down walls to swap round the window and the door of our premises). Fran and I helped at the Education Project’s Launch, guiding press and other important people to the venue before sitting and enjoying all the speeches. The morning had involved a slight panic as we realised that we actually had to wear smart clothing, of which the Health Team had brought minimal. And on Sunday we headed out to Bongoyo island for some well-deserved relaxation.


Focus group with the Community Health Workers

Written by Samantha Flint – Volunteer on the Health Project.