Stories from Kindwitwi – Nick Bowley- June 2022

As part of our new series, Stories from Kindwitwi, the trustees from RLT are collating the varied and fascinating experiences, anecdotes and stories that our global community has had in Kindwitwi. 

To capture these stories, our trustees are inviting people from the RLT community to have a virtual coffee with us, to tell us about their connection with the trust, Kindwitwi, RLT, Fr Robin and Tanzania.  

Our first guest was Nick Bowley, previously the Head Teacher at the International School of Tanganyika and supporter of Kindwitwi and RLT for many years.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Nick for sharing his Kindwitwi story with and we hope you enjoy his vivid portrait of this wonderful community! We spoke for over an hour but below you can see a short extract of our interesting conversation where Nick describes what it was like to take his students from Dar es Salaam to Kindwitwi as part of their community service work.

The road [to Kindwitwi] was hideous quite honestly, especially in the wet season with the pot holes, the mud, and all of us having to jump out of the vehicle and push to get it going again.  And then the lovely experience when we would stop in Kibiti and refresh ourselves and stretch our legs.   Of course, the most interesting part of the journey was going towards the river and taking different tracks and trying to find how to cross [the river] and discover where you could cross.  There was so much excitement about getting on dugout canoes and actually that happened quite often.  There are quite a lot of crocodiles and hippos in that river and they were a little bit frightened as well, well of course we all were if I am honest!

When we got there, many of the kids had never camped at all, so the idea of setting up a tent in Kindwitwi and then eating food that they had cooked for themselves was really a great learning experience for them.  When it came to washing, they had to trek down to the lake or hot spring.  Were there crocodiles in the river?  Well of course the answer probably was, yes!

But camping over night! Animals would come through and nudge against their tent and we would tell them, “Just keep calm and just keep quiet and don’t worry about whatever comes by!” and there were excited tales the next morning about the things that went right by the tent, probably hippos, it was really exciting.  And then the work that they had to do.  I did a farming project with the kids in Kindwitwi from 1997 to 1998…It started accidentally.  It started as a classroom activity when we were looking at the idea of sustainable development. I gave them a little project.  I drew [on the board] Kindwitwi with all its different features … and told them, “I want you to come up with some low-cost ways of getting water to the crops…Eventually one of the kids said “hang on! I know that village, its Kindwitwi, isn’t it?!” and I said, well yes, you have rumbled me, it is Kindwitwi actually.  And the students then wanted to make the project a reality, because they felt connected to the people there.

So, we set up a permaculture farming project. The single most important thing they had to so was to send delegates to a Kindwitwi Board of Management meeting to ask permission for a patch of land to set up their experimental permaculture project.  That was all part of the respect thing that they had to develop as part of their community service. They had to come along and ask Burchard and the villagers who were serving on the board, would it be alright if they could do that project in Kindwitwi

The students got permission to do the project, they enlisted the help of the Kindwitwi football team to do the mulching that was needed.  The students couldn’t go to Kindwitwi very often …because it was such a long way, you see.  So they could not go every weekend… And so, they in turn made football shirts for the team, that said Kindwitwi FC. So, they struck up a good relationship there.

The project was an abject failure. And in a way, that was good learning for the students because it is tough farming in Africa, and they learned that you are totally at the mercy of the elements there.

The most important thing about the [community service] programme was respect…and… hopefully developing empathy and a desire to link with people.

Have you been to Kindwitwi or have you been a supporter of RLT or do you know someone that has?  Would you like to share your story with us?  Or indeed nominate someone you know! We would love to hear from you!  To take part in the Stories from Kindwitwi series, please contact Jennifer Cosgrave at