Wednesday, 30 June 2010


We were happy to have the meeting as planned. Mama Elizabeth (she wishes us to call her Bibi, grandma in Swahili) helped us to create groups consisting of Form II and III students. The sixty girls were divided into groups of 10 or 14 students. This means that from Monday to Friday we´ll see one group each day, so in a month we´ll see each group four times.

Ahead of our planned schedule, in the afternoon we had our first workshop, which we have named ‘Art Club’. The curious Form III girls were giggling and peeking into the classroom fifteen minutes before the scheduled start. This giggling went silent once we sat down in a circle in order to introduce ourselves. During the round all the girls obediently said that they either "love" or "like" art. We told the girls about our plans for the coming weeks. We tried to stress that the purpose of the Art Club is not to produce fancy art work. Instead, we encouraged the girls to play with the provided materials and find out something new about themselves. The girls appeared shy and eager at the same time.

The art making was started with a warm-up exercise where five girls worked together on a huge sheet of brown paper having crayons as their medium. After a stiff start, the girls loosened up and started having fun. Although the idea of making a group drawing was unfamiliar for the participants they worked comfortably with each other. It was interesting to see how some girls drew only on the area at their arm´s reach while others were excited to leave marks on the entire sheet. The intense drawing followed its own course until the papers were fully covered. The girls seemed surprised and proud at their creation. There was even some hand clapping.

The second drawing was made individually. We suggested the girls to introduce themselves with a drawing, that is, to share something about themselves by making a picture. This idea was grasped quickly and soon the girls were enthusiastically at work. However, looking at the picture and sharing about the experience of creating them at the end of the session seemed more difficult. This is more than understandable since this was our first encounter and making self-explorative art is new for the girls. We look forward to see how the other four groups will respond. We´ll update you later on that. Now we go for a very much needed afternoon walk before the sun sets. It's been a long and wonderful day.


We had an early pick-up from Dar es Salaam by our fellow volunteers Manu from Germany, Richelle and Taylor from Canada. Before leaving town we collected art materials sponsored by the UNSG (United Nations Spouse Group). The car got filled with lots of different types of paper, three buckets of clay, oil pastels, crayons, pencils and other art materials. Then we set off towards Bethsaida, located approximately 25 km from the city. On the way we bought some oranges and mangoes.

When we arrived all the girls were in their classes, which gave us some time to settle in the volunteer dorms. We both got private light blue rooms with flower curtains, ensuite bathrooms (!!) and double beds with mosquito nets. Then we were given a tour of the campus by the volunteers from Canada. In the area there are classrooms, dorms for the girls, a volunteer house (we are six at the moment), an office building, a sports field, a laboratory and a new library under construction. In addition to the buildings we also saw some pigs, chicken, cows and a couple of roosters, and a vegetable garden maintained by the girls.

The students at Bethsaida have full days with activities from 6 am to 11 pm, beginning with a morning run and ending with evening studies. Since most of the 120 girls are on holiday now, the schedule is a bit more laid-back. Still, the girls present have lessons to attend starting at 7 am. At 4 pm the girls have an hour long gospel style prayer session in the dining hall, involving energetic singing and drumming. Even in the evenings the hard working girls have to spend a couple of hours in the classrooms to complete their homework and study.

At the moment a few former students cook for the volunteers, they are excellent chefs. For our first dinner we were served rice, pea curry, stew with vegetables, coconut milk and cooking banana. In the evening we set up a time to meet with the head mistress Maristella in order to plan the groups and the timetables for our art workshops.

About our project

We are two Finnish art therapy students from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. We have come to Tanzania for a month to volunteer at Bethsaida, also known as Olof Palme Orphans Education Centre. ( It is the only all-girls secondary boarding school in Tanzania devoted to educating and caring for orphans. Bethsaida recruits girls from regions all over Tanzania, focusing on adolescents in particular need. Many of the girls at Bethsaida have no parents and they often come from poor financial or social circumstances. At the moment there are 122 students aged 13 to 20. Our aim here is to offer art workshops with a therapeutic approach, giving the young women an opportunity to explore their thoughts and feelings.