Kemgesi – Billy and Emily

Saturday March 18 – Monday March 20

Saturday mid-day we arrived in Kemgesi, a short 1 hour drive from Mugumu. We met Billy and Emily who were hanging out in the their favorite canteen on main street Kemgesi. It was immediately obvious that they have been warmly accepted into the Kemgesi community, with each person we passed shouting out greetings to them using their given Ngoreme names….Maro! (Billy) …..and Bhoke! (Emily).

We spent the afternoon catching up and settling into our guest house offered by David Maganya a longtime SST supporter and local historian. Emily is staying with David and his family. We enjoyed watching the patterns of farm life during our coming and going for meals at David’s house. The cows, sheep, and goats routinely ramble back to the cattle corral each evening at sunset…… and wow, the sunsets!

Billy –  Dr. Omar Ali Juma Secondary School

Sunday morning we had breakfast with Billy’s family, the Marco Makore Magambo family at their home on the hill above town. This family has hosted students since 2011 and it was encouraging to see them doing so well. After breakfast we went to Dr. Omari Secondary School where Billy teaches English to Form 1 students (~9th graders). We were welcomed by Phoya, the assistant headmaster, and had a far-ranging conversation about the educational system in Tanzania. We were also able to observe Billy teaching on Monday morning before we left for Musoma. It is obvious Billy’s students have great respect for him and his gentleness and care for his students was evident!

Emily –  Dr. Omar Ali Juma Secondary School & the Mara Cultural Heritage Digital Library 

Sunday afternoon we visited a community center that David Maganya helped build just outside of downtown Kemgesi. The longterm goal is to have a site with books and computer stations where local community members and students can come to study and also learn about their traditional cultural history.  Emily’s role in this project is to enable the community to access the Mara Cultural Heritage Digital Library, a project that presents the years of research completed by Dr. Jan Bender Shetler (a longtime history professor at Goshen College who now serves as the Director of Global Studies). Emily is downloading the digital files to a computer so that David and others in the community can access the multitude of interviews and stories captured through the years. Emily is also teaching some history classes at the secondary school, which enables her to explore how the digital library might be a resource for teaching local history!

Kemgesi is a town in transition – clinging to deep traditional cultural roots yet also embracing new opportunities via education, improved access via roads, and families sending children off to universities and work far afield. There is a commitment to tell these stories and preserve this history, which is inspiring to witness.