Project TOTO: The Big Briefing

Lutheran church in Dar es Salaam, photo by Greenery

My plan to blog daily hasn’t gone so well, but yesterday’s briefing session at ActionAid Australia went just fine. My head is exploding with information and possibilities. Here’s the brain dump.

  • Assuming everything goes to plan, I’ll arrive in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Saturday 27 June. Two weeks from today. So I leave Sydney in about 12 days, flying (probably) via Perth and South Africa.
  • I’ll have most of Saturday to myself to relax and get used to the idea of, you know, being in goddam motherfucking Africa. I’ll also catch up with ActionAid Australia researcher Lena Aahlby, who’s heading over a week before me.
  • Sunday 28 June is orientation day with ActionAid Tanzania. “Great, meetings on a Sunday,” I thought. But no. We’re catching the ferry to Zanzibar, like where there’s fabulous tropical beaches, to see for myself that right next to those 5-star resorts there’s the most abject poverty.
  • ActionAid Tanzania has chosen two people to be their first official bloggers. They’re based in Dar es Salaam, but travel regularly to all the field projects. One specialises in policy and governance, the other in communications. They can show us the real situation in poor rural areas, sure, but also explain why poverty continues.
  • I’ll spend Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 June working with these guys to set up their blogs and introduce them to “social media culture”, for want of a word. We’ll do that in the Dar es Salaam office, where we’ll still have the 1Mb link and access to shops if we’re missing anything.
  • Lake Victoria, Tanzania, by Marc Veraart

  • For the rest of the week, we’ll travel Tanzania by 4WD and small aircraft, visiting as many field projects as we can fit in. The exact itinerary is still being worked out, but one priority is heading up to the north-west border to Lake Victoria and, oh, Rwanda. I’ve heard of that.
  • My plan is that we’ll all post something at least once a day, words and at least one picture. Maybe we can post some video. I’ll be sending a bazillion tweets via my Twitter stream. But we’re also working on something special in the podcasting department, which I’ll tell you about later today.
  • Since I’m only in the country a short time, I’ll be trying to connect the bloggers to as many people as possible. We’ve already discovered that ActionAid Denmark (Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke) has one of their people blogging from Dar es Salaam, Pernille Baerndtsen — though of course she brings a European perspective.

So there you have it. Over the next 12 days I’ll be telling you what we’re doing and how you can help and so on. I will try to stick to my planned regime of daily posts.

There will be a going-away party announced soon too because, as Kate Carruthers so delightfully put it, “Let’s face it, you might get killed.” Cheers, Kate.

Oh, and ActionAid Australia also gave me a cultural briefing on Tanzania.

[Photos: Lutheran church in Dar es Salaam by Greenery; Lake Victoria, Tanzania, by Marc Veraart. Both used under a Creative Commons license.]

15 Replies to “Project TOTO: The Big Briefing”

  1. I am quite moved by your sheer excitement about visiting Tanzania – “being in goddam motherfucking Africa”.

    I can remember my first visit to Oman in ’98, feeling in awe prior to my arrival and after a few days, feeling quite humbled by the exposure to such a rich and different culture. And horrified too, at the amount of poverty that sat alongside great wealth. I look forward to seeing your reactions to what you see during Project Toto.

    Am very keen to hear more on the “why poverty continues”. Expect this is something a lot of Australians would be interested in. We tend to get a bit jaded over the years about continually giving to charities in Africa. Knowing, understanding why would help.

  2. I nominate next Saturday evening the 20th for your going-away-and-maybe-getting-killed party. Or words to that effect.

  3. I’m very excited about this.

    I can’t wait to see your insights from Tanzania and the results of your work there.

    If you think of ways the rest of us can make any kind of contribution to help (in addition, of course, to chipping in to ActionAid), that would be good to hear about in your updates.

    I admire you immensely for this and I hope the experience proves as rewarding for you personally as I suspect it will.

    Hope to see you at the bon voyage drinkies!

  4. I’m with the Pesce on next Saturday evening the 20th for your going-away-and-maybe-getting-killed party. Gives those of us with day jobs time to recover & you time to pack.

  5. Thanks, everyone, for all the best wishes. I won’t bore people by thanking everyone individually, but… thank you!

    @Destertgirl: To tell the truth, right now I’m less “excited”, more “scared shitless”. There are other stresses in my life, and I like to have complex jobs mapped out in advance. Arriving in an unknown place to do work with unknown people in a very short time — and all of it in public! — means I’ll need to be grounded psychologically. I fear not being able to achieve that in time. We shall see.

    You’re 100% right here:

    Am very keen to hear more on the “why poverty continues”. Expect this is something a lot of Australians would be interested in. We tend to get a bit jaded over the years about continually giving to charities in Africa. Knowing, understanding why would help.

    One of ActionAid’s goals is to help answer that question. Recently they called for more debate on how Australian aid agencies deliver assistance in developing countries

    @mpesce and @Kate Carruthers: Yes, I suppose we do need to consider the wage slaves. Saturday 20 June sounds good. However Sunday 21 June has the Winter Solstice at 1545 AEST. While I like the “new beginnings” aspect of a Winter Solstice ceremony, maybe I should save that for something personal.

    I shall consider the timing and let you know late today, Kate — since you volunteered to organise it!

  6. All at ActionAid are really looking forward to following your story when you arrive in Tanzania Stil. I love Africa and I think you’re going to have an amazing experience. I’m in East Timor from this week, enjoy your going-away-and-maybe- getting- killed party!

  7. @Big: As it happens, that song by Toto was the inspiration for this project’s name, The Overseas Training Operation. I thought it a patronising choise but, as Archie Law pointed out

    …however bad the tune may be, I can let you know that Toto’s “Africa” is an unofficial national anthem in parts of South Africa but can’t vouch for Tanzania.

    @Archie Law:Thank you. You seem to have a good team, and they’re working hard to make things easier. I hope all goes well in East Timor. Do let me know as soon as you’re back so we can get your blog happening, too!

  8. Back in Sydney yesterday after a too brief visit to East Timor. We have an amazing team at ActionAid Australia and Toto is coming along nicely from our perspective. Hopefully we can catch up before you get on a plane to talk blogs, which I’m a complete and absolute novice at, and Africa which I know a bit about but am learning all

  9. …..the time (was meant to finish off the last sentence on my last post). Guess that proves my technical prowess!

  10. @Archie Law: Hah! Everyone has slips of the fingers. But yes, we’ll definitely catch up this week because your shiny new blog is all bust ready for you to start adding content. Expect further emails today.

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