Heshima means “Respect” in Swahili and this underlies all that we do.
Where is Heshima located and what are its aims?
Heshima, a registered charity in both the UK and Tanzania, is located near
Kisongo, a township about 12km to the south of Arusha, in Northern Tanzania.
This village largely serves the Maasai Community. Sadly, Maasai people often
face discrimination and prejudice and find it difficult to get good jobs. At
Heshima, we hope to support these people by offering local children a good start
in school; by offering women training and skills to enable them to make an
income and become more independent; and by providing vocational training in
carpentry for young men.
Heshima is based on a one-acre site and now features a house for the
caretaker/groundsman, a classroom for the pre-school, a large 2 story building
housing the textile project, shop and a computer laboratory, and toilets. On the
remaining land, some fruit trees have been planted, but still leaving a large
grassy space for the pre-school children to play on.
The project employs a caretaker/groundsman, a teacher in charge of the
pre-school who also has oversight of the textile project; and a textile trainer.
The site generates electricity through solar panels, and is now also connected
to the mains, and has wi-fi. Under the main building is a large tank for the
storage of rainwater.
A well- equipped textile training centre has been operating for around 10 years,
and is now located in 2 rooms in our main building. Local Maasai women come to
learn textile skills, including basics such as measuring and cutting accurately.
The trainer is a local lady who herself was trained by the project. The women
who have completed their training can either stay on at Heshima making a variety
of textile products, which are sold to provide them with an income and funding
for Heshima, or they can leave and set up their own textile business in their
own community. There is a small shop on-site where tourists are able to see and
purchase items. Items are also sold in local tourist hotels and at an annual
From time-to-time English classes are provided, using the lap-tops, and
information about health and nutrition is available. Some of the younger women
have also formed themselves into a netball team, and have participated in
several matches with other women’s teams, thus breaking gender stereotypes!
We have a free preschool class in its own classroom. Around 30 children aged
from 3 to 6, some of whose mothers are involved in the textile training project,
attend daily. Through creative play and more formal teaching, the children are
introduced to English. There is a large play area equipped with swings, climbing
frame, children’s bikes and many other toys. The children also have access to
interactive resources on laptops.
Class sizes in Government schools are big, and resources limited. In addition,
teaching in primary schools is through the medium of Swahili, whereas at
secondary level, all lessons are taught in English. Many children therefore
struggle to cope in their first few months at secondary school. Children who are
in their final year of a local primary school are invited to Heshima on a
Saturday afternoon for two hours. By means of games and more formal teaching,
the children are supported in their reading, speaking and writing of English.
Two young Tanzanians, one of whom is the caretaker at Heshima, act as mentors.
Currently around 50 children attend every week.
It is hoped to begin the construction in 2023 of a purpose-built workshop to
enable young men to learn carpentry/woodwork skills, and therefore improve their
chances of permanent employment. Funding is at present being sought for this
Volunteering with Heshima
We always need help at Heshima and thankfully people both old and young have
volunteered, some for a couple of weeks, whilst others commit to a longer period
of time … but all are useful! If you think that you can support the work of
Heshima, for instance working with the textile ladies or the pre-school, or if
you have DIY/construction skills, then please do contact the UK
Secretary/Treasurer: Alan Cram firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will need to buy your return flight: the nearest airport is Kilimanjaro,
about 90 minutes away. A taxi can be booked for you (approximately £30/$35 each
way). It may be possible to arrange accommodation for you on the Braeburn
International School site for a small fee, which is around 8km away from the
Heshima site. A tourist Visa is required ($50, which can be purchased at the
airport or online), although if you are staying for a long period, you may have
to purchase a more expensive volunteer visa.
You will be expected to be self-sufficient, and have the confidence to make your
own daily travel arrangements to/from the Heshima site by either dala-dala
(local minibus) or borrowed bicycle. Tanzania is generally very safe for
visitors during daylight hours, but you may feel more comfortable volunteering
as a pair. Local people are generally very friendly, and are delighted when
visitors engage with them, for instance, at the local market stalls. Language
can be a problem: many people only have a smattering of English, Swahili being
the “official” language, so a willingness to learn a few phrases in Swahili
beforehand is always appreciated! Volunteers who are prepared to engage with the
locals will benefit much more from their visit.
Please remember that there is no National Health service in Tanzania and so all
volunteers need to come with medical insurance. The Tanzanian Government also
requires you to come with a yellow fever certificate and, at present (February
2023) evidence of Covid vaccination.
Alternatively, if you think you can raise funds for Heshima, that would be
Things to do and see
All volunteers need “time out” and there are many things to do and see in and
around Arusha: Arusha National Park is nearby as well as, further afield,
Tarangire, Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorogoro Parks. In addition you can climb Mt
Meru (5000m), towering above Arusha, and Kilimanjaro. But be warned: charges for
visitors to all of these are high! For a cheaper day out, the Monduli Hills
(about £1/$1.50 on the dala-dala) are worth exploring, and there is also an
organised walking group which meets on Sundays. Other local attractions include
the weekly Maasai Market in Kisongo, and the Maasai Craft Market in Arusha. For
the more adventurous, there is Dar-es Salaam, recently reconnected to Arusha by
overnight train, and Zanzibar: both also accessed by flights from the local
Please do not hesitate to contact us by email if you would like further
information, or feel able to support Heshima in any way.