Issue No. 4  

January – July 2015

Dear Partner and Friend of the Baba Watoto Centre and the FIT FOR LIFE project

Welcome to our fourth newsletter about the project FIT FOR LIFE-Educating vulnerable youngsters from Tanzania in the arts and creative industries. The project is funded by the European Union and was launched in March 2013 at the Baba Watoto Centre in Mburahati, Dar es Salaam.

The Goethe Institut of Tanzania is a coordinator with partners Parapanda Theatre Lab Trust, and the the ICC ufaFabrik, Berlin.

The project started in March 2013 with the preparation for THE BIG WHEEL, the first international artistic Workshop meeting, which kicked off in June 10, 2013. Over 60 children and youngsters participated in the first THE BIG WHEEL.


FITFORLIFE provides training in various acrobatics skills including trapeze and juggling as well Samba & Reggae music lessons. Currently the courses are followed by 28 permanent students and 36 part time students.

The trainers include Alex Shomari Said from Tanzania who teaches acrobatics. His classes are in the evening from 4pm after school hours. “Children who come to the centre every day have managed to attain some important skills, like sticking on a wall for over15 minutes, managing to stand on their hands too. There are roughly 8 children who are quite impressive.”-Alex

Currently Alex is no longer with the project as he’s working in South Africa. In his place is Ms Aisha Kijavara who oversees the ‘Trapeze Art’ class. Other trainers at the centre include Mkude Kilosa, Mwajabu Omary and Ms Christina Elisha who assists in teaching the Samba & Reggae classes.

“The project is being received well by the surrounding community, many of whom have children at the centre. This taken from the new skills their children have acquired, in performing acrobatics and playing samba & reggae music. All of which is positively affecting their attitude. The children perform monthly, mostly in front of their community and they’re showing a great desire to learn everyday..." - Artistic Director of the FFL project Mr. Mkude Kilosa.



The FFL team has been staging performances at the end or beginning of each month. This at areas surrounding the centre including the grounds of Gombelo (Makurumia Suburb), Mabibo Sahara (Mabibo, Kanuni, Kilima hewa and Barcelona suburbs) and Kasulu (Mburahati Suburb).

These performances staged by the centre have been attended by more than 3,350 people, mostly from these suburbs. The performances have attracted more children who wish to join the centre.


The Art and Craft Workshops

FFL project also gives arts and craft training to youngsters ranging from 5 different suburbs of Dar es Salaam including Mabibo, Makurumia, Mburahati, Kigogo and Manzese. In 2013 the workshops were at basic level training, starting with only 5 participants. Since this is the final year of the project, the workshops are now more advanced and focusing on practical skills to equip the youngsters in future employment.

Since May 23rd 2015 at the offices of Parapanda Theatre Lab, there have been workshops in the art of Theatre Lights and Sound production. Which were led by two facilitators namely Mr Amani Lukuli (Light, Design and Production) and Frank Samatwa (Sound Design and Production). With six participants five of them being boys and one girl (Mwanaidi Salehe).

Tailoring is also part of the continuing workshops this year; it began on June 1st and was conducted for 20 days.  With 17 female youngsters, among them being more experienced participants from previous art workshops in the project, namely the 'Costume Design Training Workshop'. 

This year the facilitator was Ms. Grace Msewma. This particular workshop has its studio open throughout the year for the participants to embark on their own projects in the seamstress industry. It follows many of them have been getting work and completing them at the studio, with one of their clients being the acrobatics and Samba/Reggae team from FFL.

Another continuing workshop is the carpentry training which began on June 29th this year. With five participants it was facilitated by Mr Lewis Mnong’one from Bagamoyo College of Arts. Already the participants managed to design and make furniture for the Baba Watoto Centre. Including some tresses for the acrobatics group, cabinets for keeping the samba & reggae drums as well some other small devices used in the equipment room. They’ve also learned how to make a Stage theatre using appropriate types of timber.

"I am very happy to have received this training. For now from our teacher, I’m able to make stools, benches and wooden cases. With these skills I can secure my income in the future...” Mariki Rajab, a participant in the Carpentry workshop.


The Big Wheel Workshop

This Big Wheel international workshop is organized for three weeks with experts from Germany and Cambodia. They provide advanced training sessions for the Baba Watoto trainers as well basic to advanced level training, for the youngsters in Baba Watoto Centre.

This year we received trainers from Cambodia namely Sokheng Ngai and Kimlon Khuon, with Kate Wolf, Manni Spaniol and Sara Ullrich from Germany. Apart from the trainers, 25 youngsters were picked from the Baba Watoto Centre to participate in this year’s workshop, which began from the 1st to the 19th of June 2015.

Tips were handed down from how to perform on stage for a long period of time without getting tired for the acrobatics team. To ways in which to incorporate Samba & Reggae music with other music genres, like afro fusion and contemporary pop for the music team.

The workshop was quite successful and before long members of various institutions including the Goethe-Institut Tanzania, Save the Children, CEFA, Kigamboni Community Centre, NVRF and Local Government officials from District level to Ward level were all invited to the final public open air performance of the ‘Big Wheel’.

This performance occurred on June 19th at the Kasulu grounds in Mburahati kwa Jongo, Dar es Salaam with the Deputy Mayor of Kinondoni Municipal, as guest of honour. There were over 1,500 persons gathered to witness and enjoy this performance.

"I am very impressed with the efforts of Baba Watoto Centre through its project Fit for Life funded by the European Union. Particularly for helping these children and youngsters, to enhance their talents which in turn is giving them an opportunity, to raise their income in the future. I am also pledging to assist the Baba Watoto Centre in alleviating their property tax challenges."- Hon. Deputy Mayor, Mr. Songoro Mnyonge in his speech at the event.

Kati Wolf who was the facilitator of the Trapeze training, decided to organise a small workshop after the initial big one, which involved ten participants going on for 7 days. The workshop focused on storage, repair & purchase of the right equipments for Music & Acrobatic sessions.

The participants included local trainers and youngsters from FFL, they learned the names of the different Trapeze instruments; giving them Swahili names so as to make them easier to identify. Training was also provided in ways of cleaning and keeping equipment safe so as to sustain them for longer. A trip to the local shops was part of the workshop, which gave insight on what equipments to purchase for instance, what sticks are best for the Samba & Reggae drums.

The Baba Watoto’s storekeeper Mr Nelson was also happy to be included in the workshop. He learned key things like how to assemble the trapeze instruments, repair the Samba & Reggae drums. As well how to keep stock of what came in and out of the store room, figuring ways of accounting by placing markings on the equipment.



The FFL project this year has been able to work with several like minded organisations to include Kigamboni Community Centre, International School of Tanganyika-IST & Nafasi ArtSpace.

With the Kigamboni Community Centre, FFL has been collaborating with them in the monthly performances, giving joint performances by youngsters from both centres. A convenient thing as both centres work with youngsters doing similar activities like carpentry and tailoring workshops.

With IST for almost four months 11 students from the school joined the circus class on Tuesday’s at FFL. After which they did a performance in front of the school and later a small workshop on acrobatics was facilitated at the same, under the tutelage of FFL’s artistic Director Mr. Mkude Kilosa.

The FFL youngsters have also broadened their network by performing at various venues like local weddings. For instance in May 2015, the Samba & Reggae music group as well the acrobatics group performed for Mr. Amani Lukuli’s wedding.

Another event which presented a great networking opportunity for FFL was on the 14th June this year. The celebration of European Union Day was underway, this taking place at Nafasi Art Space in Mikocheni, Dar es Salam. On this occasion FFL performed in front of numerous cultural stakeholders in the country. With the Minister of Information, Sports and Culture Hon. Fenera Mkangara as well as other leaders of different projects funded by the EU, were present.


Voice of a participant

“My father doesn’t want me, he has told me that directly. He only takes care of his other children.” Hamis Bakari recounts.

Hamis is 15 years old, born in 2000 and living with his mother Ms Mwajuma Mohammed in Mburahati, Dar es Salaam. Their life is with a meagre income, growing up with little care. Hamis was accustomed to life on the streets. Though he was taken to school by his mother at Bryceson Primary School located in Mburahati, in grade four he dropped out.

By this age his behaviour was out of control, doing little to please his mom and grandma; returning home at odd hours of the night despite being so young.

"I stole, small things like shoes, home utensils even money. Where we lived one of our neighbours was a traditional healer, I took to stealing his chickens for fun.” Hamis confesses.

“One day he realised that it was me who was stealing his chicken and so he came to tell my mom. She was furious and after spanking me. Later she took me to the village at my father’s parents, in Mzee Bakari’s home in Liunguli, Lindi. Soon after I arrived, my mother and father wouldn’t stop quarelling…” Hamisi

His mom left him thinking his father will have no choice but to take care of his son and in turn Hamisi will learn of good manners. Alas he wasn’t treated well, if anything he found out clear disparities in the way he was treated. Compared to his siblings from his father and so boldly one day, he asked his dad. “Dad why do you neglect me compared to your other children. You don’t buy me clothes, food..?”

It was here that his father responded bluntly “I don’t want you, because you’re not my son.” Hamisi was quite hurt by this as would any child, he recounts crying a lot that day. Then asking his grandparents to take him back to his mother in Dar es Salaam, to which they agree.

When Hamisi came back, he soon began the business of selling water in Kariakoo. Water that he packed in small plastic containers himself, selling them at 100TSHS per piece; he would wake up very early in the morning. Prepare his water and start walking on foot to Kariakoo to sell his merchandise.

Hamisi’s grandmother was not pleased with his grandson’s stint of doing business instead of going to school. It was soon after that Hamisi’s mom went to Mr Nelson at Baba Watoto Centre, asking him to help her get Hamisi back to school.

Together they went to Bryceson Primary School to request Hamisi be re-admitted. To this the Head Master responded “We don’t want him, why don’t you at Baba Watoto teach him maybe he’ll even manage to write a letter…”

Indeed this is what followed as Hamisi was taken in at Baba Watoto Centre, under Ms Eliza Mnyenyelwa’s care he began to learn how to read and write.

"In that class we were like five children, we quickly formed a bond as we had all dropped out of school. It was Zalin Shaban, Abdallah Jumbe Kifundo, Amjedi David, Geofrey Michael and I". Hamisi tells.

Hamisi is a bright a kid and soon he were able to read and write, he also took to art. Learning how to draw soon he caught the attention of the Artistic Director of the Centre Mr. Mkude.

As Mr Mkude took to a liking to Hamisi, he noticed that he took to his water business in Kariakoo. He then managed to convince Hamisi to stop the water business, promising him more art classes. Hamisi agreed and soon he was taking up art classes like Drama, Ngoma, and soon as the FFL project began, he’s been part of the Acrobatics group.

“When the Fit for Life Project began, I was very happy because there was more follow up on my progress. As both my mother and grandmother were called and given reports on my performance. This gave them more confidence on what goes on at the centre.” Hamisi

“I am very grateful to the Baba Watoto Centre; I totally see the change in Hamisi and I am so surprised, he is a good boy now. He does acrobatics very well to the extent that so many people in the community are proud of what he is doing.

I now have peace of mind because I know where he is when he’s not at home; he’s at the centre with Mr. Mkude, doing acrobatics. Also he has started saying by himself that he wants to go back to school". Hamisi’s Grandmother.

Indeed Hamisi wishes to go back to school only under one condition that it’s not the same school he went to. Hamisi’s Mother is also very willing to support her son in his desire to return to school; as she is now very optimistic of her son’s future.

“When I look to my son now, I can cry with joy because he is doing very well in Acrobatics, he has started listening to what we tell him as parents. Plus whenever he refuses to do his chores, we just threaten to tell the leaders of Baba Watoto Centre. To this he’ll apologize and do the chores right away.

I am happy; for now you can sit down with Hamisi talk to him, learn more of his development. Nowadays Hamisi showers regularly and washes his clothes. If it wasn’t for the Baba Watoto Centre, I don’t want to think where he’d be by now. What with his previous thieving practises, all I can say is thank you to Baba Watoto Centre.” Ms Mwajuma (Hamisi’s mother).


Lessons from the FFL Project:

Hamisi has been a part of the FFL project since its inception. In his own words "I am very grateful to the Fit for Life project; the project has nurtured my talent in the arts, and it has made me famous. I’m now known in my neighbourhood because of doing acrobatics.

I have also seen and gotten to know various people from our art rendezvous all over town; like the IST School in Masaki, the Kigamboni Community Centre in Kigamboni, Nafasi Arts Space in Mikocheni, the Goethe-Institut and the Alliance Francais centres in town".

The project has also done a good job of bringing the parents of the participants closer to their children. "I like this project because I am always involved; they always send me letters inviting me to the centre to see the progress of my grandson. Also I have been invited to attend different performances where Hamisi is performing; he has now become a very hard working child". Hamisi grandmother recounts.

“The project has even made him take care of his appearance. I recall him telling me; “I must go to the barber and look smart ‘Bibi’, because I am afraid if I don’t, teacher Habiba won’t let me go to the performances at IST’”. Hamisi’s grandmother.

“My father calls me nowadays though I don’t want to talk to him. God forgive me but I don’t love him anymore. I am currently living with my stepfather and my mother. My stepfather takes care of me and I’m grateful, my father rejected me and that’s that.” Hamisi  

Despite his progress Hamisi still struggles to make ends meet. In his household they don’t manage three meals a day. Plus basic provisions like clothes, soap and shoes are not easy for them to come by. Hamisi therefore still needs support particularly as he’s looking to go back to school. He wishes to do this without worrying about food and school stationery supplies.

All in all he’s very grateful of the FFL project and the Baba Watoto Centre. "I am very grateful to Madam Habiba, my teacher Mr. Mkude, Mr. Nelson as well as the Director of the centre Mr. Mgunga for helping me a lot and teaching me acrobatics. In the future I can also be a big artist, recognised internationally particularly in Trapezes styles.” Hamisi.


Meet the team behind the project by visiting our website http://babawatotofitforlife.net/the-team

Dar es Salaam, October 09, 2015
Habiba Issa
Project Manager


This project is funded by the European Union. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.