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Volunteers who worked together in Tanzania reunite for first time in 50 years

Hugh Burkitt has been actively involved with VSO since his time volunteering as a teacher in Tanzania in the 1960s. Yet, despite this he had lost contact with his fellow volunteers.

Having recently marked 50 years since his placement started, Hugh decided it was time for a reunion.  In December he succeeded in organising a meet, bringing together 15 ex volunteers he'd worked with in Tanzania 50 years ago. 

“I’d been having a few 50th anniversaries coming around, and I realised that last august [2016] was exactly 50 years since my VSO placement." Said Hugh. 
 
After contacting staff at VSO, he was able to contact several volunteers who he had worked with in Tanzania and invite them to the reunion event.

Housemates

Almost everyone from one particular group photograph, taken on the front steps of Hugh’s house in Moshi, Tanzania, was able to attend.

Hugh made a reconstruction of the shot during the evening with seven out of the eight volunteers.
 

Moshi, Tanzania, 1966: Left to right – Dick Peart, Janet, Angela Hodgson, Hugh Burkitt, Vera Parish, Alan Wallman, Marion Williams, Mike Parish

 
Volunteers reunion 50 years on

London, UK, 2016: Left to right – Mike Parish, Dick Peart, Marion Williams, Hugh Burkitt, Alan Wallman, Angela Hodgson, Vera Parish

“What was most exciting for me was getting a response from Alan Wallman – who I shared a house with. We always got on really well, so it was really nice to hear from him.” Said Hugh.

Despite both Hugh and Alan having frequently attending our annual Christmas Carol Concert, they has never crossed paths.

Most of them group (pictured) worked on a number of different projects.
 
Whilst Hugh was teaching at the local school, Alan worked in forestry and Dick was teaching in the College of Wildlife Management. Angela and several other volunteers were working in a local primary school and Marion was working on agricultural projects.
 
“For all of those of us who volunteered with VSO at that time, it was an experience we have carried with us throughout our lives,” said Hugh.
 
“We are highly grateful for the experience – it was a memorable, satisfying experience and we got high value out of it.”

Our work in Tanzania

Sophie Tremblay

 

Today, Tanzania is one of our biggest programmes, with projects across education, health and livelihoods. We first started working there in 1961.
 
“It’s amazing, VSO have been sending pretty much a continuous stream of volunteers since that time.” said Hugh.
 
Recent projects have seen maternal and neonatal deaths drop by 30%, school literacy and numeracy improve by almost a third, and farmers’ incomes quadruple with our support.
 

Future plans

Now back in contact, Hugh has high hopes of meeting up regularly with the 1966 volunteer cohort. 
 
“We definitely want to stay in touch, and find other ways we can support VSO.”
 
Hugh has been on the VSO Carol Concert Committee since 2015 and was able to visit Tanzania again in 2005. He has two children with his first wife, who he met whilst he was volunteering.