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Tanzania January 2016 – Ace Africa

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Leaving Kenya I flew down to Arusha between the spectacular sister peaks of Mount Meru (also known as Oldonyo Orok the ‘black mountain’ in Maasai) and Kilimanjaro. A familiar journey that I have taken countless times before both by air and road. Many years ago I lived on the sublimely beautiful, unspoilt, forested slopes of Meru and returning here always has a sense of coming home. But how it has changed.

Arusha has transformed from sleepy town to bustling metropolis. The fastest growing urban conurbation in sub-Saharan Africa. Ace Africa work with several communities here in the often densely populated countryside and villages that surround both Arusha and its smaller neighbour, Moshi. I am here to photograph some of the projects and beneficiaries.

Although Tanzania is essentially non-tribal the people differ as anywhere else. Here, in Northern Tanzania many of the people are waArusha – essentially settled Maasai – and Chagga people who often farm the bases of the two mountains.

Population growth is an issue here and the towns thrive with people everywhere. The markets are huge and all around there is a sense of energetic activity. Tourist vehicles heading for the game parks or ‘The Mountain’ jostle with lorries, buses, motorcycles cars and pedestrians. The smell of diesel fumes are ubiquitous and noise and colour abound. Its hot here too. And unseasonably on this trip, wet too.

Ace works, as ever, with the marginalised. Incidences of HIV infection are still high here. Many women bring up children alone. Other youngsters are raised by grand-parents. Ace Africa works in all areas of the community. Health care, nutrition, housing, counselling, education… wherever the need is.

Everyone one meets in Africa has a story. Many are tragic. Too many unnecessarily so.

The last picture in this portfolio features a young Muslim girl (wearing a white hijab) during a home counselling session. She’s now 14. Her bright disposition belies a terrible truth. From the age of 8 she has been abused and raped by a relative, her parents’ neighbour. Threatened with death by her rapist if she spoke out she became deeply withdrawn at school and terrified of men and boys. Her school teachers saw a significant problem but had no training to deal with her. Ace Africa have people on the ground who can step in and do something. The rapist fled and is being sought by the authorities and this lovely girl is safe. She can now speak about her ordeal with people who are trained and capable to help her and gradually, ever so slowly her life is returning to some kind of normality.