Sharing West Cumbrian culture with Tanzanian visitors   

19th December 2019

A cultural exchange group shows how much young people from across the world have in common through learning and playing together.

Cumbria Rungwe Community Link has been linking West Cumbria with the Rungwe district in Tanzania for more than 30 years.

The two-year exchange programme gives young people experiences of alternative cultures and hundreds have taken part. West Cumbrian youngsters are given the opportunity to visit Rungwe on an exchange and the following year, a cohort of students and leaders from Rungwe reciprocate the visit.

£2,250 from the Cumberland Building Society Charitable Foundation and Cumberland Educational Foundation contributed to the 2019 exchange. Between 22nd June and 14th July, six Tanzania students and three of their leaders came to West Cumbria. The theme was ‘How Our Community Works,’ where the Tanzanian youngsters learned about the local community through a programme involving schools, community groups and emergency services.

On top of their structured activities, the group, who are all hosted by West Cumbrian students, enjoyed spending their free time learning about each other’s cultures. They even exchanged dance moves such as the ‘hokey cokey,’ with Valentino stating it’s his new favourite dance!

The exchange offers an opportunity to really connect, share stories and learn about each other’s lives. Mary Kipling from Cumbria Rungwe Community Link, said: “We focussed on our emergency services: police, fire, ambulance, lifeboats and search and rescue. This is in addition to visiting schools and community organisations. It has made an incredible difference to all the young people and gave our students and volunteers a real insight into areas of our community which they didn’t know existed, or took for granted, or knew nothing about. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive in the opportunities afforded for the students to experience multiculturalism first-hand, as well as to learn about a very different culture in Tanzania.”

One young Mirehouse resident has been inspired to travel to Tanzania against all the odds. After being in foster care and now living with his grandmother, he joined the project not thinking he would be capable of travelling in Tanzania. After gaining more confidence through fundraising activities and meeting students from Tanzania, he was inspired to go to Tanzania. He said: “I didn’t think I was brave enough or strong enough to consider travelling so far and to somewhere so different from what I’m comfortable with. However, I’ve learned that I am much more confident and far more capable than I thought, and now the idea of going to Tanzania excites me, rather than making me anxious. Meeting and becoming friends with the Tanzanians was such an amazing experience, and I would love to visit Rungwe to reunite with them.”

In 2020, up to 18 students from West Cumbria will visit Rungwe, stopping in hostel accommodation in Lutengano. It includes school visits, culture exchange events such as music and sports days, visiting local sites of interest and rest days. The cost of the trip for each student is around £4,360. The students fundraise by attending monthly meetings to plan and prepare fundraising activities and prepare for the inward and outward visits. The level of involvement in fundraising and attendance at meetings are taken into consideration when selecting those who will ultimately travel to Tanzania.