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Student portrait — Medical student Christine Manich Bech has started up an education project for children in Tanzania. This project is the most important thing for her: Her studies, her student job, and her friends will just have to adjust.
Three years ago, Christine Manich Bech spent one month as a volunteer at an orphanage in Tanzania. She fell for both the place and the children, and has since then collected money to let the children from the Mwandaliwa orphanage go to school. She started the charity project
Meanwhile, Christine Manich Bech has started her own education in Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, where she is now on the fourth semester. Besides her studies, and her work raising funds for the charity, she also has two student jobs that help pay for her trips back and forth to Tanzania.
“It can be difficult to find a balance and the time for it all, but it’s a matter of prioritization. And the fund-raising means a lot for me. This is what ultimately means something for the children’s future,” says Christine Manich Bech.
This means more than my study programme, my student job, and more than whether I get to see all my friends
Christine Manich Bech’s visit to Tanzania has only confirmed to her that her medical education is the right choice, because she as a doctor can help meet a need that exists in many parts of the world. Prior to being in Mwandaliwa’s orphanage, Christine Manich Bech had volunteered at a nearby hospital. Here she felt that she got in the way, and was probably less of a benefit: But she inserted IV lines on patients, and delivered a child at birth. As the path through medical studies is long, the work with FAWA has given her the opportunity to help immediately.
Christine Manich Bech was still volunteering at the orphanage when she started work on FAWA. She went to the local schools and, with the help of the orphanage’s manager, was able to set up a budget for the cost of sending the orphanage’s children to school. She set up a collection and paid the most urgent of the children’s school fees.
Today there are about 80 children at the orphanage, 36 of whom need financial assistance to go to school. More children go to school from the orphanage, but the Tanzanian school system is free for the first years.
Christine Manich Bech pays her annual trips back and forth to Tanzania herself. She goes down there mostly to make sure that the donations end up in the right hands. One of the highlights of the trip is to see the children of the orphanage again, she says.
“For me, it makes sense to do a little bit more to help the people who are not as fortunate as we are. I come from a traditional, well-functioning family and, like most Danes, I have never missed out on anything. I can study for the education of my dreams and get paid for it. Meanwhile, at the same time, it’s impossible for some people who I have met and who I like, to find the money to complete primary school,” says Christine Manich Bech, eagerly talking about her motivation for the project.
She is convinced that the project can give many of the orphanage children, who might otherwise have ended up as prostitutes or as gang members, the opportunity of another life.
“It is the be-all and end-all that children at the orphanage have models they can relate to. This project ensures that the children can see their friends and siblings getting an education and earning their own money instead of prostituting themselves “
Many of the role models they had before, were children who grew up at the orphanage, started driving motorcycles down town, drinking beer and making trouble
“I think a lot about how it affects the children that I go down there once a year. The first time I was down there as a volunteer, I doubted whether it was the right decision to come,” says Christine Manich Bech, reflecting on how it can affect the children at the orphanage to have volunteers coming and going.
The orphanage in Mwandaliwa had only a few volunteers before Christine Manich Bech arrived, and she became very attached to several of the children, who were both unhappy and inconsolable when she left.
“Of course, you become aware of the influence you as a volunteer have on the lives of these children. You arrive and easily become a symbol of everything that they do not have – you have to consider this when you volunteer,” she says.
Christine Manich Bech still believes however, that volunteers can make a positive contribution to the children’s lives.
“I still believe that you can volunteer and make a positive difference or give the kids a positive experience, by caring for them and giving them the love of an adult that is so rarely available. When the children were sick, they came up to me and fell asleep on my lap, and I think this feeling of safety means alot to children”.
Christine Manich Bech collected DKK 54,000 last year for the children, but as several of them are to pay school fees next year, she aims to collect DKK 90,000 before January 2018, where she will return to Tanzania.
If you like, you can read more about the project and support it through the website here.