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Photo safari enthusiasts provide bridge from Lower Yakima Valley to Africa

AYALABE, TANZANIA – The Hhondo Primary School in Ayalabe, Tanzania has walls and a roof, barely enough desks for its 260 students, and not much more. The walls hold an antique chalkboard and a few fading posters, but the students have no notebooks or pencils. The school is supported by donations from the local community, which is in a depressed area of the country. It serves children from kindergarten through seventh grade. Earlier this month, a load of supplies, including pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, crayons, notebooks, folders and playground equip- ment that includes soccer balls, jump ropes, frisbees and playground balls was delivered to the school by Gary Christensen of Grandview. The supplies were donated by the Christensen family, the Central Washington Chapter of Safari Club International, the Sunnyside Walmart store and the Sunnyside Big 5 Sporting Goods store. “It was particularly satisfying to see the smiles on the teachers and children’s faces as we presented the donations to the school,” said Christensen. “We spent most of the afternoon playing ball and games with the kids.” The project is part of an ongoing effort to help people both here in the Lower Valley and in Africa. Christensen has helped raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities through photo safari trips in South Africa. Tim Vining of Grandview is now extending the photo safari idea into Tanzania. The location includes Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, both ideal places for photo safaris. “It’s a great experience,” said Vining. “You can see many great pictures of the park, but when you experience it live, the ‘wow’ factor is amazing.” Christensen said offering the safari trips at local charity auctions raises money in the United States and also helps the African communities where the safaris are held, because it’s easy for travelers to bring much-needed supplies with them. He said it’s also addictive. “Once people go to Africa for a photo safari, the majority want to go back,” Christensen said. “Many of them want to see a different part of the continent. Tim has watched what I’ve done in South Africa and is duplicating it in Tanzania.”

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Photo by Photos courtesy Gary Christensen

An eruption of joy comes from a soccer ball tossed into the air at the Hhondo Primary School in Ayalabe, Tanzania. The students also received pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, crayons, notebooks, folders and playground equipment.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Gary Christensen

Children at the primary school crowd around to see what Gary Christensen has in the bag he brought for them. Christensen and his wife, from Grandview, and another couple from Olympia, brought gifts donated by people in the Lower Valley, as well as donations from the Sunnyside Walmart and the Sunnyside Big 5 Sporting Goods stores.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Gary Christensen

Girls play a game with a newly delivered playground ball at the primary school. The school lacks many basic supplies. Most children share textbooks, if there are any textbooks to share.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Gary Christensen

The Hhondo Primary School in Ayalabe, Tanzania has small desks and benches for the students. Educational posters on the walls are well-used and fading.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Gary Christensen

An ancient chalkboard is still in use at the Hhondo Primary School in Ayalabe, Tanzania. Tanzanian children are taught Swahili and English to supplement their local tribal language.

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Photo by Photos courtesy Gary Christensen

Gary Christensen of Grandview gives a round of high-fives to the students at Hhondo Primary School after delivering gifts from the Lower Yakima Valley to the students.

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