Nafasi Project works in a township called Usa River on the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania. Usa River is a small farming community, where you can find livestock roaming through the street along with countless unsupervised children.
The most common types of employment include selling goods and food in small makeshift shops. Many people don't have steady employment and go out each morning in hopes of finding work as a day laborer, most often doing fieldwork in farms.
There is a strong sense of communal living in this community. Not only do families live together sharing communal housing, with a different family occupying each room in a single house, they also share what little resources they have with each other. Most families have three to five children, some less and some many more. Single parenting and taking in children of relatives is all too common and places a large financial strain on families.
Homes close to the center of town are basic cement structures with tin roofs. As you go deeper into the township and into the farmlands you will find homes are made with thatched sticks held together with mud. They are cold and leaky. During the rainy season people may even wear rain boots inside their own home to keep their legs dry as they sink in the mud floors.
Because Usa River is close to the major city of Arusha, the cost of living is relatively high, especially the cost of school fees. If a family cannot afford the fees for school, their child will be forced to drop out.
Small daycare centers and makeshift schools are set up on just about every street to try and meet the need for educating children who have dropped out or never started formal schooling. While these centers do a good job, children age out of them by 8 or 9. Generally, these children will go to help their parents raise money for the family by selling goods or doing manual labor. Often, girls will return home to maintain the household and care for younger siblings and neighbors.