Opening speech at the Umoja Training Centre

Message to the people of Ukerewe, June 13 2016

By Harry Freeland — CEO and Founder / Photographs by Imogen Freeland
The Umoja Training Centre Opening celebrations June 2016

Dear special guests, Ukerewe Albinism Society members, and people of Ukerewe. It is with great disappointment that I cannot be with you here today.

The Umoja Training Centre has been a 10-year dream for me. I first arrived on Ukerewe Island in 2006. It all started with the idea of a film that would tell the world about the lives of people with albinism in Tanzania. You trusted me to tell your story and send your message out to the world. That film has now been played on television and in cinemas in 80 countries around the world.

The film took 6 years to make and as I built up friendships with you the idea of the Umoja Centre began to grow. When I first arrived on the Island all those years ago it was hard to imagine that change could come — I found so much suffering. I dreamed of a place where people with albinism could come together and be accepted and integrated within their community, a place that welcomed all people with open arms and united the community together regardless of the colour of your skin. Today this has become a reality. The Umoja Training Centre is a result of everyone’s hard work and the world’s positive reaction when hearing your voices.

UAS Choir sing during the opening of the Umoja Training Centre June 13th 2016

It is your stories, friendship and trust that has encouraged me to keep returning to Ukerewe, to found the Charity Standing Voice and to continue working with you for many years to come.

The Umoja Training Centre is the Home of the Ukerewe Albinism Society and Standing Voice’s base on Ukerewe, but it is also here to provide the people of Ukerewe with new skills and a bright future of unity and togetherness.

Today you should all be very proud of what we have managed to create together.

Everyone here has either contributed to the creation of these beautiful buildings or will help to mould its powerful future.

The Umoja Training Centre building and viewing platform

I want to thank lots of people and start by thanking every single member of the Ukerewe Albinism Society for their courage and trust throughout the last 10 years; Alex Magaga who has been with me on this journey right from the very beginning. Without Alex none of this would have been possible. His commitment to us all has been unfailing, and for that I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

SV Managing Director Jon Beale

Jon Beale and all the Standing Voice team whose endless hard work has helped make the Umoja Training Centre a reality; To all Standing Voice’s funders whose generosity enabled this film and these buildings to be made; Jennifer Townsend and Southern Africas Children for buying this piece of land and introducing me to Ukerewe; Ramadhan Alphan, UAS’s dedicated leader who has worked tirelessly on site each day; The Good Earth Trust team for designing and constructing these beautiful landmark buildings, The boys of Bukongo whose bare hands laid each brick and tile around you and who now have the skills to construct other buildings like this across the island.

I want to thank the late Grandma Kajanga and her family who first welcomed me, my wife Johanna and Nick Gresham into their home in 2006.

To Mumma Veda, Vedastus Zangule and Josephat Torner, the stars of our film, whose faces and stories are now well known across the world. They are a big reason why we are all here today.

The Government of Ukerewe and Tanzania for supporting this project from the start and continuing to protect its success into the future.

One of the first people I met when I arrived on Ukerewe Island in 2006 was the Founder and Leader of the Ukerewe Albinism Society, Mr Leonard Masasa. I think most of the people in this room will have known Masasa personally or been touched by him in some way.

Masasa brought the Albinism Society of Ukerewe together and created opportunities for people with albinism to share their experiences with one another for the first time. On October 6th 2008, Masasa was sadly taken from us by skin cancer. He never got to see the Umoja Training Centre. We all miss him greatly.

The Leonard Masasa Hall at the The Umoja Training Centre

The Umoja Training Centre is dedicated to Masasa’s tireless commitment to people with albinism on Ukerewe and Tanzania. This building (The meeting hall) will be named in his honour and will be known as the Leonard Masasa Hall. It will be marked with a plaque that we will lay later this year.

I believe that Masasa will be looking down on you today smiling. He would be so proud of what you’ve managed to create and so excited about the future years that lie ahead for the Umoja Training Centre and for people with albinism on Ukerewe.

Last but not least I would like to thank all the people of Ukerewe Island for coming together in unity for this fantastic celebration today. This is your home to learn new skills, in the most creative ways.

Let us care and love this Centre as Masasa would have in Unity and strength. Let it live up to its name forever.

The Umoja Training Centre

Last but not least I would like to thank all the people of Ukerewe Island for coming together in unity for this fantastic celebration today. This is your home to learn new skills, in the most creative ways. Let us care and love this Centre as Masasa would have in Unity and strength. Let it live up to its name forever.

I look forward to seeing you all again soon. I wish you the best and I hope you have enjoyed the day’s events.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I wish you all a happy International Albinism Awareness day!

Harry Freeland

13/06/2016

The opening celebrations at the Umoja Training Centre, Ukerewe Island, June 13th 2016
Alphonse Kajanja, Ukerewe Island June 13th 2016