A tale of two buildings
I saunter up and down empty corridors, peering through empty cabins in search of life. Empty desks and chairs, computers covered in plastic, files lay strewn across the table-reminiscent of a once busier time. Tales of its glorious past hang on either side of the walls. I stop and admire the colorful pictures and read stories of its success when I am interrupted by a fellow colleague asking me if I was lost. I sure was!! although part of Amref, I hadn’t really been to this building. The ANGAZA building as it is fondly called after the project it harbored-ANGAZA ZAIDI (meaning to shed more light on) was a project run in partnership with USAID and Ministry of health Tanzania to conduct HIV testing, counseling and awareness in Tanzania. The project had a glorious run from 2001 but ended in 2014 and most of the employees whose contracts ended with the project had to leave because of lack of further funding. The building is now all but abandoned except for a small testing and counseling center run by interns. Lost in my thoughts I turn a corner to find myself in front of room number 50, my new office for the next few days. I open the door to enter a dark and musty room. I open the windows to let some fresh air and light in. I stack the room up with files and get down to business, a while later, I hear my fellow evaluators pouring in and doing the same in adjacent cabins. Every two years once, Amref TZ calls for proposals of new tenders to be submitted from local businesses who would eventually supply everything from catering services to stationary to batteries to courier services for the NGO. It was time for the exercise again this year and I was selected to be part of the evaluation committee. The task at hand was to conduct pre-qualifications of tenders submitted to Amref by carefully evaluating each proposal, scoring them based on pre-set criteria and conducting field visits of short listed businesses in order to verify their claims. It was a very intensive, technically and analytically charged experience. The decisions that we would take would affect the way we conduct our business for the next few years and as such had to be justified to the board. No favoritism, no bias and no influence would be tolerated. Following our recommendations, the tender committee would then select the best fit after subsequent rounds of financial reviews and negotiations. At the end of the week having completed our task we march out of ANGAZA as it quietly goes back to its bleak self after saying goodbye to its temporary occupants.
It’s the beginning of a new week and I stroll into Amref’s main office building. I am welcomed with greetings and smiling faces. This was familiar ground, the building was alive with people chatting and sipping tea in the corridors- it was business as usual. I quickly make my way towards the communication unit, a room with high ceiling and glass windows on one end making it open, airy and brightly lit-a good atmosphere for creative thinking I reckon. The task at hand was to develop new digital marketing strategies for Amref Tanzania to increase awareness and demonstrate transparency with the general public and stakeholders at large. We decided to use social media platforms such as facebook, twitter and instagram to do just that. The next few days we were kept busy discussing the frequency and tone of the messages delivered, selecting pictures, editing stories, writing catchy slogans and titles for the articles. After a few initial hiccups and road bumps we finally got Amref TZ profile up and running and synced across all three platforms (Links given below- please do check it out). After sharing our success with the global Amref offices, we quickly move onto working on the company’s newsletter to avoid wasting the creative juices flowing around our brain.
It’s the end of the week and as I write this I can’t help but think about the past few days. The contrast of the two buildings, their stories and my experiences has many layers of interpretation. On one hand, confidential and important business decisions were made in a place of quiet desolation and on the other hand the organization connected with the world from a place of such gleeful connections. I couldn’t help but admire these two buildings, one representing the past and the other the future, standing side by side, working for the greater good in their own little ways.
P.S: The next half of my assignment will be completed in the ANGAZA building thanks to re-wiring of cables in the main building and the main line runs through my current cabin and hence I am the only one shifting. Co-incidence or what?
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Twitter – @amreftanzania