Graham Frost

Bringing a whole new virtual world to street children in Tanzania

Our marketing manager Graham Frost recently visited the teams in East Africa to help put together a virtual reality film that we will be able to use in our fundraising. The company behind the project, Youtoring, also took the opportunity to introduce the children at our Kivuko day centre to people and places they would never normally have the opportunity to see.


“We held our first virtual reality workshop at the Kivuko centre on a day when 24 boys aged between eight and 13 were attending for some food, rest, counselling, informal education and whatever other forms of support our team there could offer. Whatever they had been through – over the past few years or even just the night before – it was inspiring to see how lively, curious and excitable they all were when we arrived. A good reminder of the fact that they are still just children, no matter what.

“We introduced Adam Bevan from Youtoring who, through a translator, told the boys about how modern technology could take them all around the world, to some of the amazing places he’d been and how they too could share the sights and sounds of these experiences. He revealed a box of cardboard VR headsets and showed the boys how to make them up and then gave them each a mobile phone to slot in with the VR footage on. The children were utterly spellbound by what they saw and immediately launched into a barrage of questions about what they were seeing.

Curious kids with bright minds

“One film depicted a visit to Antarctica and they were amazed by snow-capped mountains, people wrapped up against the cold wearing big coats, and animals like seals and penguins – which we couldn’t even find a Swahili word for to explain! Another took them underwater where they could watch fish and turtles swimming around reefs and every child was fascinated by the films.

“Some of the boys watched some meditative VR footage of moving shapes and colours accompanied by soothing relaxing music and it was interesting to see how their actions changed. They naturally worked out that if they moved their heads while watching the various bits of footage they could get a 180 degree view of the scenes and soon they were all spinning their heads round and giggling with glee as the scenes they were watching unfolded.


A barrage of questions, curiosity and laughter

“We carried out a similar workshop at our partner Cheka Sana’s girl’s centre the next day and again, the reaction and excitement from the children was infectious. We worked with a group of 18 girls aged between six and 14 and again each bit of VR footage prompted a lot of questions. One girl described seeing a man riding a large fish across the sea. In the end we had to look back at what she had been watching to find it had been a man on a long kayak in Antarctica which made all of them children laugh. Another girl said she’d seen a large animal with a man’s face which turned out to be an adult seal with a long snout that did make him look quite human. Each question was greeted with good natured laughter and the girls had none of the self-conscious reserve that many children in the UK have – stopping themselves from asking questions for fear of looking silly. In fact, the opposite was true, the questions kept on coming, ‘How do the swimming animals breathe underwater?’, ‘Why are there no pictures of giraffes in Antarctica?’ and many others that demonstrated not only the curiosity of these children but also their thirst for knowledge and the chance to learn.


Watch this clip to see Youtoring's virtual reality workshop in action. 

Inspiring change in children

“Leaving Tanzania behind it was easy to see how projects such as VR can not only engage our supporters in the UK but also be used to engage with children we meet on the streets and attract them to our projects. It is great to be able to offer them a truly positive experience and offer some informal but totally engaging education as well as showing them the world and opening their eyes to new opportunities and experiences.

“With our help, and thanks to the work of our outreach teams, we are able to reach more of these children before they are lost to the streets for good and give them the chance to change their lives, their futures and perhaps see some of the places the VR footage can show them for themselves one day.”