Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hi....greetings from Toronto Canada!!! my desk, my trusty MAC computer, high speed, a second or two to get to this site!
Outside, grey, wet, studio tables littered with piles - a roomful of bills, budgets, stacks of photos, cameras, film, books, Art Retreat registrations, slower this year but building steadily...summer clothes, winter clothes, passport, yellow fever cards, Masai tribal necklaces of red, yellow, green beads, wooden carved giraffes and zerbra, Masai blankets, sandles, snowboots, my bike.

Home since Friday. A grueling 6 hours shuttle lurching all the way up from Arusha to Nairobi on a temporary road pitted with deep gullies, stones, rocks, the new smooth one soon to be finished 100 yards away.. OUtside stunning mossy green mountains flanked by bare naked brown hills and valleys, goats and cows running down the road, a few giraffe and zebra wandering about....Dusty mud hut, stick and corregated metal Masai villages, open air markets, a blaze of colour, men and women draped in red/ blue and purple, little kids running barefoot in the dust, chickens, goats, an old man sits on a tire waiting....A young sound documentary filmmaker from Uganda in cool sunglasses looking like he doesn't have a care in the world, making his way up to Nairobi for health tests. He's open, wondering, I ask about HIV AIDS, he's been tested, it's not that. One hour to the airport and in front of us a dilapidated truck with a couple of guys on the roof stopped, blocking the road. You can't go forward or backward - I'm boarding in an hour, and we are trapped. The driver is great....he's got two wives and six kids and make $5. a day driving this bus six hours every day, sometimes twelve. It's all the same. $5. He jumps out and hand signals all the cars behind us to back up...and they do, everyone now doing three point turns with a gully on one side, it is scary, and now our turn. Amazingly he turns around the bus, we head at breakneck speed bumping along back about 5 minutes to an access road leading toward the new highway....

Across the access are three big boulders, clearly a sign to not access. He winds down the window and honks the horn. Three guys appear out of the bushes - he's digging into his wallet leafing through a stack of Kenyan notes, doles them out, the rocks are rolled out of sight and we shoot off to the airport in time. 8 hours to Amsterdam, can't sleep, arrival 5 am with Merit and Dominique waiting with my winter clothes, outside, cold, dark and grey....clearly, not Africa.

Seanna and Sierra arrive from Kili a few hours later, a great breakfast and i'm doing things i do when i get home..four hours to go i head for the hairdresser, like any normal WEstern girl, the changling begins....8 hours in the air to Toronto. The two very old museum quality masks i bought heading out of Mto WA Mbu, loosely wrapped in ripping black plastic bags bundled together. One for Lindsey who is pregnant, a fertility mask to be worn by her husband over his chest and belly, ancient cracking wood and leather rounded out into full breasts and big lovely round belly, as a sympathy thing....the second one for Johnny, an ancient African face from Congo....hiding them in my arms and under my coat across the world until Toronto where they were confiscated at customs to be inspected for bugs, disease....again, clearly not Africa.

The night before we left, a celebration and fairwell dinner at Pambazuko...all 14 kids moved into their new house - with Elias, Tabea, Martha, six brand new matresses with plastic covers thrown on the floor the kids jumping with bunk beds dismantled and stored in the bedrooms, boxes and piles of clothing, shoes, kitchen things....the place was a jungle, lit by two keroscene lanterns and glowing candles, one one big table and two benches, crowded with children. Tabea had somehow fodund the time to make rice, beans, samosa, bananas, plantain...plastic bowls, pots and dishes covering the table with kids everywhere, crashed on the matresses, lying flat out sleeping on the benches, sitting on our knees. Elias makes a lovely welcoming prayer and wishes for our safe return next year, to visit once again.
It is late, the move took all day, darkness overwhelming, we are all tired but we can't say goodbye.
My little guys Zack, Justin, Safoni...13 down to 9...gather round close now, the days of swimming now coming to an end. i reach down and hold them one by one, their little hearts breaking, mine too, the pain and sadness of leaving now too much for us all...Across the room, M is bawling in Seanna's arms. She's a bright little four year old, with huge eye and a big toothy smile, diagnosed with HIV AIDS positive a year ago at the 'bad' place, untreated, malnourished, and coming from a family where her father chopped off both arms of her mother at the elbow when he discovered her positive status, never once owning that he was responsible. Her father walked out, the mother died and M was brought to the 'bad' place.

One year later, 14 of those kids relocated to Pambazuko, thanks to a great team of European donors, and the loving and caring mama and baba of Elias and is astonishing the change. The children, happy, healthy, well fed and well more oozing AIDS liasions. But here, on this last night of saying goodbye also to Seanna and Sierra and their art classes, singing, loving attention, all breaking down. Elias finally told me get a grip, be strong Lynn, you have to get up and go...our truck pulls away with all of them standing outside on the porch wailing, this first night of their new home....

I am thinking this is a good thing. These kids still are able to feel deep emotion, in spite of what they have endured. Tomorrow i know, is another day for them, up with the sun in a beautiful new space, they will forget and feel happy again.

Saying goodbye, it is always so sad...Majengo was hard too, to leave that so newly formed beautiful place, the sun pouring in onto yellow walls, gleaming tiled floor and saying goodbye to Killo, Martha, Grayson, Witness, the cooks, and finally Glory the teacher, hiding away outside not wanting to say goodby, a deep quiet woman with a huge heart - also doubling up as our matron who teaches the little ones all day and then all night, curling up on the lower bunk with little Pendo safely in her arms...These people who i didn't know two months ago - they are doing so much for the children, they care so much...i leave this place knowing that these kids are in great hands. Our work is done. Now they take over and like parents all around the world their work never ends, everyday, every night, week, months for the year to come. Breakfast, tea, lunches, dinners, school, sheets, towels, cleaning floors and tables and little bodies....pre school, primary school, secondary school, uniforms and shoes that fit twice a year, rice, maize, bananas, greens, milk, meat three times a week, eggs once in awhile but the white part only, the yellow makes little people sick...maintainance, fixing broken bed slats and plumbing, the pantry door still on order, bulk food locked up and kept theft free in Glory's matron room, and watering 120 little budding bouganvillea plants twice a day - Charles tells me that fence of flowers will be eight feet high and thick in six months climbing up and covering well constructed barbed wire fencing all around the grounds, with trees, flowers, grasses.

Malaria, HIV AIDS testing.....general checkups....and three kids crashed sleeping and sick in the next room, the rest outside jumping up and down learning to skip with the new ropes Matt and his friends brought over. /The village leaders stop by to say goodbye, Mayunga's grandfather died that morning he tells me sadly as he gets onto his bike and rides away.

It is huge this slice, with living breathing beautiful little people.....leaving is hard, yet i know i am coming back in 10 months. I live here and there. And love both. They come together...

Next Thursday...Warren Pennsylvania...
Here, in the real world I pinch myself. Did that really happen?
Thank you to everyone from that part of the world, for the clothing, the shoes, the little t shirts and shorts and Osh Kosh,
pencils, ABC charts, and map, how to tell the is all there. Computers, flash disks, binders and three hole punch, projector, tape, pens, rulers and erasers.....six huge duffle bags well marked, tumbed on the top of Charles red pick up less than a month ago. Wow! Did this really happen?
I can't wait to meet you all who made that happen!!
See you next week!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

JAMBO...our very last day in Tanzania, we have been racing to tie up the loose ends, as i sit here at the internet cafe to write for the last time in Africa i am so so happy...things are spectacular...i feel like i am jumping off this page, and have no idea how i am going to settle down in Toronto come this weekend. Beware!!

Yesterday we had a final staff, village leaders, ICA meeting at MAJENGO to pull things together with everyone, to discover openly how we are all feeling, how our work was going, to discuss any problems, anything lacking before i take off for Canada tomorrow..kesho. We sat around three long tables in the big front room of the orphanage, the afternoon sun pouring in, bright, clean and beautiful..the children peacefully sleeping in the back four bedrooms after a great lunch of ugali, greens and bananas for desert. It was idyllic. A huge world map which Seanna brough a couple of weeks ago tacked up on one wall, numbers and alphabet letters dancing across the yellow walls...and on another main wall, Seanna organized \Miko,a local painter to create a beautiful ASENTE from MAJENGO canvass, a thank you from Majengo, with a big beautiful elephant painted on the middle, flowers, grasses, leaves, and the names of over 200 people, locally: village leaders, workers, staff and well wishers, and friends and acquaintances, even people i don't know! from Canada, United States, Sweden, Australia...mentioning everyone we know who has contributed anything to this wonderful project..the names beautifully written TIKO TIKO style, a little misspelt, but beautifully done - a big thank you to everyone out there who has given so much..thank you!!!
I opened the meeting as representative of the donors from everywhere - occuring to me that we are all one big huge family coming together specifically to support and love these forty children, not just for now, but for many years to come as they make their way through pre school, primary, secondary, high school and university if they choose.....and hopefully, as these kids move along, we will grow and expand to bring more children along - there are hundreds, thousands out there needing help, and with is a wonderful beginning.

WE spoke of the need of everyone there, the cooks, cleaners, the two main leaders of the staff Martha and Killo..the two wonderful teachers,Glory and Grayson, all of us, the village leaders, ICA and the donors,our responsibility to work as hard as we can together to share in the upbringing of these kids...what a special opportunity we have, with each portion of the pie valuable to the next, we are all equal, without each other we have nothing...

Each person spoke one by one thanking the donors, thanking each other for this opportunity to work in this place. I think they really feel how special this is. A few said, when they started back at the original HURUMA setting jammed into the mud floored foyer, that they thought the whole thing was a joke, but now how they marvel at what they all have achieved.

We encouraged each person to come forth with anything they might need to make this place better; everyone was silent until KILLO spoke..They had one bike, his, he had to ride back and forth ten times a day for shopping, answering questions,etc...
Well, the bike i bought seven weeks ago was for MAJENGO....problem solved, along with my cell phone which has lost its light for some reason...tomorrow it will be installed permanently at MAJENGO with a well guarded stash of phone cards for emergencies, nightime sickness, trips to the hospital. Communication.
We have done our best to combat this problem...and to the best of my ability, we have worked things out. Elias from the orphanage PAMBAZUKO will work part time with KILLO and Martha, shopping, budgets, accounting, transfering information to Charles at ICA, bi monthly to me via email and skype. ICA is in charge of all the monies coming in from abroad to our head office in MOSHE...then transferred to a special account in MTO WA MBU for the orphanage, administered by either Charles or Sabina, both highly experienced in these matters, receipts, accounting books, monitoring systems, each person responsible for the next.

I am confident fully in these people, in this system, and in the attitude they all have today, hopefully tomorrow and through the years to come. Corruption was a big issue yesterday. We left without any doubt that anyone caught stealing from the children would be fired, zero tolerance. WE have seen enough, case closed.

So basically i am thrilled. I spent the morning going over the budgets again and again and again, adding the cost of someone to repair the water system, we have outdoor access, but still a dribble inside.....uniforms for the ten primary kids, two each, plus uniforms for the pre schoolers' all 30 of them, day care and live, twice a year for everyone, all 40 of them. Staff medical insurance. We got permission from Father Paul who runs the big Catholic missionary next door with a hospital attached to allow our kids access day and night for a nominal fee; it couldn't be better. Money for transportation, staffing, foods in bulk and daily runs, medical first aid...the list goes on and on, but today, i can safely say, for me, the detailing is over....

Tonight, we are invited to a final celebration fairwell at Pambazuka...the other orphanage where fourteen other kids have been relocated from the very first 'bad' one on the safari route a year ago. We work with them beautifully, sharing information, books, clothing and experience.

Binti wangu and je kuchu..Seanna and Sierra have been teaching beautiful art projects at MAJENGO every morning for a couple of hours to the preschoolers, then on to PAMBAZUKO every afternoon when the primary kids get home from school. IN between they go swimming, walking around town...yesterday they took little street boy Johnny to the NGORA crater for his first safari...he speaks English beautifully at age 14 and was great company for Sierra...his mom showed up at breakfast to thank Seanna for this chance of a lifetime, but for us it was a pleasure to meet this woman raising three kids on her own, a farmer from nearby Kiratu, age 54...

The days race into night....around each corner an adventure,impossible to describe and i wonder how it is that i have fallen into this dusty little place, with all these wonderful people, so deeply at this time of my life.

Charles especially, Elias, Peter...Miriam who runs our favourite MI CASA restaurant a block away, Hamidu the driver who doesn't speak English but with a heart as big as his body...Sabina, beautiful calm, the social worker at ICA who i count on for so many things....Glory, Grayson, the teachers at Grayson stood against the wall while i drew with black marker the outline of his body, labelling each part in Swahili and then outgoing, so caring of those kids..saying goodbye to them today so difficult, Glory running away as we both broke down and cried.

Little Pendo the youngest at age 2 or less, wrapping herself in my another year she will be so much older....Peter found her dirty and dusty hiding behind a wall at her grandmother's home, the poor woman left with two kids to support without means and desperate for help, he brought both of them to is impossible to describle the difference in these children in just a few weeks...bright, shiny, laughing....they come together now as one big family, brothers and sisters under one is a miracle.

Speaking of which...and i have never asked his permission as to whether i may write about this...but remember weeks ago, the one week visit i wrote about with MATT...IAN and BILL, coming all the way over here from a small town in Pennsylvania...?? They came, these three great guys, met the children and everyone connected with this project, asked questions, took notes, and went on safari..they came back and made a film with the children, each one singing Twinkle twinkle little star....
They fell in love.
On April 09 I have been invited to visit their town to do a presentation on MAJENGO with Matt...his family and friends will be there, it seems, with open hearts, a group of people in one small town who has decided to take on this project, not just for a year but for many..making possible this dream to become a concrete reality.

No wonder i am happy...

MUCH love to you all..i promise when i get home, to fill this blog with pictures brightening up an already stunning world..thank you so much!! Hoping to keep up with the writing, a little different in a world of cool and grey....
See you on the weekend!!!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hi again....
I forgot to tell you about our being invited the night before Peter left for Uganda, to the home of his uncle for dinner, Seanna, Sierra and I...for us exceptionally honourable treat to be served in an African home and this was no exception..Bature and his wife live along a long and windy narrow path of packed down reddened mud about twenty minute's walk through tall grasses and homes constucted from local brick, dung, wood and metal from the busy main street of MTO...Peter's uncle is a pharmacist with his own little drugstore, one of ten children, the one, Peter tells me, who is most successful. His mother, Peter's grandmother, was moved last year from her village into this little red brick home with Bature and his wife, and the young assistant they have hired from Arusha to work in their shop; they have never had chidren of their own. Bebe, grandmother, is large and impressive, in her eighties, tall and proud, but crippled now with a painful form of toxemia in both legs, a sore back, unable to look after herself and her home anymore. Seanna and Sierra stay outside playing tag with nearby children, Peter welcoming me into the home. The front room is fairly large nd sparce, with a small three seater couch and chair and across the tiled room, a shelving unit with kitchen pots, photos, a calender. Propped up in the corner of the room stands the plastic branch of a Christmas tree decorated with tinsel, a few bright balls; otherwise the room is empty. Peter sleeps across this little couch when he is in Mto, all of his 6 foot something sprawing i am sure from one end to the next....his grandmother makes her way slowly into the room, with open arms and warm eyes she welcomes me...anyone who is a friend of her favourite mchuku, grandson, is a friend of hers...We sit down together these two bebes....(at first i thought they were calling me baby!! kind of fun..but bebe is a respectful term for grandmother...anyone over 50, here a highly valued member of the family...)She wants to see the picture first of me and Obama, taken during his campaign against Hilary in Indiana last May....I carry it with me here, this picture instantly invoking the greatest enthusiasm, a door opener and then pictures of my grandkids, the one of Finn sitting in my studio in diapers alone holdng a big long paintbrush globbed thickly with bright red paint, half of it blotted on the paper in front of him, the other half on his leg...a big hit, then Johnny, Seanna, Ted...Shauna, Sierra and LIndsey and Jim, she is studying each picture carefully with Peter at her side, translating and holding a flashlight in the waning light - who is this one, who is that? Suddenly with determination, she pulls herself up out of the couch and disappears through the cloth covered doorway, returning soon with a lifetime of photos and official papers, id cards and memories held tightly in one hand, she carefully lowers herself back down into the couch. One by one she goes throught them silently, treasures, shuffling back and forth, looking, searching for this one, that one, and bringing them to me slowly: Peter with his mama in a flowered dress at age four kneeling beside her in a big black chair....his mama standing in a long skirt and black blouse posing next to a fence of bursting red flowers, his mama with his papa at her wedding and finally, someone resting flowers on the grave of his mama, seven years ago.

Peter was orphaned by both parents at age sixteen by HIV AIDS...his dad went first, then his mother, leaving him in charge of two younger siblings , all three moving back into the home his grandmother and another uncle, relatives to look after them, now that his parents are gone. He loves this grandmother with all his heart - he washes her hands gently every night before eating, a special honour for him while he is in town, pouring warmed water from a kettle dripping down into a plastic bowl - a custom here every where you sit down to eat, before and after the meal your hands are cleaned. Dinner is served -rice, delicious soft chicken, the mixture of greens with sauce, but she waits till later for her meal, specially cooked for her without salt, to bring down the toxemia. The uncle is across the table asking questions about how to help her, about diet, exercise, raising her legs...a lantern at the side of the room, darkened now, the family closing in

Peter left the next morning on the early bus for Arusha, then up to Kampala Uganda for the last few months of his final year of high school. After his parent's death, he got a job up at the crater in a big safari lodge as a busboy, was spotted by a South Carolina couple drawn to his wide engaging smile, who sponsored him through four years of secondary school, and now two in high school. He gets top grades, speaks English perfectly and was elected as the head boy of the school by over one thousand students. I hope he doesn't read this, but this guy is a winner,in every way, and has helped me so much with decision making, translation, so knowledgeable of local customs, ideas...i adore him and always have to say but it's so sad that he is so ugly!! Visiting his uncle last year on a Christmas break, he met Charles and became a volunteer at ICA, facilitating workshops to local secondary students on HIV AIDS related issues, how to protect themselves,encouraging his peers to get out there to educate others. It is impossible to imagine he is only 23, bright, articulate, confident, compassionate - this guy is heading for major African leadership one day, for certain.

Peter was with me a year ago when Charles took us to the orphanage the first time, and now, together, with Charles, Elias from Pambazuko and the staff at Majengo one year later, i am 100% confident with this team. Bright, creative, smart and more important than anything, hand picked for the main thing that matters most, their absolute unequivical honesty. It is the ONLY issue for me. Corruption running rampantly through every industry and business, large or small, inside every political setup in every village, every town, every city across Africa - not only Africa: white collar, blue collar, red collar, purple collar, whatever, clean across the planet, corruption everywhere. No secret, but impossible to run a business, and this orphanage is a business, from a million miles across the sea, without complete transperancy and honesty.

We cannot do it.

Two months of searching, watching and weeding out each and every sign of discretion, any wiff of dishonesty. Viciously and ruthlessly, without compassion, I have to say. I simply don't care. We will not and cannot tolerate anyone who is here for any other reason but to love those children with all their hearts and to make their lives better..this is not a place for personal advancement, for putting money not earned into someone's pockets. We have spent two months setting up a monitoring system i believe now to be pretty tight, though not naive enough at this point not to expect variances down the road. But we have tried. The director from one year ago has gone, finally, after seven weeks of meetings, hearings, confessions, accusations, misunderstandings and declarations. The whole community in some form or other was involved. The village leaders took over and after a series of very long and quite painful all-day meetings, resolved the issue. Not pretty, not nice, but necessary, and actually a good start for this orphanage. An example of what will happen unless people are honest.

We now have two people, not one, heading up a staff of eight, Martha and Killo, whose resposibility is the all-round every-day running of the orpanage and pre school, inside and out - the care of the children, medical, education, food, the facility, upkeep, maintenance, gardens, cleanliness, the financial statements, the liaison between what's going on at Majengo and the village leaders, a hand picked Board of Directors, and finally to ICA and our donors.

This is all new to most of us. The fine line between organizing and running something as tenuous as this, and standing way back and watching the eventual customs and behaviours of local life taking over. Remember those well managed piles of age chosen clothing i so carefully set into place a week ago..the t shirts in one pile, the shorts, skirts, pants in others..well just this morning i passed by as Seanna and Sierra were teaching painting to the pre schoolers, to measure the windows in the bedrooms for curtains...huge mounds of clothing shoved helter skelter into the 'wrong' shelves....but hey, who cares, this is definately not my problem.

We ran out of flour and maize yesterday, just in time for Elias' day of budget making....ran up the mountain for another stab at the ATM and we're on board now, with huge bundles of bulk food stashed behind locked doors in our pantry....i love it....they have arrange for their daily run, the buying of milk and fresh green groceries..onions, cabbage, carrots, tomoatoes, name be bought from some of the neighbours who volunteered their services for free a year ago at this place.... giving business to those people who first acted as early founders, it is great...!!

Charles just called, back to Kiratu.....running..for another few days, and then!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

JAMBO!! a little crazed with so many final things to do and one week to go! Things coming together incredibly impossible, so hard to describe here, with each day so hugely bubbling over and filled to the brim to the point where, at night in my little room, i am trying to remember breakfast, where and with whom and what did we meet about..and what great wads of money did i dole out of my little black bag and to whom did i give it: the man who dug the trench for the bouganvillia fencing around the orphanage? Sabina our social working at ICA taking four little ones all the way up to Kiratu to the hospital under emergency with stomach/chest pains, anothers eyes, another's privates and the last one, an enlarged heart.....cost of transportation, everytime we climb that mountain we are dumping cash into that old red Ford, breaking down, and today, on my way to the only ATM within two hours drive, we come across two huge transport trucks crashed together and lying on their sides, one driver dead, the other mangled without two legs now in hospital. Yesterday, on the same road, another crash, a big old lorry lost its brakes on a steep curve and slid backwards down the mountainside gathering speed. That driver headed backwards into a ditch, rolled over and lost his life, the passenger okay...I remind Hamidu, our non English speaking driver, pole pole....SLOW DOWN... i am scared...

Hospital, food and soda everywhere, for everyone we come cards, burlap bags of flour, maize, cornflower....running out after the first batch we bought a month ago...No time to meet with Elias from Pambazuka experienced with seven months with watoto yatima..orphaned children, to iron out budget for food, staffing....tomorrow, kesho.....another trip to the ATM..Fresh fruit, vegetables... paying for the door finally built to close up the pantry, with a key to prevent theft, installed today.

Wonderful how things are falling into place..who does what job? for how many hours a day? who is responsible for what? for who? who checks on who? There is the staff, two great teachers who speak English fairly well with huge hearts....Glory and Grayson, just learned that our pre school kids, ten of them now in primary school..are at the top of the class.....two cooks hanging out in our newly built outdoor kitchen...someday,maybe tomorrow i will get pictures into this blog....a step up, concrete floor and sides which go up to your belly button....with big stones inside, a roaring fire with a six month stash of firewood nearby, a big black pot boiling something atop....soft breezes flowing through open windows, a roof made of corregated metal to ward off the sun.

A secretary, charge of operations..SEanna said, operation manager, and that is what he is..responsible for the running of the place..any conflicts, he tries to work them out...and if not, he goes to a team of village leaders, four of them, two elected politicians both in their thirties, the school headmister, and Vincent, a local businessman ....i learn, the son of Raymond, one of the leaders, was in a bad car crash last year, with his organs grounding out of sort....just two days ago, in the middle of an all day meeting with us, the boy was in operation in far away Moshe....this man visably pained, and yet here in Mto Wa Mbu..doing his job.

WE are changing the name to MAJENGO ORPHANAGE CENTRE...officially, along with a new registration on Friday...The old name HURUMA was for when the facility was jammed into the dank mud floored floyer of one of the origonal founder's homes. It has been decided by leaders: new renovated orphanage, new leadership, new as of this weekend we are Majengo.
I like the name.

Peter left on Tuesday for school up in Uganda...he comes back in December to work full time at ICA...

Tomorrow is budget day.
We have worked out staffing: two teachers,tw0 cooks,the secretary Killo...Martha the treasurer also running the workings of the children along with one of the teachers, Glory....also the matron....two a nurse/ cleaner who sleeps there at night with Glory, the other Witness, the one who washes kid's clothing all day, keeping the outside grounds neat and clean, the flowers and little budding trees watered, the porch swept. A challenge, everyone wants to work here...but the ones who started it all are given the first chance. They have been at it for over a year now, with little or no pay...all of that will change soon....little by little, the dream coming true, i am sure of it...

Pambazuka too...the little family that grew....blossoming from five children taken out of a very corrupt situation on main street now under the loving care of two wonderful people, Elias and Tabias who, without children of their own, were given a calling.....those five multiplied now into 14, all stemming from that first bad place..we have two to go!!

That house, way too small now for a mama and baba and 14 children, 3 up to Zack at young woman Martha living in and helping...they found a new home. Yesterday, signed the rental contract and began a high energy one week long reno project in their new place, much bigger, brighter, with water even and maybe, the ground work for building an nice outdoor kitchen, just like the one at Huruma/Majengo....a tile guy inside patching and painting..screens for the windows, a few new doors, and we vow by next Wednesday, the night before Seanna, Sierra and I take off, to have a big party, with beds, matresses and sheets in place for those kids to celebrate their first night here....Very exciting, very challenging, and i know, with the help of our Swedish friends...Norbert from Austria and that international team we are working with, we can do it!!

Will i ever get over this?

Poor Seanna and Sierra arrived in the middle of all this flurry...everyday we get over to the pool for a few hours, in between their running art classes at both orphanages, walking a few miles to and fro....jet lag..heat, sunburn, 'very weird food', poor dear Sierra....reduced now to Fanta to drink, or water...cucumbers from the market, chipati pancakes....and yesterday i taught the owner of Mi Casa how to soft boil an egg, my eye in Swahili...they thought we were nuts....eating this thing, all gooey and mushy...but dipped with chipati, a good thing....

WE take Old Maid and Crazy Eight to dinner...the local people hanging over watching, figuring out these games...pouring rain last night finally, in the middle of rainy season pure drought this year, the cows on the road boney, with cages of ribs sticking out, that big projection on top of their back barely pulled thinly taunt with skin, no flesh, no fat, hundreds of the poor mangy beasts pushing their way down the wide sidewalk as we weave through them, on our way to Majengo. We play six games before the rain lets down, they dash off to bed...I can't sleep most nights, my head spinning, the odd sleeping pill to ease the all night twisting, turning lamely into a nightly venture, i dread the withdrawal back at home....

I stay at the restaurant with the Old Maid.

The women who cooks the chippsie eggs my eye...a street food version of french fries mixed with scrambled eggs cooked in a little crepe frying pan over hot fire... sits down with a helper..i point out the Maid and say ICKKKKKKK!! making a big fuss of the DON'T WANT THIS CARD!! wITHOUT English they can easily figure out the pairs by the pictures...the game begining with much laughter and frivolity whenever someone picks the OLD MAID....two guys join and we have a big table of five...four games later and i am out of there, dashing through wet streets of mud and stone,to home...twisting and turning.

I write and write, to remind myself, when i get home, of what happened..but no way to describe the days as they fly by, galloping at top speed..yesterday i am ordering the carpender Willy to make three more bunk beds for Pambazuka en route to meeting S and S at the pool, my cell rings and someone is saying something about a Canadian here...i almost hang up, got to go!! bad timing, but he persists...back on Main street, next to the Double M i peddle as fast as i can, i am late for S and S, and they will not be is my doctor Ginny Griffin's assistant from her offices on Lawrence Avenue east of Avenue road back home!! Trudy with her husband. A hundred years ago, while giving me my shots she mentioned a trip of a lifetime this spring, through Tanzania and Egypt....!! I gave her my email...which she lost..but remembered this little town with the strange name and here we are, sitting at a bar in the middle of the afternoon drinking magi baridi...cold water from the bottle, kidogo...small....
they are glowing...
Wild with their safari up the Ngora crater..across the she said, every day, it gets better and better.....

Tears...too tired...and too happy and too thankful....and too relieved that today, all of these things are still standing beautifully....i sign off...
Tomorrow, after budget day..Juseph of this internet cafe promises to help me with pictures.....unless, of course, something comes up...or he closes for a few days. ch!!!.

Saturday, we rent another van and take the ten primary kids to Manyara for their first time...but just before, a trip to the uniforms with good material this time.....just in time to say goodbye...........

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hi...I am so happy!!
For everything..Seanna and Sierra arrived last night, KLM..Kilimanjaro,in two pieces, a long drive back to Mto Wa Mbu with three zebra running across the road AND one big huge tall favourite!! under a waning full was a sign of wonderful things to, a great breakfast and fairwell to Matt, Ian and Bill as they make their way back to Kili and home....we will meet soon, again...
Yesterday, Huruma..Bill had my video camera set up facing the back wall of the orphanage...we brought little groups of kids waiting their turn so curiously, so happily, as Bill sat them down, one at a time, on a bench facing the camera, so gently moving them to the left, the right, into position..focussing, he asked each one their name, and to sing Twinkle twinkle little was gorgeous! Then to say AKUNA problem, loud and clear, as they shot their little arms into the air....Ian standing on a plastic rickity chair holding a bedsheet up as high as he could, preventing sunlight onto small faces...Matt and all of us standing around, those who could speak Swahili, suggesting, louder, look a the white man's nose!!
We did all 44 kids...spectacular, sending Bill home with a couple of treasured tapes, to make a video....
And on to the Masai Chief's boma...we all go, those three, Charles and I...Elias who is the baba of Pambazuka and Peter our great student from much to say and describe, but as always, little time....we are driving with Abdul in their big safari truck, way more comfortable than Charles' truck!! an hour later, we arrive at the boma, out in the middle of what i could say 'nowhere', surrounded by 360 degrees of rolling parched hills and mountains...the Chief came out with brothers, two wives and a flood of little children to greet us....allin traditional Masai sheets, beads...his father in this eighties with 10 wives, following...he had the flashlight i gave him one year ago, and asked for a new one...
we are now into medievil Matt said....their existance depends on cows, their sticks and sword to fend off wild animals...they drink milk mixed with cow blood, they don't eat chicken or fish..or vegetables...they live in mud huts made of wood and cow is all about the animals..they can't conceive of numbers, yet they know each animal by name or family....
The warriors appeared in full dress, beads, redened hair carrying a long sword which Bill was most interested in....we took them inside the small mud hut where Sierra Seanna and i spent one night last year....we took pictures...
It was a highlight...they visited Pambazuka last night, while we took off for the has been a wonderful week...for me, the support and enthusiasm, the very good solid advice i asked for and received, the commaradary, the easiness of these three guys...a great team with our people....amazing...
Huruma is doing wonderfully, a big meeting about cleaning...washing clothes..when to do it, and how...we hooked up a long rope at the back of the house, clothes pegs... I am excited by how it is working..the clothes brought over, neatly packed onto shelves, depending on girls, boys, sizes....
I gave alot of things to the Pambazuka orphanage as well, books, clothing, shoes..we are sharing all the way along...Elias, the 'father' of Pam, with 14 children now of his own, with his wife Tabias, so loving, so caring, and so knowledgeable about how to run an orphanage, the budgeting..hugely new to me and challenging, always watching out not to be taken for a dumb majenga...white person!

Every day, things come together at that place..the children are so very happy....the teachers magical, with 28 kids to teach all day, pre the bright happy classroom decorated with all the posters and maps, alphabets numbers, etc..brought by is fabulous...

Today, visiting our kids at PAMBAZUKa...AND THEN on to the swimming pool, where tomorrow we will bring six kids over to swim...and on to Huruma for Seanna and Sierra to meet those is all so wonderful...

Got to run..i must take a moment to post some pictures, i know...
but thank you all for your enthusiasm and help with what we are all trying to do over here, without your support,there would be no Huruma...take care....xLynn

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

JAMBO!! Everything wonderful here!!! Outside a rumbling of thunder, a steady file of school children making their way along the side of the road, blue skirts and white shirts, a slim pack slung across their shoulders, a herd of goats passing by a little guy running along dragging a cardboard carton on a rope, Tanzania toy.

It is very hot...jotto sana....and humid...We opened Sunday!! Huruma....Saturday, Charles and i driving as fast as we can to Arusha, racing through town jammed with traffic and on to Kilimanjaro to meet Matt, Bill and Ian coming 17 hours by air from Pennsylvania to see for themselves Huruma....did i tell you all this? maybe..i had never met them, never set eyes on them before Saturday night. Charles and i imagining, what do they look like? Tall, with glasses, brown hair, no white, skinny, short?...we are standing at the window watching the groupings, looking for three guys travelling together and soon they are here.... exhausted, disorientated yet raring to go...

We pile the pickup to the top and more with bags, bags filled with goodies for the kids, three of us squeeze into the back, with Ian who is a lovely tall gentle giant of a man reminding me of Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird..he is a birder ga over the flocks filled with ten different species everytime he goes out, birds he had never seen. Matt, who has that magic it takes to take an idea and make this huge leap, reminds me of the actor in The Last King of Scotland, craggy, and smart, insisting he knows very little but what I know he knows is his great passion, i for life, business, people, is incredible finally to meet this man I h ave been communicating with for only a couple of weeks..and his friend, Bill. I am lying sleeplessly in bed thinking of who these guys remind me of and for Bill, i would say Philip Seymour Hoffman...blonde, not too tall, and incredible curious and fascinated with everything...with the gift of gab, the first day obsessing as i would be, with getting his three cell phones up and working locally...communication trying, a day later he could finally text and communicate with his wife, two days later he managed to post one picture of himself on facebook looking at bananas! They are wonderful, these three, so much to say about the easy way we all connected with each other, and i know everyone down in their town in Penn is probably reading this, but to you all, you know how they are!

Matt's enthusiasm and support for this project has helped me so much in times without internet, without Swahili, without connection with family and friends, calling with arrangement, every few nights.

Arusha. Naaz Hotel, a Kilimanjaro beer, a nice talk and 12 hours sleep later....Doris, director of ICA TANZ....breakfast, relaxed, what is this ICA?? I was asking just that three years ago when i first arrived into Zimbabwe...HIV AIDS focussed, awareness, prevention, testing, for Masai girls, HIV AIDS positive groups, ventillation projects inside Masai cow dung huts with fireplaces and chimneys, respiratory and eye diseases, orphanages and little kids the most poor and vulnerable in the world, alone, without mamas and papas....maybe a very old grandmama who can't work, can't see, hobbling along with the little ones making her way for help, food, eaking out bare substance. ICA (Institute of Cultural Affairs) tries to guide people into helping themselves, offering a forum for people to understand for themselves their needs, and how to manage them, how to move forward working at the very lowest grass route level..hands on, to the people most needing help. Doris weaves the story of how she started ICA TANZ...a university degreee at Carlton, Ottawa, a govt job she quit...a big leap forward, and now for the last 12 years, a growing successful small but so effective NGO....

WE pack up and make our way through markets of Arusha Town, hot, dusty, busy...mobbed outside our hotel, working our way to the truck, but in the market men and women buying, selling, carrying pots, bags of rice, maize on their heads, their posture is remarkable. Beautiful to look at people,each one. Someone said it is hard not to stare. I am seeing it all newly through their eyes and loving it. It is so easy being with these guys..Charles always guiding, directing, forging ahead..without him,we all know..the level of comfort would excelerate dramatically. A culture so hugely different from anything else.

Trouble at the ATM but we manage to eject a little and now speeding along the asphalt highway toward Mto WA Mbu, we see a small grouping of giraffes hiding behind huge thorn bushes at the side of the road, a treat. The landscape is like none other... wide open range of rolling hills, parched now for lack of rain, the Rift Valley mountains in the distance, Masai huts in clusters in the colour of the land, Masai tribal people in full traditional dress wandering along the road, managing herds of cattle, goats, carrying sticks...

i have written of this so often before,their bright red and purple sheets flowing, tall, slim, elegant, proud.

Tired and hungry when we hit Mto WA Mbu....head straight to the Double M, the cool hot dusty bar along the main strip of town, red plastic chairs and tables, commotion and busy with farmers, Masai, African life...a metal tray of rice, greens, beans and tomatoe/onion sauce...served by my friend Dotto, the second twin, delicious, fresh, healthy...heading by foot now across a row of women selling bananas, red, yellow, brown, big and small, we have to try them all, and head down past the First and Last Bar across a muddy pitted walkway to the office, women cooking outside in big metal woks, okra, beans, onions, lunch, African music blasting. Unload the truck suitcases filling my office, drop our bags off at my guest house..and on to HURUMA..there is no time to stop.

These guys are in a daze but holding up well....culture shock, huge, too much to take in at once, and so so tired. First stop the original orphanage where we found those little kids a year ago, the little dark room, in the foyer of the house, Limo's....I am not sure what they are place is empty now that we've moved the kids on, but for a few little ones straggling around barefoot in faded torn rags, peaking around crumbling cement corners, dry parched land, hardened with the sun. Some with nerve appear in bunches, Ian is the photographer..they giggle, hide behind each other, and love having their picture taken.

A day later in the safari bus, Bill is taking shots of elephants a few feet away, the kids more interested in his viewfinder than out the window, huge wide black eyes, coy, smiling.

Back into the truck and on the same road, the new house. Charles sent invitations but i had no idea what to expect.

Having trouble again with my sound on my video camera, Bill takes over....we sit on a wooden bench along the side of the house and fiddle with it, dead quiet outside, no kids in sight...two rows of bougainvillea freshly planted in new red soil hauled down the mountains of Kiratu, deep trenches dug across the entire front, a wire fence to be built to embrace flowers. Next year I dream of patchwork in purple, hot pink, red....climbing six feet across the expanse of the house. The front door is open, we are ushered into the main space. Me, i am overwhelmed, two big rooms filled with people beautifully dressed in gorgeous colour, clean and pressed, the local village leaders lined up behind one table, Huruma staff along another, the owner of the house blown away by what we have done...chairs set up and filled with smiling people - a place for us at head table, cokes, fanta, water in little circles along rows of tables set here and there atop clean and very new blue and green bed sheets.

WE sit down, and for the next hour, speaches, everyone thanking everyone,over and over, in Swahili...dreams and visions of this orphanage, what it can be..warnings of corruption, dishonesty, lack of openness...we have had experiences before.. 45 little bodies quietly wedged across little desks right in the next room barely making a sound, unimaginable back home.

I wished the kids were part of this...we couldnt' see them; we could only hear bits and pieces until they were released, flooding out the big garage doors of the classroom filing across the front lawn of the house. WE are dying inside of heat and Swahili. Bill is clever, setting up the tripod outside, the kids lined up across the lawn singing loudly and sweetly Twinkle twinkle little star. The ceremony with speaches is important. African style. Formal, British. The acknowledging of each other, each person with a role to play, the village leaders prominent, taking on the role of 'owner's of the orphanage, the government invited to be responsible for the daily comings and goings, the well being of the children, the staffing, the hiring and is done beautifully here, when it works..

The kids moved in Friday...we've had two days of being a family. Who would sleep in what rooms? I sit with the matron Glory - teacher by day, and treasurer Martha responsible for looking after the kids by room we make a list of who sleeps where....I am insisting that this is the beginning only; if this arrangment of babies sleeping with matron whose shelving is stacked with huge bags of rice, maize, buckets and cans of cooking oil, keroscene, spoons, 50 little bowls, plates..her room locked with the key in her pocket. Theft prevention paramount. If it doesn't work, this is their house, they can change it.

Scheduling. What kids go to primary school, ten of them, in uniforms, with clean shoes, what time? a couple of miles down the road...breakfast, a corn meal porriage with milk and sugar for 45 kids, 8 staff, a banana and bun donut. Pre schoolers...17 or so living in, and 15 arriving for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sleeping out with a relative or parent, lucky enough to have the means. The live ins have no one, and nothing. They arrive with the rags on their back.

The next day we head out on safari, but first to the office to open up the first batch of suitcases, searching for underwear, shoes, new shirts, skirts, a little levi OSH Gosh dress for baby Pendo, Sabina, our ICA social worker holding her gently on the bus telling me how beautiful she looks, her baby Pendo..just like a well dressed American girl...and she is. Boys sticking dirty little feet into pink rubber clogs and dancing across the open courtyard, new shorts with a little rubber giraffe hidden inside the pocket,the big black eyes wide, wondering, wow!! A tee shirt with superman. Ian is the photographer, taking pics as each kid emerges from my office, new clothes,new pants, underwear, dresses, shoes, we are clapping and they are mighty proud.

Back to the opening...Ian pulls out three red juggling balls and throws a show unlike any other, Bill taking pictures, Matt presenting a big black suitcase filled with dolls, little cars, toys...he turns around, what do we do with it! Well i don't he pulls it down at kid level and they sweep and dive in like vultures...
March 08/09...Huruma..the only orphanage centre in the area....opened finally after a year of reno to a grand start.

Nothing ever starts perfectly of course and we are learning..the balance here is to provide, arrange in the background, and assist a little....this is one big family, with mamas and papas and babies and a little girl called Jennifer coming down with malaria on day to the hospital for medication, and today there were three sick ones crashed in one little room at the back, maybe the sick room from now on...making our way slowly.

There are misunderstandings, little power struggles, control issues,who is responsible for what and when...i have no idea how to run an orphanage, none of us do, but day by day it is coming together...everyone pulling their weight.

My dream is a collective,where everyone is equal, giving the cooks and cleaners as much status as the director, the for some, not for all! Each day, meetings, transparency, open forums for speaking from our hearts and minds, with most everyone managing beautifully, our main goal to help the children. Can you imagine how it is for them?

But today, jumping around, after lunch, after showers, the little girls are running around their big room with towels wrapped around their waists...laughing, jumping on the beds....playing....i peak through the window...they all say WOW!! Which is what i am saying everytime i visit this place. WOW!!

Our visitors...a big dinner specially prepared by Adela the woman who cleans at ICA...a big dish in the middle of the table filled with chicken, okra, beans, potatoes, carrots, sauces and i dont' know what else, called, sodas... the end of a huge but great day....

Safari Monday....we rent a big white bus with HOLLYWOOD across the front in huge lettering, filled with 35 little ones age 6 and down....we are all jammed in, Matt in the middle at the back surrounded by kids - his wife made him promise one thing and one thing only, that he couldn't bring home a child....! Ian up front, we see three lionesses stalking, hunting, sitting, waiting, with cubs climbing trees a little bit away under tall grasses, almost never seen in this park, we are lucky. OSTriches, an elephant comes very close to the bus, his huge ears waving in and out, in and out...a fake ploy, it is when they huge the head sleekly you need to worry, ready for the dash....Zebra, favourite, so graceful....i am remembering those two jammed into the van.

Bill behind to the bus mechanic cradling a sick child gently.

Lake Manyara just outside Mto WA Mbu....the best safari to begin, and then on to the Serengeti and NGORA crater..there is nothing like it!

After lunch, the children drop one by one, row after row of limp sleeping children, and then with the rough road, bumping and lurching along, the sickness begins here and there..many of these kids have never been in a car before!

Pendo, next to me on Sabina's lap, murmering mama, mama..she has found her own.

Days merge into nights. Meetings, beer, dinner at my friend Miriam's Mi Casa, we try ugali, the local staple made of maize flower and water...balled up in the right hand, you make a spoon like trough in the ball and dip it into tomatoe onion carrot sauces, or greens, pieces of chicken, beef, goat...all done with the right hand. Someone comes by before and after the meal with a big plastic bowl, pouring hot water with a bit of soap from a pitcher onto your hands for washing. Always the cleanliness, in clothing, freshly washed and ironed, hands, dazzling coiffed hair, unless you are very poor.

They leave after breakfast Wednesday.
WE head into a six hour meeting with Huruma staff: reviewing roles, rules and policies...nine of us in a circle in Charles small office, a bit of a breeze blowing through, ....a forum to reveal stories, ideas, dreams, concrete issues..mostly i try to remain positive, bringing out the impossible greatness of what they have created....little issues: the things we bought for the kitchen, maybe a little overpriced...easy to fool me, but with Charles, Peter from Uganda....and Elias..the baba, or daddy of the children removed from that first corrupt orphanage i wrote about a few weeks ago, 14kids...he and his wife Tabia...going from none, to this number, and managing marvellously, they are teaching me so many things. With these guys, i am learning,
so fortunate to have such a team...each one honest, filled with heart and love, a lot of laughter, learning, smart, experienced, loving, what can i say..i am one lucky woman running around with four great guys....the only muzunga, white woman, around....hey!!

So so much more to say...and no time....
Matt,Ian and Bill get back from safari tomorrow...Friday a day in the Masai chief's boma with his family way out in the middle of the most beautiful country, rolling hills, mountains, with no one anywhere around, Masai roaming the land with livestock... adorned in beads, flowing sheets of colour...they walk everywhere, no electricity, no water, and yet most have cell phones..the only way to connect, texting, cheaply in Africa....everyone has one...

Seanna and Sierra arrive Friday night...8:30, on the once a day KLM flight coming in from Amsterdam...their second visit...Seanna taking university courses in African history, pre and post colonialism....Peter, our student from Uganda, so knowledgeable, so approachable, outgoing...i cant' wait for them to share stories...Sierra will love it..the kids at Huruma...Pambazuka....swimming...

more more more later...sleepless excited nights, tired, but so hugely i said before and keep saying, WOW!!
and before i I am unpacking those suitcases jammed into my little office, not one inch of floor space...opening them up one at a time, we are in shock! The girl's clothing stacks so high, that i have to make two huge piles,the boys too...underwears,sox...suitcases of world maps, number and alphabet charts, flip cards..crayons, pencils, sharpeners, 6 big binders, dividers, the hole punch, three ringed, different from two rings here....what else!! shoes for the WORLD!! every colour and size, for girls boys...hundreds of little shoes tossed into the corner to be sorted out next...little sizes, medium and bigger...i am giving some to Pambazuka...with both orphanages now, we share....Elias, the baba, he helps me, I AM helping them....designing, floorplans, swimming and works!!

so to Danene and everyone from the school she works at....everyone who has donated all these incredible texts, books, exercise materials, sizzors..offices supplies...the list goes on and on and on...big things, little things, bubbles gawd!!
I thank you all so much...i hope it was as much fun for you to put this together, as it is for us to see all these things in action....Wow!!

Friday, March 06, 2009

JAMBO!! On the eve of finally, after one whole year's work, our grand opening of HURUMA ORPHANAGE..Sunday afternoon - 5pm our time here, 8 hours ahead of Toronto - please come!! It has been incredible...the challenge of putting together this beautiful place in Swahili!!...very funny at times! We picked up the 12 bunk beds two mornings ago, dismantled for travelling and stacked ten feet high into the back of Ford pickup and another jelopy truck borrowed...tied on precariously with three inch wide rubber bicycle inner tubing, Charles being too busy, he is letting me drive the Ford,standard, through town and outside along other side of the road, next to cows, goats and streams of curious people lining up like a parade on both sides, scary, with huge 12 foot deep trenches on either side of the road constructed to catch heavy spring rains which haven't happened this year, yet.

Tables, benches and three rows of little school desks all set up in the classroom designed for a garage with two big open grilled doors looking out onto fields, goats and more cows across the a carpender is blocking off the bottom five feet with ceiling boards to prevent the swinging of 32 little heads everytime someone strolls by. Big beautiful four inch matresses covered in thick plastic which actually fit the beds, wrapped in brilliant green and blue sheets, brand new, 24 little blankets and the end of each bed..ready for cold times May or June i am told...i can't imagine. It is very hot here, and humid...while back in Toronto the winds and snow rage I am told.

Outside they built a little raised up cement kitchen, about ten feet by 5....a great breeze blowing though, with a row of toilets and showers behind the house, laundry...a tap outside providing water for these things...inside i am still wondering about water, without pressure, which trickles...and how they will manage coping with 27 bewildered little angels moving in this very afternoon, their relatives and guardians bringing them over where they will be sort of processed through, where the relative or guardian will officially sign each child over to HURUMA...this is how it works here...3 are age 2 and three..up to nine...I can't imagine what this will feel like for them.

Our two cooks, Hadija and Nuruana, and Martha our treasurer of sorts set out two days ago on an excursion into the market to buy all the kichen need - i am sure it was one of the most memorable experiences of their lives with all this money, and free range to outfit their little kitchen with new things...we started the fourof us, with everyone standing around watching by sitting on the freshly tiled floor of the big open living area a few days ago...with me trying to describe things: pots, frying pans, spatulas...i had a list with their help in English..trying to draw pictures,and then writing it down on another paper in Swahili, much laughter and gleeful acknowledgement, almost like the game of Charades when someone 'gets it!!'....we try to put a price on things..more complications...

i drive them into outside of the market and take off....for a mazunga to be anywhere near the market stalls, the price soars three or four times as much... six hours later with out lunch, they show up with armfulls of stuff....they have only begun. Yesterday the same thing....i am running around organizing bed positions, communicating in sign language, handing out wads of money to gardiners digging huge trenches around the entire front of the place, to plant bougenvillia but i am confused about why the three foot deep trenches and the need to order not one but two loads of red soil all the way from Kiratua up in the mountains where i sometimes go for internet. I thought we were simply doing a wire fence with flowers...but hey! this is Africa and things are done in their own way here, and who am I to know?

At the end of the day in dismay they realize they have forgotten 'hot pots'...well, we had spent $1o0. on pots, huge big ones and smaller ones, frying pans....and i am wondering what the heck are hot pots, cooking pots? No it takes some time for them to describe a time when a child may be sick and unable to come to dinner, maybe at the hospital for a visit, and coming home, they need to be fed a nice hot pots are what they keep this in...again, what do i know?

We are looking today for square, not round mosquito nets...the kids have arrived, i am waiting for someone to finish off the buying spree: firewood, keroscene lanterns, solar lights, maize, rice, a cooker for coal, Swahili...snug in the refuge of this internet cafe which is up and working today. bliss..i have had times feeling very isolated, especially at nigh - what a treat to pick up emails and write, especially this blog which keeps me in touch with what's going on,even here in my own life,the days race by!!

A terrible thing happened the other morning, the day i was driving the Ford en route to Huruma from the carpenders..i cruised by the little police station where there were at least forty people crowded around a van, looking inside. I pulled over and made my way through the crowd all exclaiming, but again, without Swahili i had no idea the full extent of what they were saying...inside, was the most awful sight i have ever seen: two big baby giraffes squished into the back of this station wagon, their legs trussed tightly together, one into each other, dead.

Huge eyes the size of the circumference of a juice glass, open and the colour of robbins egg blue, stark, wide. Dead.

Pole. Sorry...i kept saying as i am backing away,sick...pole...this is just awful. Five guys had gone into the national park at night, shot them with an injection of some drug, tied them up as they went down, and stuffed them into this van. Police stopped the car at a road block...four of those guys ran away, the driver caught. Charles says he is for life; to kill giraffes is even worse than lions or elephanants. They died from overdose and the trusses. The police refused to remove them from the van where they lay dead for 24 hours, until a magistrate from Arusha drove down to see for himself what they have done, knowing he would never believe it unless with his own eyes...

I haven't slept well for the last two nights, i keep seeing those blue eyes...

Another scary adventure. i am taking the children swimming when someone notices a squirmy black snake swimming through the water just before we go in....This is not your every day grass snake i am told later....this is highly lethal, and never seen in this pool before. if they bite, without medical aid, you can die.
Why am i writing these stories this morning...???
We got it out with a big long net...where it squirmed across the paved deckside....Charles threw a small board on top of it and jumped on top of it with all his might..successfully...

Of we go now to guy has just shown up with the last kitchen things...
Tomorrow, to Arusha to pick up Matt from Pennsylvania and his two friends. These amazing and very enthusiastic guys flying all the way over here for one week only, to see for themselves Huruma....with six huge bags of goodies for the children...I have never met them, and can't wait....i haven't slept at all the last few nights for excitement!

Will take some time for setting myself up to get pictures into this blog, early next week....until then, have a great weekend!! Badei...see you soon!! from dusty little hot Mto Wa Mbu...miss you!!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hi hi hi!!
Seven minutes to go on this machine..but so much to say...HURUMA, the new house, is finished, inside..but for no electricity and water....and it looks fabulous...gleaming, i can't imagine, just yesterday it was filled with trash, paint cans, wood, spiders and webs swinging to and fro from ceiling to floor....but today it is finished. Tomorrow we load up the bunk beds freshly varnished and lined up down the dusty road, desks, benches, tables, into Charles truck, driving back and forth all day, and the next day, the matresses, sheets, finally those 42 little kids..who at this point i am sure have no idea what is happening to them, will move in..climb up onto those bunk beds, two or three to a bed....outdoor showers and toilets being made tomorrow....and hopefully by Thursday, the water will be hooked's huge...outside they built the outdoor kitchen, made ready a huge lawn, planted flowers, and trees...and someone is making a wire fence with bouganvillia plants lined on both sides, it will be stunning!!
Matt comes Saturdaywith two friends..i can't wait, with six bags of things we so desperately for the kids, shoes, school and art with just over one minute to go..i sign off...and will write in a day or two....with pics, promise!!
much love, hugs....xxme

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

JAMBO!! This is a morning for celebration...after three weeks of having no computer access i am in Arusha at the Patisserie Cafe, a popular local internet service with tasty croissants and little cakes, squishy creme filled delicacies and more than anything, a line of computers all set up at the right height in a row, and all working, with good keyboards and a service provider that doesn't shut down. It is a miracle!

9am after a good night across the street at the ARusha Naaz hotel, breakfast of omlette, real toast, butter and jam..pappya and mango, watermelon and pineapple. Delicious all the more so for being so long to the taste and touch...I've felt so very out of touch, no newspapers, no CNN, no Obama, well i certainly have gotten that fettish out of my system, no internet access, no phone calls, and this year, with my team of international corruption spies scattered across Europe and Australia and not here, no English, but for poor Charles who can't possibly find 24 hours of his day to talk to this one poor Canadian all the time.

You get used to the silence.
Of being in the centre of things happening greatly all around you, but with only an inkling, a glimpse of what is going on...after three years, i am getting a little Swahili, but in no way could boast that other than the prerequisite greetings with glee, and questioning after family members, no doubt their names forgotten or at best mispronounced, I am still madly on the wrong side of the ball.
Last week, a rage of flue descended rending me bedful (I've been reading John Updike who tends to elongate sentences with pierceful expression, words, thoughts, ideas...)it gets to you after five days in bed with water, a plugged nose, fever and sore throat wondering what in earth you are doing here, the only connection with the outside world the texting on my little cell phone.

Charles visits occasionally...out there he is making miracles.
A waiter this morning asked why i would be here to create an orphanage of course with the help of so many others. But why? it is a good question for me. The first year i came, i was wide-eyed seeing so much in the way of the outside confusion of streets with bumps, pits, valleys lined with towering trees blossoming with yellow, pink and purple, and behind far off across rolling green hills and craggy mountain ridges speeding across the Rift Valley we spot herds of zebra grazing alongside a wildebeast or a team of gazelle, the tall necks of graceful giraffe chewing the tops of nasty thorn trees, an elephant so far away, and yet so still, so large, so magnificently there. Masai people wrapped in red and blue flowing sheets tending herds of goats and cows and donkeys to slow down and stop for awhile while they made their way stubbornly across the road, causing backups of tour buses and trucks, beat up jalapies barely chugging and churning spewing black exhaust polute, slick new SUVs and Hondas... in town all means of travel, bikes, but mainly it is the way of transportation which fascinates with huge wooden wagons carrying all means of household goods, pipes, doors, chesterfields, huge plastic bales of water, hay for feed, neatly stacked heavy grueling bricks all of this and so much more being pulled by one man up a hill with another at the back pushing, in such hot sweltering mid day hot wet oven heat. To me excruciating yet here and in so many parts of the world, the only way for things to move. Traffic jerks and slams amongst all of this, women upright carrying full buckets of thick and high sugar cane, baskets and pails of flour, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, a bike speeds by with a full sized 4" deep foam matress tightly rolled and tied horizontally across the back, causing conjestion and confusion. The smells intoxicate, a mixture of everything of food, spice, commerce with music, the pumping of drums, rthymn, honking of horns, shouting, laughing, greeting..and somewhere not too far away the haunting plaintive Calling to Prayer for Muslims,reaching far and wide from spinning microphones atop mid town mosques, the faithful come running.
All of this yesterday as i waited with Hamidu, our Masai and Muslem driver outside the matress shop where i have just bought $1,500. of 24 matresses, 24 blankets for when a sort of cold wind winter comes in May, June, 30 little towels but big enough to wrap around skinny little bodies, and 50 sheets big enough to tuck all the way around the 4" foam matresses we splurged on, only a few more shillings i say to myself and the world with hope and prayer that we can pull this off, as they say, build it and they will come...

It is a miracle what is happening i began to say some time ago, with the luxury of this keyboard which doesn't hop and skip and omit spaces; i am free! The first year i came with open eyes seeing everything, and yet, as i am here now for my third time, was seeing only the surface, the shiny little of the first timer, but still smitten with this land i have grown to love. It was hard to come home back that first time, without the knowing that i would return, without a firm view or vision of what i could do here, of where i could put my resources, of whatever skills i may have. That winter we raised money for bicycles for home care workers in Zimbabwe who walk 20 miles a day to help people and goats for HIV POSITIVE people in Handeni Tanzania. We managed long distance to buy a few bikes, tho i have learned not to trust actually what i haven't seen with my own eyes..they might have been bought, they might have been stolen or lost at a border, or money for them might have been pocketed to finance food and whatever. I cannot get back into Zimbabwe now, so there is no way of telling. I can only hope, and learn from experience. Back then i bought Mary Meza, my project coordinator, a fine peanut making machine, heavy, royal blue in colour, and carried it with a friend on our laps through three bus systems to proudly present it to her, manual, not electrical as i was advised, more sturdy and with electrical shortages, most dependable. I was pleased. When the world began to fall apart in Zimbabwe, with inflation rising from the 4000% i experienced back then three years ago, with black market monies, fuel shortages and stopages and rising food prices everyday, the cost of a tube of toothpaste equalling what a few years before could have purchased a small two bedroom bungalo style home, INflation now is well over the 2 or 3 or 4 million mark; without news here and who believes what we hear from Zimbabwe anyway, i have lost count. But there now, the people i knew and worked with are starving, without food or clean water, cholera pandemic, those with HIV AIDS no longer with access to ARV medication to stave off the virus, dying. Mary still writes, I remember her as a tireless hard working and so helpful woman to me, teaching me the ways of public local transportation, what to eat, where to bank, walk safely, she expanded my time there - the peanut butter making machine now long gone, no doubt sold off for basic food and fresh water for her family of three children. Oprah and Munwaro, the two HIV positive people i worked with facillitating Home Care Workshops to HIV positive people and their relatives and who taught others how to grow lustrious gardens of fruits and vegetables, spices into the small plots around their impoverished mud and stick dwellings, who found each other after both had lost spouses to the disease five years before, are now, without access to ARV's themselves, dying. It is easier for me to read about crisis in other parts of Africa, in the Congo, in Sudan, in Ethiopia, in the northern parts of Uganda and to turn the pages afterwards, the thought of how terribly sad all of this is winding through my mind. But to actually KNOW people who have my email, who gather up the means to write once in awhile, who i have worked with, eaten and laughed and sometimes cried actually know them, and to now know that not too far away from Tanzania, just south from here, these same people are dying themselves.

The miracle i began speaking of, way back up there, thank you to those that are bearing to stay with me...i haven't written for so long, and am unable to keep my thoughts and ideas to myself this morning...ah, the security and hominess of the Patisserie Cafe...

Where was i? The goats we raised money for, well, we learned after much studying and going back and forth, that most of the goats here in Tanzania do not produce enough milk even for one family for a day, let alone to be used as a micro business for that HIV AIDS positive group we were trying to help. I guess World Vision have bought the good milk giving ones for their internatinal projects, but for us at ICA there are better ways of spending our money. WE are supporting a number of women who are positive, with families, into small business of selling bananas, corn, sugar, avocadoes on the side of the street..we are able to give them the start up money. In one year i have seen such a huge difference in these women, who after being diagnosed positively, and having been thrown out into the streets with their children, weak, sick, with nothing, the husband having ran away in anger. NOw, they have come together in small businesses and are able with such pride to support their families and to help others in their community in need. It is a culture of helping. Whenever one has something, sharing begins with everyone around. You see a large group of women sitting on upturned plastic pails at the side of the busy dirt road through town, surrounded by bananas, clucking and chattering like a wild and colourful gaggle of geece planning a yearly migration route..voices rising, arguing, agreeing, compromising, a full range of conflict resolutions happening here at this very important level of small village society. The women do everything...not only raising the money, buying the food, cooking, and caring for their children, and their family's children, worrying about school fees, uniforms, sickness, clothing....all of the things we often take for granted in basic survival, it is all here...The men do the women, bent over in two with huge heavy hoe in both hands, wacking and hacking away at the parched land, making ready for maize planting, heavy rains and a hopeful spring harvesting. The young men sell necklaces and bracelets to safari tourists, beware. Or hawk fruits and boiled eggs at the side of the road through windows to travellers on buses making their way slowly through town. The men are carpenders, and people who carry and load and lug heavy things. Things the women cannot carry on their heads. Women and men are doctors and nurses. Teachers too. My friend,Mirium owns and operates one of my favourite restaurants, Mi Casa just a block from my guest house. She is married to a Masai man from Kenya, his second wife. They have one chid together. He is a doctor who is almost never in Mto WA Mbu, but is coming tomorrow night for a rare visit. She has invited me for dinner with them. She is not happy with 'the other wife', she does not like the other wife, and tells me the other wife doesn not like her. She thumped her fist on the table, and said, but Lynn, what can i do? I want one husband, and one wife, and one house. But what am i supposed to do? As if I knew!!

The money that was to go toward the goats, last year, went towards the small business proposals, and as far as i am concerned the most important issue in Africa today, other than food and a with ICA we started up the Masai girls Education fund, and are presently sending 18 girls to secondary school. This is a wonderful feat and for the most is working well. These girls, and there is one boy in the midst somehow who has risen to be the head boy of his school so catapulted by his good luck to be sponsored, are on the whole doing very well. I have been interviewing them over the last weeks...they are bright, excited about learning, and intent on furthering their education, past secondary shcol, through the two years of high school, and then hopefully someday on to university. They have huge visions, insights, hopes and dreams, as we all do. Right now the downside that i see and read about in the editorials of the newspapers when i can, is one one hand the positive results of the government stategy of building a lot of new secondary schools throughout the regions of Tanzania..and there are many...the more profound and successful a politician is, the more schools he gets into his distric to brag about...the downside here being that in one of the schools we are sponsoring kids into, there are few teachers, unqualified and without texts or books...but that is one example only I am told of many which are running well. And because people are now being made aware of this fiasco hopefully things will slowly progress toward better schooling. As I ranted a long time ago in another blog, the lack of intention for the UN to provide free secondary education across Africa is a travesty to me. Without education where can young people go after primary school, out onto the streets at age 13, 14, nothing to do. Whatever...are they trying to HOLD BACK Africa? Some may think so.
Oh i am going on, but it feels so tremendously good...

Where again, am I? Last year, coming back, this time to Tanzania, and to Mto Wa Mbu where i seem to have found my second home...You can travel everywhere, anywhere, and discover infinite things that need working on, millions, trillions...every little village, every family, every single person needs more. More money, for food, education, for health, for clean water, to start up a small business...everyone is out there trying so hard to become independent, to become self feed their families, to help their relatives. to uplift Africa in some small or large way, either that or they have given up...I am not talking about those that have found a way around the system, and of these there are many, who rise to the top, by corruption, of using other people, of stealing through business, through using children as a front for an orphange, of actaully KEEPING those children sick and poor and malnourished to lure in money from well meaning and unsuspecting safari tourists. Wonderful people i have met who only want to help, to give.
And who open their pocketbooks with arrangements for monthly payments heading straight into the pocket of some slippery but charming, God fearing director of some orphanage, that money going toward himself, his family, his car, his booze and women, and paying off counsellors and elected politicians in the community, basically, to keep their mouths shut, all the time reeping their own rewards by this corruptive system.
I have learned well from this too.
For two years i volunteered whenever i had the time, at a small orphanage on the edge of town, with 19 little kids, all running out and cheering whenever i came around. I learned in Swahili 'head and shoulders', taught them 'doe a dear', the of the body, in English, took them on mini safaris in rented busses, with picic lunches through a land five minutes away from their horrible little home filled with elephants, zebra, gizelle, giraffe and monkeys which they had never visited before. I taught 6 of them, every Saturday, how to swim in the tourist campsite pool at the other end of town. I bought them a table and benches, shelving for their little rooms and a big pantry shelving unit to house foods, supplies. When my kids came they too worked here, the kids responding ecstatically with each visit. I wasn't the only foreign volunteer either, we were all helping out in every way as much as wel could. Coming back the second year, i noticed things had grown much worse. The furnishings were there, but the children were sicker, poorer. Last year, a band of foreigners drifted in and stayed during the time i was there, from Austria, from Sweden, Germany, Australia and Israel. We were forming a team, hell bent on change. Our dream was to buy or build a new facility, to set up a sponsorship program for each child to ensure that they continue through secondary school, to provide teachers, good healthy food, clothing and as well, medication. We took the kids in groups of 5 to the ICA office to be tested for HIV AIDS..two were infected and should have been medially looked after, but weren't.

Seanna and Sierra came to visit and teach art for a couple of weeks; one little positive girl attached like glue onto Seanna's wonderful mamma lap, her liasions open and pouring dangerous fluids, highly infectious to the other kids, and to ourselves, but no one seemed to care. ICA helped immensely. Charles drove all the kids in the back of his Ford pickup to be tested, and arranged for an ICA home care worker to look after those two positive kids. WE were busy looking for a site to build a new home. We discovered a padlocked room next to the office filled with donated things, boxes and boxes filled with medical and art supplies, books, texts, crayons, sheets, clothing..things that had never been sorted out or worse, given out...they told us they just hadn't the time or staff to do that job; we spent days working to make sense of all these things. So excited and enthusiastic we were, all the time working hand in hand with the family running this place, to create a new home for the children.
And then, sometime back last March, the bottom fell out of our dreams.

Slowly, and in ways i cannot write on these pages, we discovered that what we thought was happening, was in no means happening. That despite all our collective efforts, that nothing was changing, that nothing could change. That in fact things were not going to change for these kids. The reality was, was that certain people were profiting dearly and deeply from the misery of these children, and they were not going to let go. As founders they held full control over the children, and the money and refused change on our terms, terms that monitored donations and regulated transperancy. When this began to slowly sink in, I was aghast. I loved those kids with all my heart, but could no longer support the system. I was in the process of finding sponsors for each one of those kids, and had to stop procurring money I knew would never reach those children. I bowed out; my last time with the kids swimming; someone brought them to me a mile down the road from that place I could no longer visit, the little band of six boys straining like yelping puppies to spend the day splashing and jumping into that pool. We swam, learned to do sommersaults under water, we raced each other...we dried in the sun drawing pictures of lions, and airplanes, and giraffe, houses, and Tanzanian flags...we looked up into the sky and waved at an airplane passing overhead...the guy i was with translating to them that soon, i would be on that plane...i described flying, the clouds below, the immense blue skies...they listened in wonder. We ate boiled eggs, chipatis, and somosas with a bottle of coke each, where in this world ISN'T coke! We visited an acrobat artist friend of mine on our way back to the intersection of road, in front of the Masai tourist market, where we would say goodbye.

A little circle of boys and one white lady from Canada, saying goodbye...of course pretty silently because of language, but hugs, kisses on the top of their little closely shorn curly heads, a squeeze of the hand, and now i am crying and I can't stop....
I walk away, unable to turn around and watch them as they make their way back to that horrible abusive place. i may never see them again. i cry all the way back into Mto Wa Mbu..
I can't do this anymore. I want to go home. I want to take the shuttle up to Nairobi for a few days and go home early. I tell Charles what is happening. He said i looked about twenty years older than myself that day, all the joy knocked out of me. I tell him i am leaving, tomorrow. But oh no. Not for Charles..he said, yo have learned so much about operating an orphanage, i am going to take you to a place where they really need you, where there are no safari tourists, where they have nothing, no mamas, no papas, no relatives, no food, no one to look after them, but a few neighbours along the road.

Someone had offered the foyer of his home and opened it up to the kids in this region, flat, agriculture, a pre school. HURUMA.
I didn't care. I had had enough, but the next morning Charles showed up with Peter, a volunteer with ICA and our ICA nurse Elizabeth, and forced me to join them.
I have written about this before..the 52 little kids, new little kids, i saw on the mud floor of that horrible, dank dark place..but with a shiny bright teacher Grayson in front of the room, guiding them through: "good morning, madam, good morning sir", and a sling of bright songs, open bright happy faces, smiling, laughing, curious,, just like kids everywhere, but these kids, like my others, without mamas, without papas...God knows what each and every one of them had been through in their short lives...losing both parents, homes, villages, communities, most without relatives, maybe being looked after by very old grandmamas...without means to care for them properly, their clothing in tatters, dirty....but no crying, no arguing, no would notice this when you come over....unlike our kids back home, with the entitlement we manage to bestow upon our is the way it is...
i sign on. Kids are kids. I have a week to go before leaving. We fly into action. Looking back, the main thing we did was to locate a big house down the road, 90% finished. WE interviewed all the kids, through Peter, through translators..through the director, we take pictures of the kids. I bring over a suitcase full of art supplies origonally aimed for that other place. They are astonished.

I fly home with a commitment in my heart, to begin again. The first thing is the house...without a proper place for these kids, official orphanage registration is impossible..we contact the owner, get estimates for renovations, make a written contract with her that with finishing her home we are allowed to take over the facilities for four full is perfect. Swedish friends, the ones i was working with before, pitched in royally. An American Rotary man who had passed through on safari to 'the other place', couldn't get the images of that place out his mind, those kids, after a huge rain, squalling about in mud even in their own packed little bedrooms. He wanted to help,found me on this blog, changed course, came up to Toronto face to face for a great meeting, and began to raise money through his Rotaries...we were almost there...
IN December, i got a call from the Swedes who were visiting. Huruma was almost finished, but the job had stopped with lack of something!! I was desperate, after all that work, we could lose the whole project if we didn't raise the final my friend Tim and I put together that plea many of you got in January, the one page letter with photos, asking for help. I want to say here, that it is not easy asking friends and family for money... i have never liked doing it...and know, for many people, how much they do not like getting requests such as it can sometimes even change relationships which i feared greatly...but for me, as obsessive as i can be...i had to do it...

That one page letter raised just over $8,000 Canadian money in two weeks...we were able to finish the job! When i thank you for help. I truely mean it....this has been a slow, slogged out process, starting from last March...a dream which erupted on the heals of a disastrous corruption scheme...donations, of $10, $20s, and on up to $100 and $200...and $500....finally, we raised by all of our most wonderful intentions enough money go finish the job...I wish you were here to see it..

When I arrived end of February the house was almost done. They were tiling the bathrooms, the rooms were plastered and painted, the ceiling and floors done, windows in, doors made and lying on the floor. The place was a mess, in full reno mode, with wood, bricks, tiles, paint everywhere. Kids were playing around the debris, a woman setting up a tiny makeshift kitchen outside with an old corregated roof, sticks holding it up, open on three sides, a fire burning inside with a big black pot cooking ugali, the porriage like staple in Tanz. for the workers inside.

OUtside there were mounds and piles of bricks, debris everywhere....still we needed an outdoor kitchen, play area, outside toilets and showers...I figured not a lot more to be done, a few days maybe...But work stopped..because tiles had been installed all the way up to the ceiling in two rooms, and the owner had run out for the third room. Nothing was done for two weeks. Nothing. I went out there a few times. No one there, not even the woman in the little kitchen outside cooking, a few kids milling about in the opened doorway. The owner, i discovered back in Arusha, was trying to find more tiles to match the ones she was using, but to no avail. She cancelled everyone else on the job, knowing that once she found tiles, they could complete the whole thing quickly. But of course i didn't know this. Meanwhile Charles and i were running all over the region of Monduli and Mto Wa Mbu, interviewing, Masai tribal girls, setting up Home care projects and kits, and visiting people whe were sick. I was making budgets, trying to figure out how many kids would actually be living at this place, not just coming to pre school...making floorplans, layouts to figure out how many beds, tables, desks, benches, we would need.

Charles and i went to his carpender friend Willy, and ordered 12 bunk beds, 4 big tables including the teacher's table, 9 desks, each seating 3 kids, benches for all the tables. He promised to have them ready by March o1. WE were on a roll.

We pulled together an all day meeting at Huruma in that dark dank room, with their secretary, treasurerer, chair, two teachers, two cooks and a cleaner. WE went through everyone's responsibiities in detail, making sure that everyone knew exactly the jobs of each other...we talked about the excitement of creating a brand new great it could be, how great it would be..and especially how we were doing this FOR THE CHILDREN...and not for ourselves, individually...of course there will be salaries...these people had worked for almost nothing since we began last March, a year ago....but they knew, under no uncertain terms, from my experience at 'that other place' there would be ZERO tolerance for corruption. I am thankful for my experience. Everybody knows about it. Everybody is forced to understand. One in particular, would like things differently.

We all agreed how to set up a monitoring system, where even the food we bought in bulk for the pantry would be locked and checked and monitored, and by whom. The banking, the money, the is all involving...and intricate...with human feelings involved...working with people i was just beginning to get to know, and trust, or not trust....

You get a feeling, you just KNOW who you can count on,and who makes you feel a bit creepy and eventually we all show our clear colours...hopefully with this kind of openness and good feeling amongst the staff and ICA we are growing a solid foundation of skilled people who like and trust each other.

After two weeks of total silence at this house, i threw a bit of a fit one just popped out to poor Charles who does everything and anything for everyone....What is happening with that house!!! I have been here for two weeks and but for one day, NO ONE IS WORKING THERE!!

In the meanwhile...i have connected with three very enthusiastic people from Pennsylvania who I have met only by phone and email, one of whom will be renting our family cottage in the summer for a week...He quite innocently asked me, as we were doing cottage business, about what i would be doing in Africa...that was the beginning. I sent him those pictures of the 52 kids....he sent back grand wishes and a generous donation. I don't know really what happened to this man, but in twenty four hours, he called again, asking me to drive down to his home town to do a presentation on Huruma and to meet him. It was three days before i was leaving. WE couldn't find a single moment for me to take this time, i was swamped, and with my family dinners..i told him: you have to come to AFRICA!!

So guess what!! He is coming in March, and bringing two friends!!

We have talked extensively about Huruma...what we have managed to do in the last year since the beginning, where we are at now...and where we hope to go in the future, and mainly, for me, the ominous task of financing the day to day, yearly operations of this place...with 42 kids, 6, food, staff, maintenance, medical, materials, everything!! I must say i have lain in bed worrying about this..what in earth have i gotten myself into i wonder, over and over again. It is one thing to visit Africa as i have done, and gone home to raise money, bit by bit, for sponsorship of education, micro businesses, etc...but what in earth do i think i am going to do keeping such a big operation going...what is going to happen...??
And to be honest with you i still don't know. All of us, we have managed, by hook or crook whatever that take the shell of a building and to make it into a place of such beauty i can barely describe!!

Yes, my little fit to poor Charles worked. The owner found her tiles, and sent about 10 guys in to finish the will be done by the weekend.
Yesterday, i saw four carpenders measure off the areas for the outdoor kitchen, toilets and showers, and by the end of the day, the foundation was dug for the kitchen.
The entire staff of Huruma kicked in. There is a wonderful sense of ownership happening now that we are almost there...Outside, they removed the debris, bricks, garbage from the lawns...and each one, with heavy hoe dug into the ground readying it for the grasses and trees Charles and I bought two days ago, flowering everything my preference: bougainvillea, hibiscus, big blooming yellow shade trees.. banana plants, sugar is going to be GORGEOUS!! The staff and all are stunned i think. They told me there is no other orphanage like this anywhere that they know of.

The kids are still on the mud floor of the first place.
WE have interviewed all of them and their caretakers to choose the most vulnerable and neediest children. WE have ten primary aged kids (7-9) to live in, and 17 pre schoolers, the youngest age 3. That makes 27 live ins...and 15 pre school live outs. I haven't spent nearly the time i want to with these kids, but will as soon as we move them into their new exciting....!!
At the carpentry shop, the frames of the bunk beds are lined up all the way down one road a few blocks from the middle of Mto Wa Mbu, tables too. Shelving in each room has been measured and being made.
We bought the sheets, matresses, towels, and bankets yesterday. The plastic covers for the bed wetting matresses will be sewn by Friday.
WE will drive the two cooks up to Kiratu early next week in Charles' truck to buy for themselves all the kitchen needs: pots, utensils,whatever they will need to feed 42 hungry kids and 6 staff, three meals a day...the live out kids will eat at Huruma as well.
The three friends from Pennsylvania arrive a week Saturday night, flying int Kilimanjaro airport, just after 8 pm. they will stay one week, primarily to experience for themselves this little miracle called Huruma, and then take a few days safari. We have never met each other face to face...i simply can't wait to meet them. Our phone calls have been pretty magical. It is rare to experience such open support and enthusiasm...such williness to jump in...such trust, such wonderful good is hard for me to put into words as i sit here in the middle of another sweltering day in Arusha...but this connection with them, has given me a sort of strength and hope, and faith, and trust in miracles...

All of this even before we have met.

As in life, there are no securities..we never ever know what will happen, how things will turn out...we have an idea somewhere in our minds, but in reality things move along at their own pace in their own ways...I look forward to the mystery of the journey!!

So...hopefully, the beds will be varnished and in place next week, the kids showered and moved in, the outdoor kitchen fully equipped up and running, tables, benches, desks in place....shelves ready for the clothing for 42 children these guys are stuffing into their bags...what more could i ask for!!

Charles has been quietly putting together ideas for our Huruma board of directors...I know everyone he is suggesting, and am thrilled with working with these people. A top medial doctor in the district, a top agricultural specialist.
the headmistress of the big secondary school we work with, and two days ago i met the parish priest from the Catholic hospital right next door, who will join our board and who has offered us medical services for the children ongoing, top of the line, and right next door!

I hope, with everything in place we will have our big opening of Huruma on the Sunday inviting everyone to come who has helped with this project. WE will celebrate at an open restaurant down the highway, the cooking being done by Adela, a very skilled chef and our cleaner from ICA....Monday, we will rent a couple of vans, pack a big picnic lunch and take all those 42 little kids on safari, the first time ever for them...
So this is where you find me today...My headache and flu gone...up to my neck in a project i know so little about, in a language i find impossible to understand let alone speak!! Having read 7 books from front to back since being here....without internet, without communication with any of they say here, sorry.

Lindsey text me with the Oscar results....and that her short film she made in the summer was accepted into the Atlantic film festival next year!! big congrats to Lindsey!! And to their baby Poppy coming in the fall!!
Seanna and Sierra are coming back, arriving for two weeks mid work at the new Huruma..teaching art...i can't wait to see them...Haven't heard a breath from Johnny Shauna and the babies..but bits and pieces come from others..dear John!! I want stories of the twins!! write!!!
Kato is busy registering people into the art retreat for next summer...And in closing...because i cannot say too much on this....
the international team of friends i worked with last year have opened another home and hired a loving couple to look after 14 of the 19 children we were so closely connected with back at that other place. It is awesome to visit that place now, to see for my own eyes, that with love, attention, good food, and medial care, how quicly poor health and malnutrition and such unspeakable sadness can be turned around into something so gloriously healthy and life enhancing.

Last week there was a thirteenth birthday party for the oldest boy living there, one of the kids i teach swimming with still, each weekend. They had hung white sheets all around the small sides and back of the yard outside their little home, set up a main table covered in white, and a throne for this boy. They made a wonderful meal, inviting all their neighbours, friends, all the children, balloons, a real party...marked more poignantly when this tall and a bit shy, but shining with joy, boy stood up and said that this was the very first party he had ever had. His thirteenth. His entry into manhood, a teenager.

I hope to write soon...they promise me that our internet will be up and running in the next few days...but if not, thank you for listening!! this one has been a long haul, i hope not boring...but so strengthening for me to get it all down and still a world out there, to say....much love to you all....xxLynn