Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hello! hi!! finally...our internet cafe has been locked up tight since last Friday! those five hours of writing disappeared forever somewhere out there between the big open skies between Tanzania and North America, so be it...patience, flexibility and acceptance is commonplace here...not a bad thing to try to learn....i was thinking the other day...back home, we,I, stress to get things done, especially ON TIME...time is a big deal, punctuality..buthere with African time,nothing is ever done planned...every....people arrive an hour late..without explanation...you just bring a book or some work, and lay low...but yet here, without the stress of worrying about time...i seem to get just as much done in a different way...people show up to help, to give information, it is a small village, they just appear, and what you needed to do or know gets done....letting things happen, rather than trying to control them, much more magical, and interesting...

Withoug internet back in my little village, climbed today up the mountain to a bigger centre caLLED Kiratu, in a local car, unfit for any kind of regulated driving back home..squeezed in between a double car load of passengers and bunches of bananaS...stalling, spluttering, groaning up the hill, past people pushing bicycles laden with banana leaves, so much that it looks like a huge bush climbing the hill without rider, without metal, without bike...a woman bent over with huge bundles of rice precariously balancing on her head, a baby slung on her back, a child at her side, school children here and there dressed in navy blue sweaters and khaki shorts, three and four together holding hands and dancing and skipping up the hill, donkeys, cows, goats, Masai boys with sticks herding, the hills beautifully reddened, with green trees, here and there patches of freshly hand-cultivated acres planted with maize, rice, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage before the big rains come...

We haven't stopped since i came a week or so ago...i've been able to write a bit, sorry, pole, if i repeat now...but i want to get it all down..

Two projects for me: Huruma, the orphanage that so many of you have supported over this last year...and the Masai girls educaTION fund..without your generous donations miracles would not happen here...me, i feel like I am the conduit, so lucky to be here experiencing first-hand the exciting birthing and growth of these two projects..

Huruma first: we found a big house down the road last March, 90% finished; the owner, a woman from Arusha, an hour or so down the road, unable to finance the rest of the renovations..we took it over...from April to now, we have been able to raise enough money to complete the house..almost there...with a big classroom, front living room, dining room, two bedrooms each for girls, boys, a space for a matron, an indoor kitchen/pantry and two bathrooms..i list all of these things for you to know where your donation haS GONE...outside, we will soon grass in the areas around the house, build outdoor toilets and a kitchen, and hopefully create a playground for the kids...bliss...I am in my element..on day one, we measured the entire house, drew up a floorplan, and arranged on paper the furniture.Yesterday we sussed out the best carpender for the job, ordered 12 bunk beds, 4 tables, benches, 9 desks for 27 kids...enough for the pre school,hopefully ready a month from now. We interviewed all 52 kids who started out with us last year..to discover the most vulnerable poor children who really need assistance...
The 36 we have chosen are all orphaned, and now living with neighbours or relatives..In many cases after school at noon, they go home to an empty hut where they remain alone till nightfall, sometimes until the next day, a bowl of ugali, porriage on the floor for dinner, sometimes, with no food at all.

I interviewed the neighbours of our oldest boy who they nickname Kaza Moyo,meaning hard heart...because, at age 3 he was left alone for over 24 hours by himself, no food, abandoned. His mother and father divorced..she tried to support this boy but couldn't on her own, she remarried a man who disliked children...he ran away after a YEAR and she followed him, leaving the child to fend for himself..this is not an unusual story..Many pregnant women are left alone once the boyfriend discovers the pregnancy..without house, or money, he is not ready for responsibility and runs away. She goes to her family, who kicks her out. Left on the streets without any resources she goes to a witch doctor for an abortion, or has her baby on her own, leaving it on the steps of a church or in the washroom of a restaurant. The baby is taken to an orphanage, or to a pastor, a reverend, a church person to be looked after..or sometimes taken in by the person who finds the child...it is not unusual, these stories...

So out of the 52 little kids we found last March on the mud floor of a local farmer's home, their teacher up front doing his best without salary....we have reduced the numbers now to 26 live-in kids at the new Huruma...10 are primary: age 7 to 9...16 are pre school, age 3 up....most wearing the same tattered clothing i found them in last year...torn raggedy shorts, hanging thread bare dresses, filthy tee shirts, broken shoes or no shoes at all. Up until now we haven't had the money or communication to finance last year's expenses of keeping these children well, but that will change.

WE spent a day working on the budget for the reno, the furnishings, and for the entire year's ongoing operating budget...food, medical,education, maintenance, security, staffing...we hired two teachers for the preschoolers, two cooks, one cleaner and three people who act as secretary, director, treasurer, and matron. It is exhilerating and a relief for me to finally be here to work out these details...they are hefty, sometimes at night, i lie in bed and am overwhelmed, very scared...how in earth are we going to pull this off?? But somehow i know we will, and we can..as Peter say, we are.

Another day spent meeting with the above people, after lunch when the children had left for the day...in the dark foyer of this decrepid house, all of us around a table, on benches facing each other..it was the first time these people had come together to really talk to each other, to understand what each job required, the responsibilities..how to communicate with each other, what to do with conflicting situations...how to respect and listen to each other...

I got a huge inspiration with us all there, everyone hugely involved in the well being of these children...a common goal. I made a talk about how lucky we all were to be at the beginning of this project, how it is up to each and every one of us to put everything we have into this, and how we can make this the very best little orphanage possible..it is up to us...the feeling was magnificent...

Of course there are what we call back home "issues"....conflicing ideas, and misunderstandings, as is expected...but nothing i think that we can't handle.
With incredible support and enthusiasm from you..i don't feel alone here. Charles is my major support -he knows everything and everyone..People talk and gossip, i don't think there is anything unknown by someone...everyone watches and talks...Charles hears it all and tells me...very entertaining and helpful most of the time.

Ihave also been working with a student from Uganda who comes down to Mto Wa Mbu to visit his uncle on school holidays...Peter...with both his parents gone, orphaned, he was raised by his relatives in a very very poor situation, but now at age 22, with five years of secondary and high school behind him, sponsored by a family from South Carolina, he speaks English perfectly, is the head prefect of his school - an incredible guy who looks like a young Harry Belefonte. With that big smile and open heart he has been there. The kids love him and so do i helping me in every way, especially translation from Swahili into English...Between he and Charles i am in the best hands...also at the ICA office, is Sabina, 26ish...a social worker who counsels people tested positive with HIV AIDS...12 or more people coming through everyday...she heads up the two HIV AIDS positive groups of 35 people or more who meet at the office once a week, offering support, networking, connections, helping them with accommodation when they are thrown out of their homes with their children for being positive..the stigma of HIV AIDS is alive and well here in Tanzania, although with education through ICA workshops on awareness, prevention, volunteer testing and counselling things are changing slowly....what else! I have a delicious hour and 8 minutes left on this machine..i am into my fourth hour here of writing..am wired but so happy to finally be able to sit down with some time to0 think and write..

LaST Sunday i came up here to Kiratu to the hospital with my friend Dotto whose twin sister Teddy, age 36 has been isolated and bedridden for the last 5 years with a weird sort of flesh eating disease. She is suffering with holes burrowing into her arms, legs, her hips and especially her behind. It is so terribly sad to see, but her spirits were up to see Dotto (the name given to the second twin born) and the visit. I wrote of this to a friend in Pennsylvania...he called me immediately on my cell with possible help for her. We went back the next day and took photos...we are working on the doctors now to release medical information, to fax over. With this offering of possible help we might find a cure for her..it could easily be something very simple, but something requiring drugs which they don't have here...

My Swedish friends gave me $100 US to 'buy some gardening equipement' for one of the relatives of a child in the orphanage they are assisting...she showed up at the office on Monday...two hours later, she walked out with this money, not only to buy a hoe or two, but to rent an acre of land which can be cultivated twice a year, with enough funds to buys maize seeds, fertilizer, and to hire someone to help her cultivate the soil by hand before the big rains...a dream come true for her and so easily accomplished from our world. I can't tell you how moved she was, the disbelief she felt and now, maybe, in a years time, she will have two aCRES..and be able to afford to send three children through secondary school..that is all that matters here. Education.

Steven Lewis railed to the U.N. about funding secondary schools in Africa and to this day they have refused..kids here are supported by their government through primary school, it is compulsary, with each child having to pay $50 US equivalent, for uniforms, shoes, and books...but when they finish primary school, at about age 14it is over for most of them...Secondary school is prohibitive...it costs now $575. Canadian...for the first year...(beds,desks, chairs..school fees..etc..) plus food, medical...etc....the following four years are much less expensive, depending on the school..how new it is..if it is new, and needs construction, the fees are much higher..the govt only subsidizes part of the school, teachers etc...It is a travesty that our world cannot come together to finance secondary school for kids here...without furthered education there is no way they can excelerate, learn English, get jobs and grow with healthy bodies and families...they end up on the street, most of them, with nothing to do, get pregnant, become prostitutes...the boys loitering, crime, street kids, starvation, sickness,disease..anger, fighting..you name it..it is here.

But I see with a little education the miracles that can happen..and with your sponsorship of the project we are working on with sending MaSAI TRIBAL girls to secondary school, this project is really making a difference. Big time.

We have 16 girls now that we are sponsoring...in five different Masai villages...the govt has built secondary schools in the areas, but the children must live in..it is futile for them to visit their homes during school season as the parents who desperately need help, will keep them at home, cooking, fetching firewood, looking after cows, goats, donkeys and younger siblings...many parents hope their girls will fail in school, freeing them into arranged marriages with much older men..often as the fourth or fifth wife for the dowry of cows, goats..and then teenage pregnancy - a life of starvation, poverty, and toil often awaits. So by sending them through secondary school they have a chance..I interviewed eleven girls last week in one day, with Peter translating..We asked them about their families...interestingly, their answers this year, in front of each other during the interviews, were different from the stories i was told last year when we interviewed them on their own. A lesson learned...

Most spoke last year of running away from home and those marriages to the headmistress who took them in, looking after them herself in every way, waiting for sponsorship. This year some came from supportive families, but at the end of the group interview..they all stressed their fears of going baCK home over their four month holiday, preferring to stay in school, or in town where we might be able to setup work for them in the orphanages with English tutouring...a great idea i think.

At one of the schools we were told there were four very unqualified teachers who didn't speak English to 250 kids..no text books, pens, or exercise books....i felt so depressed as i heard each girl speaking, what in earth is the point!!
we vowed to buy books for them, easy English books, and hope, the next time we get out there, a good hour away in the middle of rolling green hills, and mud paths , cows, goats, and cow dung huts...we will teach a bit of English to them ourselves..what a challenge! |But exciting....

I am staying at the same little guest house i stayed at over the last three years where i was robbed last year of all my US money which i inadvertantly left in my room, understandable, with this kind of poverty, who can blame them..

I have a room with two beds with mosquito netting, a tiled floor, two windows..one little table..a bathroom of my own with a toilet, very luxurious! Otherwise the bathroom facilities are a hole in the ground with a place to put your feet on both sides. A tap with water is customary but not always, with a little plastic pail underneath to wash down the hole..I have been healthy so far, no problems..yoga every morning getting ready for each day. Couldn't be happier...am safe...

Diet is a boiled egg for breakfast with a little round bun made of rice and fried called a kitumbua...coffee, delicious instant from Tanzania, mixed with boiled milk drawn every morning from the cow stationed and mooing and pooing just outside my office window. Lunch and dinner: you have two choices, either rice with greens (like chard), a tomato sauce and beans....or chips mai eye...a little cooked dish of french fried pototoes mixed with scrambled egg...that's it...you can order roast goat, or cow..don't bother with the chicken, as Lindsey said it is like sucking bones..unlike our chemically fattened big and bloated birds back home. Beer is good here...I am sure ready for one at the end of every huge day...

I take the kids i taught to swim last year,to the local campsite every weekend, where safari tourists stay - very nice grounds with a lovely pool. |This year i have three boys who can swim and three girls who are new at it..I am amazed at how fast they learn, they have no fear! non...after a few rounds of blowing underwater, bouncing them up and down, and watching the boys splashing about, they were able to soak their entire heads underwater..and that was only day one! Can't wait to see what they will do on Saturday!

i have 34 minutes left, and after four and a half hours of it, i think i am out of words to say...But i want you to know that especially this year, i feel i am not alone at all, i have so many of you behind me, supporting so enthusiastically these projects, it is incredible...i wish someday for you to be able to visit Huruma..the Masai villages..the dusty little streets of Mto Wa Mbu...I know it now inside out...well a little bit of it anyway...but each day i see different things..each day i am surprised. Each day someone or something comes along and you can't help your heart opening up just a little bit more...as my friend Brian says, this is as good as it gets!!

Big hugs to you all, and thank you again, until that internet connection gets fixed..or until i get back up here to Kiratu.....much love...Lynn

ps..i have'nt the foggiest idea how to get the photos out of my camera this year..with the connection down in Mto Wa Mbu and without the teacher i had last year. i hope i am not doomed to write, describe without the help of pics for your sake...but tomorrow, kesho, someone will come along....

1 comment:

dorpur said...

Hello, We visited your orphanage in July while we were on a GAP safari. We told the guide to try and include a stop there with all his tours.The children sang for us and seemed really sweet. Kudos for you doing such great work.
Jane