Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jambo! from Arusha town!
Tonight we will travel to Kilimanjaro airport to pick up Diana McKissock and her friend Jamie Bee...9:30 flying in from Toronto via Amsterdam, two 8 hour flights with a bit of a four hour rest in Holland, it can be gruelling! I can't wait to greet them! Diana is Matt's mom...who has been so incredibly supportive of everything we are doing at the Majengo orphanage since it opened a year ago in March 09. I met her last April while visiting Warren for the first time with Matt and so many of his friends and relatives - at a presentation we gave of Matt, Bill and Ian's visit last year, meeting the children, the staff, the village leaders in charge of Majengo, lots of great pictures, stories, culminating with an astonishing commitment to finance the operations of Majengo for the next six months!!! And just last month in January, another visit.. Matt's mom Diana so enthusiastic about Majengo, the stories she has heard, the pictures of the children...dying to come to Africa, but as she told me one snowy morning over coffee at her home, way too scared to actually make the journey. Way too scared!
We talked for three hours, about everything, where we stay, what the room is like, small but clean with two beds and two windows, outside the high fence encrusted with cement dotted with lines of broken jagged glass and bottles sunk securely into the fence to prevent anyone thinking of making their way in. Saloon, the overnight security guard sleeping on a small couch in a little glass lined room just outside my door, a bathroom to myself with a real toilet.
Food - very little choice in Mto Wa Mbu....rice, beans, ugali if you dare to try, a form of corn flower mixed and cooked with water, like a thick paste where you scoop up a chunk of it in your right hand, make a ball and dig your thumb into its centre forming a sort of spoon, this is eaten with a mix of greens, like chard or spinich, a great tomato/onion/carrot sauce, tasty, sometimes sprinkled with bits of beef or chicken. bottled water is everywhere, maji baridi, cold water, ndogo or cobra, small or big, 50 cents or one dollar, approx. You buy phone cards for phone time, to talk or to text, most text as it is cheaper, the cards lasting so much longer. The streets of Mto Wa Mbu, lined with shopes, cubicles and booths, stalls selling everything from matresses, clothes, sox, pants, shirts, Masai blankets, kitchen wares, ghetto blasters, cd players, they have everything here for sale, mostly, you just have to know where to get it! Goats and chickens and cows herded along amongst the people, Masai guys draped in red and blue sheets carryig sticks, with guys peddling necklaces and clothing in and out of the shops and restaurants, waitresses running to pick through the brightly printed blouses and skirts, dresses, shoes....blankets lined up along the ground carrying underwear, cds, hair products...chickens squawking, tied to metal bicycle carriers by their necks, two to five at a time, into the backs of restaurants they go...the expensive cuku arriving on plates a few hours later, boiled, fried, cooked, each part of the bird used, nothing ever thrown away. Their poultry is pure, not juiced up and overfed with chemicals like back home..consequently to me, scrawny and thin, my daughter Lindsey says eating a chicken like this in Africa is like sucking its bones, no meat! Charles disagres of course, on his visit to Canada the chemicals in our foods distastful to him. Nothing is processed here, nothing. Everything pure and cooked that day. What else can i describe to you, i know this place so well, that is has become like home, where i can make my way across dusty potholed roads and paths, past women cooking corn husks in small open fires, charcoal burners holding frying pans of french fried pototatoes cooking in oil to later be combined with eggs for the famous street food: chips my eye (not spelled this way in Swahili!), almost without noticing now. Mto Wa Mbu. Deep inside a banana belt, clusters of women dressed in brightly patterned textiles wrapped tightly around their bodies as skirts, tops, head pieces, tied up and holding sleeping babies on their backs, fronts,sitting on overturned red and white plastic pails in circles, bunches of bananas, avocadoes, pineapples, mangos inside the circle ready to sell. This is called small business, the women, businesswomen...their only means of making a few dollars a day to feed their families and pay for the rent of one or two rooms monthly. Most homes i visit have mud floors, a couple of windows, the bed and living room couch or chairs separated by a table in the middle, for eating and working upon. Cooking is done outside often in a community area where dishes and pots are brought out and shared with neighbours, small fires or keroscene stoves, sometimes charcoal burners, all very primitive to us, and always done close to the ground. No electricity, no water often, and when there is it is a luxury.

Ah Arusha town, with a great internet cafe opposite the Naz hotel where we will stay tonight, Pastries sold a few metres away from where I sit,lined up in a long row with other mostly white typers, tapping away to friends and family around the world. I lke to come here once in awhile. To visit my culture, to enjoy the internet services which mostly don't stick or break down, where the infrastructure of basic electricity can be counted upon. Bliss.

So much to write about with Majengo these last few days. Firstly, a meeting with Peter and I and all the staff, 8 of them, the cooks, teachers, cleaners, secretary and accountant of the orphanage, sitting around a big table on benches, at 2pm, the murmering of 20 children freshly fed and showered and now supposedly sleeping on their beds, two to a matress... A go around first, of how they felt about this first almost year at Majengo...encouragement from me to be as honest and open as they can, that this is the time where if they have any needs or problems, they can openly speak, not to be judged, but to be listened to, otherwise how are we to know where they are at, what they are feeling, or what they need. Each one of course formally thanking all of us out there who have supported this place, how lucky they were to work here...how, after the village leaders were able to dispel their former director last year, how smoothly the place was running, where the communication between them was easy, where their needs were being met. The only thing that kept coming up, was their need to somehow raise enough money beyond their salaries, to support the education of their own children at home. Secondary school is expensive, and at age 14 after finishing primary, most parents are scrounging everywhere looking for the $500. to send their kids to government schools. It is prohibitive for most people..but our staff, with regular salaries are hoping to find a way.
I have been obsessed, as i mentioned in my last blog, on how we can help and support people to help and support them selves and their families..not just to offer them money, but offer them the ability to develop skills where they will be able to earn their own money, and more of it,each year, to feed their families and finance their own children through schools.
We begin to talk about MICRO FINANCING....it is for us, just an idea at this point. But how could we set up a system where families could submit small business proposals to a committee which would be analyzed for selection, and where loans would be offered depending on each project and the means of each family. Where groups of say four or five families would come together to register for loans, contracts would be drawn up, and where, after a period of 1 to 2 years, the entire group would be responsible for paying back these loans. If one or two were unable to pay, the rest would be expected to pay for them, offering an incentive for each group member to work towards their ability to pay at the designated time.
As i said...we are in the idea stage...first for the staff at Majengo, and then hopefully available for the relatives and families taking care of orphaned children in their homes, as well as their own children...
I am thrilled with the staff..they have worked incredibly hard this past year, putting the needs of the children ahead of their own. They have proven themselves to be wholey committed to Majengo and the children as they would their own, with full intention of carrying on; for me it is very exciting to see. Peter said, after our staff meeting, how unusual it is in Tanzania for the more senior staff, Killo and Martha, our secretay and accountant basically responsible for running Majengo, to be at the same table as the cooks and cleaners, for each one to feel open enough with each other to share their innermost feelings and, from Killo, the usually private workings of the facility. With such transperency, there is little opportunity for corruption, as everyone holds themselves responsible as an important part of the whole to keep this place running smoothly. It truely is remarkable!
Majengo is an orphanage, as opposed to a family ...with 40 kids, and 8 staff....raising happy, contented, growing children, the best we can do...and Majengo is a shining light out there compared to so many orphanages lined up along the safari route luring in unsuspecting tourists dismayed by the conditions of the children at those places. It is a travesty. Where corrupt directors use orphaned and sometimes their own relatived children to raise money for themselves, the children being kept dirty, poor, stomachs distended, bloated with malnutrition, kids with HIV AIDS, untreated - unhappy, listless, tired, angry. INside, hidden away, books, pens, pencils, games, puzzles, toys, donated by tourists, locked away in pantry cupboards, out of sight, never used, I have seen this myself. Safari drivers paid to bring in the tourists, government officials and townspeople paid to keep their mouths shut. Everyone knows what is going on; and no one knows how to stop it.

Out of one of these, we formed PAMBAZUKO, the second orphanage we are working with, both Majengo and Pambazuko often sharing and working together. Over a period of one year, we managed to relocate 14 children into a new home, called Pambazuko, where they now are being wonderfully looked after by Elias and Tabea, their new baba and mama, along with two helpers....Pambazuko is not an orphanage, it is another model into itself, with a mama and baba - like a big family into itself. And again, like Majengo a joy to visit. I am very close to these children at Pambazuko, having worked at that first place for my first two years of being in Africa. I have taught 6 of them how to swim, draw, and taken them on safaris, picnics, and been a regular visiter at their celebrations and birthday parties. Just the other night we celebrated Zack's 14th birthday, where as guest of honour a special table with a white cloth had been set up for him alone, the other children feasting merrily at a huge table together. Neighbours and their children are invited to these parties, with bed sheets tied together and forming a fence around the premises outside - much singing, and dancing....with the cake, cut into pieces, the birthday boy offers each guest a chunk speared by a toothpick, a song erupts where the guest has to dance the full length of the room towards the cake, an honouring of the guest as well as the birthday person, a great custom i think!
and while i am here....in the midst of all this frivolity, the story of M., her full name protected for personal privacy...
M is 8 years old, HIV positive...a great little girl filled with exuberence and personality, when she is well, who i met four years ago while working at that first orphanage i described above. At that time she was kept very ill. As she sat on my daughter Seanna's lap, diligently and determinedly shooing away any other children vying for a place on her knee, the nasty open sores and liasions on her arms and legs, dripping and unattended to....
Her father had HIV AIDS...passing it along to her mother who went to the hospital for a postive diagnosis; the father, in his rage (of course he didn't get tested himself), chopped off one of the mother's arms just below the elbow, who consequently, at a very young age, passed away. The father ran away, leaving baby M in the care of a friend of her grandmothers for a few years, until that woman, herself very poor and looking after grandchildren of her own, registered the child, then 4, into that first orphanage along the safari route. This is where i first met M. That first year, volunteers took her to the hospital a number of times where we received ARVs and medicine to combat the effects of the HIV AIDS virus, bringing along bunches of fruits and vegetables, necessary for the ARVs to work. The next year, I found her, and two other children diagnosed positive in wreched condition again, once again, taking her to the hospital, the ARVs, the good fruits and vegetables. And once again, that director, once the volunteers were out of the way, stopped the medicine, as before.
When M was 6, she was relocated into Pambazuko under the great care of Elias and Tabeas, her new baba and mama. She thrived. I couln't believe it was the same child last year, fit, full of energy, blossoming, laughing, singing with the other children, you would absolutely never know that she was positive.
But this year, back in November, her birth father returned, and took the child away. He had remarried again, a young woman from another region and brought her to Mto Wa Mbu. Childless, this new wife urged him to bring the child back into their family. He had a problem, he had not told this wife about his diagnosis, and didn't want her to know about M, either. She insisted, M was brought into the one room home of these people, away from her 13 brothers and sisters, the companionship, her school, and the very necessary ARVs which the father refused to administer.
As she began to get sicker, the wife, believing her to be'bewitched', took her to a witch doctor, where she was given a concoction of drugs and salves...sometimes the cutting of her arms with the application of an herbal powder poured over the wounds. Elias and Tabeas visited a few times but were turned away. It is illegal to expose someone positive with HIV AIDS, so they felt it best to keep quiet, but as well, it is illegal here for someone positive to have unprotected sex with someone who has not been told of the diagnosis.
On Sunday morning, Elias and I set out to visit M, with a plan.
Being a foreigner, i don't know the rules, i can basically get away with any thing due to my ignorance. We arrived at the small home, with M rushing up to meet me, hugging, holding, she looked terrible. Weak, coughing, her breathing shallow, the light in her eyes gone. She was alone with her mother. Elias translating, i began my story, of how i had met M back four years ago, how terribly sick she was then with HIV positive, how that director had not allowed her the ARV's....then, how she had gotten so well under the care of Pambazuko...and now, as I see her, once again, weak and sickly....how....
and in the meantime, this young woman is staring at me listening to Elias, all the while texting madly on her phone for her husband to come home. Her face shows no emotion. He walks through the curtained door, and sits on the bed across from us. Huge posters of barely clad western white women hang on the walls, amongst pictures of hotrods and racy trucks....he listens without reaction to my story. All the while i am giving the history, now with both listening intently, talking freely about HIV AIDS, as if i think they have talked about this amongst themselves. Again, no reaction on his face, the wife cleaning beans scooped from a big bag under the bed, onto a metal plate. M is sticking red valentine hearts from a sticker sheet onto the walls and tables, sticking and unsticking, and listening.
In the end, he told Elias, that he had been giving her ARVs..but when shedeveloped a high fever he withdrew them and took her to the witch doctor. Of course this is a lie. He showed us the bottle of cough medicine, and vitamin B tucked away beside the table, an effort to indicate his attempts towards health. I took a few family pictures, assuring them that it was good that mama and baba and M were together, BUT insisting that they get her to the hospital immediately on ARVs, or that she could become very very sick, and could die.
He allowed me that i could visit again, and wished us on our way.

Walking back along the road, all of a sudden a huge crowd of people emerge in our direction running along the road in hot pursuit, throwing stones at someone who had stolen a bunch of bananas. He heads down another road and into his own house, locks the door. The crowd gathers around. We join them to get the story. An old woman emerges and shakes our hand, the friend of the grandmother of M. who had long ago looked after her when her birth mother had passed away. She has seen us visiting M and over a Fanta she tells her story, of baby M, the first orphanage, and now what is happening in this house, how this father is violent toward his new wife who is very afraid of him, and how the new wife makes M. carry buckets of water for her, makes her wash dishes, sweep floors, all the while as she has watched M becoming sicker and sicker, tears running down her face now.

Charles promises to contact his doctor friends, to pay a visit, to force the father into confessing his diagnosis to the mother, and to put little M onto ARVs...or he could be up against a criminal charge.

I took 8 new kids from Majengo swimming that afternoon, who had never been in a pool before. We started with blowing bubbles, and after two hours everyone of them was able to jump in off the side, bounce up and down and go completely underwater with their heads! It amazes me, children, without fear...each following each other...and loving every minute of it!

What else what else what else!!

Oh. the budget. Yesterday, finally a very detailed meeting with Charles, our computers, our excel sheets and our calculators....step by step, from last March on, our budgets!

Amazingly, we are on track...last year, when we set the budgets, none of us had really done this before, trying to figure out how much it would cost, and how much we would need, to feed and house 50 people monthly, and over the year to come. We did a pretty good job, considering. The reports and receipts have been kept immaculately. Each item duely recorded. The food costs are much higher than expected, our contingency fee and monies set aside for other things now alloted towards food. Maise, corn, sugar, rice prices have skyrocketed as well over these last six months. Also, last year as i left in April, i bought 40 new uniforms, shoes, cleaning materials, and along with Matt's clothing and school supplies we were in great shape...but we neglected to add these things into our costs for down the road. So there will be some adjustments, but not over the top, and not anythingi can't live without. Next week the task will be to sit down with Killo and martha, Charles Peter and I to figure out a more precise budget, based on 8 months of experience, fair enough.
The very main thing for me, is the way that records were kept, the monitoring of each item, the food things, the pantry, the care of the children. I cannot see mismanagement at all, or corruption, I couldn't be happier.

Charles hopes to go to university to do his masters in Dar, in March or April this year, for two years. He and Grace, his wife have just had second child - her work is based in Dar as a nurse with the Department of Defence. It is important for that family to be together. But what in earth to do without Charles? I have been stewing over this for two weeks now; I know he has to go, i know he has to further his education, he has been working in Mto Wa Mbu for 7 years now with ICA TANZANIA.
I also know how lost i am without him here as my advisor.

Our Majengo infrastructure has been in great shape this past first year. Our task now is to create a new structure, with Charles working out of Dar, but in constant touch with someone, I say 'as good as him', here...and we are working on it as well. Peter will take over the Majengo file...the books, monitoring, keeping in touch with, the liaisoning...but in the next two weeks or so, that certain SOMEONE will emerge, I have great faith, here, that this too, along with everything else, will work out too!

Abdul...our driver, just called...all set to pick me up at the Naz at 7:45....and out we go to meet Diana and Jamie! what fun!
Tomorrow we take them to visit pasteur Naiman and his 100 children at his school in the church...meet the 18 kids who need to be brought together under one roof with a new mama and baba...and vist the house which we saw last week, then, filled with debris, without water, or electicity, which, i hope will be in great shape tomorrow...! and then on to MtoWa Mbu...a great lunch where they will meet Charles and Peter and all the kids at Majengo..where Diana can see for herself what great things are happening, and the reason Matt so incredibly committed himself to this project.
Matt called last night! A brief outline of where we were going, how things were doing, his mom's visit, and the beginning of the new MICRO FINANCING project which he said he knows a lot about! Wow! He arrives for a few days in about a week from now...with so much to talk about, to work on...!
and so it goes!!!
over and out...and the best to everyone out there..!!
thank you so much for wading through all of this with me, whomever you are...
it is great to feel someone out there is alongside!

Friday, February 19, 2010

amazingly...i can write from this ica office...we have a vodafone stuck into this computer...which connects us by satalite to some kind of network...which disappears every 10 minutes or so, but with patience, and basically that is all you need here, i can receive and write emails and connect with this blog! it is nothing to us, but to people working here without internet cafes or access to easy high speed, or even dialup..this is a miracle!
Im reading Dead Aid about how much money gets sent over to Africa, and where it goes, usually into the pockets of government or corrupt agencies, never reaching the people who really need it, billions comes through as Africa gets poorer and poorer...also about the absolute need to provide aid to help people learn skills to earn their own money, not just to take handouts. i am obsessed with this right now.

with an orphanage,it is different...we hire great people to run it, with 2 cooks, 2 teachers, 2 cleaners and 2 who run the place..all working at minimum wages, needing to supplement their incomes by farming or some other means.they are working around the clock, how can we expect them to create industries to raise money, to pour back into this orphanage..and yesterday, they are proposing, why not have majengo grow its own produce to feed thekids, themselves...this is what i dream about, but how do we do it! It is truely wonderful to see, how they are so committed to these children, never asking for more for themselves. yesterday ...at 6 Grayson,the teacher has 10 of the older kids in the classroom, each one writing like mad at their desks, fillingin words from sentences written on the blackboard...with such intent! we have 19 now taking off every morning and walking 3 miles to primary school where they study for the day...our kids at Majengo way ahead of other kids in the neighbourhood, standing at the top of their classes, because they had a year or more of pre school at the orphanage before they began primary. It is exciting to see!! the teachers ask, but what of the 6 who were at pre school last year with us, but who now are at primary school, but who live out, can we help them,assist their families with school fees, uniforms.they ask...
my feeling is yes.
if they start out at Majengo either living in because they have absolutely no one out there to help them, or living out, but whose relatives or neighbours cannot support them except for a matress for sleeping...these live outs are part of our extended family as well. and because this year we have 9 more going to primary, as they are 7 years old...we are now able to accept 16 more new little ones from the neighbourhood into our pre school with meals all day, but who sleep out somewhere...
the numbers grow..the responsibility grows...but we have help from our elected village leaders who will choose the most vulnerable and needy children to join Majengo, they know all the families...
a big meeting with the Majengo staff and village leaders tomorrow to discuss these new kids..and how the Majengo neighbourhood and community can begin to take more responsibility for their children, not only the donors...
Each year i come, i learn so much more...
more complex, more issues, more trying to understand the big picture..
last year...all i focussed on was renovating a house, moving 40 kids in, choosing staff, and making budgets....getting the structure in place...great!
this year, all of that is in place, but now, furthering....the internal structure of all of this....especially during the months when we are not here, it is possible, for sure, but as each year we expand, the logistics become more complex...and most important the monitoring, keeping the records, receipts...important always, to devise methods which prevent corruption from beginning..so far so good.
good people want to further their education...our staff at ica...dying to take a couple of years away to go go university, to get their masters...
and with everything they are accomplishing, with all the work they are doing,HIV AIDS workshops on prevention, volunteer testing, HIV AIDS positive groups here meeting every few days...mostly women discussing their disease,how to maintain it, their drugs,nutrition, jobs....micro financing and lending to create small businesses...it is the only way to grow.
our staff here...Charles, Peter....hoping for university, and if they go,who can replace them, who can we train to take their place...who can we trust to keep our operations running so smoothly..
it will happen...it takes time to put it in place.
in the meantime i am worrying about what the 6 kids from majengo will wear to the swimming pool tomorrow as they take their very first swim class, blowing into the water...jumping, holding hands...and in a few weeks they will be swimming..very exciting...they have no fear!
i just sent a long list to Diana and Yvonne to bring over.. 65 pairs of underwear, 30sox, shoes, clothing, rain gear, glue, detol, vasceline, chalk, medial things, math, english and science books, picture books, art supplies, watercolours, brushes, toothpastee and brushes, a calculator, flashlights, skipping ropes, footballs, hand balls, rulers, pencils, sharpeners....!!!!
oh man, its a huge list....thank you Yvonne and diane..i have no expectations!!for whatever you can bring over...like i said, they need everything!
see you tuesday!!
have a great weekend everyone...hugs...Lynn

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Valentines day!! a little late but sending all our love from Tanzania..Peter's uncle invited us for dinner... a new home for them, three small rooms, two for sleeping with 6 people (Peter hunkering down on a mat in the storage area across the hall)...one room for the living, eating area...small with a couch and a couple of chairs, table, heavily curtained and very hot, this year with water and electricity, very exciting, the small 12 inch tv on throughout our meal...chipatis, a very soft beef stew cooked with onions, carrots, beans, and rice...a feast to celebrate the day!
Charles just got back yesterday, so happy to connect with him..he is my main stay here, the glue which keeps it all together - we spent the day going over details..Majengo the orphanage, how it has been going this first year, and as far as i can see, things are wonderful! we have a bright yellow swing set now outside, the bougainvillea fence we planted last year thick and over 6 feet high! blossoming with pink yellow and red flowers....the trees and bushes grown high and bushy...The outside toilets and showers we began last year, still stand exactly as i left them 9 months ago, basically cement stalls without connection to water!! the owner of this house was meant to finish them, but she has had financial and health problems...and so it goes...
Nothing ever gets done here as you might expect.
It surprises me sometimes, when things appear, things get done, miracles happen and they do! Brought two computers this year, hooked them up to the internet modem at the office yesterday with great expectation, the internet cafe shut down over this year to my dismay, but maybe....alas this didn't work either...sympatico mail is a million cybermiles away from Canada and the Olympic games and all that cold and snowy falling flakes... kept breaking down.

So today Elias..the baba of Pambazuko, the first orphanage..i know this is confusing, but we are working with three now.. hopped into a small bus, squeezed into the very back with 26, i counted them, other squished souls and off we went, the milk run stopping at every small village until finally pulling into the larger dusty bustling noisy crazy town of Arusha...another bus and a twenty minute walk through dusty roads housing dilapidated corregated tin homes, a very poor area of Arusha, with little children dressed in tatters happily playing in clumps along the road, the odd cow, with many goats and chickens pecking their way along, sipping from puddles left over from last night's most welcomed crashing downpour. It is very hot here this year...noticeably...way more than last...and without a lot of rain, they talk of the cows that have died, especially up in Masai country, hundreds of them dropping dead in the parched fields....shepherds from Kenya herding hundreds down into Tanzania in search of green grasses, leaving them at the side of the road, roaming along now on their own devices, their owner high tailing it back north across the border. Gone.
A few more turns and we find Pastor Naiman and his wife Kathleen inside their big airy wonderful church, with 100 very poor children who come there every morning for nursery school, singing and running through their a b c s....exhilerating, seeing all these kids together, dressed in green sweaters and blue shorts and skirts, uniforms donated by a group of Lutherin church people in Denmark. We are greeted with a great show of songs, and introductions..Pastor Naiman describing this church which he built 10 years ago, how it is by day servicing this school for pre schoolers in this very impoverished area with another 400 other kids out there hoping there will be a space for them...without any other schools in the area.
My friend, Lyn Barnes, from Australia raised enough money to finance a plot of land, 3 and a half acres just outside of town, where they hope to build a big school to accommodate all 500 children. Pastor Naiman invited me there today to discuss 18 of his most neediest kids...all of them orphaned by HIV AIDS...some with one parent living, but who is totally incapable of looking after their child. These kids are roaming literally from family to neighbour....desperately in need of a home...
He has arranged for a house to rent a few blocks away which we visit, almost ready to take in the children...He and his wife have agreed to become the papa and mama of these children temporarily, to move into this house until they can find another couple to become the real parents..imagine making the decision to take on the responsibility of 18 children, to be their life long mama and baba...to love them, to mend their scratches, to feed them well, to provide school for them, uniforms, books, education, and most of all love them all as their own children. Like Elias and his wife Tabea did, wow, it is a huge undertaking.
The situation looks good to me. Honest, hard working, good people.Intent on making a home for these kids...i met the children, what can i say, there are over 14 million orphaned kids in Africa now...all by HIV AIDS....there is no way to try to help, a little a drop in the bucket, but nevertheless, a drop....again, i could never be here without the help of so many of you out there from Canada and the US..Sweden...Holland...thank you so much!!
The budget they have put together is incomplete...
If we decide to commit ourselves to creating this new orphanage, the next few months will be busy, building beds, tables, benches, arranging for two staff, buying the necessary kitchen things to feed 22 people....to set up the financing...mosquito nets, curtains, clothing, shoes, uniforms...
we did it last year with Majengo, the logistics are in place....
we just have to decide now, whether we can do this, or not...
My big challenge this year is our on ground infrastructure. Communication with Canada and the United States....Budgets...making sure the people who are in place at each orphanage are honest and working hard at their jobs...and so far, from what i see, i am delighted with what they are doing here...the kids are happy, hugely...they have grown, not only physically but with their confidence, they are laughing amongst each other, singing with strength....hard to describe but amazingly reassuring, all of this achieved in just one year. Bravo to everyone out there..i wish you could be here with them now..
i am working also thinking and talking alot on how to make these orphanages self sufficient someday unto themselves. A friend came by last night from Handeni, a wonderful woman, Digna Peters who i lived and worked with four years ago in her village, her work is in organizing and running workshops to empower women, three thousand of them in fact. It is incredible. WE talked into the night about how these women set up businesses themselves, making soap, bread, selling rice, sugar, bananas....sewing, tailoring, selling used clothing, all sorts of things...how with just a little help, they form groups amongst each other to begin these enterprises, and how so many of them are working so well..She woke me up as she was leaving early this morning with her plan to bring me one boy chicken, and 8 girls, with the necessary information on how to raise chickens, to lay lots of eggs to sell...how to feed them, their vaccinations every three months,their wooden cages with perches for the guinea hens she would also bring to sleep upon..how to keep them clean...all of this at 6am!! Digna filled with new ideas, new dreams...how we can begin to make Majengo self supporting! it is a small start, but nevertheless a start.
And the other thing i am thinking about, is how to reach and provide support to the biggest numbers of children...orphanages are one thing, and a very good thing for the most neediest vulnerable children....but what about all those kids who have been orphaned by HIV AIDS..who have been taken in willingly by neighbours or relatives, who are having a very difficult time of it themselves, often with many children of their own. How to help them in their own homes? How to reach them, and how to make sure that money offered actually goes to the children, or to their school uniforms, supplies....how to monitor this kind of project....i have no idea, yet!

Matt's mother, Diana arrives with Jamie next Tuesday night, KLM at 9:30 pm...Kilimanjaro!! I am very excited to meet them here in this incredible land. The story of Matt arriving last year, with his great friends Bill and Ian...how they whirled around Arusha and Mto Wa Mbu...arriving the day of our big formal opening of Majengo orphanage....the long ceremony inside the dining area, with speech after speech from village elders and politicians...their very first day, so tired...and outside the children dancing and singing...Ian putting on a juggling show, Bill making a video..meeting the children, going on their first safari, the next day, with giraffes, elephants, zebra, monkeys running down the road, baboons...the kids taking their first ride on a bus, lunch, and some being a sick afterwards....and later, weeks later, Matt's email to me with his family's astonishing commitment to support the ongoing expenses of Majengo..the staffing of 8 with 40 kids, medical, school, uniforms, food, transport..everything, for one year...I can't thank you enough..and now, Diana is coming...

Yvonne has been sending emails asking exactly what we need...thank you to everyone out there amassing things for these kids..clothing, shoes... art \and school supplies...whatever you can think of we need here..they have nothing, except what we brought over from last year...thank you all so much!!

Diana...and Jamie...see you on Tuesday...bring suntan lotion, it is very hot here... mosquito spray for the evenings..books to read, flashlight, often the electricity goes, but at least we have it! light clothing...a bathing suit for down time..
time to run! have a great week....hugs..Lynn

PS My card for some reason works up in the Kiratu atm...hurrah!! i really panicked last week, with the equivalent of under $10. in my purse, and Peter alongside with pockets bare, not even enough for a bottle of water..scary! but a lesson to experience.....albeit for a day or two..only........

Saturday, February 13, 2010

jambo!! welcome to Africa!
Arrived in one piece late WEdnesday night...with Peter at the airport waiting for me, so great to see him again, along with our driver Hamidu in a rented van and made our way from KILIMANJARO>>>over to arusha< and on to Mto Wa MBU>>>the night filled with stars< millions of them dancing in the black skies...the dark and very high sillouette of a giraffe towering at the side of the highway, four zebras running across the road, we make our way very slowly across their migration route..and make it into MTO WA MBU laTE, almost 3am. Charles isn't with us, called into Dar es Salam on emergency, won't be back till MONDAY....UNFOrtunate...but time now for me to unpack....visit the kids, get orientated..exhausted the next day, PETER BRINGs me breakfast from Mi Casa just around the corner...coffee with boiled mile, a boiled egg and what they call a kitimbua..a little round fried up rice bun...we catch up most of the afternoon....
Peter is 26...orphaned by HIV AIDS with his two siblings back when he was 16, his uncle took them in with his grandmother...he had primary school, with no English. got a job washing dishes from 7am till almost midnight at a safari lodge up in NGORA crater>>>>for four years....hard exhausting work, but earning enough money to help his grandmother with his siblings...A couple on safari from South Carolina were taken by his outgoing nature, his kindness, his great spirit..and sponsored him for four years secondary school up in UGANda and then on to two years high school, where he not only learned to speak perfect English, but became the head boy with the highest marks..this guy is a winner...
he visits MTO WA MBU>>our little village, on holidays to stay with his uncle who runs a pharmacy here, looking after his mother, wife, and two people who work at his store, his uncle introduced him to Charles and ICA, the ngo where we all work. I MET Peter two years ago while he ws visiting...he was part of the original team to set up the Majengo orphanage, we are great friends.
so he has graduated...and is praying for help to get to university. they are allowed two years i understand from when they graduate, to come up with the funds for university...he has dreams...and it is my bet that one day we will read about him in the papers...United Nation....World Health..whatever...president of Tanzania, he smiles, with those great dimples...but for now we have him working with ica and Majengo...lucky!
We make our way over to Majengo....circle our way round the back hiding from the kids till Amanda spots us and there is a huge roar from within...they race out, hugs, kisses...along with Glory the teacher who is crying, Grayson with a huge smile the other teacher who i tease has gained some weight this year...last year i took a felt marker and outlined his slim body upon the hall wall, naming the parts in Swahili first and the in English..i made him stand up against this wall body...he laughed and laughed...what a beginning...KILO< the two cooks...Witness the cleaner who washes all 40kids clothing everyday and keeps them clean...i am so impressed with these people...so hard working, and to see those kids now so happy, so together as one big family, laughing, holding hands, singing with delight, proud. SO proud of themselves>>>as they should be>>>
They put on a skit for us, about a dad and step mother who mistreats the two children, who runs away, who doesn't leave them food for the day, a neighbour who comes to visit, who brings them to Majengo...how happy they are today...Two stand up and offer their stories..from before, after their mom and dads died of HIV AIDS...how they were left just like this, with little food, and no care, left with neighbours who had too many children to look after themselves..but who had taken them in. Each child has a story. LAST YEAr WE interviewed relatives and neighbours, to make certain that the children being registered into Majengo were indeed amongst the most vulnerable and poor..this year, i would like to talk with the children themselves, if they wish....many are old enough to tell their stories...and may wish to be heard.
On to Pambazuko..the other orphanage, with 16 kids and Elias and Tabea, their new mama and baba childless two years ago, born again Christians, whose minister directed them into this new job of looking after orphaned kids...who now have 16 under their wing! imagine!! last year we helped move them into a new home as well..and just like MAJENGO>>>these kids are thriving>>>
peter and i making our way through banana groves along little dirt paths in amongst small houses built from cement, cow dung, and grass, corregated steel and painted wonderful bright colours of turquoise, yellow, pink...goats running about, chickens, the odd dog....or cow tethered at an old wooden post. Little kids half dressed playing outside< their mama washing clothes and sheets in a big red bucket>>>HANGing them up to dry...we come into sight of Pambazuko...and i see 15 little kids running as fast as they can toward us, arms outstretched shouting my name...oh me goodness, it is so lovely to see them again...
WE move inside...Tabea the mama....Elias the dad...and now Zack who is almost 14 and most definately this year, a little man, awaiting me quietly on the couch, no longer a boy running across the field. HE IS PREtending to be nonchalant..but i KNOW him..i have been teaching 6 of them how to swim over the last four years, and he is one of them..but he is a man now...the oldest at Pambazuko....i must respect this...

it is lovely to be back..
dinner at Mi Casa with Peter...myusual..rice, beans, greens, tomato sause of sorts..i will have to get used to this again....basically it is what i eat for lunch and dinner when i am here..
Friday...bus all the way back into Arusha..Peter needs to see a good doctor...i need to get to the atm machine..my tanzanian money is almost out...we have gone to four machines...my debit card is declined. We head to the biggest bank here in Arusha the NBC..National Bank of Commerce....i speak to the head manager..my card has worked over the last four years...so why not now?? He has no explanation...he cannot help me. I begin to become very scared. I have given PETER $20 equivalent for his doctor's appointment...and have $12 left....it costs $10 to get both of us back to MTO WA MBU>>I HAVE $2 left for water and that is it!! a woman i met on the plane meets me and buys me lunch....she has an Iphone..and lets me use it to call my kids....it is 7am in toronto...they are just waking up, and become alarmed by the tone of my voice..i am almost crying...
to make a very long story, short....they wired me money via Western UNION>>today i got up early and took the long climb up to kiratu< picked up the money and came here>>my pockets once more solvent> at least for now>>>i"ve written my bank< there is no reason for this card not working>>>IT WORked in HOLLAND>>>AND THE US and back home..but not Africa...someone has to fix it!! I feel okay right now...and am learning big lessons....myself....
IMAGINE>>>>most of us back home, we are able, in some way, to finance our lives, to work, to have money in our pockets, and hopefully with some set aside for emergencies...our so called rainy day. YESTERDay I HAD nothing...$2 left over...for water, no food, until i was able to borrow a little from friends through Charles. Out here, in a very foreign land...relying on the kindness of others, and that was all. I AM SORRY for peter i must say> i was well out of my comfort level>>>>and he was the lucky guy to be there!!
The 10minute sign just came up....
will try to edit a little..this machine is scratchy, jumping, caps sticking, and slow...again, remembering only a few days ago being home, with everything working, fast easy, we forget how lucky we are, we take these things for granted...once again, back in Africa...patience..ah, sweet patience..and the sense of thanking our stars for just being here, where we are, relatively healthy, with a few coins now in our pockets....ah....
will write again, when i can...
in the meantime..did i tell you...MATT"S mother>>diana is coming over!! WITH A friend...in a week or so....for two weeks!! i am so happy for her..i know she is going to love it..she has followed so keenly the work of her son, helped with the fundraising in Warren.....and now, she is coming to see for herself what we are all doing over here....very very exciting!! tO GET over our fears, to push forward..to trust...to allow ourselves to get through and past our comfort zone...and to take chances...Diana...i know you are out there...and i can't wait to see you....
everyone....take care....bidai!!
which means...see you later....Lynn

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Wednesday, Feb 10...amsterdam airport...8:45 am...hopefully..on my way!! This morning at the crack of dawn...snow covered highway a little icy, Merit and i driving into Schiphol airport...a great 2 days out at Ophmert with Merit and Hans, with their brand new little Dutch water puppy Nell, thank you guys for looking after me, albeit with a nasty flu and cold, coughing and sneezing and blowing for two days, exactly what i envisioned on this first leg before Africa!It seems to be waning, and theoretically, all set to go! I book in and am selected by random as one of the 'lucky 18' who got put on standby for today's flight!! they overbooked!! Nothing to do but hope, and wait, and write...finally...

Charles, and the creation of Majengo orphanage, and the 52 little kids on the mud floor, and our commitment to try to build a new orphanage, April 08. Just down the road, we found a big house 90% finished owned by a woman from Arusha and did a contract with her: we finish renovating her home, and we get to move the children in for 4 years...cost, $12,000. My Swedish friends, Kerstin and Berndt who'd been badly burnt as I on that first orphanage, went in for half..Tom E. from Minnesota, a Rotary man drawn in by that first orphanage en safari, checked me out on this blog, promised the second half...Charles back in Tanzania, took over the contracting, and we were on our way. By December 08, with skyrocketing building costs, we ran out of money. I hit my email addresses, and by Jan. 09: 40 new donors came through in a week with another $8,000., enough to finish the job! thank you everyone!!
Enter Matt McKissock!!
Just days to leave, I get a phone call from a guy from Pennsylvania who want to rent our family cottage for a week that August...ok, great! but we have to do it in a hurry, i am leaving for Africa in a couple of days...Oh, said he, and looking back, this question would be one that would change his life: "what are you doing in Africa".
I didn't have a lot of time, but i spead through the excitement of what we were doing over there, building a new facility, raising money for the refurbishings at this point...the 52 little kids, Charles, all of it...I emailed him the cottage contract, attached some pictures of the kids as an afterthought, and to my delight along with the contract he sent me a donation the very next day! wow!! what a great guy! I called him back to thank him...that was Friday. I was leaving the next Wednesday. On Monday morning early, the phone rings..my house is filled with things to bring and a to do list - I am racing...it is Matt. He invites me to drive down to Pennsylvania to meet with he and some friends...they can help us, tonight! No...i cannot go. My daughter and her partner are coming by to teach me how to use the video camera. He is insistent. But no. The next morning this guys is calling again. WE can help you. We want to help you. My wife and i will drive half way to meet you tonight!! dinner...But no. My kids were having my going away dinner...i couldn't cancel. I was sorry! Who was this guy!! I said, Matt..."if you are so interested in what we are doing in Africa..you are just going to have to come over to see for yourself!!" Well..of course he wouldn't, couldn't....he called that afternoon, with two hours of questions fired as if from an explosion!! I could answer most of them, except maybe, in hindsight, the most important. What was my operating budget for this orphanage? I had no idea? None...I was not concentrating on how in earth we were going to keep this place going, my only concern was getting it built!! It didn't occur to me, the other...i had no idea. I didn't know how many kids we would have, or what anything cost! Budget. I couldn't possibly make a budget till i got there...but i knew i would, as soon as the place was built. I had to get there first, to check everything out, to find out what we needed, how many staff, everything..then i would know..of that i was confident. But now..no. I couldn't even possibly guess. and that was that.

WEdneday night i left for Africa, dropping off into Gotleib Sweden for two days for meetings with my Swedish friends..they had just been over a month before with so much to tell me, pictures of Majengo...and great news that they had opened another orphanage home and managed to bring 16 children from the 'first orphanage' over to form a new family. We formed a team and vowed to work together on both orphanages. We were ecstatic!

9:30am...boarding at 10...this is going to be rushed...bear with me!!
Mto wa Mbu 2009...Majengo...rough, walls done, roof now...but no bathrooms, kitchen or finishing...empty, no furnishings. we got out our measuring tape, made a plan of the house, ordered 12 bunk beds to be made, 3 dining tables, 36 little desks, benches, chairs...ordered 24 mattresses covered in plastic, sheets, towels..imagine outfitting a house...in Swahili! the women from the neighbourhood arrived with hoes cleaned up the entire outside, and began to build an outdoor kitchen.

Matt called.

He was coming over!! with two friends. they would be arriving in a month!! what did we need!! Was this really happening?? Who was this man? What kind of person would fly all the way over to this remote village in Tanzania..to see what we were doing? What in earth was happening? It was a miracle. Matt, the miracle man. Was coming! We made a long list of everything we needed, our hope list...

I just lost 15 min of writing!!time ran out...luckily the above was saved!!
So...very briefly....all of this is down in detail on past blogs, but very briefly!!

Matt, Bill and Ian arrived a month later...with 8 duffel bags of everything we asked for....we all fell in love with each other.
Day one, our grand opening with 40kids and 8 wonderful staff..with village elders...our ica tanzanian staff people....neighbours friends....the next day a safari with 32 little kids who had never been on a bus before, let alone seen a giraffe, 10minuts from the orphanage....Matt and Bill and Ian went on their own safari, came back, made a video of the kids..went home, and made an incredible commitment to back the financing of this orphanage for one year! It was a miracle.

I visited Warren in April...met the McKissock clan, how warm and wonderful they are, and so enthusiastic with everything we are doing...we gave a presentation. Matt opened the Warren/Majengo foundation..and just last month we got our IRA tax status as a charitable organization. Now everyone donating toward Majengo will get tax receipts, hurrah!!
Matt told me in the summer at our cottage that this was the most important work he had every done...he hoped, all going well, to make of goal of going from these 40kids up to 1,000 in 5 years!! Incredible!!!
I visited a month ago, and stayed with Matt's mom..Diana...
She was dying to go over...but was afraid...i wish i had more than 3 minutes and 1 second left to describe that conversation..but all i can say is that i too was very afraid four years ago, as i embarked on a four month journey, to Zimbabwe, KENYA and tANZANIA...I understand her apprehension...more later!! from Africa...!!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

WINTER 2010!!!
And almost, ready to go!! my 4th year back to Africa...and this time, as with every time it is differnt, but this year, with a new goal, a new purpose...very exciting..
Catchup first...sorry i can't write about Africa while living in Toronto, it doesn't work for me - outside, the weather cold, clear and cold, not so much snow for us this year, yet not hot, sweet, humid with the lovely smell of bananas floating through dusty mud streets, a rooster crowing not so far away....
It's not until I can feel myself back that i can begin to write..

Someone asked recently how it is coming home...My first year was terrible, mid Feb. in Canada, but more so the isolation of the streets, with people hurrying by, too cold to look up to say hello Jambo! to smile, to ask of the family, the time of day..
Over there life on the streets, clusters of fires burning in the black night, cooking rice, beans at the side of the road, the children dressed in tattered clothing playing by, happily, singing...the women crouched down, stooped, stirring and talking amongst themselves. It is a life on the street, with everyone knowing what everyone else is doing. The homes are mostly dark, many in mud huts made of cow dung and grass, pieces of wood, or with sheets of corregated tin, or plywood, or cardboard hung and tied together without privacy, without electricity, without water, small, with mamas and babas and children, bibis and granddads, friends all living, sleeping together - they are drawn out into the outer world.

Two worlds..back in 2007, coming home, so sad, after four months, to by flying out and away from Africa, I look out my window, and have a terrible sense of feeling that this continent is closing in away from me with all and everything it is - its povery, disease and pain, and yet its incredible song, its joy, its colour, its laughter, its smells, its sounds, its great resilience - its community, so filled with life. So terribly sad to be leaving, and not knowing if i will ever come back.

That year, i came home and began to make speaches about what I had seen, experienced. NOt at all the difinitive view, but my view, one person who had been there. I couldn't stop talking about it, with anyone who would listen. These speeches brought me back there. The art workshops in vast concrete community centres with people who had never seen paint before, who had never held a brush, and yet who experienced that huge rush of pride that they could do it! Many with HIV AIDS - groups of woman with sick, hungry, tired, with children hanging off their sides, their bellys and backs, pushed out into the streets abandoned by families, repulsed and confused, the shutting out, pushing away stigma of the disease, these women, sick and ill, who once held good jobs, now alone, hungry with no means of feeding their families, no where to go. Coming together in our ICA TANZANIAN offices, working and sharing with each other, learning about the disease, how to prevent it, how to care for themselves, with new hope, a place to come, a safe place from husbands irrate with their wive's diagnosis. Who refuse testing. Who went back out and got more women pregnant. This is how it spreads mainly. Unless the woman is reduced to prostitution, to feed her family. I learned so much that first year. Working outside of big cities in rural villages, hamlets, traveling down dirt gutted roads, into Masai tribal villages bumping along in Charles old red truck - it broke down this year. We gave HIV AIDS workshops, on prevention, volunteer testing, care, condoms. We visited sick, poor - I saw these people coming together, with new hope, compassion, understanding. Healing.
I began to raise money at these talks back home...and made up my mind to go back. To take that money and try to make a bit of a difference. And it has grown from there.

Fast forward...year four, a quick summary. WE have opened two orphanages: Majengo with 40 little kids, all orphaned by HIV AIDS...between age 2 and 8, a staff of 8, this newly renovated bright shiny yellow home with sun pouring in, three good meals a day of rice, beans, tomato, green and some days chicken, fish, a little beef, this project set up, owned and operated fully by local people, by the village elected leaders, by ICA TANZANIA. Our job over here is to raise funds and awareness, and for me, to go back every year to experience the changes, what is working, what isn't,review budgets, and to monitor for corruption. Corruption there isn't like white collar corruption here, the pilfering million of dollars - driven by greed. Over there, its driven by need. Stark desperate need. Which doesn't make it right, but for me, it is important to understand, that's all.

Except when things get out of hand. Like in the first orphanage I worked in four years ago, set up strategically just outside of town along the busy and very wealthy safari routes snaking up to the Ngora Crater. The director packed them tightly with small, beautiful children, many, but not all, orphaned by HIV AIDS and kept systematically hungry with poor food, some with HIV AIDS untreated, with open soars and liasons dripping with puss from the disease, all jammed into filthy untended quarters in tattered rags - to lure in the booming safari tourist trade.
And it worked.
Safari drivers were paid well to bring in their clients, as were government officials, store owner, shop keepers and churches. Everyone knew what he was doing, but he got away with it and still is. I got sucked in, as well anyone who came near this place, Americans, Canadian, Europeans, Australians, Israelis - people from around the world. WE all became part of the problem. I told everyone I met about this place. They HAD to drop by, they HAD to help out. I can be very persistent, and it worked. We had meetings, we played and taught the children. WE got to know those kids and loved them as we would our own. WE brought over little bags of bananas, samosas, rice...we built beds, tables, desks and shelving, benches. We tried to raise money to build a new facility, we found outside sponsors for each kid, for education, medicine.
Until we realized what was going on.
It was shattering. It was a betrayal unlike any other i have experienced. ONce i learned what ws happening, there was nothing i could do, but to back away, to leave those kids i loved so much. Those kids who i had visited everyday, taught English, taught swimming, taken on safari - for almost two years. Finished. Done. Once i found out, i wasn't allowed back there. I was no longer of use to him.
I almost left Africa for good that time.
I went back to my office and cried and cried and cried.
I told Charles, my project coordinator, that i was out of here. That I was going straight up to Nairobi for a few days, and then flying home, early. I was done.
He listened, all the while packing his truck for a workshop out in the middle of no where. He forced me to come. He made me stand up and make a speech to those people out there. I can't remember what i could have said. I was shattered.
He wouldn't let me go.
He said, look at all the things you have learned about orphanages, about those children, about their needs, about how to run one of these places...WEll, he insisted, take that knowledge and put it somewhere else. There are 14 million orphans in Africa. Don't let one little place force you away. This guy is so wise.
Balking and resisting, the very next day he took me into an agricultural community, far away from the safari trade, to a small mud foyer, where 52 little kids were bunched in together, sitting on the floor, singing a song for our arrival. Little ones barely able to walk, older children, some smiling, laughing, open, others holding back warily.
52 little kids in a mud foyer.
Community neighbours had gathered them up out of desperation, some wandering down roads, naked, with no family, no relatives, no one to look after them, and brought them to this place. There was no furniture, no tables, chairs, no desks, no paper, books, pens, crayons, nothing. No food but for whatever was brought in my farmers in the area. But there were two teachers in the front of the room, and a few women out back amongst the wandering chickens and goats, cooking over a small fire, volunteering their lives for these kids. They had nothing, but they did have each other. This place had a leaking roof, dirt floor, was dark with one little window, unfit for official orphanage registration - but yet a place where kids could come. Most slept out somewhere,with relatives, with neighbours, but 10 without anywhere to go, slept in one room, five to a bed widthwise -
Despite my insistance within a few hours, i was drawn back in.
That was March of 08...I had two weeks to go.
We committed ourselves to trying to help this very legitimate situation.
and this is where MAJENGO ORPHANAGE began!!!!!

What a great place to leave off!!
Seanna has just arrived....more from Amsterdam...!!