Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good morning!! Saturday, Arusha....heavenly...bliss...electrical blackout for four days now in Mto Wa Mbu!! No computers, no communication,cellphone without juice! Cold showers in pitch black rooms, eye liner by flashlight...candlelight everything...everyone at my office forlorn, all computers and info down, and i am beaming with my turquoise three ringed binder with 10 folders packed with all my information, i point to it! Computers,or old fashioned paper, hand written? which Peter says but your house could burn down. Oh yes, and how many times has that happened? Compared to how many blackouts we get in Mto Wa Mbu, maybe two a week!! But this one is a long one, and while i bask under the florescent lights of this internet cafe, with humming computers it occurs to me, other than the huge lack of education here for most everyone, they are without electricity too, stopping Africa from being part of the free flowing internationally obsessed world of information. They just can't rely on it!
Man...6 days to go, and it is getting crazy...
Wrote the bios of 55 kids over the last few weeks, only to discover that we can't print or publish any of the personal information on the kids, nothing. And of course this is right. Today. up at 6..on this machine writing like mad, deleting half of it, to fire over to Warren as part of a book we are putting together of the history of Majengo, just how did we get ourselves mixed up in this!! The staff, the kids, their stories...Well, without mentioning names, each and every one of those kids has a terribly heart breaking story. They have all been orphaned at some point with parents who have passed with HIV AIDS....many living with neighbours, friends or elderly grandparents, so poor, so aged, so frail, unable to work, without resources. These kids roaming the dusty roads looking for someone to take them in, to assist them, maybe a meal, one a day....Fathers who have 'run away', too scared of the responsibility of looking after a family, no home, no job, no resources....and off they go. Mothers, sick and weakened by the disease, trying their best, asking for help and moving in with their parents..friends. It is everywhere....
Along comes Majengo. Or what we called Huruma at the beginning, where we found 52 little kids sitting on a mud floor in a dark leaking foyer of someone's mother in law's house, a teacher brightly telling stories and singing songs at the front of the room. Outside three neighbourhood women, taking in maize, rice from generous farmers, huddled in an ourdoor kitchen propped up with wood and corregated rusty tin slabs, cooking for these kids. All orphaned.
But here, there is hope!
They have somewhere to go, for eight hours of their day. And then most of them meander back to somewhere, anywhere that will look after them as darkness falls. The very very poorest of them all, the ten little ones, aged 4 to 6, stay, being put up in one horrible dark room with two beds, five to a bed, sleeping widthwise next to each other, but at least, it is a home.
And we come along, all of us who have been drawn into this story, stricken in our own hearts by what we have seen, along we come, and dig deeply into our pockets. WE find a proper home for these children, just down the road. And raise $20,000 for its renovation,and write up a contract, we renovate to finish, the owner allows us 4 years of use. Perfect. The next year, we build bunk beds, desks, chairs, benches, and tables, and an outdoor kitchen. We use up all the money our friends back home have so wonderfully entrusted us with, we buy sheets, towels, everything to outfit a kitchen, a pre school room...blackboard, shelving....
Matt flies over sight unseen, with Ian and Bill...laden with 8 duffel bags bursting with shoes, clothing, school supplies, skipping ropes, computers, overhead projectors, printers, world maps, you name it, they brought it, sight unseen.
They stayed a week, and said later, it was the trip of a lifetime.
March 08, one year ago. we opened with a flourish, relocating 28 little wonders into this beautiful new home...with toilets, showers, clean beds, andclothing. A place to grow up together as one big family, a place where their teacher Glory, actually LIVES with them as their matron, with learning and fun going on all day, and half the night, classes for little ones before they hit 7 and primary school, classes for every one after school..classes all day, fun learning with all the new puzzles, and maps, tinker toys, and lego sets and exercise books and brain teasers brought from Warren, blessed be!!! What i have seen in one year. Little P, I am not allowed to mention names....found by Peter last year while interviewing her very old grandmother as to whether her sister could be admitted into Majengo, were they amongst the very poorest the most vulnerable families...little P. naked and dirty, hungry, peering out from behind a broken wooden pillar barely holding up this mud and stick home..little P, who last year could hardly walk....Well she came too, along with her sister. And this year we find out little P is actually officially 5 years old..she looked 3 last year, maybe...her hair is braided, her little face shining and clean, Osh Kosh bi Kosh (sp) jumper, donated from someone back there, once worn by theirs, and now by ours, smiling, happy...learning the songs and Swahili from the older kids, little P our mascot, loving the attention from the older kids, sleeping with matron Glory every night. Happy, contented, secure.
To see how these kids have changed in just one year.
It is a miracle.
And tomorrow we celebrate our first big party, with a huge cake, all kinds of food: samosa, ugali, pieces of roasted beef, watermelon, bananas, juice, biscuits...we've invited 120 people!! All the kids from the Pambazuko orphanage, 14 of them with Elias aND tABIAS, their mama and baba..village leaders and their spouses, our staff and their mates, or friends, all of us at ICA TANZANIA....a sprinkling of friends here and there, such fun!! We will have music and sing and dance and applaud all of you out there who are such a big part of this, thank you!!!

Did i tell you, i might have, last week we interviewed about 75 people in our ICA office, all PLWHA....people living with HIV AIDS....mostly women....about a new project we are dreaming up, micro financing where we offer small loans to whomever goes through our upcoming three day workshop, to learn business skills, how to deal with money, customer care, validating each project, new business...and hopefully when i get home, finding some wonderful people who will help finance this great venture. I figure about $20,000 will do it, first time around. With a six month payback period, all going well. Our staff at ICA are being trained right now, as i write, on how to operate such a function, how to validate and monitor these businesses: banana selling, fruit buying, small shops, vegetable gardens, making charcoal carriers, kanga sales, clothing shops, the list goes on and on, dreams, each and every one of them, without capital or collateral, but with hopes and dreams like the rest of us, and with just a bit of a start up or maybe a little money to expand what they are already doing, they will be on their way....and if it is done properly, next year, maybe they will have earned enough money to pay for their children's education, the hefty secondary school fees now prohibitive to so many of them, maybe, in one year, they will have a chance. WE shall see..

and it occured tome this morning, that this is how Majengo started. With a dream. A vision. the visit with Charles to that horrible dank leaking foyer....the decision to renovate that house...but then what? Yes...we raised the money for the reno...but WHAT WAS I THINKING!! Who was going to pay for the months and years ahead, the every day operating costs of looking after these terribly devestated children: the food, the school costs, the staffing, the medical, the uniforms, shoes, soap, detol, whatever...all of it..who in earth was going to pay for this...??
I am not stupid, well, I dont think so.
But it truely didn't occur to me to worry about this aspect of it all. all i wanted to do, was to renovate thathouse, and move those kids in. Now, of course, in retrospect, i am appalled at myself..but hey, it is working out, and only thanks be to all of you out there helping to support Majengo...believe me.

And here we are with a new project, the micro financing of maybe 80 hard working, very poor, needy, mostly women, all of whom striving every single day, for every single meal, for their is very hard here.
So here is the need.
Charles quizzed us the other day about the difference between a PROBLEM, or a i thought, a problem is like a big dark cloud, with no where to go, insurmountable, lifeless, dull, dead. But a CHALLENGE that is something different, vibrating with LIFE!! with lots of hope, risk taking yes, but with the INTENTION to get out there and make it happen, to break through all obstacles, to BELIEVE..that is reallywhat this is all about.
Believe...that this project, this new micro financing for these very destitute women, brave enough to go public with their HIV AIDS status, all of whom are living strong healthy lives again with the help of ARVs...with good food, no alcohol...
YES..we can do it!!!
I believe..
So here we go again..
I have to get home, and learn about micro financing..the ins and outs of foreign to do it, the tax systems etc...and off we go!!!

Little M...I wrote about her a month ago. The little girl, 8, who was taken by her birth father out of the Pambazuko family orphanage, to live as a family with his new wife, but who refused to tell her of his own HIV AIDS positive status, or that of his daughters, hence refusing lITTLE M the vitally needed ARVs which had been keeping her alive for two years now.
I visited back then, and with a translater, told the story to his new wife, of little M, her HIV AIDS status, how she had been taken in by Pambazuko, how well she had been....and now, i look at her, sick, weakened..and so very unhappy. This new wife, expecting this kids to carry water, wash dishes, not allowing her to go to school. Something had to be done.
But here in Africa things take time.
Their own sweet time.
Two nights ago, I am standing in the dark talking to an American woman i have just met outside my little hostel, when along comes a short figure draped in a headscarf hiding her face. WE stoop down to say hello, and to my horror, it is M.
She looks like an old woman now, with out the life saving ARVs, wizzened, small, lost, desolute, and very sad, and very alone out there in the darkness of night. With no one looking after her.
My gawd!
That night I fire off some intense texts to my best friend Charles, to a doctor i know who is head of all the HIV AIDS things going on in central Tanzania, to the baba of Pambazuko. And i say, for the love of God...i use everything i can use, the strong language, drawing God, and the Lord, and what in earth are we not doing while this little girl is dying in front of our eyes!! Man...
Charles went into action, as he always does.
Our lawyers drew up a letter to this father, demanding that he shows up at ICA...TODAY!! one copy to the police, one to that HIV AIDS doctor, and one to the head of social work in the area.
So i wait.
We can't expect that the father will allow M back into Pambazuko.
but in fact he is abusively killing her, day by day, by withholding his status and disallowing her the pills which will save her life. She could die!! and we all know this. So i am praying, that this letter will be the beginning,if he doesn't show, the police will pick him up, and implant him in the small wooden sheds sprinkled about at the back of the police station, enough room to lie down, on earth floor, no bed, no toilet. no hole. In this case, i have little sympathy. Let's just get her to a hospital as soon as possible, and whether she stays wih this father, or moves back to Pambazuko, isn't the issue, the medicine is.

I am fired up...
So this week..tomorrow the big party, Monday to Wed the workshop...
Budgets to approve....benefits to our staff, education for their kids, teachers certification paid for....micro financing...bios to write...letters to answer.
And now....pack up and get out of here...make my way across Arusha Town...dodging the cars and bikes. weaving in and out of wild, crazy marketplace, shoes, millions of them on sale, or being fixed, everyday i fixate on something new, sewing machines, treddle of course, lined up along the crowded sidewalks, sewers up and down with their feet, threading colourful cotton through, shoes being sewn back together, cleaned, polished, lined up in a row along the road...

Matt!! phone me..!!!
WE had a great talk yesterday. I am careening along in a small van stuffed to the very brim with Masai mostly, wedged in four to a three seat row, elbows pushed together in a v on top of my black back pack, the row behind me jammed to the roof with grey plastic gunny sacs bursing with corn cobs, or fruit or something sharp poking my head...and the phone rings....Wow...
It is pouring like crazy outside, and hard to hear a little, but we make contact, always so good to hear from him - gives me a sense of reassurance that all of this is going just okay!!
Matt call me!!

Home soon..can't wait.
Some of these posts reflect it, i know...the heat, the Swahili day and night, the endless plates of rice, beans, sauce, greens...with a banana or a wedge of watermelon on the side...lunch and dinner, lunch and dinner..endless. no relief. No computer, no internet. No connection with those i love. Not often enough.
So yeah, i am dying to get home...
But all of that aside...the faces of those little kids..the colour on the streets, winding my way through cows and goats, down the road, a tree is chopped down, and a million people appear with machettes hacking down a little of it branch by branch until it too disappears....little fires burning garbage, or cooking dinner in battered tin pots, little children playing alongside in the dust, one small boy pushing a flip flop pink shoe up a make believe roadway traced into a pile of drying sogum, his make believe car holding a rock, a piece of wood as cargo...the sounds of mto wa mbu quiet now, eiry without music blaring from each storefront, silent, but for 'jambo!! habare!! how are you!! good morning!!..wandering along...trying to remember, trying to get down the images. A guy standing on the very top of a newly created dried banana leaf room, like a bird, as we eat a plate of roasted bits of beef, and ugali, the sort of cream of wheat hardened staple here, which after the meal, Charles informed me that one hand, the right one only, is to be used for eating, whereas i had the right one going for the beef, and the left for rolling up the ugali into a small ball, that left hand, he told me, later, was for you know what, in the bathroom....but, hey, how do i know!!
Four years later!!
Got to run...
have a great week!!
and hey to my kids, if you are reading this, Saturday, term 3........around 4 in the afternoon....salmon dinner? ah...............can't wait to see you!!!!!!
ps..and MERIT!!! last and certainly not least....SAturday 7am Amsterdam!! see you!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hi..greetings from Arusha..where i am holing up in a great little hotel with a swimming pool and free internet!! if you can believe, cheap, snug in the middle of a banana grove, quiet, and this being their low season, i am the only one here!! Bliss...had to get out of Mto Wa Mbu, Arusha is a little cooler, especially at night, and this week was especially trying, interviewing 73 people, mostly women, all of whom are HIV AIDS positive, hearing their stories, my gawd! WE are hoping to set up a micro finance project with them, my new job when i get home...very exciting, most of these women have what they call small businesses, meaning they are selling bananas from other people's plantations along the roadside in Mto Wa Mbu, dreaming of expanding this business, taking their bananas or other fruits of nearby or far away villages to sell. Or women who now have 10 chickens, making baby chickens and selling their eggs at the Mto WA Mbu market, wanting to expand to 30, maybe 100 chickens, building bigger chick houses, more medicine, more food. All of these people are on ARVs, the anti retro viral drugs which enables them good health now, after fighting this terrible disease, as long as they follow the rules and eat well, don't take alcohol and take their pills regularily.
What else: WE talked with women who want to travel to Dar to buy kangas, the colourful sheets tied around the waists as skirts, drapped around shoulders, wrapped ingeniously around heads of all women here, new businesses, or start growing vegetables, onions, carrots, lettuce, cauliflower (I sure don't know where they sell this, i would kill now for cauliflower soup, or cauliflower doused in cheese sauce, my gawd it has been too long!), tomatoes, starting small businesses selling in local markets, or opening small shops with keroscene, maize and wheat flower, soap, telephone cards, biscuits....three solid days of talking with people, each one with a new idea, or maybe an idea of their neighbour, some asking for four times the amount as others for the same small business...not really knowing costs and prices, but determined to start something new to improve their lives. Everyone wanted to begin new, or to expand, to raise funds to send their kids to primary or secondary school, to pay for the expensive school fees, uniforms, shoes, and books, all of this to help their children gain an education which absolutely none of them were able to afford themselves.\

Here it is all about education. Everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, with only one desire, to help their kids through primary, then secondary, then on to high school and if they are lucky, university. It is a dream. But without education they know their kids will go no where.
Primary school is basically free here, but for the equivalent of $50. USD for uniforms, shoes, books and school fees. But after 7 years of this, around the age of 14 or so, they are out on the streets unless someone can come up with the $550 required for the first year of secondary school, for most it is prohibitive. Thus you get kids, hoards of them standing on street corners hawking cheap necklaces and bracelets created by factories in China, or worse still, hanging around asking foreigners for jobs, alcohol on their breath. The girls without a chance to go further after primary, stay at home to help their families, get pregnant, get chased out of their homes, some 60% seek illegal abortions, the rest having their babies, many of whom are left on church steps or with neighbours and family, or dumped on the side of the road. Boyfriends without homes or jobs, run away, mothers too, often drifting into prostitution to allow themselves a little cash to send back to child caretakers or maybe just for a little bit of fun, these girls being children themselves.
Exciting to dream of this project, all of us, these mainly women all of whom live with HIV AIDS, and our ICA staff, planning carefully the next steps - a 5 day workshop facilitated by Charles, where they will divide themselves into small groups of 5 people, all striving to borrow money for like businesses, and learn exactly what costs they will incur, how to begin to run responsible businesses, how to handle their customers, how to keep their books. And finally, what exactly is micro financing, borrowing, at an interest rate of 12 percent, that money going toward ICA volunteers who will work singularily with each borrower, as advisors, as counsellors, and as monitors after the loans have been given.
REcipients will pay principal along with interest, small amounts monthly, rather than a big sum at the end, for sure to cause fear, perhaps enough for the borrower to run away.
This 'running away' expression is huge here! I have the vision of husbands and boyfriends and borrowers and mothers leaving families and children all running down the road, duffel bags flying behind them in tow, each one head tailing it out of town as fast as they can, a gleam in their eye as they dash away from whatever responsiblities they are unable to face. It is everywhere and always.
I have just spent the day recording into this computer the bios of 40 of our living in or living out pre schoolers our primary school kids from the orphanage, each one with a different story, most of which include someone 'runnning away'.

The mother left pregnant by the husband besought with too many kids too many responsiblities, no job, no money, no house, no food, giving up, leaving her often with having to somehow come up with the money for even basic needs: food, shelter, primary school. Or the father dying of HIV AIDS, leaving his wife sick as well, her father and mother taking over, both of them in their 70s or 80s, eaking out a small existance as temporary farmers even at that age, bent over in half working fields, trying desperately to help their grown child. It is insane. And it is often, with each child, a story, and hundreds, thousands in line behind them

I am on the bus roaring down the road from Mto Wa Mbu en route to this two day holiday now in Arusha, yesterday. It is packed with every seat taken, with even fold up seats unfolded now in the middle of the aisle, each occupied, wedged in, the sun pouring in from the left side where i am squished in, my black bag on my lap, my book by Thomas Friedman, an American journalist Hot, Flat and Crowded which i can't recommend more highly. In front of me is a very beautiful Masai woman, young with crinkly eyes dressed in a blue sheet over the usual red checked, her ears dripping with masses of white beads carefully woven together, hanging from huge holes forced open by years of dowel spools or Kodak film holders. We look at each other with interest. Smiling. She has gotten on this bus with four plastic gallons of something which they are keeping for her at the front of the bus.
Alf way to Arusha she makes her way to the front, waves at me, and gets off the bus, the porter handing her the heavy jugs of whatever, one by one out the door. Masses of people selling roasted peanuts, bottles of water, candies, hard boiled eggs, home made buns, kitimbua raised high in their hands, crowding each other pushing to gett their goods to sell at window level. I look past them to this Masai woman who I see now unwrapping the blue cotton sheet from her shoulders, folding it in half, and resting it on the road. On top of this, she sets all four gallons of whatever. Next, she is wrapping them up, tying a knot and creating a hoop like handle out of the fabric, twisting and twisting and finishing off with knots at either end, tested and pulling each one carefully for strength. Next she bends over and hikes the whole thing up and over her head, pulling her arms through, and then hooking the hooped fabric onto her forehead, she picks up two other bags in both hands and stands carefully up. This enormously heavy load, carried soley by her forehead, holding up, as she makes her way through the crowd, out of my sight.

I love to write. I don't love to edit. I try to capture what i am thinking and seeing and experiencing first hand, as though i am talking with someone, without worrying about how it will sound, whether my spelling is right, or my grammar, like the beginning of a painting, i especially just want to get the energy, the feeling of the place, the atmosphere down. I see things, and hope i can remember, wishing with all my heart that i had a computer with me, or the means to record it all as they are, there and then.

Friday night i get a call from Peter. I am walking down the road from the orphanage, in the dark, stumbling over pot holes on the road, bicycles wizzing by, hoping not to get hit, clutching onto my bag always with me. He, Sabina our nurse at ICA who and teaching prevention, and two of our volunteers, Glory doing legal field work on women and children's rights, and Mini just in from Arusha working with community development. They are at the Zanzibar 'talking about their future', and inviting me to come. All these kids, in their twenties, sitting around a little table in the dark, drinking sodas, or a beer, discussing their lives. Their work. Their dreams of the future. Each one adament to finish their education first, get good jobs, get a good grounding first, before allowing themselves to fall in love, to get pregnant, to have children. This doesn't seem to happen at home. So often, we fall in love no matter what, and let our lives lead us where they may. Do we sit down and say to ourselves, like Peter, who has women falling in love with him wherever he goes, tall, outgoing, friendly, nice, smart...a catch in anyone's eyes, do we say no? Wait. It is not time. First we must finish our education. We must get great marks, as he has just done in high school, and then on to university. We must get a profession and rise as far as we can, before we take on the responsibility of raising a family, getting a wife.
Maybe he has heard too many stories of 'running away'!!
But do we do this?
I dont think so!
Education. It is really all that there is to raise themselves up and away from lives of such poverty we can't imagine. Thousands of people i see out there, everyday. Toiling in a field, hacking away with a hand hewn hoe hard red ground filled with stones, or standing all day waitressing in a restaurant from the time i have breakfast till around 8 with dinner, for a mere $1.50 a day - impossible for us to imagine. I tell them, if kids back home don't get through high school, they create their own jobs, or some way to make money, many ending up at McDonalds, behind counters, or working retail, or going back to school when they are older, if they wish. WE hve opportunities if we want them. But here, without education, they don't. I am talking today to the waiter who brings me cheese (cheese!!!! the first time i've tasted this for almost two months!) omlette, who has finished at the top of his class last year in a one year hotel training course. With dreams someday of becoming a safari tour guide, he is learning English well, about treating foreign tourists, we talk about that book Hot, Flat and Crowded, brilliant.

Two weeks to go.
Tomorrow back to Mto wa mbu....
Bios, budgets, meetings, tying up...our Masai girls education fund, i have barely spoken of this. We have't had access to a truck this year, hence haven't gotten out to Masai country to check in on those great 16 girls we are sponsoring, but have heard not great stories this year, about teachers leaving government schools for higher salaries in private school with 750 students and now left with only 12 teachers, few books, no stationery - it is daunting. Four of our girls finished their last year secondary a month ago, with marks coming in terribly disappointing to them. One passed somehow with good enough marks, on her way into high school with shining eyes and dreams to become a doctor one day...two with marks too low for high school entry, but high enough to get into nursing and teachers colleges..and one having failed. It is not their fault. I know these kids, they have worked hard, but without teachers, books, pens and papers, how are they supposed to do well? It is all over Tanzania now, a huge problem, you work hard enough to get good enough marks to get into formidably expensive secondary schools, setting your families back years financially, and then, not your fault, you fail. My gawd.
I sure don't know what the answers are.

There is that great guy Greg Mortesson from the US, but raised in Tanzania not to far from where i am right now, building schools one at a time, in Pakistan and Afghanistan right now, over 75 of them and growing, and mainly for girls....maybe i will write him to come back to Africa, we need help here!
Got to get off this machine. There are two in this room, but the one next to me is missing the @ on the keyboard. A dribble of tourists, Germans today, file in one by one striving to reach their internet servers, but without that @ get no where.
Outside i hear them now, waiting over their Kilimanjaro beers, baridi, cold...
best i go.
hey, enjoy the spring like weather over there. I hear its amazing...
see you soon!! can't wait!!
big hugs.....L
ps, trying not to think about what i have to do when i get home. Scary. I am relocating my Creativity Art Retreat from a glorious spot a couple of hours north of Toronto on a river, filled with high trees and great people, to the bowels of downtown Toronto. Into a big building with no trees or plants or flowers or rivers....yikes, what have i done!

have a great week!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

JAMBO!! i can't get into my sympatico mail, which is very frustrating, but for some reason this blog website is free! So here goes, it's been a week and a half since Diana, Jamie, Matt and Brian took off, and i miss them terribly....someone asked me today whether i could live over here permanently and for sure, i have to say no, though i have spent almost 10 months of my life here, most of it in this little village of mto wa mbu wedged beneath the awesome rocky strength of the Rift Valley, which stretches all the way from Egypt down to South Africa - so hot and dusty this year, this little place, windy, the fine red dust sweeping up dirt potholed laneways, into my eyes, skin, freshly washed hair. HOt, like nowhere else i have been over here, the locals are complaining, and they never do..|I realize that i am okay as long as i stop focusing on my discomfort, once i do, i have had it, hot flashes way beyond my time, coming in waves from the inside out, the little band of tiny red ants making their way each night horizontally across the grouting of my small tiled bathroom, towards the toothpaste, the soap, but then in moments they seem to disappear. Spiders motionless in shiny robin's egg blue toilet rooms at ICA,little fires alongside the road en route from where i stay over to \mi Casa everynight for my hit of rice, greens and a great sauce, with a glass of white wine, mostly on my own, a flashlight, and these days engrossed in Three Cups of Tea, if you haven't read it, it is incredible!
Ah...but the days are wonderful...a half hour of yoga reminding me of Zoja my pilates teacher back home, wherever that is...a cup of espresso like instant coffee mixed with freshly pumped and boiled milk, a kitembuo - a small round fried rice bun and omlette, with two eggs...and off to the office. Charles intersected me the other morning over coffee - my subconscious swelling micro financing, we hit the office admidst 80 members of the four People |Living with HIV AIDS groups, mostly women, all getting together to amalgamate themselves into one big group, strength in numbers. I have seen these women coming in and out of ICA over the past four years, have assisted a few of them into small businesses, have visited their homes. WE stand there in the middle of it all, and it occurs to me that why not set up a micro financing program right here in the midst of all this energy, these incredible people who have endured so much. Many of whom have been thrown out of their homes, by families with small children in toe, weakened by the disease, distraught now without support, their jobs lost, their money gone, and no where to go. They end up at ICA, and here find support from others who understand only too well what they are going through. Months later, they have been tested voluntarily, HIV positive, and are now working their way into a life long process with the Anti Retro Viral drugs, free of charge, which cannot destroy this deadly virus, but which can keep it at bay, allowing them a life of renewed strength and hope.
So....we started, two days ago, interviewing each of these people, one by one, with the idea of creating a Micro Financing program, to enable those without credit or credibility now, to borrow a small amount of money which will enable them to expand and embellish the small businesses they now work at.
I've spoken with 55 people over the last two days, each interview taking about 20 minutes, a pic and they are on their way. All are doing well, health wise, striving to raise enough money to send their children to school. Basic needs, food, rent and education, that is all that is important to these women here, working long hours out in hot fields as temporary farmers, growing rice, maize, beans, or small vegetable plots with tomatoes, onions, carrots...bent over in half chopping at the ground with rough hewn hoe, hour after hour, and taking home 2,000 a day, the equivalent of just over a dollar US, it is impossible for me to imagine. And some selling bananas along the side of the road, sitting in groups of five, ten, on top of plastic buckets, selling to locals mainly, little stalls of vegetables, beautifully displayed, the tomatoes perched pyramid style on top of each other, carrots lined up fat and plump, everything is organic here, no processing or food colouring, fresh and clean. A daily wage of 2,000 or 3,000 is quite normal, shocking, even the waitresses at Mi Casa, the same thing,barely making a pittance, except for tips, a few pennies here, and there...
So another project is born.
It all fits together, with Majengo, and children, and trying to assist the most vulnerable and poor here, who have no chance to better themselves, with a little help from loans, to be paid back with 12 % interest over a period of 6 months, and then hopefully a renewal of even more to borrow, perhaps this will give some of them a chance to rise a little above the poverty they now endure. Children, each one of these women, or men interviewed today, are looking after to 5 kids themselves, mostly without assistance from anyone. Grandmothers, whose own children have died of HIV AIDS, leaving them with three four or five little ones to look out for, and these women themselves stricken with the disease, coping with so little, i hope we can help, and believe we can, and will...
This seems to be my job now over here, not running around the countryside as i once did at the beginning but to hone it deeply, to come across situations i know well, and to figure out, with Charles, how we can best be of assistance.

Majengo...working out our new budget...and after extensive interviews with our 8 staff members, figuring out how we can help them with their kids education..taking a load off them, thus ensuring for ourselves, that these great people will be with us for a long time. Dancing with the kids the other night, singing, taking pictures, teaching English..oh i wish everyone out there could come to visit, if even for a few hours, just to see what their donations have given.
And figuring out too, a mini micro credit program for our staff as well...
It takes time, verifying, checking numbers, checking school involvement, checking families, numbers of kids....before making our decisions as to how and where we can best spend our money...

This post has been dry...i am buried in a dark windowless room down the road from To Wa \mbu which i have just discovered..they are charging tourist rates for this machine, but a blessing to know it is here, i am close by..
hey..coming home soon...looking forward to it, and i know, when i am there, that i will long to be back here too....but dying to see my kids...those grand kids....and my friends, wake up in the morning as spring breaks through, hey, even a hit of winter would be great now...less than a minute to go!!
talk soon...xx\L

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jambo! as always, i am pressed for time, my internet access so limited, so frustrating sometimes, wanting to share with whomever is out there what is happening here..First of all it is very very hot these days, way more than even a week ago. Way more than a year or four ago...Mouint Kilimanjaro is melting at a very scary rate; Charles told me this morning that they are predicting it will lose its ice and snow cap completely in the next ten, years....droughts have of course begun, making small businesses and life for most of the people around and in our village even more difficult. I get side tracked with the best of intentions to stay on course, pole...
Visited head of ICA TANZ Doris recouperating from a thyroid operation and feeling much better, albeit with a small voice. With Charles, and Emmanuel our ICa accountant here....she is thrilled with our Majengo update, news of the Warren folk visit, plans, hopes and dreams for the future. Complying with everything we are doing.
Had very extensive staff interviews on Wednesday, detailing the needs of each person, how many children they have, ages and where they are in school. They have worked incredibly well over this last year at Majengo, and even during the entire year before we moved into our new facility, they spent that year working everyday without salary....hugely commited to this project and these kids. We hope to help them, and by doing that ensuring tht they will remain commited to Majengo through the years. WE hope to assist them with their children's education needs, the most important issues I see AFrican families to pay for school, especially Secondary. How to assist them also, with emergencies..Martha our treasurer, her husband running off two years ago to marry another woman, leaving her with 5 kids of her own, especially their school fees, the oldest ones now forced to quit school and make their own way, with small jobs labouring, or working as a cleaner in someone else's home...her father died a couple of months ago, in a far away village, to which she had to delve into precious savings to travel, to pay for his funeral fees, transportation, food....
I have said everyday to myself, it is never enough!
Always, there is everyone, needing just have to listen.
Am studying a book Matt brought me a few weeks ago on micro financing, by Muhammad Yunus...who won the Nobel peace prize a few years ago for creating this concept in rural Bangladesh forty years ago. Learning the details of how this actually works. Charles and ICA begun a program in the 90s and now assist 400 people in and around Mto Wa Mbu with small loans, financed by ICA UK and running smoothly. It has worked well on the whole, they have learned a lot, but financing has dimished over the years could use a boost.

My hope is to startup a group makeup of Majengo staff members where they themselves decide the amount of money they need collectively, take a workshop given by Charles and Ica, and commit themselves to paying back this collective loan in 6 months, with 12% interest, with monthly payments. Members are responsible for each other. When unforseeable things happen, like drought, death in the family, etc...ica and other members will take time to assist that person, and cover for them for several months until they get back on their feet. It is my hope that by loaning them start up money this year, they will be more able to assist in the education payments for their children next year, and the next. I am late at this of course, with millions of people successfully borrowing money around the world, without collateral or credit, and paying back, with interest successfully. What a wonderful concept.

Charles is still deciding with his family and professors what direction he will take, leaning now, toward his acceptance into an 18 month masters program in Public Heath in Guelph, Ontario! Close to Toronto. Close to Warren Pennsylvania. We shall see. If he decides to go this route,he will work in Mto Wa Mbu until August '10, allowing us plenty of time to train someone wonderful to take over his post as director of ica here. WE shall see...
Me...i fly home in three weeks...hard to imagine this time has flown by so quickly, but as always, so many new ideas, concepts, programs...a new budget reflecting the 15 new kids joining our Majengo pre school nursery program, very exciting considering we have just been in operation for a year. Also reflecting higher food costs, and cost of items which one year of operation has allowed us the exerience of understanding. I feel, one year later, that our committment to Majengo, to our slow but steady expansion, to our desire to assist as best we can under the guidance of our African friends, as many families and children as possible, in whatever way we can. I look back on my four years different each one has been for me, what i have learned, how the work has focussed and become more detailed as our understanding has grown, sometimes a little - sometimes a lot.

I am starting too, to think of home now...I miss the meetings, dinners and lunches, breakfast at Mi Casa preparing our days, Diana, Jamie...and then Matt and Brian. It was such fun, catapulting so much into such a short time....a whirlwind of learning, discovering, moving ahead....I miss them all!
Diana asked me, what happens when they leave?? Full days, for sure, of interviews, meetings, discussions, but with more time to ask questions and learn deeply of where to go next, what to do, who to trust, where to go next. The nights are long...A quick trip around the corner to Mi Casa - a glass of wine, a bit of rice, a handful of greens and a couple of spoonfuls sauce and I'm back to my little room with overhead fan and my flashlight, reading well into the night, peaceful, quiet, and after all that lovely commotion, it is all i need. But I miss my family, those gorgeous little grandkids...Pyper and Finn...and new baby Eve...and Sierra with Seanna in Chicago visiting galleries,museum having great mama and daughter time, Johnny running everyday in prep for the Boston marathon mid April, i am so proud of him to be able to keep up that schedule with two kids and a huge film job...Lindsey winding up her latest moview...editing and doing sound..and dear Ted with his dad very ill, Scottie in rehab, oh I miss them all so much and can't wait really, to get home to be back with them allagain...and my dear friends...and that art retreat, a new location for it in downtown toronto, moving in, starting over.... this time here, of night time rest, is good...

muchlove..miss you all...see you soon...home Easter weekend....great!!

Monday, March 08, 2010

JAMBO JAMBO JAMBO!! The morning after dropping Matt, Brian, Diana and Jamie off at the Kilimanjaro airport around 8 last night, after a harrowing four day whirl wind flury of meetings, visits with the children, songs, dancing, celebrations, birthday parties, more meetings, interviewing 14 families with dear sweet very poor and vulnerable little ones so desperately in need of assistance into Majengo, the little wonderful orphanage that is growing and growing, a bumpy dusty pot holed road crossing for a couple of hours yesterday through what many would call God's country, green rolling hills filled with Masai warriors herding huge clumps of cows, goats, sheep and donkeys weighed down by the burden of massively high piles of stacked wood, yellow plastic water containers, anything and everything that can't be carried atop the heads of proud African women, with posture we noted, much better than most of their North American sisters....
Ah..i leap from one thought to another this morning, thinking about these incredible people i am lucky enough to have met,at this very moment, most probably relaxing with much appreciated western showers and bathroom facilities at a hotel in Amsterdam, awaiting their final flight into Toronto....go safely...
Matt and i yesterday, in the big Land Cruiser which seating 9 bouncing along, with Jamie and Brian helping, en route to Kili, recalling these last four days, diana in the front seat with Abdul the driver, putting our stories together, thoughts, ideas, recollections, highlights so many....
Matt's final write it all, get it all down on this blog, station yourself in Arusha for as long as it here, to the best of my ability, it goes!! plus i have a good 300 photos to post, but without the ability to do it from here..hopefully, next week!! Bear with me!
My Gawd it feels like a few months back, Diana and Jamie arriving a short 10 days or so i said in another blog, Diana quite worried about this trip, bracing herself for the worst....scared, what if, what if...the weather, the heat, the FOOD!! O My God!! she would say, they came burdened over with packages of crackers, peanut butter, boxes of health bars, vitamins, ointments for every kind of injury or bug bite, or misfortune they could imagine...Matt had done a great job of leading them through, the phone cards, what to eat, what not to eat, drink....visas...everything, but in retrospect they could not imagine how incredible each day would truely their hearts would break open with the huge smiles and dancing eyes of each little kid wrapping their hearts and souls around them, little fingers searching for love, for soft tummies, for a warm smile, for care...we can't imagine what these kids have been through, and yet, the joy they exude now, the very fact that they are being so incredibly well looked after, washed every day, well fed with three nutricious meals, by a wonderful group of people who truely love them and care about them...not just a job for our staff...
I jump about...Diana and Jamie....arms wide open, filled with huge hearts now...not just in being told about these kids...but knowing them...hearing their stories, watching what joy and comfort and support the magical assistance from the Mc Kissock clan, family and friends have given to these kids buried out here in this hot dusty impoverished part of the world...what hope, what inspiration. What future. It is immeasureable and indescribable...the stories of the changes in just one year since Majengo is apparent, visual, seen through shining confident beaming faces....what has been created....oh yes, a new family is born.
Diana and Jamie....exhuberent themselves, each day an adventure jam packed, learning, growing, reaching as high as they did....understanding, sitting back, musing, wondering, offering great suggestions, helping with budgets, bios of the children, job descriptions, infrastructure incredible learning curve...aS Brian said, a couple of weeks in Africa, equals about ten years of living at home in a land we understand as the days fly by everything is new, a challenge, packing so much into so few days...but it feeling like a lifetime, that is the good that travel into new cultures can do....

We pick up Matt and Brian WEdnesday night...after a pretty gruelling flight, Toronto to Amsterdam, eight hours, a brief five hour wait over, and then on into another 8 hour stint into Kilimanjaro...we are standing in the waiting area our faces pressed against the torn clear part of the arrivals window, spotting them making their way through custom men, the four huge suitcases packed by the wonderful Yvonne from back home, opened and surveyed dutifully, 50 pairs of little underwear, pens, pencils, medical supplies, clothing, shoes, world maps....stuffed to the brim....thank you Warren! It's Matt's second time over...but Brian's first..a very soft spoken lovely professor of linguistics who spent much of his time in intense conversation with both Masai warriors and Swahili speaking African people, fascinating me immensely with very very tiny and small jottings in his small notebook with his small little pen each section on the page, the placing of words, a space for nouns, verbs, sentences, each portion a work of art - as an aside i learned a little about language structure, a lot over these last four days...watching with amazement as he remembered, learned songs in Swahili culminating in leading a sing song Tanzanian style in front of a hundred gathered together SAturday night in celebration of two little gorgeous girls, dressed in brand new pink gowns, with pearls, at their birthday party, music, dance, festive with Brian up singing - reminding us, of John Lennon....
Overnight at a nice hotel near the airport, and that is another brief story, this place was expensive, room by room...a slice of luxury for me, costing 15 times the amount of what we pay in Mto Wa Mbu....and yet, amidst the gorgeous setting each individual room a house unto itself, snuggled amongst exotic tropical plants, jungled and cut out, a winding path of stones between each, and yet, the air conditioning wasn't working properly, mosquitoes in the room..i didn't sleep all night. When you are paying a complain...and when you are paying very little in our terms, you have no housing, it is safe to say, that no matter where you stay here, whether in an expensive hotel, or in our little Continental spot in Mto Wa Mbu with Mwanna Eddie, dressed in hot pink satin, tight long skirt and bodice, beautiful, smiling and shrieking non stop to each and every neighbour or friend just outside my front facing window from 7am on, annoyingly< i might add...a young woman supporting three small children by herself, sometimes very engaging, a flirt, who can turn on her charm to most every man, especially our Matt, to whom she proposed unabashedly last year great offers of marriage. Every place you stay will have its great points and its flaws, no matter what. Plumbing can often be the problem, the toilet doesn't work, or in Jamies case, no toilet seat. but i might add how lucky we are to have a toilet at often, in Africa, a hole in the ground, so we can't complain, taps leaking. WEak pressure..but at least, we have water, a is all workable, and after a few days, something you just get used is okay.
Thursday morning, a great breakfast together at the hotel, and on our way jammed into our big Land Cruiser into the bustling Arushatown, filled with dust and noise and movement of people, along the street, on bikes, with goats and cows and sheep, with pecking chickens running alongside, women sitting on plastic pales roasting cobs of corn tasting more like nuts than kernals...stopping off at ATMS...picking up wads of Tanzanian shillings stuffed into our bags, and off we go to meet local minister, Pasteur Naiman with his 100 little children, age 2 up to 7, sitting 10 to a bench in orderly rows in their uniforms of emerald green sweaters and blue shorts or skirts, some in tatters, waiting for us in his big cement lined church room buried deeply off the main road into a very poor slum area of Arusha...winding dusty hot pathways flanked by shacks strung up with corregated wavy sheets of steel, tin, wood, sticks stuck together with mud, dried cow dung, cement....children playing outside, wee ones barely walking in little clusters backing off and waving gleefully as our car passes through. Pasteur Naiman has been working in Arusha for over 20 years, sponsored by a Danish couple who raise monies through churches back home, who live also in Arusha. 7 years ago he built this church, offering schooling each morning to 100 children, his daughter Anna teaching wonderfully, with a group of local women volunteering their time, dolling out plastic cups of porriage every morning after a great drill of songs, lessons, and numbers...this church a miraculous oasis, a rescue place, without any schools in the area - with 400 more children on the waiting list...
Pasteur Naiman greets us. It is my third visit, the second last week with Diana and Jamie...and now with Matt and Brian. Pasteur Naiman has a dream...and one that so easily could be reached with not so much effort by some of us back home..Out of these 100 children, he has picked out 18 amongst this huge group, of the very most neediest. Well they are all needy, but out of the one hundred, this small group is the most vulnerable, without parents, or relatives, with no resources of their own. Pasteur Naiman's dream, is to rent a four roomed house nearby and move these kids into it, creating a new orphanage, called PUMZIKO, meaning, resting place, with a mama and baba and two people to help with washing, cooking and cleaning. The situation, is dire. Not unique here in Africa, at all...but dire non the less. I have worked with Pasteur Naiman over my last four years and know him to be an incredibly hard working, huge hearted man, honest, loving, caring. And having worked out our budgets so intensely with Majengo, i am well aware of what this new project could cost. Start up, furnishing this place with 6 bunk beds, (12, with one or two to a bed) things, tables, benches...about 1,500 US dollars...moving the kids in, renting the house for about $90. dollars a month...firewood, food, uniforms, shoes, medical and staffing comes up to a total of $550. per child per year...or jut under $10,000 US dollars a year.
WE sit through a small ceremony on our behalf, lead by Anna the teacher, the children attentive, wide eyed and hugely curious about this small band of white people snapping pictures and smiling at them, with another group of local people on the other side at the front, a man dressed smartly in a suit, his wife and two other women, who, we learn later, will be the mama and baba and helpers of this new orphanage, IF we are able to help.
Loud exuberent songs, lessons of E equals elephant...followed by a brief formal hello from Pasteur Naiman...and a speech by the still recouperating from jet lag Matt..who, he declared at the end of his stay, would be very happy if I would refrain from laying speech making opportunities upon him every three hours,from dawn to well past dusk, of which he claims he is totally unprepared. Of course everyone out there who knows Matt, knows how much he loves to stand up, prepared or not, and how capable he is emoting properly the correct phrases and sentiments in any crowd i am certain. At the end of it all, we hand out cups of porriage row by row to waiting children, this morning allotment perhaps the only food these kids will receive all day. A get together over coffee and tea in Pasteur Naiman's office with the newly appointed possible mama and baba...who have been brought in from the villages to take on these new 18 children, as their own...if we are able to help. And on to the house they have chosen to house the new orphanage.
Just to give you an idea of how desperate Pasteur Naiman is to successfully begin this project...on my first visit, this house was filled with building rubbish, unpainted both inside and out, without a kitchen, proper windows and outside the grounds littered with garbage and junk. On our second visit the inside was clean, washed down, and painted, but still no outdoor kitchen, no plumbing or ability for water, and outside, huge piles of gravel, garbage and junk.
At that time, I told Pasteur Naiman, that next week, upon Matt's visit....if he is serious about asking for our assistance, we need to see a mama and a baba who will be committed to living in with these 18 kids, two helpers, an outdoor kitchen, a new paint job, and total all around clean up...and water. One week later, it was done.

Since Diana and Jamie have been here, we have spent most of our time in Mto Wa Mbu working over our new Majengo orphanage budget. It is up from last year. Why? WE have decided to expand our work, with 15 of our pre schoolers now age 7 and off to primary school, we now have the opportunity to add 15 new little ones into our day program of breakfast, lunch and schooling, who will live out...our numbers now growing from 40 kids last year up to 55! Plus the price of food has escalated, the cost of maize, corn..almost doubling this year, as Matt pointed out, with international governments electing to allot much of the world's corn now to be made into ethanol and added to oil as fuel - a huge cost to developing nations trying desperately to find the means of feeding millions of its people, the barest of dietary requirements. So our Majengo budget has grown...and Majengo is our first concern. So what to do about Pasteur Naiman's can we help them?
I admire Matt's ability to access a situation and to find quickly a situation, as he did here. Explaining to Pasteur Naiman of our commitment to Majengo, how that comes first, what could he do with a donation of $2,000. USdollars now....where would that money go? Without pausing, he would lay down immediately the downpayment to secure the house first for one year, bring in the mama and baba, and begin with 6 or 8 children right away....working toward hopefully raising the money for the other 10 kids and two helpers. It is a start, seed money to get going, with his huge faith and heart he was sure, the rest would come.
And i believe it will...
Now...out there amongst the many churches, and wonderful people, there must be a group who will be willing to take on this very worthwhile, well researched that i can assure you, is honest, straight forward, with assistance going straight from the donors, through Pasteur Naiman, and to these children..
Between us all, all of you out there reading this blog, your families and friends, i am sure once we get the word out that someone will come forth as part of this growing team of donors, to make Pasteur Naiman's dream come about it!!

Ok and off quickly back into the truck, across wide expanse of green hills, spotted with Masai tribal bomas, igloo like homes made of sticks and cow dung here and there across wide vistas, cows, goats, sheep, Masai children running along sticks in hand guiding their herds, being careful not to lose one animal, for, if that happens, and it is the woman of the house who will be beaten by her husband... the loss of a goat more important always than the life of the wife with a status much lower than that of her cows. Ah....we are here, not to change tribal customs ever, but to observe, to stand back, not to judge, but to offer, when possible our assistance. And while i am at it here, at each meeting, at each discussion of where to go, what decisions to take, we wait and stand back, listen, learn, determined never to force ourselves or our ideas, or dictations on people here, knowing without doubt that they are totally capable of making their own decisions based on skilled experience of how things work in their country. What do we know? Virtually very little. But honoured we are to be part of this process....and with the means, as Matt said, so often, "putting it on the appropriate scale , we have the ability to do more good with such a relatively small effort when seen under the context of our means..." is impossible to describe what the magic of a few US or Canadian dollars can do here....

Time out...I started here 3 and a half hours ago, the internet cafe now filling up with people patiently waiting in chairs behind me, eating pastries, but i have a job to do, and am still just half way through day one with three days to go! Charles our great project coordinator took a bus back to Mto Wa Mbu last night after dropping us off at the airport, just text me that someone close to his family had died, that there were seven people at his office waiting for counsel and that he hoped that i was happy in Arusha..unlikely that we will head out to Moshe today to visit Doris, the head of ICA Tanzania, recouperating without vocal ability now from a thyroid operation...a meeting i very much want to attend soon, as Charles, my beloved director and without whom i am lost here in Tanzania, intends to take a leave of absense from ICA for his masters degree in Public Health, for two years, next month!! Yikes!!!...A lot of our discussion these last four days is WHAT TO DO WHEN CHARLES IS GONE?????Who will be the new Charles, and Doris, over in Moshe, unable to speak at this point with her thyroid, is the only person to answer this question... At the rate i am going, and Matt assured me to write as much as i was able...sorry, pole in Swahili, if this is long and dragged out, misspelled and not edited...and for those of you who are still here with me, i promise, or intend, as Matt would say, with all expectations, but no promises, to do my best to stay on course.

While i am on that subject. There is never ever ever enough. As much as we are trying to do, with as many ideas as we have for expansion, slowly and carefully, making sure, without doubt, that with whatever we are doing, we are doing it with people who as Matt outlined at a meeting a few days later were four things:
1- honest and ethical
2 - hard working
3 - competant in their jobs, and
4 - genuinely caring of the children
Each and every person we have working with us here on the ground on our team, be they directors and administrators at ICA TANZANIA, the four village leaders, or the hand picked staff of 8 people in charge of running the orphanage, they must have not all 4 of these things...underlying without doubt, that 3 doesn't cut it...all four, he must have mentioned this ten times....or they are out. AND..if we sense, in any way shape or form, at any time, a situation where corruption is spreading, or beginning to reveal its ugly self so prominent in so many of these aids operations in Africa unless so carefully monitored, by each and every person on the ground, and by all of us on the other side, with direct and regular interested and dilegent communication...if we sense corruption, in any form, if it is not abolished and dismissed IMMEDIATELTY...we are out of here...gone!!!

Last year, at the very beginning of the idea of Majengo, before we moved into our newly renovated facilities and were still operating from a mud floored leaking small foyer of a house, dark without light, without furniture, desks, benches, the children packed in in tatters on the floor, owned by the mother in law of an increasingly unsavoury fella who declared himself 'director' of HIS new orphanage. He paraded around his neighbourhood, forced prospective guardians to donate food or money to himself personally to register their child into 'his' orphanage, beat the children, and fired and hired teachers at whim....I disliked him immensely, immediately, but was forced to deal with him until we moved into our new facilities. The new Majengo. Within days, after long meetings between this guy, the village leaders, the other staff at Majengo and us at ICA, we were able to, under the direction of the village leaders, pay him off, and begin afresh without him, hiring now Killo and Martha, the two very capable and honest people who had been working under him before. It was a difficult intense process, huge discussions of corruption, lies, truths and testimonies...but in the end, with his final official dismissal, a good example and warning to anyone connected with Majengo.
Without truth, without monitoring, without good accountability, without correct cash books, monthly receipts, follow ups....we are fully aware that there is always the danger of corruption sneaking in, but with, as Matt insisted, honest, ethical, hard working, competent and child loving people we are doing our best to ensure that we are on the right path. And as far as i can see, so far, so good!

Ah...back to the one..Thursday...a couple of hours out of Arusha, past a few zebra lazily grazing in deep grasses along the highway route, we pull into the Carwash, an outdoor restaurant aptly named with its by hand car and truck wash right next door, the operators climbing around the vehicles atop with brushes and soap and big buckets filled with water hurling and cleaning....

Charles has set up a great lunch buffet style, with rice, chicken, bean, greens of a spinach or chard like chopped up vegetable dish called 'amaranth', and boiled potatoes floating around a chickeny tomato, onion, carrot delicious sauce to be poured over it all. Dotto, the second twin whose name is always Dotto, the manager of the popular Double M bar and restaurant in the middle of Mto Wa Mbu haS BEEN hired to dole out the food, with Peter from ICA, Hamidu our Swahili-speaking ICA driver and Charles charming as hosts...a celebration for us all, a grand occasion....of course, the guys are exhausted, but holding up...we pile into the truck and off we go to the orphanage where Matt gets a first-hand chance to see where his money has been spent since he made his decision to assist this Majengo orphanage, just last April, one year ago.
Backtracking...for some who are new to this....Matt and two friends came over, sight unseen, after a few very intense conversations with me about what we were trying to do over here in Tanzania...for one week, to check it out for themselves. They were blown away, by the children, the people they met, by what we were trying to do here, by what we had achieved. Friends from Canada< US and Sweden had raised $24,000 USD to completely finish the building and renovation of a beautiful new home, furnishing it completely....and relocating 40 kids and 8 staff from that mud floored leaking foyer with an official opening last March 08, 2--9....EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TODAY!! Happy birthday Majengo!!!! Wow!!!
Matt never makes promises. He makes intentions, sometimes with positive hopeful expectations, but never promises, until he is absolutely sure without any doubts himself of both the worthiness and feasibility of the proposal. Whether to assist for one year, the financing of the ongoing expenses of the orphanage, or for a request from someone to assist their ailing mother for two months in the hospital, or to help our staff support their children through Secondary school, or to buy good open sided shoes for a young diabetic street boy....the list goes on and one, there is never ever enough. Each day there is someone, or many people, who show up at the office, knowing there is a white person working inside, requesting help....I am sure i don;t know the half of it...Charles acts as a buffer between me and the street.... the woman we supported two years ago to begin her rice selling business, last year doing well enough to send her oldest boy to school, pay for food, uniforms, books...but with this years terrible drought, rice fields drying up, rice prices skyrocketing, Masai people with dying cows and limited resources, unable to afford food, her business, like so many others, January, time to pay her son's hefty school fees again, she pulled all her money out of her business to do so, and now, sitting across from me, her head down, as if in shame of failure, she offers me a beautifully hand written note asking again for help, again the $60 US I gave her two years ago, pain, sadness, across her face. Who am i to say no? And who am i to make these decisions which so easily can change a life on the twist of a dime, or dollar, so easily given by us at home, if only we will, or could, or can....
To be here, to witness each and every request first hand, to actually SEE with my own eyes the wonder of what this money is capable of doing...
My finances are limited. Back in Canada i make speeches, a few a month, where at the end, a stream of wonderful people line up and offer me $20. or a cheque for $50 or $100....based on their trust that their donations will go straight to the children, or to the women, mainly, who need it, the most. At least from my limited point of view....I put it in a separate account, add it up at the end of the year, translate it into Tanzanian shillings....and withdraw once if get over works...from them to me to them....
Where, again, was I!!!
Oh my gawd....5 hours later...and still where, on day one!!!
Majengo...Matt, one year later..oh, a few weeks, briefly, after his visit last year....he emails me a letter which he has sent to all family and friends...he has decided and made a commitment to support this orphanage for the next ten months...that is a I said, Matt doesn't ever make a promise he can't keep..but with the intention to support it 'indefinately', not a promise, but an intention...for years down the watch these little kids grow up, to send them through primary and secondary school, maybe on to university, and all the while to add more and more kids along into our little pre school..whenever we have slots and keep growing and expanding..and just last summer..he declared to me...that despite all the work he had managed to achieve back home, that this was for him the most important thing he had ever done in his life!! and that, all going well with everything, his intention, again not his promise, but his expectation was that we would be able to expand and assist hopefully up to 1,000 kids in 5 they at the orphanage, through helping children outside the facility within families who need assistance....through micro financing...through many different ways, some of which will be more successful than others...but nevertheless a hope, an intention, of getting out there on our side, and raising enough interest, compassion, and energy to help and assist as many kids as we can over here...always, keeping in mind the BIG FOUR: honesty, hard work, competence and care for the children....
Back to his visit at Majengo, and for Brian the first time - we pull in, the beautiful bougainvillea fence of my dreams a year ago, now in full bloom, thick and abundant, bursting in pink, white, red blossoms surrounding the house, outside the two cooks greeting us with big smiles....Glory the teacher pouring out of the building surrounded by children, lots of them. WE head back into the classroom, with Grayson in front of the newly painted blackboard, 28 little live in kids shovelling their way along the benches. Glory leads the songs...welcoming the guests...laughing, the kids jumping up and down, reciting: yes madame, thank you sir, welcome to Tanzania....they take us through the rooms, the back bedrooms, with shelves filled with clothing brought over last year from Warren, clean new sheets we just bought last week in bright yellow, pink, green and blue....about $3.50 per sheet...$4. per new towel, 24 of them....the place looks great...the kids are happy, healthy, bigger than last year, as is Grayson our teacher who we tease, is obviously eating well now...and on outside at the end of the visit for a short meeting with the staff..after which Matt couldnt' get over...there were two women last year, who he felt were very wary, almost even hostile toward him, during his brief meeting at the beginning of this of the cooks, one of the cleaners..almost even scornful,of motives maybe, whatever..but who, this year he was astonished by their open warm, confident happy expression, the body language....everyone coming together without any restraint at all, in celebration of each other, really, of what they were all able to accomplish in one year. They KNEW they had done a great job.

I can't tell you how rewarding it is for all of us to witness what just one year can do for the lives of so many children, and for that matter, to the staff and their families of this orphanage. As Brian said at the end of his visit...yes...these children have all been through some of the worst unimagineable things we could ever think of, their early lives of such poverty and deprivation, watching beloved mama and papas dying in front of their very young eyes, wandering dusty roads, with luck finding help and assistance from neighbours, and loving relatives..and for many finding themselves basically on their own...often small children, age 6, 7, 8 taking care of smaller children, some tied in cloth bundles on their shoulders...the world turning their backs....child lead families..i have seen it here in Mto Wa Mbu. and while i am at it, there were, an estimated 14 million children orphaned by HIV AIDS a few years ago, with some 38 million people now living in Africa with HIV can only imagine the devestation this has meant to an entire continent, losing so many people at the time of their lives when they could be contributing th emost, between 15 and 50, teachers, soldiers, doctors, nurses, policemen, labourers, farmers, construction workers, aid workers....this virus attacked every segment of society, eating up and spitting out everyone, knowing no boundaries, be it from the very rich to the very poor....
But as Brian pointed out...despite whatever these kids had endured before reaching Majengo, it was easy to see, that amongst even the other neighbouring children surrounding the orphanage, these children, although we could never ever replace what they had lost, now had everything: the sense of being part of a big loving family, being well looked after, clean. well dressed, and most important of all, a real sense of being happy, being confident of where they were in their lives, of having a home.

Diana and Jamie had moved into the Jambo campsite about a mile from town, a lovely open aired spot with nice rooms, great food and a swimming pool, just that afternoon, raced back from Majengo and organized a big dinner party for 15 people that very night!!! Along with all of us....we included Kerstin and Berndt, our Swedish friends who had supported the renovation of Majengo at the start, and who were dying to meet this guy Matt who had appeared so incredibly into the project just one year ago. I have no idea what Kerstin thought Matt would be like, or look like, but she took one look at him, in total shock, and said, "what! you are Matt???" It was great....wonderful food a la Jamie who works part time as Matt and Kym's cook back home, we were treated to a very unique menu of Western food: beef with mushroom sauce, a great salad, herbal veg soup, steamed veggies, was a treat! after so much ugali, rice, bean, sauce and green.....and a great celebration on our first night home...

I can't go back and type in ideas, or edit...this computer is such that when i try, it erases whatever i have written, rather than inserting a new phrase...and what i forgot to add, a la one of the things that touched Brian the most was the first song the children sang to us after our welcoming:
row, row, row your boatie
gently down the stream
medi medi medi medi
life is but a dream.......!!
all sung with such confidence, and joy, and strength, and fun in high pitched voices, booming out from each and every child, from Philip the oldest at age 8 who was found wandering down the roads at age 3 after being alone, and starving for 24 hours, his mother running off after a stepfather who beat Amina, who stands as the top girl in their primary school, along with 5 other Majengo kids, the top in the little Pendo, who last year was deemed to be 2 years old, found naked and dusty along with her sister peering out from the back of a tumble down shed, her grandmother being interviewed by Peter to determine whether these kids were amongst the neediest for entrance into Majengo....well now this year she is a girl...tall, and thin..and still the youngest in the orphanage, her records now state that she is 5!! so who knows...she is the little mascot of the group, really, our littlest angel, who has taken a loving to teacher Glory, acting magestically also in the matron role, who sleeps in the orphanage every night, with little age wondering Pendo curled up in her arms...mama....

Friday morning, a quick breakfast at our favourite outdoor eating spot, Mi Casa owned by my friend Mirium who always takes time to dress beautifully with great eye make up and whose husband is lamentedly almost never around, a safari driver who is often on the plains but who also spends most of his time with his first wife and children in their home in Arusha. Mi Casa is a short walk around the corner from our sleeping quarters at the Continental hotel, managed by the aforementioned Mwanna Edie, the lovely young girl who has taken a special liking to our Matt. All very innocent i might add, not one of my favourites,but someone who adds to this very colourful cast of characters and friends here in Mto Wa Mbu. By the way, that word means Mosquito River....before coming here i was very afraid, a native of Canada, northern Ontario, and very familiar with the huge flying whining mosquitoes infesting us each May and June in cottage country. But here you almost never see them, and there are mosquito nets gracefully cascading from the ceilings over each night you slather yourself with bug killer of some sort...and it is okay.

Friday morning...meant to head into a heavy meeting with the four village leaders who are indeed the owners and responsible for the well being of every aspect of Majengo orphanage. Mayunga, Raymond, Vincent and Jumo Masata, the primary school headmaster who allows our children free lunches all year long. But these guys were busy with government meetings until mid we took this time to drive into Manyara National Park, only 10 minutes away to treat Brian to his very first safari. Lots of pictures taken for our kids and grandkids, of monkeys, baboons, zebra, elephants, giraffe, birds of all kinds....all of which were running freely, graizing happily, skirting around, gizelle, antelope, buffalo....flamingos....

All of us sitting in a circle on chairs in Charles ICA office..the introductions, with a formal welcoming and thank you to all of us for our work with Majengo, by Mayunga, Charles facilitating the meeting, the purpose of which to discuss the progress of this last year, the selection and admission of 15 new little pre schoolers to Majengo, the concept of sustainability, and micro financing.
So much said during those hours in that hot little office... the village leaders pressing upon us how important Majengo had become to their entire community, how skeptical at first many of the villagers had been, but how now, people were seeing the goodness of this place, not just for the children who were there but for the whole community. We learned that some farmers contributed maize to our kitchens during times of drought, that some had brought in firewood, charcoal...Matt, thrown into the position of spokesman once again, unwillingly he doest protest too much! Matt spoke of our honour to be part of this very exciting and very unique project which was proving to be bigger and better than his wildest expectations...his desire to keep going, his INTENTION to help make this thing grow bigger and bigger, his DEMANDS of the four main elements needed to prevent corruption (see somewhere above!!). I asked him to share what he had told me last summer, about this being such an important part of his life, maybe the most important thing he had ever been a part of...the actual WHY of what he was doing here, his intentions, his expectations, his hopes for the future. And as i have written before, scattered here and there down the main road leading into and out of Mto WA Mbu along the saFARi route well travelled every day of the year with well to do tourists from around the road, are orphanages set up as businesses for their director, kept dirty, and very poor, ill equipped, with sick and impoverished little ones, sometimes sleeping them three slabs of beds to one bunk bed, layers of little children being used aS aid bait to lure in well meaning unsuspecting tourists only too happy to unload their pockets to help these kids. Of course the money stays with the directors, the kids being kept sick and poor. It seems nothing can close these places down. Directors pay off police and others, and buy nice goat dinners to contribute to local churches periodically to keep their place in the community. It is common practice here.
Matt's final challenge to our four village leaders was....his hope, that they will come together with the government of Tanzania and close down these places, each and every rotten one of them, and he will personally try his best to move each and every one of those dispaced sick and poor children into a new home, like Majengo.

we all clapped!!!

Somewhere in and out of all these meetings and get togethers, Matt and I met with Peter, whose dream is to go to university after just finishing his high school studies up in Uganda this year. I have written about Peter before. But Charles needs to go first, having spent 7 years heading the ICA TANZ offices in Mto Wa Mbu, doing more HIV AIDS workshops, and seminars, and prevention agencies, and volunteer testing, and ARV hand outs...with Masai warriors, with people in communities stretching all the way to Arusha and back from Mto Wa can see he is my hero over here...he gets to go first. So Peter...well, he will likely take on a big role as our communications person on the ground with everything to do with Majengo, plus work on HIV AIDS ICA projects...a good full time job here needed, for a couple of years, to work with what we are calling the 'new Charles', whomever that person might end up being, and i will sooon be able to report that to you if and when i ever am able to meet up with Charles and drive on over to Moshi for our meeting with the vocal less, just out of the hospital, thyroid operated upon, Doris, who is the head of ICA TANZANIA. is now 4pm....i have been at this since 9:30 this am...hogging this one wonderful computer..the lineup of needy users quieting down for some reason behind me, I dare not move.
Happily, because of the heat here, your need to rush to the toilet, except under unfortunate circumstances, is lessened, and today i find myself in good health in that way, so all, is well.

Also somewhere along the way, Charles revealed of his astonishment, when Warren established the Majengo Warren foundation with IRA tax approval....this is just never been done before in his experience. Corportations will take on a project for a couple of years, under a contract, and once it haS expired, the money stops coming, the project shuts down, the people go away, and that is the end of it. But what! What is happening here...?? With Warren behind this project, with Matt at its head, with his family and friends behind it, with Yvonne spending her days and nights sewing school bags for the kids, for everyone collecting clothing for the kids....with pictures, and friends coming over to check it out for themselves...with it quite frankly, as we would say, blown away.

We are all excited about the prospect of growing. ICA TANZ has put together a micro financing agency of our own, now servicing 40 people in and around Mto Wa Mbu in small business, usually offering loans to people who are in need of a few more dollars to embellish their already existing businesses. It has been highly successful, the loans mostly going to women, not always, but often the members of society most bent on furthering their education and life of their families.

Another wonderful dinner at Jambo, boy am i getting spoiled. With Abdul at our beck and call everyday, running us from meeting to meeting, and with Diana well ensconced up at Jambo with that nice restaurant at our disposal, what am i going to do now that they are gone!!
Diana almost died of happiness when she first discovered the incredible vegetable quiches created at this restaurant, and soon Jamie was up at 7pm ready in the kitchen to learn of its secrets. Saturday morning we all congregaged with great anticipation for one of the best breakfasts i have ever had..this quiche made by our Jamie, created, she will tell you if you like, from only three eggs in all, one mixed into the aSSORTment of vegetables, onions, zuchinni, eggplant, carrots, greens, you get the picture, all chopped up and stir fried with one egg only, and then that whole mix layed out on a cookie sheet and FROZEN, yes they have electricity up there....for awhile while the crust, much like our own with one egg only, is baking....out comes the frozen veggies, scooped onto the warm crust about two full inches high, no kidding, and topped with grated cheddar and a dribbling of the third egg.....the whole thing thrown into an oven for twenty minutes, and that's it. Kym will love it..Matt is sure...

okay..i just might get this whole visit done going at this rate, but again, i apologize for no editing or checking..the facts are correct, i know them as well as i do my own life....but at this point, gawd only knows what i have written and told.
WE head over to Mayunga's village leader be part of an interviewing process, for the leaders to make their selection of 15 new little kids into Majengo, as pre schoolers, living out, we already have 28 permanent kids sleeping there full time. A small group of mostly women, a couple of men, and children dressed in tatters, are waiting patiently outside the offices as we begin. At first bringing in the guardian with their child, or children for the interview, being questioned by Charles and Peter, and then translated into English...At first the children were present during the interviews, but Matt soon questioned the need for the child to hear the stories, and after pictures were taken, the kids were moved back to the main group. all of this was done outside in a little circle, with the village leaders, our ICA friends, and us....
Stories which would break your heart....of men running off leaving wives and girls with one up to 8 kids...these women trying desperately to feed their families, begging for assistance from family members, often being turned away, the village leaders, or reluctant relatives helping out, often the husbands of those people, giving ultimatums, disrupting family relationships, and finally forcing an end to the assistance. A priest arrives with a lovely young girl he has rescued after both parents have died of HIV AIDS. A young girl who became pregnant with one child by a rich but married businessman, whose support by him had been stopped by his wife who had discovered the arrangement, so distraught was this guy, that he has now run away, disappeared into thin air, from both the wife, and the young girl. What else?
Drunk husbands, and to be fair, even one drunk wife who abandoned a very nice guy left with two children, one whod lost his plot of land and who was now surviving on odd farming jobs in other people's plots...grandmothers looking after grandkids, their parents gone from HIV AIDS...healthy mothers now broken down by illness, HIV AIDS...unable to work, trying, but too weak to get up, the younger children now being cared by the older...a dad in prison...

Each and every one of the 14 families interviewed, there was not one we could see, or feel, who wasnt it very dire need of help....and luckily, using our mandate of selecting only kids 6 years and under, we managed to be able to accept each and every one of the children who requested help from Majengo, all 15 of them...this means, that along with the 19 kids who are 7 aND OVER in primary school but living in, plus the 6 in primary living out, we will now be providing 24 pre schoolers with uniforms and shoes, breakfast and lunches and great schooling to prepare them for the primary when they turn 7....15 of these new kids will live out..
WE figure it is about $50 US per child per year primary...and $40. per child per pre school...including two uniforms, two shoes, books, school fees, food....for one year...not a lot of money considering the results of what can be done.

Next...on to Pambazuko...that wonderful other little family orphanage, sponsored by Kertin and Berndt from Sweden, with mama Tabea and papa Elias residing over the 14 children of this magical place...these kids were relocated from one of the orphanages along the safari route, which we all volunteered at three and four years ago. I know these kids well, have spent weekends teaching them swimming, attended lots of birthday parties....festivities..i call this my second orphanage..i know these kids better on an individual basis, than i do the kids at Majengo...but that will change too....
these weeks to come, before i fly home at Easter....Peter and I will spend lots of time over at Majengo, getting to know those kids just as well..writing bios..taking pictures, teaching English....

but that magical night was a celebration for Fabiola and Melania...gorgeous little girls around age 10, with birthdays unknown, they declared this to be the big day, especially that Kersin and Berndt were in town for the occasion...Dressed in new pretty pink prom dresses with pearls around their necks they sat at their own table with three pink and white and white balloons and decorations behind them...the rest of the family, were at another table, everyone decked out, with family friends and relatives, neighbourhood kids cramming into a corner of the room to be an uninvited part of the festivities, a band, dancing boys aND GIRLS....lots of music, laughter, great food and friendship...speeches...all of us getting up, being welcomed, as though we were in our own communities....

we have become, a part of this part, of Africa....

Tat is the most wonderful part, that we get to attend these celebrations, be part of the lives of these incredible people, TAbeas and Elias beaming, happy, childless before, and now parents of 14 kids, each and every one of them loved, and secure in their home, finally....

And finally as my fingers fly, trying to beat the clock, my back aCHING, but the memories of those four short action packed incredible days beating strongly in my what a time. Rushing home, packing up...the next morning, yesterday. a crazy ride for 50 miles or so out into the tundra to visit Chief and his huge Masai family out on his boma...cattle, and goats running about, children and family members rushing out to greet us, dressed in the reds and blue colourful sheets, fabulous beaded necklaces...we greet the Chief's great father, who had 6 wives and who knows how many children, he sits under the shad of a big tree on a blue plastic chair, just like last year, we bow our heads in greeting, and then offer our hands into which he spits a little as we brush our fingers down our stomachs, legs and back, for good we go to visit inside the bomas where Seanna my daughter and granddaughter Sierra, age 8 slept for a whole night last year on top of a sheet of cowhide in that dark little igloo like building with only one window, likely filled with bugs and lice, but hey, we survived!!
Outside to the back with Chief to choose a baby goat to buy, for Pyper and Finn, my son Johnnys twins age almost 4, and a little black one for Baby Eve just born three m \onths ago, man i miss them so terribly sometime, all of them....
Matt, and Brian they bought goats for their kids....too....
According to Charles we paid a heafy rate, but again, hey, this experience to visit an authentic Masai boma as guests of our friend the Chief of the Engaruga tribe of Masai people scattered in the region outside of Mto WA Mbu...was worth it...Upon leaving, we paSS BY the Chief's father again, who has partaken in the cognac which we bestowed upon him upon our arrival and first greeting an hour before.
He becomes rather surely, all in Masai, he points to me, and grunts something..oh my gawd i am in for it, i think, he is going to banish me from this place forever, i have obviously done something wrong, maybe hurried our goodbyes along a little too quickly, standing there smiling like a dumb donkey i am, and now we all are because there is a problem..A MATTATa....AND none of us know what it is about. What have we done? The Chief is trying to quietly calm his father down who is not happy, and requests that we all assemble ourselves in a row...realizing later that he is separating the black Africans from us whites...and then Chief tells us it is time to go leave well enough alone....we file back into the van...
Later, Charles told us, that the dad haD NOT been informed that we had spent copious amounts of cash on those three baby goats, way more than was needed, in fact, Matt bought a baby goat born four days before, which could barely walk, very cute though with Charles being astounded that a goat that young would even ever consider being sold, but again, hey!! what do we know!!!

so he thought we had spent lovely time on his boma and not offered assistance to his people....a big of a cultural misunderstanding, over and out..

And finally, another 15 minutes of jossling around in that truck, across running rivers, up embankments of sliding stones, Masai washing themselves, their clothing, cows and goats drinking alongside....over to the village of Engaruka...where Chief hAS his village home...where, we become surrounded by Masai women offering to sell a gorgeous array of bracelets, necklaces, neck pieces..all made so intricately by these gorgeously adored women...bedecked in beads of all colours, sizes, i know each necklace meaning something, whether they are married, widowed..single....each piece different...Brian busy all that day, with his notebook, writing and jotting down little tiny little blocks, in strange formation, to me, on his pages...

Matt is convinced that on his next trip over..he will be fluent, not only in Swahili, but in Masai....determined to spend a few days, maybe a week out there on that boma with the Chief and his family, and the father, next time....

Behind Chief's house...a small fire is burning, with two goat legs roasting slowly in its char....we sit down around a small wooden table in the middle of a grove of trees, the table covered with branches and green leaves as a 'tablecloth'...the Masai warrior, the young very good looking morani at its head. He takes a branch and with his sword makes a spear which is driving into the soft earth, the branch acts as a brace upon which to hold the hot goat leg, he begins to cut it up into small juicy chunks offering the first one to Diana who, just the night before had told me she was determined not to eat anything strange again, until leaving Africa. The whole question of stomach issues visits every traveller, be they in Africa or to any part of the world where different foods with residue of water, could directly play havoc upon said traveller, without a lot of notice. Each and every one of us has a story or two of the dreaded mishappance....and Diana was determined to get out of there without grave disturbance. But just the night before, moments after making this declaration, her name was sung out loud and clear by birthday revellers to dance up to the two celebrated girls who offered white cake chunks stabbed onto toothpicks, each and every one of us including Diana, bending over and taking a piece of cake into our mouths. There was no getting out of it...she did it and she ate it..and today, aS BEFORE, the goat was offered to each and every one of us, and yes, indeed she took it, ate it and LOVED it!!

All i can say as my time here is coming to an end...
As we bid goodbye to each other...with lots of wonderful eye shining intentions, and expectations, and ideas and promises,yes promises in the budding form maybe, if all goes well, with our fundraising efforts out there...with the wonderful people at home...with all of you who have given so much, please know, that each and every bit you can offer, will make for sure those good intentions, become promises..become dreams become true!!

It has been a visit of a lifetime..
My good new friend Diana, and Jamie...their lives have changed forever. aS THEY have said, Africa now, is in their heart. They understand i think, what Matt felt last year, it just grabs you and take a hold. The resilience of these people, their love and joy, beyond all poverty, and illness, their ability to come together with each other as a community, a big family, each helping each other as best they can...
and now, we have the honour...of being part of that!!

I will be coming to Warren in May..mid May, i think around the 14th...ask Diana..
we will have a wonderful celebration of these days together, and hopefully of the incredible things we can do in the futures....dreams into promises...

i thank you all....big hugs....
and now, for a lovely Kili beer, and has been great spending the day with you....xxLynn
ps Matt if i have forgotten aything.....let me know!!!!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

JAMBO!! A week since Diana, Matt's mom, and Jamie arrived - it has flown by!! Yesterday, Diana exclaimed that so far it'sbeen a 'trip of a lifetime!!' and to think that only a short two months ago, she was just tooafraid to make this trip! Bravo!! They descendedintoa hot steamy evening, as she related later, waiting in line for their visas at the Kilimanjaro airport, dripping with sweat, she was thinking, Oh My Gawd. What have i gotten myself into!!!
Off to Arusha with Abdul driving, overnight at the Naz Hotel, where a tiny baby lizard scampered up the white washed walls of their room, oh no i thought, a few culture shocks...the selection in Mto wa mbu of rice and beans, greens and more, rice and beans and greens not to their fancy, but easily remedied as they discovered a mean vegetarian quiche made from scratch envelopped inside a delicious cheesy pastry about a mile out of town at a nice safari campsite, with a pool to rest and recoup. It's allowing me to compare through them, what we have at home, vs what we have here..the plumbing in our small but clean bathrooms, tiled from the floor up to the ceiling, on the fritz more than not, outside the rooms at night non stop people talking, greeting each other, calling across the dusty road from one to the next, the mooing of cows, donkeys,goats as they make their way along, the tv on in the courtyard incessantly bleating in Swahili, music, dancing number, sometimes annoying. On day one,
WE visit the church in Arusha packed with 100 little kids dressed in blue and green uniforms, all pre schoolers, lined up singing songs and eating porriage scooped out into plastic coffee cups by wonderful volunteer women in the very poor slum neighbourhood - where Pastor Naiman has chosen 18 of the most vulnerable to start his own orphanage just down the road, over tea, rice, a short of beef stew, talking of maybe taking this on....and on to Mto Wa Mbu...our little village with dusty streets, shops and stalls lined up on both sides of the main road, a bar called the Double M where we sit outside and have lunch of what else but rice, greens, beans, and more beans...rice and greens..
That first day, we visit Majengo, meeting the kids with lots of songs, a dance with Glory tying skirts made of grass around the waists of the older kids, moving rythmically in a circle swinging their hips and singing, the drum beating, meeting the staff, and the next morning sorting out four suitcases of clothing, toys, school and medical supplies-thank you Yvonne for putting all of this together!! and presenting it all to Majengo the next day. Wonderful!!
I am thrilled to greetthem here, to see for themselves the incredible work they are doing back home in Warren, where every last cent of their fundraising has gone, this place Majengo is a dream, compared to the other facilities around the village. WE spend a day jammed into my small office, with Charles at the computer, Peter, Killo and Martha going through last year's budgets...each and every item at a time...
The food...maise, rice, beans, sugar, cooking oil, and what they call the daily run, where fresh vegetables are picked up, fruit, milk..the cooks asking for one glass a day each to combat the harsh firewood and charcoal pollution rising from open fires, morning noon and night...Each and every item discussed in detail by this committee of many litres, pots, boxes...per month, per year... clothing, uniforms....last year we had 10 kids at primary school, but this year, 19... each one with school needs, some living in...and what about the 6 who were at pre school last year, but who now are in primary, but living out, are we responsible for assisting these kids as well with uniforms, books, school fees?..we all agree yes, leaving spots for 16 more pre schoolers at Majengo....more kids...more uniforms, more food....more budgeting, but isn't this what we are trying to do? To add new kids every year....2010, with new figures we have expanded from 40 kids last year, up to 55 this year. The village leaders who know all the families in the area, who know the most poor and vulnerable, the families with orphaned kids they have taken in but who are struggling with children of their own..these are the kids we are hoping to help....
Diana and Jamie are learning a lot..skyrocketing learning curve,2understand theprocess of budgeting, all the items we did't include during our first year, and now, adding new things, knowing from experience how much we need for how many kids, and making a very precise budget. It is all good...

A three day safari up to the Ngora Crater and over across the wide plains into the Serengeti, what an incredible experience! Our first night, at dusk, opening my door, four giraffes and a band of zebras grazing just outside the lodge, sillouetted amongst African trees, the Ndutu lake sparkling in the background. And that very night, awakened around 1:30 by loud insistant grunting, uh, uh, uh....lions, male lions, a lot of them out there, not too far from where we were sleeping!

WE saw everything, 17 huge elephants lumbing across the 12 mile green on green plainsof the Ngora Crater, amongst zebra who can see mixed with thousands of wildebeasts running like crazy in long lines galloping with their babies aside making their yearly migration south along the Serengeti. Giraffe everywhere, tall and graceful, elegantly chewing the tops of trees, baboons scampering in huge families, ostriches with long legs and necks bopping in and out of tall grasses,we saw a brand new just born baby zebra still encased in its mucus birth bag lying on the ground, alive....the mother waiting for our truck to take off to finish the job of birthing a few metres away....hyenas, sculking and black vultures high up perched in bare dead trees without leaves, with knarled branches and limbs, very old,sculptures in their own, waiting for the next kill....hovering...

Incredible...for me, my third safari, but for Diana and Jamie....each moment, each beautiful vista spread out with rolling green hills, bands of lime green colour swept across ranges of moss covered trees, speckled with black animals far in the distance, the bright red cloth of the Masai boys with sticks herding cows and goats from hill to hill in search of water...they rush to the safari truck handing out bottles of water and bananas as we lumber along...

Diana loves it, every minute of it, watch out she comes!!

And Matt arrives tonight with friend Brian who i have never met from BC...
Arusha for me today, I jumped onto a local bus and speeded into town early to hit this internet cafe, and to walk through the markets i love so much. Women selling fruit and vegetables atop sheets of plastic and lined up in little pyramids, or in creatively festive rows, big fat carrots, bright red tomatoes, mangoes, oranges, bananas and pineapples jammed into and filling up the back of huge pick up trucks, tumbling onto the ground, venders selling costume jewellery, belts, colourful sheets of bright fabric, shoes of every sort set out in pairs, runners, flip flops, black school oxfords and stilletoes with high heels sculptured, copied from the latest pages of Vogue..t shirts, stationery stores, sheet selling shops, towels, matresses, kitchen goods lined up along the road, pots, dishes, cutlery, Western toilets, sinks, cars, trucks falling apart, motorcycles, busses jammed with people checking cell phones, texting, taxi guys running along is all safe, you just keep moving amongst it all, savouring the new smells, sounds, grinding of trucks, the school kids arms linked in matching skirts and sweaters even in this heat, dancing amongst it all.
Matt here for four days only. So much to do, i can't wait till he comes...Majengo, one year later....the other night Diana, Jamie and I met four people at the pool, telling them of Majengo they wanted to visit. So without notice, we all stroll over...Glory the teacher/matron is out at the hospital with two with malaria, Grayson has finished his day and gone home...the two cooks are out in the kitchen frying up some kind of big puffy delicious cake buns and Witness, our cleaner who spends her days washing clothes, cleaning and showering 28 kids, is inside, as they all coming running up to greet us. The visitors are blown away. Everyone is showered with hugs..huge smiles, on gorgeous little faces smiling, so happy to see us....we move outside as Matilda, one of the Masai girls we support at Secondary school, shows up belting out songs with the kids....we are all taking pictures, joining in on the songs....not staged, this is the way it is. Jenny, one of our visitors said, after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and doing a five day safari, that this was THE HIGHLIGHT of their entire trip to Africa....1!! and i would say that Diana and Jamie felt the same. We were all blown away.

And last night, over drinks with Peter, Charles, Grace his wife..Peter, talking about the vision we had a year ago....putting this place together, all of us, working so hard, the renovations, building the outdoor kitchen, the bunk beds, sheets and towels, benches and desks, setting up the pre school....and here we are a year later, with a place running so smoothly, with a group of staff who work so hard at keeping these kids healthy, open it is, how honestly it is running... how unique this place is...the vision...

How it has become a reality....

It is a me....I needed that talk, i needed to remember what it is we are doing here, what we hope to make grow....thank you Peter for bringing that back to me...and now, tonight Matt..the guy who really has been responsible for keeping this whole thing going...I pinch myself, what was i thinking!! a year ago, raising all that money to renovate that house, to furnish it, to move in all those kids...but never giving it a moment's thought about how we would finance the running costs!! Not one thought!! Maybe i think to myself, somewhere up there the universe knew that someone would come along and make that happen, as i said, magical!!
WElcome to Matt....and Brian....i can't wait to see them....
For more days of everyone being here...Matt and Brian, his mom Diana and Jamie... and then off they go Sunday night....
I'm here till Easter....another big chunk of time on my own with Charles, Peter... pulling together everything we will talk about these next four days, infrastructure, micro financing, our budgeting, Pastor Naiman's new orphanage....
Just a tiny slice, a small chunk inside this continent, Africa....I am always thinking, it is never enough, never enough, so many here needing so much....but i am reminded everyday, that each little bit means so much, so out there, thank you again!!
over and out!! with 45 seconds to post this blog!!