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?..to 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 families....life is very hard here.
So here is the need.
Charles quizzed us the other day about the difference between a PROBLEM, or a CHALLENGE...so 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!!!
So here we go again..
I have to get home, and learn about micro financing..the ins and outs of foreign loans....how 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.
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!!