Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hi everyone...greetings from Toronto Canada!

Here is is mid June in Toronto, the day dark and grey and a little cold, dreaming about the wonderful things going on over at Majengo orphanage in Mto Wa Mbu, Tanzania...I almost never write this blog from Canada, but just got a great email from Peter at ICA Tanzania, and just had to write to you.

As you know, we have 28 children, age 3 up to 8, living in at Majengo...and are supporting another 25 kids who sleep at home, but who spend their days either at our pre school right on the premises, or down the road at the local primary school. We were able to interview and admit 15 more pre schoolers who live out, into Majengo in April this year. Of course, their adjustment was huge..getting used to new children, our two wonderful teachers Grayson and Glory...just seeing a new face could often send them into a spasm of tears! Three meals a day, what a wonder, especially for so many of these children who are the most poor and vulnerable in the region. To actually eat well and regularily is something they never have been able to experience.

He writes that out of 112 children (age 7) in Session 1 of Primary school, 6 of our children: Amina, Muazi, Barick, Sharimina, Ramia and Alex stand top in their class! And in Session 2, (age 8) out of 132 kids, congratulations to 9 more Majengo kids at the top of their class!!!: Amina, Marium, Neema, Sebastian, Godlizen, Jnifer, Hawa, Raheri and Philippo...!! Bravo!!!

Our staff of 8 full time, and 2 part time remain happy and comfortable in their work. Just a few months ago, as well as upping their salara, we were able to help each one of them with their own children's educational needs. Matt stressed over there this year, that all we demand from them is honesty, hard work, competence and love of the children, those four things...three, is not enough! and so far we seem to have gotten them in spades. We added a part time English teacher and a night watchman onto our staff as well this year, at the advice of our full timers.

Our English teacher comes in everyday after school, teaching English to both our staff and to our primary school children. Peter says the level of learning is vastly improved and hopes that by the time we arrive back next year, they will be able to understand us. I have to say, my Swahili, much to my chagrin, stays miserably put; hopefully, this fall, i will have time to take lessons..

What else..just got back from a wonderful weekend in Warren Pennsylvania with Matt and his family, his mom Diana and Jamie Bee who organized a great fundraising evening on the Saturday night at their local Holiday Inn. Along with a silent art auction and some nice food and wine, wonderful presentations, by Matt, myself, Diana and Jamie and by a great woman from Utah who visited the orphanage and flew in for the occasion. We raised over $8,000. that night.

We have a dream....we are now helping to support 50 kids at Majengo, and another 6 over at another orphanage in Arusha...56 children in one year...with the goal of assisting 1,000 kids in 5 years! This will be done, by helping families and guardians in the Majengo area, hopefully adding our support to the 6 kids in Arusha, where there are 100 children from a terribly empoverished area being schooled in a church every morning culminating with one cup of gruel at noon, often the only food they will eat all day. Pastor Naiman, who oversees this church and school project tells us that there are 400 more children in the area who are desperately waiting to get in. There is so much we can do.

OUr infrastructure over there is solid. With Charles Luoga our project coordinator at the helm, an incredible guy we have been working with now for four years. I always says, if i can't trust Charles, i can't trust anyone. Along with Charles at ICA Tanzania, we have Peter who graduated from High School with top honours as their head boy running our communication between Majengo and us far away, Mina who has just come on board as a community development leader, Glory who is our lawyer and Kissa, who comes from a huge project helping 3,000 children, in Handeni to the south of Mto WA Mbu...Without any of these people, we would be lost.

The beauty as i see it, of working as we are, is that the village leaders and ICA Tanzania are in charge of Majengo and its daily operations, decisions, etc..not us. We work in tandem with them, but are not heading the project. It is lead by them, overseen by them, and operated by them. And yet it is hands on. We can grab a flight over to Kilimanjaro and drive three hours to the orphanage to see for ourselves, hold the children in our arms, hear their singing. Watch them grow. This is not something you cross your fingers and hope that your good money is actually getting into the through to enhance the well being of the children. There is no doubt here...every cent is accounted for, the most important element, really, of the whole venture.

WE welcome everyone who wants to climb on board, in whatever capacity.
It is your choice! please google the Warren Majengo Foundation for more information as to how you can help, or email me at :
Phone: 416-951-6528

Re my micro finance project now...with our 80 HIV AIDS positive people, almost all women..briefly, because i will be attending a big micro finance conference in Toronto this coming week and will have so much more to tell you about...
In Mto Wa Mbu in March...we interviewed each one of the 80 people living with HIV AIDS, medical information, work experience, family and children, dependents, hopes and dreams...Then we ran an intensive three day workshop for half of the group, covering all aspects of business, group process, conflict resolutions, accountability, keeping books, receipts, and the principles of micro financing.It was exciting to witness them learning, talking so intensely between themselves, getting a grasp on what is required to run a small business: banana and sugar selling, small shop, chicken and egg production, all aspects of agriculture, farming, irrigation, labour, etc....
Next they will form themselves into small groups of 5 people, all hoping to do the same kind of business.
I have spent the last two months meeting and learning about micro financing from Canada. What i was told last week, by a team of top micro finance colleagues from Plan Canada, was that there are institutions in place in Tanzania who we could apply to for financing, rather than trying to raise the money here...those institutions would be in charge of monitoring and organizing our 80 PLWHA...(people living with HIV AIDS), if we were accepted.

will learn more about that this coming week at the conference.

Other than have moved out of my Argyle Place loft back into the first floor of my house on Major Street where the last tenant just vacated a week before i needed a new home! The great space on Atlantic avenue fell through, once we learned that the zoning there was commercial/industrical, NOT residential as we were origonally told. Thanks to Bob Kostyniuk, my lawyer, i was able to get out of the purchase deal in a short period of time! But it was disconcerting, and led me to decide not to run my Creativity Art Retreat this summer..anywhere. I want to rent out the Dunedin space and the River House next door until i decide what to do with those spaces. And am looking still, for a wonderful place downtown into which I can relocate my art retreat. Times they are a changin...with a lot of transition, but am painting like mad, a new series and loving it.

that's me! this weekend giving a workshop to Mary's Kitchen folk, up in make spirit attach onto the food they prepare and deliver to people in need in the area of Creemore. a wonderful group...

stay tuned..will try to keep more in touch...
have a great summer!