Monday, March 21, 2011

Majengo UPDATES!! March 21...Happy spring...raining out my Toronto window this morning, dark and grey, not exactly spring yet..but hey!

Decided last week not to go over this month as i hoped. I've been over twice in the last 5 months and am going back in is costly and better to save up here and get things done on this side....but still, am dreaming of being there....

I will miss our 2nd Majengo Orphanage anniversary party on April 1 (fools day!), plus the four April dates I was supposed to receive the money my uncle lent, interest free, for a 6 months term to 4 VICOBAS micro-finance groups back in November. I met with them in February...all going exceptionally well. Almost all of the 80 People Living with HIV AIDS who borrowed money had reported a profit in their small businesses during the 3 months time between November to February. They did so well that they were able to register their own children into Secondary School, paying the expensive fees of $650. for the first year.
An exceptional feat!
But consequently, having spent their profits for school fees, they are back to where they started. They asked that the loan be extended for another 6 months. Why not! Since I can't get back until October/November, we extended their loans till that time. More time for them to regain their profits, and for me to be there personally. Great!

Lots of great news from Majengo Orphanage thanks to Peter and Kissa keeping in touch regularly now, our communication issues more or less resolved, despite the difficulties with electrical blackouts, disrupted phone services, etc...

The 16 kids who got chickenpox in January are well now, with only one small boy suffering. All 77 live-in kids were tested for HIV AIDS on March 5 with only 2 positive! This is incredible considering that most of the kids lost their parents to this terrible disease.

We have one little 5 year old girl, Vailet Alex who came to us in December. Her blood is weak. She is tired, listless..doctors at first treated for malaria which worked for a few weeks, but still the situation stays. They took her to the hospital in Kiratu, but discovered it could be a kidney issue where she will have to be taken to Arusha or Monduli, much bigger hospitals about 2 hours away for further treatment.
Our matron Glory has been away for three weeks now, as her older sister passed away suddenly at the age of 43. Glory thanks the staff and ICA for their wonderful support during this time. Martha, our Majengo treasurer took over the health and well being of the kids, sleeping every night at Majengo, assisted by Witness, our head cleaner. What i find wonderful here is how close the staff work together as a team. When one needs help the others pitch in willingly.

Grayson, our teacher is getting married in June...ICA and Majengo staff offered a portion of their salary to help pay for this for the church and party afterwards to be held at Majengo, and just as much to be paid to his fiance's family, as dowry for her hand!

A November 2010 university study by Audrey Crocker from Texas focusing on why the kids from Majengo are winning top academic spots in all classes at Primary school discovered that, according to the staff, it was due to immediate medical access and treatment, followed by good food, loving attention, security and stability.

CHILDREN'S RIGHTS workshop...Saturday, March 19th...our ICA lawyer, Glory conducted a full day workshop with all the live-in kids at Majengo to teach them of their rights: rights to good food, medical needs, education and attentive loving staff and people looking after them. That they should not be beaten; that they must learn to respect each other, and their teachers, and most of all to respect themselves. Back in December 2010, the the 49 new children brought in from corrupt shut down orphanages, clung together with the children from where they came , but within a month they had integrated with all the kids both from the 4 other shut down orphanages or with the 28 kids already living in Majengo.

Even little Anna, our youngest child at Majengo is doing incredibly well. The police dropped her off in January. At 9 months of age she had the sick and weakened body of a seriously malnourished three month old - given three days to live. But Adija, our head cook, scooped her up and declared Baby Anna as her child, taking her home every night to her own family of 5 children. By day, Anna is the little queen of Majengo. Just four weeks later, she is now strong enough to sit up in the middle of a blanket surrounded by her adoring assembly of staff and children - the kids hooking her onto their backs roaring around with her, and she eats nonstop all day. Anna's parents are unavailable to look after her.

Considering privacy rights for Children, we are not allowed to post publicly the history of these children or specifics of what happened to their parents. But basically, every child we have at Majengo is among the most vulnerable and poor in the community, each one totally alone in the world without anyone to look after them - no relatives, neighbours or family friends. But now they are no longer alone. They live as a huge family among 77 other kids with a staff of 18 and another 30 kids sleeping out but spending most days at Majengo with meals and pre schooling. One big happy family. Not the best, of course. But much better than living on the streets, passed from guardian to guardian, with little care, food, medical needs or educational.

Thanks again, everyone out there donating regularly to support these children. Your generosity is making a huge difference! I wish you could see with your own eyes what your dollars are doing, and what just a few weeks of tender loving care can bring. When those new kids arrived in December, they were "scrounging like starved animals", eating anything they could get their hands on: leaves from the trees, mud and garbage from the road. They pushed and shoved at mealtimes, desperate for good food, or any food, eating sometimes 2 or 3 servings at a time!

But now they have settled in. When Matt, Ian and I visited in January they were lining up at mealtime, quietly and in order, not stampeding the kitchen...happy, relaxed and confident now that they were finally home. This could not have been achieved but for the patience and direction of our staff. They work hard to create an atmosphere of love and respect amongst each other and the children - and for their environment. They get together with ICA staff and village leaders twice a month to report challenges, ideas, to clarify job descriptions and needs and decide what is working well, what needs to be helped. The atmosphere we are trying to create is one of respect, love, competence and transparency.

Recently they agreed that Saturday mornings would be set aside for "compound cleanup", where all the staff and kids scour the grounds for garbage and things out of keep their new home clean. Great idea~

Back in February at a huge staff meeting we learned of everything needed at Majengo now that our numbers had catapulted from 28 to 77 live-in kids! Since then, staff and ICA have bought everything on the list: uniforms and shoes, sweaters, school bags, paper, pens, chool and sporting materials, cleanliness items like shampoo, vaseline, soaps, disinfectants, etc...all the new kitchen needs as they went from feeding 40 people 3x a day up to over 100 people!

They have been busy: They finished building a security fence around our three rental houses to keep cows out! and the kids in!! They erected a huge 5,000 litre water reserve tank up onto a tower made of metal posts outside the main house....waiting now for electricity access which should have been hooked up when we paid for it in December.

They had signs made for the highway: "THANK YOU FOR VISITING THE MAJENGO ORPHANAGE", with arrows pointing to the facility and opened a Tourist Information Centre in the ICA offices to inform and attract people to the orphanage to see for themselves what is happening here. Before, corrupt orphanages on the safari route easily lured in tourists by keeping children sick and poor. Now, we hope to encourage those same tourists to visit Majengo and contribute donations into our secured Contribution Box, thus helping those same kids they saw out on the safari route, now being cared for properly. This month we hope to build a small office outside the facility as an Information Centre.

Our 2nd Anniversary party is coming up! April 1.

Two years ago on March 08, 2009, we officially moved 28 children into our newly-renovated facility, from the mud-floored dark and leaking foyer I found them in one year before. And how we have grown! It is so very exciting, and deeply rewarding.

Anyone wanting to help or hear more about Majengo, please email me at, or Jamie and Di at our Warren Pennsylvania US offices at

On Saturday I ran out to the airport to wave off Ian Ashbaugh, his wife Becky and his parents from Pennsylvania as they fly over to Tanzania - Ian's third visit! They will spend a week at the orphanage helping to build the outdoor dining area and new office, spend time with the kids, maybe a little gardening, and then off on safari! I gave them a computer to pass along to Dr. John who treated me back in November with my shingle thing. He promises, along with Sister Monica at the Catholic Mission next to the orphanage, to take a big part in the ongoing medical health of the kids...

So that's it!
have a great week....

ps: I'm taking a 5 week course on Word Press blogging at CSI Centre for Social Innovation - I am sure we will see a great change in this blog, plus linking it all to Facebook, Twitter...and whatever, i am doing my best to leap into social goes!!

...and plus plus...i am renovating the top two floors of my house in Toronto's Anex to create the MAJOR STREET B - a B and B but where you have the opportunity to make your own breakfast...anyone interested..please call me: 416-951-6528.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

One month cold rainy grey dark Toronto the good....
I am reading over my blogs of the last few an email from a family member of a recently deceased director of one of the shut down corrupt orphanages imploring me to remove the name in my description of her brother's death, which i did. Now that he is gone, there is no point in naming him directly or dragging any of what happened up again, what was done was done. And i empathize with her, in that this man's children do not need to grow up and read directly of the deeds of their father.
Time to move on...and we all have.
I had no time to write of the last week in Tanzania before coming home...a great few days in Arusha where i met the director and scientist organizing the arrival of 40 international scientists coming from all over the world to inspect what they call Litolia, the feet of a mama, baba and toddler infused into rock near Ngoro Ngoro, a few hours away, reputedly 3 and a half million years old! These feet had been discovered 20 years ago, and for awhile had been uncovered and left to the elements, cracking and fading a little in some parts. Now, covered in moss they were about to be exposed to the best minds in the world to determine exactly how to perserve these feet. It was fascinating and so was this scientist I met at the Lush Garden Hotel.
Back to Mto Wa Mbu...working with Charles on our new brochure for Majengo to distribute to safari tourists at our new Majengo Visitor's Centre, he left the next day for Dar. The next morning beginning a typical day infused with frustration, my frustration, reminding me again and again, the merits of patience...ah....Up early to grab a bus up to Kiratu to the only bank which will spew money through my debit card, and WAIT! the machine is broken.. no money, then on to the ICA offices to meet with 4 Vicoba micro finance groups - the leaders of one are waiting outside under the shade of a tree..the door is padlocked, and after many calls and an hour later, we WAIT, Glory arrives with the key, her fiance had been sick and she'd taken him to the hospital. We get in but still with one group out of 4 represented, we WAIT...No one had told the other 3 groups to come, misunderstanding...we hold the meeting finally. My three canvas suitcases are not in the office as told. They were in the truck which went to the car wash, the bags thrown on the cement floor, and left there by accident...Kissa who is taking Charles' job has grabbed the all day bus to Moshi and back to pick up wired money arriving from the U.S., won't be back till nightfall, cancel meetings. But then...our last afternoon at Majengo:
We gather up all 77 kids and take pictures of them one by one in front of the grey stuccoed wall outside the main orphanage in groups: pre school live in kids, primary 1-2-3-4-5-7...all the live in kids, we take pictures of them alone and in groups, me with the camera and Peter sitting on a stool writing down their names and a description of their clothing: pinky shirt, Snoopie, uniform with shirt hanging out, one pink and one grey flip flop. Then we assemble them together with the staff behind and snap a few, make a little speech about working hard in school, and that we'll be coming back soon, and we love them so much, and we're shaking each little hand, or banging fists and some of us are crying and some of the kids too, little bodies racked with tears pressing up close to our legs, our is heartbreaking to say goodbye.
That last night, dinner at Pambazuko the other Children's home with those kids who were rescued way back in 2009 from one of the 'bad' orphanages, the kids i first hung out with before discovering exactly what was going on...They are magnificent. Here we have a family group of 16 growing healthy kids who have been together for years, at first under the direction of corruption, and now at Pambazuko with a great mama and baba looking after them.

WE did magic tricks...three little you know that one? showing them explicitly how to do it for friends at school....and then teaching them the Bunny Hop which they loved! Great singing and dancing for a few hours, pack up and the next day take off to Arusha with Peter, Kissa, Glory and Hamidu our to buy stuff for Majengo: kitchen and cleaning, all the uniforms, sweaters, shoes...the 5,000 litre rubber water tower tank and metal poles to build the tower, two pumps one to give as a thank you gift to the Catholic Mission next door who run an infirmary for delivering babies and who have been without water for the last three months!! and one for Majengo. What else...down the list...the truck filled with goodies, I stay in Arusha with Peter and the others back to Mto Wa Mbu...we get 1,000 brochures copies for $1 brochure, insane... remind me to bring them over next time from Canada...
And the long trip home...9 hours to Amsterdam...8 more to Toronto.
On the plane a fascinating guy whose an international marketing person, and a determination to drop my prejudices and join Facebook...maybe Twitter, hey why not!!
Time to get serious. We need help!!
Have applied for my Canadian registered charitable status..should get the results within the year. Got to get out there, make presentations, form a Team Canada, get the word out and introduce Majengo to everyone out there who wants to help the little orphanage that grew and grew...
I am so proud of our staff in Africa...if not for them, those 47 new kids would never be integrated so well into Majengo. They were abused, dirty, sad scruffy little stragglers, starving, without medical attention and certainly without attention and love. Today thanks to our staff at the orphanage and at ICA, those kids have come together as one big beautiful family, all 77 who live on our premises.
It is the government's preference to locate children into the community's homes of family, relatives or friends and neighbours rather than in an orphanage setting, so many of the kids coming from the 5 shut down orphanages have been relocated into homes in the community, but who come to Majengo for all three meals and schooling five days a week.

So far so incredibly good....
I write today three weeks after returning from Africa.

Charles is still in Dar, his father suffering a series of strokes, I wish his family all my love.
Kissa has taken over his job in Mto Wa Mbu, with Peter and Glory at ICA working with our staff at Majengo, daily visits, shopping, financial accounting, one on one meetings with the children. Helping with cooking, cleaning, we have lost two of our Masai girls who have gone back to their villages, Mayunga and Raymond, our government leaders on the lookout to hire more staff.
Sixteen kids and Peter got the chickenpox..a few have had malaria since i came home, with visits to Sister Monica at the Catholic mission next door. All good. They've added a snack at 11am for the little ones, in preschool...fixed the broken table and bunk bed...expanded the outdoor kitchen, built the tower for the water reserve tank, still waiting for the electrical hook up which we paid for in December. Shelves have been built and installed in house one and two, a fence now surrounds the compound. Our three watchment have uniforms, boots and a set of bows and arrows, instead of the guns they originally asked for, and flashlights. Done. A tailor has sewed uniforms for all 114 kids, shoes have been bought, sweaters and school bags. What else?

Money ran out to build the new Visitor's office outside Majengo and the outdoor dining room facility with the thatched roof and tables and benches for 100 people...waiting...

Just came back from a great three days in Warren...thank you to Pam at the McKissock offices working with me all day Wednesday on our new brochure..thanks to Maxine, Nancy and Judy for editing back in Toronto. A great dinner in the basement of the Presbyterian church and afterwards a presentation with a few slides and Matt and I up there talking about Majengo, those folks planning a mission visit in 18 months with 15 or so members of the church. By then we should be in the throws of building our own brand new orphanage facility, as our leases run out in 2013 for the three houses we now use. Jamie, Ian, Matt and all the folks at Warren Majengo, what a great team. We're planning an Art Auction/Majengo catch up in June, followed by my giving a two day art workshop geared for absolute beginners all the way up to advanced, easy, informative, fast moving...using all kinds of medium: paint, charcoal, pastel, paste, collage, coffee!! Hope to get lots of would be painters out there for that workshop..all proceeds to Majengo!
RE organized our budgets and wiring of money to ICA Tanzania...way more efficient, with monthly financial statements and narration of the kids due before monies are sent across. Much clearer and easier for Kissa there, and great for us to receive monthly updates. Ah...we move along slowly, but as my friend Nancy up here in Toronto said last week, the amount work achieved by everyone re Majengo in three short years is astonishing, considering the distance across continents, difficulty in communication, differences in cultures, language, perceptions, ideas, finances, illnesses, deaths...... Incredible!

Ian is going back mid March, with his wife Becky, his parents and aunt, for a week of safari and another working with the kids at the orphanage. I am as aways tempted to go over! We are having our 2nd anniversary party over there on March 25, a huge triumph! especially with all our new kids and staff...and i am supposed to be there April 8 and 12 to pick up the loan money from the 4 micro finance groups...we shall see............

Till then....thanks to Judy Steed I'm doing three presentations at the Central & in downtown Toronto in the next month, with kids from their youth group and at a couple of big adult groups. Open and available to talk to everyone, and anyone..please call me!
Or email:

Lots of love to you is almost spring!