Tuesday, February 07, 2012

JANUARY 2012 visit to Tanzania...accomplished!!
Jambo!! Before our January trip, joint meeting in Buffalo with friends in Warren, Pennsylvania and Majengo Canada. We created a long list of things we hoped the team from Canada could accomplish to move us forward....

Huge thanks this time to Canadian team of Seanna and Sierra Connell-Snell, Susan Lee, Simon Lee Hamilton, Margie Zeidler...to Charles Luoga, our on ground project coordinator and our wonderful staff at ICA and Majengo!!!! A whirlwind three weeks...with everyone back home now, jet lagged, exhausted, and missing those kids at Majengo, terribly. Ah...but the memories..

Briefly....impossible to sumerize....but here i go!!
• Team thought kids are in really good shape....happy and settled in one huge Majengo family, staff too. It's been a year since 67 kids arrived at Majengo en masse, a year of huge adjustment for kids and staff plus a major budget explosion for ongoing costs here in North America. Well done to everyone out there who has been helping, both in Tanzania and on the ground here in Canada and the US. WE are in this for life!!! With 114 kids depending on us...what a challenge. And what a feat!! thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

•Majengo Canada got our official charitable status from the Canadian government.... transitioning now into a legal and substantially verifiable organization, responsible for tax receipts, financial accountability and Board approval both here in Canada and in Tanzania. It has been a huge feat! And again i thank everyone on our board in both countries bearing with me especially ....I called it the Founder's Dilemna back in the spring, adjusting from the sponteneity of creative spirit toward growing a grounded, ongoing and successful organization.
A challenge, and I thank everyone for bearing with me through this process!!

JANUARY trip highlights and accomplishments:
•MAJENGO STAFF: Hired Spora Waziri: a nurse/matron with 40 years of government hospital experience in charge of the emotional/physical needs of the kids, diets, monthly reports, education. Welcome aboard! WE now have a staff of 16 local people overseen by Charles Luoga from local agent ICA Tanzania and local village leaders: Mayunga and Raymond, as follows:
-Killo and Martha, sec and treasurer who oversee daily operations, buying food, maintenance, bookeeping, health and well being of the children and staff...
-Grayson our fabulous pre school on site teacher assisted by
-Matilda and Eve, two Masai girls who we supported through 5 years of secondary school and Montessori teacher's college;
-Nuruana, Mariamu and Sauma: three cooks who manage to serve up over one hundred meals, three times a day, over an open fire within a small outdoor kitchen:
-Janet, Hildegarde, Hadija, Felister and Ameni: 5 cleaners who not only shower and keep 77 kids clean everyday, and wash hundreds of items of clothing everyday, but also keeping our three cottages clean and maintained.
-Maulid and Mhina, two watchmen, equipped with bows and arrows to protect the kids night and day...
- beginning the process of finding a great English teacher.
- updated staff salaries, reviewed and approved budget
- assisted 5 staff members with interest free loans to support their own children through secondary school.
-great visit with India and Peter, co-founders of Rift Valley Children's home ourside Kiratu, to research their children's home, for design ideas towards our new Majengo facility, which we hope to begin building this summer....pending on raising capital funding.
-Canadian architect Margie Zeidler volunteering her expertise with photos, sketches and great ideas, in the process of creating initial conceptual drawings for our new Majengo facility, collaborating with staff, ICA, local leaders and children.
- approval from Monduli District Council (like our provincial or state governmental body), of local Majengo government gift to Majengo of a 6+ acres of wide open windswept plot of land, 3 miles away from Majengo, for our new facility.
- Susan Lee and Charles interviewing local lawyers to draft contracts re ownership of buildings, land.
-initial discussions with Charles re ground supervisors and builders for new facility.
-took Majengo kids and staff on safari in nearby Manyara national park: delighted by giraffe, lions hanging and hissing overhead in a tree, zebra, flamingo, ostrich, wildebeast, buffalo, gizelle, elephants!!! all there, 15 minutes from Majengo! 3 vans filled with kids, one getting hugely stuck in three feet of sinking mud and water....
-trips to Kiratu for older and younger kids to playground, swings, slides, climbing walls....blast!
-daily English, jewellery making, craft and art classes...with Simone, Susan, Seanna and Sierra.
--organized and Olympic field meet, with three legged races, running, jumping games.
- Sponsorship Program: 11 children to date
- registered 26 kids (age 1-7), into Majengo pre school, 88 (age 7-14) into primary school, and 2 into secondary school,
-17 kids into nearby Mama Annas English Medium School, big thanks to sponsors Joseph Slepertas (England), Susan Lee, Ralph Hicks, Peg and Marion's Masai Girls Education fund. On Grayson and Charles recommendation of kids doing well, and/or working hard... English vastly improved with older kids teaching English to staff and little ones.
-Simone donated computer for Majengo, taught Killo, Grayson computer skills, which they now teach the children! Wait till we get our new facility, with computers and a library!!
-Registered 16 kids into Masai Girls Education Fund, secondary school program thanks to Peg and Marion.
-Visited 4 street kids in jail for stealing food, in process of getting them out and into govt boarding school, primary. Need sponsor.
-Margie Zeidler creating sponsorship for teacher Grayson into one year Early Childhood Development degree in Arusha. (Grayson preparing teachers Matilda and Eve in his absense.)
-huge staff meeting: with challenges, successes, bought new needed items; maintenance, etc.
-Created proposed policies on children’s rights, behaviour, staff, vision, mission, treatment of kids, properties. To be approved by Board.
-Dennis (govt. social worker) reviewing backgrounds of all kids, to determine vulnerability and need to meet Majengo criteria.
-Welcomed 2 more vulnerable kids into Majengo.
Currently supporting 114 kids: 76 children living in. 37 living out.
-Updated Staff and Children’s bios and pics, age, schools, charts.

And had a fabulous time doing it!!!
Decided to include this into my blog....a record of hard work and great fun...
-New Majengo facility: estimated cost: $250,000.
-Major fundraising efforts in the US and Canada planned. Anyone willing to help,
please EMAIL!!! In the US: majengo@majengo.com; In Canada: lynnconnell@sympatico.ca.
-Matt's visit June to review legals, set up process with Charles and staff re building new facility, on ground contractors, builders, construction drawings....
-begin building new facility.
-Jamie taking church mission over in Sept/Oct to assist building.
-Lynn back to Tanzania November....

Would love to hear from you...and welcome everyone to get involved....
Thank you to everyone out there helping...I only wish you could visit to see for yourself what your dollars are directly doing....thanks~!!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

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TEAM JANUARY 2012 visit…a fabulous three weeks with Susan Lee and her daughter Simone, Toronto architect Margie Zeidler and my daughter Seanna and granddaughter Sierra..seems like we have been over here for months! In a way it is much harder to get things done in Africa for me, without Swahili which is no one’s fault but my own and my inability to remember! It’s a language which has absolutely no reference to English, French, Italian or Spanish. It’s here like grabbing a multitude of sounds out of the air, starting usually with MB, or MV, or Mn. M anyway and it goes on from there. Memorizing is the only way to beat it, and when your brain is wired for details, not sound, or images, colour, ideas, and not sound. Ain’t easy!

I’m sitting propped up on my bed at the Continental, which again is a bit of a stretch, Tuesday morning around 6:30, a rooster’s crow squawking a little above the incessant idling of a safari truck, parked, going no where but with the engine on, outside my window. It’s cool at this hour, the raging sun still at rest, the sky blue promising another great day here in the dusty village of Mto Wa Mbu.

When I was first coming, we did art classes and HIV AIDS workshops, but these days we do orphanage, day and night..

Since last December’s explosion of 67 new kids to Majengo, raising our numbers up to 114 kids to look after, with 77 living in, things have settled in beautifully. The kids are happy, calm, and finally in a place where they are safe, fed well, looked after medically and are loved, especially by our 17 staff: cooks who dole out 300 meals a day, cleaners who wash the kids, their clothing and the three cottages we rent, two night watchmen, one great teacher with 2 Masai girls who a great group of Canadian artists sponsored through Montessori, a couple of assistants and a mama and baba who look after keeping the whole thing together.

This trip has been about spending lots of time with the kids, Seanna and Sierra running art workshops every morning, Susan and Simone English classes, crafts, yesterday a full session with all 77 kids stringing beads and looping paper clips together creating magical necklaces and bracelets. Seanna brought in a couple of local jewellry makers last week to weave bracelets for the boys, necklaces for the girls- all decked out and looking great.

A group of sewers from a fabric shop in Minnesota sent over a huge bag of beautiful cotton dresses, gorgeous!! plus all the clothes donated by Simone’s friend Martha. Lots of pics to post when I get home.

We’re finally learning names….especially challenging with the little ones who all wear their hair closely shaven, with beautiful round little faces, Careen, Pauline, Jeska, Esther, Anna, Amina, Fausta.

NEW FACILITY: we’ve been renting three cottages over the last four years…leases up in 2013….77 living in, sometimes 2 to a bed, with a couple of mamas sleeping over. This trip, we’ve been visiting other orphanages, lodges, schools, houses, as research with planning a new facility which we hope to get started this summer!! Architect Margie Zeidler shot hundreds of photos: roof, window styles, size of rooms, furniture, shelving, colour, materials, wood, brick, concrete blocks, ventilation.. lots to think about, working with Charles who'se an engineer, the government inspectors, our staff, kids and village leaders as to what kind of children’s home they best want and what we can best create. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!! Visits to Rift Valley Children’s home…a very well put together facility, small houses, each one with a mama and volunteer… loved the U shaped home founder India shares with 10 kids, a courtyard dancing with flowers and climbing vines surrounded by bedrooms, indoor bathrooms, and a huge living, balcony and dining area with bright blue chairs lined up aside a long table to seat everyone.

Recreation/gathering hall, big communal kitchens like the one we visited yesterday at Manyara Sec School with 4 huge brick stoves, built to conserve firewood, huge sunken pots of beans boiling and a guy with a paddle big enough to fire a canoe plunged in and circling around a massive pot of traditional ugali, a sort of crème of wheat national dish.

A great library with quiet space for homework, a line of computers, books, DVDs. We just got electricity hooked up in our office, with Simone's friend Amy donating a computer and teaching sec. Killo, our top teacher Grayson who we’re sponsoring to further his education with a year of Early Child Development in May, and Hamidu, our driver, computer skills. Education and learning is everything here. Great to see one of these guys surrounded by kids around his desk practicing, cut, copy, paste!

Infirmary, office, indoor and outdoor dining….sports field, and dreams of a big playground with swings, climbing apparatus, which could be nailed together by a handy volunteer showing up next year. It will happen, as the process of Majengo creates itself with the right person coming along at the right time. Susan Lee has been fabulous helping charles and I with budgets, financial statements, logistics, with a great sense of humour along the way….Margie with ecological sensitivities, her adherence to good community planning a la Jane Jacobs, and her architectural and building background…Simone with her camera and incredible connection with the children….Seanna and Sierra too with songs, art skills, fun, creativity, colour….

Me, I am trying to put it all together, harassing Charles daily for updates on legals, land surveys, budget details, staff salaries, comparison's with other orphanages, government minimum wages, numbers of kids, bios, pictures, registering Masai girls into education programs. Every day.

Charles is the glue that holds this whole thing together. Believe me. Not only does he have to deal with us 7 from Canada, driving us around, meals, safari trips with the kids, running up to karatu for the bank, government officials..there is a constant stream of people lined up on benches against turquoise walls, waiting in the ICA office. HIV testing, legal rights, land rights, abuse..there was a flood here in December, one woman had 6 huge bags of incredibly hard worked rice in her room which soaked, started to grow sprouts, losing all but the one on the top. Destitute now, she has to start over, and on it goes. January time to register secondary school aged kids, if you have the money,which no one does. Bits and pieces pulled together to keep their kids off the streets, into school, the most important goal of African parents here.

Charles knows all the stories, the woman waiting for her daughter out in the corridor, who'd been raped by her boss while cleaning his house, fast forward 14 years of supporting this girl, both she and the child with HIV, she waits with the hope of He gets it done, but on Charles time. Drives me crazy, sometime, but patience is something you have to learn to work well in Africa.

Working on legals…the local village of Majengo govt are giving us 8 acres of land down the road, a huge open flat grassy plot next to a half finished govt school which I envision we will help to run with the village, down the road. Most of our kids are either in our own Majengo on site pre school, or trudging down the dusty roads to one of 4 primary schools in the area, a couple of kids walking over 3 miles each way! Along with Mama Anna’s English medium school, a private school teaching all subjects in Engish, a short walk from Majengo.

Met this time Joseph Slepertas, a great young guy from England whose living full time now in Moshi, a town about 4 hours away. H stumbled across the GoodHope orphanage out on the safari route and sponsored two of their older kids a couple of years ago into Mama Annas…coming back this year he discovered it closed, shut down by the government for corrupt practices, the Good Hope kids now living over with us at Majengo. After a few visits he was blown away by what he saw at Majengo, with how much greater the kids were now, happy, safe and well fed…and began to sponsor more and more kids to Anna. We now, along with Susan Lee and Canadian sponsors Peg Graham and marion Burnett, have 14 kids at Mama Annas learning English.

For me it’s been a question of making sure the kids who aren’t going there, are okay. Along with teacher Grayson and Charles, we agreed to support the older kids at Mama Annas, heading into Secondary School in a few years, with only English taught there.

Without English, secondary school kids are completely lost here, as govt primary schools are taught in Swahili only. These older kids who get to go to Mama Annas can teach the younger kids, and staff what they are learning, each night. Last night, during bead threading, it is awesome to come across 11 year old Tatu yesterday with an English kid’s book on her lap, a circle of younger kids around, reading stories in English!! Incredible what Mama Anna has done in only a month for Tatu!!

Spent three weeks working on getting the land grant gifted by the local government, passed by the District Council….and just before leaving, we received a letter of approval. We are on our way!!! 8 beautiful acres of land….to build on, about 3 miles down the road from our current location. There’s a half built school on the property, which the govt plans to finish this year. Margie Zeidler is on her way home right now, armed with photos and drawings,…about to put it all together, after months of research.

WE’ve got our own lawyer, setting up a US/Can and Tanz Board of Trustees or NGO to own and have full control over new facility buildings hopefully to start building in August this year!

Back home Matt wrote that someone has donated $50,000 towards the new orphanage project!! Wonderful and thank you whomever you are!!!

I’m back end of this week..to start a great fundraising campaign up in Canada, now with full tax receipt ability, since October. Anyone out there who wants to help, with dinners, fundraising events, speaking engagements, let me know!!
Just got home...30 hours...Kili to Dar...Dar to Amsterdam..thank you Merit for coming out to meet me! 7 hour wait and on to Toronto, three films later, with the kind of jet lag you can't imagine...all that energy put out there for three weeks, and it's over. Over are the meals, endless of rice, bananas and beans!! Hopping in and out of safari trucks, getting stuck in the mud with 30 children atop the van waiting, looking out my window and way up just above the van, a lady lion perched on a swinging branch, barring her teeth, ready to pounce!! Filippo covers his head with canvas for protection, as we speed away.
I'm going to write more later, with lots of pics. Huge thanks to Margie Zeidler, Susan Lee and her daughter Simone, my daughter Seanna and Sierra for their incredible imput, everyday over at Majengo running classes with the children. Making bracelets, necklaces, teaching English, playing, drawing, dancing, singing...it was fabulous...
more later....