Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leaving Friday for Majengo!!! With great friend Marci Lipman, her first time. Haven't been over since January, so very exciting. Can't wait to see the kids especially...Tatu speaking English!!!! This is just astounding...she came to us from one of the 'bad' orphanages set up on the safari route to lure in tourists, until the govt shut them down and brought 67 new kids to us, back in Dec 2010. Total mahem, but today, they have amalgamated into one huge happy family with 77 kids living in and another 35 or so, living out.
So she came from one of those places, abused, hurt, sullen, angy...she barely looked at me the first time I met her. Held back. Distrustful. Angry.
8 months later, on my next visit she had settled in, had confidence in Majengo, it was a good place, she was getting three meals a day, and cared for by some pretty wonderful people. She loved looking after the little ones. That second visit, she started hanging out with me, a little.
But watched a lot.
Four or five visits later. I am her mama.

Last January we registered 14 of our brightest kids into Mama Anna's English Primary, based on marks. We told the other kids: if you do well, we will do our best to get you into Mama Anna's (it is not govt, private i guess you would say, teaching everything in English and the best thing going education wise in the entire area, but $420 per child per year).

Our criteria back then, was marks.
She hung her head.
She'd been held back with little opportunity to excel, at the other orphanage.  She knew she would never make the grade. But she was huge in her enthusiasm, her love of life, her love of helping the other kids at Majengo. She bursts with happiness when she sees you.
She tries real hard.
WE said, ok, she's going. No matter what.
And here we are 8 months later, her marks catapulted...her confidence blossomed. And she is now speaking English!! Bilingual!!

Me...i am put to shame. I have been going over for 6 years now, and can't speak Swahili. So this year, my Majengo partner Matt informed me that not only had HE learned Swahili last spring, but so had his 12  year old daughter who he just took over! Yikes! I bought PimLeurs Swahili and did my best to learn. In the car, at the counter over coffee...not easy! but between my trainer and swahili, i am challenging myself big time this year...not there yet...but hopefully this time over it will be a bit better!

Last night Joan Vanduzer of the Harbinger Foundation called with a great idea of starting a sewing component at Majengo...teaching our kids how to sew, so that they can make their own clothes, uniforms, and someday maybe get out there and start their own business! To top it off, Joan donated our first sewing machine which i am going to pick up in Arusha soon as we arrive.

And huge thanks to my great friend Rick Hart for coming up with the idea of people donating to Majengo by SELLING STOCKS....especially at this time of year. They would get a full tax receipt for the amount of the stock, and would not be charged capital gains as it would be going to a registered charity. Great!!! Email Rick at MacDougal, MacDougal MacTier: 514-394-3000, if you are interested:

Power for Majengo. In the process of building our brand new own  facility for our kids... Today, I met with a woman from Kenya, who is working with Power Africa, a group here in Canada who are getting grants to provide Canadian wind and solar technology and hook ups/maintenance to help whole communities in rural Africa, grow! Why not..very exciting...checking with Charles, our project coordinator at Majengo and an engineer...everyday, something coming together...

Marci and i went to the Goodwill yesterday, crawled out with $500 worth of clothes for the kids, piled high on my table, along with 80 plush toys for Christmas, balloons, tennis balls, skipping ropes, felt drawing pens...
More tomorrow!

All set to go, bags packed...

Friday, November 02, 2012

Charles house flooded; children trapped inside. Halloween update...

Breaking news! Charles' house flooded; children trapped inside:
Dear Lynn and Matt! "I am still in Nepal.  the global conference has just ended today, tomorrow we will be traveling to a town called Nagarkot for ICA gathering, for two days and then home.
It rained a lot yesterday night in Arusha and my house was flooded, some of neighbors houses went down in the street am living, it was sad that my wife was in Dar and my little cute kids were with their aunt and a house maid when water came into my house and flooded, neighbors jumped into my gate and rescued my children, most of properties, food and clothes have been damaged. Grace flied to Arusha from Dar and now they are cleaning the house which is full of mud
Thank you God my kids are all ok, although they suffered to be in water for some hours inside the house without knowing where to go at night".

Oh Charles...thank God the kids are safe and no one was hurt. We wish you safe and love to Grace and your kids. I will see you in a few weeks...! xxLynn

 I just got this email while finishing my Halloween update...
 Halloween 2012...update on Majengo, and thanks to all your support and interest we are flourishing! I'm usually over there at this time, but this year am on dinner, baths and overnight with Lindsey's two little ones - Jim away filming, but back over Nov 23rd-Dec 14th with Marci Lipman this time, who is planning to climb Kili! Very exciting! More about that from Africa, when we land in a few weeks!

So much to say since i last wrote this blog in Feb!!, been consumed with revamping our website with web-wizard Cassie Barker, holding two big Majengo parties, one in Toronto and one up at my Creativity Art Retreat which were so much fun, and great to catch up with so many friends, plus running last summer's art retreat in Dunedin ( which was a big success - ook for our new lineup for Spring/summer 2013!  Huge thanks to all who came to support Majengo, to all who helped out, and to Margie Zeidler and her staff who gave us her perfectly fabulous roof-top garden at 401 Richmond to hold that awesome springtime party, with singer songwriter Mary Margaret O'hara and Rusty McCarthy on guitar, the parties raising over $23,000, thanks Majengo Canada!!! And to Judy Steed for getting an article in the Toronto Star.

So here we are! catapulting into our 4th year at Majengo: 114 kids, safe and really happy after so many of them rescued in 2010 from abuse and corruption along the safari route...settling into their huge bubbling happy home, swarming with kids age 2 to 14, 75 bunking onsite into three small cottages, cramped but clean, desperately in need of more space and more mamas to provide emotional and individual attention.

Our rental contracts expire in 2013. This year,  we vowed to build them a new home. I bumped into Canadian designer Margie Zeidler last December pulling out of my back yard parking into the laneway behind her house. Upon hearing what we were doing and having worked in Africa a few years back, she jumped at the opportunity to go over, and donate her services, first with me last January and again in April to complete our conceptual drawings. She working hand-in-hand with Charles and the staff at Majengo, visited other established orphanages, with months of drawing, materials and space. Ultimately we've decided on 6 houses for the kids, each with a room for volunteers and a mama; a pre-school, library, computer room, infirmary, arts and craft centre, soccer field and playground,  and outdoor kitchens and dining for over 100 people.  Our current dining room's thatched roof collapsed a couple of weeks ago, lying now in a heap on the ground! Luckily no one was hurt! They quickly set up eating operations inside the three small cottages - a huge crisis,  but soon to be solved!

In June, the government granted us 10 acres of land 3 miles down the road from our current facility.  A huge plot, a stones-throw from the soaring local water tower amidst acres of small farms spotted along the road - a wind swept, wide-open palatte on which we hope to paint a wonderful new life for these children. Matt went over to finalize the legals with Tanzanian and US lawyers to ensure North American donors ultimate control over the usage of the buildings and land for as long as Majengo is in operation.

We expect that to be a very long time!  Our goal is to support these children through primary, secondary, trade schools, even on to university, whatever is needed to provide them a great start in life, to create a safe, healthy, permanent home for them for as long as they need - an opportunity to flourish.

Between Warren Majengo and Majengo Canada, we raised about $115,000 by August, enough to start Phase One of the build, with another $175,000 to go! Plus, we have to keep up with our $90,000 annual operating expenses covering medical, accommodation, food, staff, eduction - life. Our situation is always 'fly by the seat of our pants', and miraculously to all of us, it continues to keep working! But only because of the hundreds of people generously donating time, energy and money here and in the States. Someone asked me recently, how do i keep the energy going, it has been over 6 years now...and the answer is simply, we have 114 little lives out there that we are responsible for, and there is no way we can stop. So. Anything we can do to help you help us, please let us know!  I'm totally open to visiting homes and friends with a slideshow, speaking at local events - whatever it takes. For those of us who have been lucky enough to visit these Majengo children, experience their shining happy faces, the progress of their lives, embrace intimately this African culture, you will see, we get so much more than we could ever give. Welcome aboard!

I'm thinking now of Baby Anna, who was dropped off to us a year ago by the local police, a 9 month baby with the body of 3 months, emaciated, starving, with, they said, a few days more to live. Our cook Adhija took her home by night, and by day she flourished at the orphanage, with staff and children alike making it their purpose to keep her alive. Today she races around, healthy, exuberent and full of life - abundantly loved by everyone.

In September, Jamie Bees and her husband Larry from Warren organized a group of ten Ist Presbyterian church members to begin the build. I drove down to Warren with new Canadian board member Brian Metcalfe who has fabulously taken over the job of Majengo N.A. treasurer - a great friend and accountant for 30 years. He was greatly inspired by the dinner Matt and Kym threw with Jamie and her crew openly sharing their excitement and fears a few days before they took off. Their trip was a huge success. Especially as they were the first group to go over to help build, with no idea what to expect. They broke into three groups: one working alongside local labourers on site, hauling bricks, digging trenches and foundations, and cement-mixing under the hot African sun, astonishing local workers who saw a different side of us North Americans not only sending over money, but getting down deep and dirty to actually help make this dream come true. At this writing, they've dug foundations for three houses and created a series of outdoor toilets and showers. 

The second group spent time with the kids at Majengo, teaching art, English, chopping and cooking, washing clothes and cabins and kids.

The third teaching English over at Mama Anna's English school where  16 lucky Majengo kids have been attending since January 2012, chosen by teacher Grayson based on marks and how hard they are trying.  I met Mama Anna last October and was instantly drawn to her. After putting her own three children through university, she started her own school with 4-5 kids in her kitchen, which, in 3 years has erupted into a substantial facility with 300 kids and 16 qualified teachers. Since January all 16 of our kids are bilingual according to Margie Zeidler who visited 4 months into their enrolement.   My goal is ultimately to be able to afford to enrol all 114 Majengo kids into her school - at a further $420 each a year.

In Tanzania, public school is basically free, from age 7 to 14, but taught totally in Swahili, which i am trying to learn, after Matt disclosed that after working with Primleur for three months last year he can get by in that language!" Yikes! And me, over there for 6 years with a vocabulary of Jambo! Hi, how are you? It is not easy. Anyway, for those who can afford the annual fee of $650 for Secondary school, they stumble, as it is taught totally in English, almost impossible to transfer from Swahili to English without lessons, and with teachers struggling themselves to learn English. So you can see why our goal of getting all our kids into Mama Anna's will give them a huge advantage down the road.

Back to Jamie's group. At lunchtime everyone congregated over a 7 course delicious African lunch of goat, ugali, rice, beans, bananas, avacado, catered by the popular Double M bar/restaurant in the centre of town, culminating with a fabulous going away party with children and staff - acrobatics, songs and dancing with the kids, local government and neighbours all giving a hand - it doesn't get better than that!

You too can be part of the build!
Give Get Go ( came on board this year in the form of three wonderful women who have worked on over 20 Habitat for Humanity builds around the world, Laurie, Michelle and Kim, now creating their own company to bring groups over to help build Majengo, go on safari and visit Zanzibar, starting in January!! Check them out! A great way to get the experience of a lifetime for themselves and give back - all in one fell swoop!

So many great people to thank this year!!!

Bravo to Peg Graham and Marion Burnett who raised $5,000 at their annual May ART SHOW....and to the artists who donated a portion of their sales to send 16 more Masai Girls to secondary school...I'll be creating a Masai Girls Education fund page on our website for details...this program is a part of Majengo Canada's charitable foundation projects. 

And to Mike Donovan and his Lion Dog African Safari whose clients are visiting Majengo with donations and books to read to the children. I've been back and forth on visitors to the orphanage, worried that the children will soon feel like fish in bowls, or worse, begin to change their behaviour to favour western tourists. Consulted with Charles, our Majengo project coordinator, who advised visitors to do something with the children while they are there, rather than just taking their pictures. So Mike and I, and everyone else who wishes to visit, worked out a program, where visitors are asked to donate $100 for the priviledge of spending time at Majengo, sign our Visitor regulation sheet, and spend their time there reading English books which they have brought, playing soccer, or games, teaching the kids English or art. Because we don't yet have a volunteer coordinator, this process seems to be working well. A win win for both visitors and the children! candies, money, or favouring individual kids, please..

Lots and lots has been way too long!
again all the best Charles to you and your family...the wild flooding, hurricanes, Sandy, winds, rains, fires and devastating drought this year gives thought toward so many on this planet suffering...who says there is no global warming? And on that note....