Wednesday, February 25, 2009

JAMBO!! This is a morning for celebration...after three weeks of having no computer access i am in Arusha at the Patisserie Cafe, a popular local internet service with tasty croissants and little cakes, squishy creme filled delicacies and more than anything, a line of computers all set up at the right height in a row, and all working, with good keyboards and a service provider that doesn't shut down. It is a miracle!

9am after a good night across the street at the ARusha Naaz hotel, breakfast of omlette, real toast, butter and jam..pappya and mango, watermelon and pineapple. Delicious all the more so for being so long to the taste and touch...I've felt so very out of touch, no newspapers, no CNN, no Obama, well i certainly have gotten that fettish out of my system, no internet access, no phone calls, and this year, with my team of international corruption spies scattered across Europe and Australia and not here, no English, but for poor Charles who can't possibly find 24 hours of his day to talk to this one poor Canadian all the time.

You get used to the silence.
Of being in the centre of things happening greatly all around you, but with only an inkling, a glimpse of what is going on...after three years, i am getting a little Swahili, but in no way could boast that other than the prerequisite greetings with glee, and questioning after family members, no doubt their names forgotten or at best mispronounced, I am still madly on the wrong side of the ball.
Last week, a rage of flue descended rending me bedful (I've been reading John Updike who tends to elongate sentences with pierceful expression, words, thoughts, ideas...)it gets to you after five days in bed with water, a plugged nose, fever and sore throat wondering what in earth you are doing here, the only connection with the outside world the texting on my little cell phone.

Charles visits occasionally...out there he is making miracles.
A waiter this morning asked why i would be here to create an orphanage of course with the help of so many others. But why? it is a good question for me. The first year i came, i was wide-eyed seeing so much in the way of the outside confusion of streets with bumps, pits, valleys lined with towering trees blossoming with yellow, pink and purple, and behind far off across rolling green hills and craggy mountain ridges speeding across the Rift Valley we spot herds of zebra grazing alongside a wildebeast or a team of gazelle, the tall necks of graceful giraffe chewing the tops of nasty thorn trees, an elephant so far away, and yet so still, so large, so magnificently there. Masai people wrapped in red and blue flowing sheets tending herds of goats and cows and donkeys to slow down and stop for awhile while they made their way stubbornly across the road, causing backups of tour buses and trucks, beat up jalapies barely chugging and churning spewing black exhaust polute, slick new SUVs and Hondas... in town all means of travel, bikes, but mainly it is the way of transportation which fascinates with huge wooden wagons carrying all means of household goods, pipes, doors, chesterfields, huge plastic bales of water, hay for feed, neatly stacked heavy grueling bricks all of this and so much more being pulled by one man up a hill with another at the back pushing, in such hot sweltering mid day hot wet oven heat. To me excruciating yet here and in so many parts of the world, the only way for things to move. Traffic jerks and slams amongst all of this, women upright carrying full buckets of thick and high sugar cane, baskets and pails of flour, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, a bike speeds by with a full sized 4" deep foam matress tightly rolled and tied horizontally across the back, causing conjestion and confusion. The smells intoxicate, a mixture of everything of food, spice, commerce with music, the pumping of drums, rthymn, honking of horns, shouting, laughing, greeting..and somewhere not too far away the haunting plaintive Calling to Prayer for Muslims,reaching far and wide from spinning microphones atop mid town mosques, the faithful come running.
All of this yesterday as i waited with Hamidu, our Masai and Muslem driver outside the matress shop where i have just bought $1,500. of 24 matresses, 24 blankets for when a sort of cold wind winter comes in May, June, 30 little towels but big enough to wrap around skinny little bodies, and 50 sheets big enough to tuck all the way around the 4" foam matresses we splurged on, only a few more shillings i say to myself and the world with hope and prayer that we can pull this off, as they say, build it and they will come...

It is a miracle what is happening i began to say some time ago, with the luxury of this keyboard which doesn't hop and skip and omit spaces; i am free! The first year i came with open eyes seeing everything, and yet, as i am here now for my third time, was seeing only the surface, the shiny little of the first timer, but still smitten with this land i have grown to love. It was hard to come home back that first time, without the knowing that i would return, without a firm view or vision of what i could do here, of where i could put my resources, of whatever skills i may have. That winter we raised money for bicycles for home care workers in Zimbabwe who walk 20 miles a day to help people and goats for HIV POSITIVE people in Handeni Tanzania. We managed long distance to buy a few bikes, tho i have learned not to trust actually what i haven't seen with my own eyes..they might have been bought, they might have been stolen or lost at a border, or money for them might have been pocketed to finance food and whatever. I cannot get back into Zimbabwe now, so there is no way of telling. I can only hope, and learn from experience. Back then i bought Mary Meza, my project coordinator, a fine peanut making machine, heavy, royal blue in colour, and carried it with a friend on our laps through three bus systems to proudly present it to her, manual, not electrical as i was advised, more sturdy and with electrical shortages, most dependable. I was pleased. When the world began to fall apart in Zimbabwe, with inflation rising from the 4000% i experienced back then three years ago, with black market monies, fuel shortages and stopages and rising food prices everyday, the cost of a tube of toothpaste equalling what a few years before could have purchased a small two bedroom bungalo style home, INflation now is well over the 2 or 3 or 4 million mark; without news here and who believes what we hear from Zimbabwe anyway, i have lost count. But there now, the people i knew and worked with are starving, without food or clean water, cholera pandemic, those with HIV AIDS no longer with access to ARV medication to stave off the virus, dying. Mary still writes, I remember her as a tireless hard working and so helpful woman to me, teaching me the ways of public local transportation, what to eat, where to bank, walk safely, she expanded my time there - the peanut butter making machine now long gone, no doubt sold off for basic food and fresh water for her family of three children. Oprah and Munwaro, the two HIV positive people i worked with facillitating Home Care Workshops to HIV positive people and their relatives and who taught others how to grow lustrious gardens of fruits and vegetables, spices into the small plots around their impoverished mud and stick dwellings, who found each other after both had lost spouses to the disease five years before, are now, without access to ARV's themselves, dying. It is easier for me to read about crisis in other parts of Africa, in the Congo, in Sudan, in Ethiopia, in the northern parts of Uganda and to turn the pages afterwards, the thought of how terribly sad all of this is winding through my mind. But to actually KNOW people who have my email, who gather up the means to write once in awhile, who i have worked with, eaten and laughed and sometimes cried actually know them, and to now know that not too far away from Tanzania, just south from here, these same people are dying themselves.

The miracle i began speaking of, way back up there, thank you to those that are bearing to stay with me...i haven't written for so long, and am unable to keep my thoughts and ideas to myself this morning...ah, the security and hominess of the Patisserie Cafe...

Where was i? The goats we raised money for, well, we learned after much studying and going back and forth, that most of the goats here in Tanzania do not produce enough milk even for one family for a day, let alone to be used as a micro business for that HIV AIDS positive group we were trying to help. I guess World Vision have bought the good milk giving ones for their internatinal projects, but for us at ICA there are better ways of spending our money. WE are supporting a number of women who are positive, with families, into small business of selling bananas, corn, sugar, avocadoes on the side of the street..we are able to give them the start up money. In one year i have seen such a huge difference in these women, who after being diagnosed positively, and having been thrown out into the streets with their children, weak, sick, with nothing, the husband having ran away in anger. NOw, they have come together in small businesses and are able with such pride to support their families and to help others in their community in need. It is a culture of helping. Whenever one has something, sharing begins with everyone around. You see a large group of women sitting on upturned plastic pails at the side of the busy dirt road through town, surrounded by bananas, clucking and chattering like a wild and colourful gaggle of geece planning a yearly migration route..voices rising, arguing, agreeing, compromising, a full range of conflict resolutions happening here at this very important level of small village society. The women do everything...not only raising the money, buying the food, cooking, and caring for their children, and their family's children, worrying about school fees, uniforms, sickness, clothing....all of the things we often take for granted in basic survival, it is all here...The men do the women, bent over in two with huge heavy hoe in both hands, wacking and hacking away at the parched land, making ready for maize planting, heavy rains and a hopeful spring harvesting. The young men sell necklaces and bracelets to safari tourists, beware. Or hawk fruits and boiled eggs at the side of the road through windows to travellers on buses making their way slowly through town. The men are carpenders, and people who carry and load and lug heavy things. Things the women cannot carry on their heads. Women and men are doctors and nurses. Teachers too. My friend,Mirium owns and operates one of my favourite restaurants, Mi Casa just a block from my guest house. She is married to a Masai man from Kenya, his second wife. They have one chid together. He is a doctor who is almost never in Mto WA Mbu, but is coming tomorrow night for a rare visit. She has invited me for dinner with them. She is not happy with 'the other wife', she does not like the other wife, and tells me the other wife doesn not like her. She thumped her fist on the table, and said, but Lynn, what can i do? I want one husband, and one wife, and one house. But what am i supposed to do? As if I knew!!

The money that was to go toward the goats, last year, went towards the small business proposals, and as far as i am concerned the most important issue in Africa today, other than food and a with ICA we started up the Masai girls Education fund, and are presently sending 18 girls to secondary school. This is a wonderful feat and for the most is working well. These girls, and there is one boy in the midst somehow who has risen to be the head boy of his school so catapulted by his good luck to be sponsored, are on the whole doing very well. I have been interviewing them over the last weeks...they are bright, excited about learning, and intent on furthering their education, past secondary shcol, through the two years of high school, and then hopefully someday on to university. They have huge visions, insights, hopes and dreams, as we all do. Right now the downside that i see and read about in the editorials of the newspapers when i can, is one one hand the positive results of the government stategy of building a lot of new secondary schools throughout the regions of Tanzania..and there are many...the more profound and successful a politician is, the more schools he gets into his distric to brag about...the downside here being that in one of the schools we are sponsoring kids into, there are few teachers, unqualified and without texts or books...but that is one example only I am told of many which are running well. And because people are now being made aware of this fiasco hopefully things will slowly progress toward better schooling. As I ranted a long time ago in another blog, the lack of intention for the UN to provide free secondary education across Africa is a travesty to me. Without education where can young people go after primary school, out onto the streets at age 13, 14, nothing to do. Whatever...are they trying to HOLD BACK Africa? Some may think so.
Oh i am going on, but it feels so tremendously good...

Where again, am I? Last year, coming back, this time to Tanzania, and to Mto Wa Mbu where i seem to have found my second home...You can travel everywhere, anywhere, and discover infinite things that need working on, millions, trillions...every little village, every family, every single person needs more. More money, for food, education, for health, for clean water, to start up a small business...everyone is out there trying so hard to become independent, to become self feed their families, to help their relatives. to uplift Africa in some small or large way, either that or they have given up...I am not talking about those that have found a way around the system, and of these there are many, who rise to the top, by corruption, of using other people, of stealing through business, through using children as a front for an orphange, of actaully KEEPING those children sick and poor and malnourished to lure in money from well meaning and unsuspecting safari tourists. Wonderful people i have met who only want to help, to give.
And who open their pocketbooks with arrangements for monthly payments heading straight into the pocket of some slippery but charming, God fearing director of some orphanage, that money going toward himself, his family, his car, his booze and women, and paying off counsellors and elected politicians in the community, basically, to keep their mouths shut, all the time reeping their own rewards by this corruptive system.
I have learned well from this too.
For two years i volunteered whenever i had the time, at a small orphanage on the edge of town, with 19 little kids, all running out and cheering whenever i came around. I learned in Swahili 'head and shoulders', taught them 'doe a dear', the of the body, in English, took them on mini safaris in rented busses, with picic lunches through a land five minutes away from their horrible little home filled with elephants, zebra, gizelle, giraffe and monkeys which they had never visited before. I taught 6 of them, every Saturday, how to swim in the tourist campsite pool at the other end of town. I bought them a table and benches, shelving for their little rooms and a big pantry shelving unit to house foods, supplies. When my kids came they too worked here, the kids responding ecstatically with each visit. I wasn't the only foreign volunteer either, we were all helping out in every way as much as wel could. Coming back the second year, i noticed things had grown much worse. The furnishings were there, but the children were sicker, poorer. Last year, a band of foreigners drifted in and stayed during the time i was there, from Austria, from Sweden, Germany, Australia and Israel. We were forming a team, hell bent on change. Our dream was to buy or build a new facility, to set up a sponsorship program for each child to ensure that they continue through secondary school, to provide teachers, good healthy food, clothing and as well, medication. We took the kids in groups of 5 to the ICA office to be tested for HIV AIDS..two were infected and should have been medially looked after, but weren't.

Seanna and Sierra came to visit and teach art for a couple of weeks; one little positive girl attached like glue onto Seanna's wonderful mamma lap, her liasions open and pouring dangerous fluids, highly infectious to the other kids, and to ourselves, but no one seemed to care. ICA helped immensely. Charles drove all the kids in the back of his Ford pickup to be tested, and arranged for an ICA home care worker to look after those two positive kids. WE were busy looking for a site to build a new home. We discovered a padlocked room next to the office filled with donated things, boxes and boxes filled with medical and art supplies, books, texts, crayons, sheets, clothing..things that had never been sorted out or worse, given out...they told us they just hadn't the time or staff to do that job; we spent days working to make sense of all these things. So excited and enthusiastic we were, all the time working hand in hand with the family running this place, to create a new home for the children.
And then, sometime back last March, the bottom fell out of our dreams.

Slowly, and in ways i cannot write on these pages, we discovered that what we thought was happening, was in no means happening. That despite all our collective efforts, that nothing was changing, that nothing could change. That in fact things were not going to change for these kids. The reality was, was that certain people were profiting dearly and deeply from the misery of these children, and they were not going to let go. As founders they held full control over the children, and the money and refused change on our terms, terms that monitored donations and regulated transperancy. When this began to slowly sink in, I was aghast. I loved those kids with all my heart, but could no longer support the system. I was in the process of finding sponsors for each one of those kids, and had to stop procurring money I knew would never reach those children. I bowed out; my last time with the kids swimming; someone brought them to me a mile down the road from that place I could no longer visit, the little band of six boys straining like yelping puppies to spend the day splashing and jumping into that pool. We swam, learned to do sommersaults under water, we raced each other...we dried in the sun drawing pictures of lions, and airplanes, and giraffe, houses, and Tanzanian flags...we looked up into the sky and waved at an airplane passing overhead...the guy i was with translating to them that soon, i would be on that plane...i described flying, the clouds below, the immense blue skies...they listened in wonder. We ate boiled eggs, chipatis, and somosas with a bottle of coke each, where in this world ISN'T coke! We visited an acrobat artist friend of mine on our way back to the intersection of road, in front of the Masai tourist market, where we would say goodbye.

A little circle of boys and one white lady from Canada, saying goodbye...of course pretty silently because of language, but hugs, kisses on the top of their little closely shorn curly heads, a squeeze of the hand, and now i am crying and I can't stop....
I walk away, unable to turn around and watch them as they make their way back to that horrible abusive place. i may never see them again. i cry all the way back into Mto Wa Mbu..
I can't do this anymore. I want to go home. I want to take the shuttle up to Nairobi for a few days and go home early. I tell Charles what is happening. He said i looked about twenty years older than myself that day, all the joy knocked out of me. I tell him i am leaving, tomorrow. But oh no. Not for Charles..he said, yo have learned so much about operating an orphanage, i am going to take you to a place where they really need you, where there are no safari tourists, where they have nothing, no mamas, no papas, no relatives, no food, no one to look after them, but a few neighbours along the road.

Someone had offered the foyer of his home and opened it up to the kids in this region, flat, agriculture, a pre school. HURUMA.
I didn't care. I had had enough, but the next morning Charles showed up with Peter, a volunteer with ICA and our ICA nurse Elizabeth, and forced me to join them.
I have written about this before..the 52 little kids, new little kids, i saw on the mud floor of that horrible, dank dark place..but with a shiny bright teacher Grayson in front of the room, guiding them through: "good morning, madam, good morning sir", and a sling of bright songs, open bright happy faces, smiling, laughing, curious,, just like kids everywhere, but these kids, like my others, without mamas, without papas...God knows what each and every one of them had been through in their short lives...losing both parents, homes, villages, communities, most without relatives, maybe being looked after by very old grandmamas...without means to care for them properly, their clothing in tatters, dirty....but no crying, no arguing, no would notice this when you come over....unlike our kids back home, with the entitlement we manage to bestow upon our is the way it is...
i sign on. Kids are kids. I have a week to go before leaving. We fly into action. Looking back, the main thing we did was to locate a big house down the road, 90% finished. WE interviewed all the kids, through Peter, through translators..through the director, we take pictures of the kids. I bring over a suitcase full of art supplies origonally aimed for that other place. They are astonished.

I fly home with a commitment in my heart, to begin again. The first thing is the house...without a proper place for these kids, official orphanage registration is impossible..we contact the owner, get estimates for renovations, make a written contract with her that with finishing her home we are allowed to take over the facilities for four full is perfect. Swedish friends, the ones i was working with before, pitched in royally. An American Rotary man who had passed through on safari to 'the other place', couldn't get the images of that place out his mind, those kids, after a huge rain, squalling about in mud even in their own packed little bedrooms. He wanted to help,found me on this blog, changed course, came up to Toronto face to face for a great meeting, and began to raise money through his Rotaries...we were almost there...
IN December, i got a call from the Swedes who were visiting. Huruma was almost finished, but the job had stopped with lack of something!! I was desperate, after all that work, we could lose the whole project if we didn't raise the final my friend Tim and I put together that plea many of you got in January, the one page letter with photos, asking for help. I want to say here, that it is not easy asking friends and family for money... i have never liked doing it...and know, for many people, how much they do not like getting requests such as it can sometimes even change relationships which i feared greatly...but for me, as obsessive as i can be...i had to do it...

That one page letter raised just over $8,000 Canadian money in two weeks...we were able to finish the job! When i thank you for help. I truely mean it....this has been a slow, slogged out process, starting from last March...a dream which erupted on the heals of a disastrous corruption scheme...donations, of $10, $20s, and on up to $100 and $200...and $500....finally, we raised by all of our most wonderful intentions enough money go finish the job...I wish you were here to see it..

When I arrived end of February the house was almost done. They were tiling the bathrooms, the rooms were plastered and painted, the ceiling and floors done, windows in, doors made and lying on the floor. The place was a mess, in full reno mode, with wood, bricks, tiles, paint everywhere. Kids were playing around the debris, a woman setting up a tiny makeshift kitchen outside with an old corregated roof, sticks holding it up, open on three sides, a fire burning inside with a big black pot cooking ugali, the porriage like staple in Tanz. for the workers inside.

OUtside there were mounds and piles of bricks, debris everywhere....still we needed an outdoor kitchen, play area, outside toilets and showers...I figured not a lot more to be done, a few days maybe...But work stopped..because tiles had been installed all the way up to the ceiling in two rooms, and the owner had run out for the third room. Nothing was done for two weeks. Nothing. I went out there a few times. No one there, not even the woman in the little kitchen outside cooking, a few kids milling about in the opened doorway. The owner, i discovered back in Arusha, was trying to find more tiles to match the ones she was using, but to no avail. She cancelled everyone else on the job, knowing that once she found tiles, they could complete the whole thing quickly. But of course i didn't know this. Meanwhile Charles and i were running all over the region of Monduli and Mto Wa Mbu, interviewing, Masai tribal girls, setting up Home care projects and kits, and visiting people whe were sick. I was making budgets, trying to figure out how many kids would actually be living at this place, not just coming to pre school...making floorplans, layouts to figure out how many beds, tables, desks, benches, we would need.

Charles and i went to his carpender friend Willy, and ordered 12 bunk beds, 4 big tables including the teacher's table, 9 desks, each seating 3 kids, benches for all the tables. He promised to have them ready by March o1. WE were on a roll.

We pulled together an all day meeting at Huruma in that dark dank room, with their secretary, treasurerer, chair, two teachers, two cooks and a cleaner. WE went through everyone's responsibiities in detail, making sure that everyone knew exactly the jobs of each other...we talked about the excitement of creating a brand new great it could be, how great it would be..and especially how we were doing this FOR THE CHILDREN...and not for ourselves, individually...of course there will be salaries...these people had worked for almost nothing since we began last March, a year ago....but they knew, under no uncertain terms, from my experience at 'that other place' there would be ZERO tolerance for corruption. I am thankful for my experience. Everybody knows about it. Everybody is forced to understand. One in particular, would like things differently.

We all agreed how to set up a monitoring system, where even the food we bought in bulk for the pantry would be locked and checked and monitored, and by whom. The banking, the money, the is all involving...and intricate...with human feelings involved...working with people i was just beginning to get to know, and trust, or not trust....

You get a feeling, you just KNOW who you can count on,and who makes you feel a bit creepy and eventually we all show our clear colours...hopefully with this kind of openness and good feeling amongst the staff and ICA we are growing a solid foundation of skilled people who like and trust each other.

After two weeks of total silence at this house, i threw a bit of a fit one just popped out to poor Charles who does everything and anything for everyone....What is happening with that house!!! I have been here for two weeks and but for one day, NO ONE IS WORKING THERE!!

In the meanwhile...i have connected with three very enthusiastic people from Pennsylvania who I have met only by phone and email, one of whom will be renting our family cottage in the summer for a week...He quite innocently asked me, as we were doing cottage business, about what i would be doing in Africa...that was the beginning. I sent him those pictures of the 52 kids....he sent back grand wishes and a generous donation. I don't know really what happened to this man, but in twenty four hours, he called again, asking me to drive down to his home town to do a presentation on Huruma and to meet him. It was three days before i was leaving. WE couldn't find a single moment for me to take this time, i was swamped, and with my family dinners..i told him: you have to come to AFRICA!!

So guess what!! He is coming in March, and bringing two friends!!

We have talked extensively about Huruma...what we have managed to do in the last year since the beginning, where we are at now...and where we hope to go in the future, and mainly, for me, the ominous task of financing the day to day, yearly operations of this place...with 42 kids, 6, food, staff, maintenance, medical, materials, everything!! I must say i have lain in bed worrying about this..what in earth have i gotten myself into i wonder, over and over again. It is one thing to visit Africa as i have done, and gone home to raise money, bit by bit, for sponsorship of education, micro businesses, etc...but what in earth do i think i am going to do keeping such a big operation going...what is going to happen...??
And to be honest with you i still don't know. All of us, we have managed, by hook or crook whatever that take the shell of a building and to make it into a place of such beauty i can barely describe!!

Yes, my little fit to poor Charles worked. The owner found her tiles, and sent about 10 guys in to finish the will be done by the weekend.
Yesterday, i saw four carpenders measure off the areas for the outdoor kitchen, toilets and showers, and by the end of the day, the foundation was dug for the kitchen.
The entire staff of Huruma kicked in. There is a wonderful sense of ownership happening now that we are almost there...Outside, they removed the debris, bricks, garbage from the lawns...and each one, with heavy hoe dug into the ground readying it for the grasses and trees Charles and I bought two days ago, flowering everything my preference: bougainvillea, hibiscus, big blooming yellow shade trees.. banana plants, sugar is going to be GORGEOUS!! The staff and all are stunned i think. They told me there is no other orphanage like this anywhere that they know of.

The kids are still on the mud floor of the first place.
WE have interviewed all of them and their caretakers to choose the most vulnerable and neediest children. WE have ten primary aged kids (7-9) to live in, and 17 pre schoolers, the youngest age 3. That makes 27 live ins...and 15 pre school live outs. I haven't spent nearly the time i want to with these kids, but will as soon as we move them into their new exciting....!!
At the carpentry shop, the frames of the bunk beds are lined up all the way down one road a few blocks from the middle of Mto Wa Mbu, tables too. Shelving in each room has been measured and being made.
We bought the sheets, matresses, towels, and bankets yesterday. The plastic covers for the bed wetting matresses will be sewn by Friday.
WE will drive the two cooks up to Kiratu early next week in Charles' truck to buy for themselves all the kitchen needs: pots, utensils,whatever they will need to feed 42 hungry kids and 6 staff, three meals a day...the live out kids will eat at Huruma as well.
The three friends from Pennsylvania arrive a week Saturday night, flying int Kilimanjaro airport, just after 8 pm. they will stay one week, primarily to experience for themselves this little miracle called Huruma, and then take a few days safari. We have never met each other face to face...i simply can't wait to meet them. Our phone calls have been pretty magical. It is rare to experience such open support and enthusiasm...such williness to jump in...such trust, such wonderful good is hard for me to put into words as i sit here in the middle of another sweltering day in Arusha...but this connection with them, has given me a sort of strength and hope, and faith, and trust in miracles...

All of this even before we have met.

As in life, there are no securities..we never ever know what will happen, how things will turn out...we have an idea somewhere in our minds, but in reality things move along at their own pace in their own ways...I look forward to the mystery of the journey!!

So...hopefully, the beds will be varnished and in place next week, the kids showered and moved in, the outdoor kitchen fully equipped up and running, tables, benches, desks in place....shelves ready for the clothing for 42 children these guys are stuffing into their bags...what more could i ask for!!

Charles has been quietly putting together ideas for our Huruma board of directors...I know everyone he is suggesting, and am thrilled with working with these people. A top medial doctor in the district, a top agricultural specialist.
the headmistress of the big secondary school we work with, and two days ago i met the parish priest from the Catholic hospital right next door, who will join our board and who has offered us medical services for the children ongoing, top of the line, and right next door!

I hope, with everything in place we will have our big opening of Huruma on the Sunday inviting everyone to come who has helped with this project. WE will celebrate at an open restaurant down the highway, the cooking being done by Adela, a very skilled chef and our cleaner from ICA....Monday, we will rent a couple of vans, pack a big picnic lunch and take all those 42 little kids on safari, the first time ever for them...
So this is where you find me today...My headache and flu gone...up to my neck in a project i know so little about, in a language i find impossible to understand let alone speak!! Having read 7 books from front to back since being here....without internet, without communication with any of they say here, sorry.

Lindsey text me with the Oscar results....and that her short film she made in the summer was accepted into the Atlantic film festival next year!! big congrats to Lindsey!! And to their baby Poppy coming in the fall!!
Seanna and Sierra are coming back, arriving for two weeks mid work at the new Huruma..teaching art...i can't wait to see them...Haven't heard a breath from Johnny Shauna and the babies..but bits and pieces come from others..dear John!! I want stories of the twins!! write!!!
Kato is busy registering people into the art retreat for next summer...And in closing...because i cannot say too much on this....
the international team of friends i worked with last year have opened another home and hired a loving couple to look after 14 of the 19 children we were so closely connected with back at that other place. It is awesome to visit that place now, to see for my own eyes, that with love, attention, good food, and medial care, how quicly poor health and malnutrition and such unspeakable sadness can be turned around into something so gloriously healthy and life enhancing.

Last week there was a thirteenth birthday party for the oldest boy living there, one of the kids i teach swimming with still, each weekend. They had hung white sheets all around the small sides and back of the yard outside their little home, set up a main table covered in white, and a throne for this boy. They made a wonderful meal, inviting all their neighbours, friends, all the children, balloons, a real party...marked more poignantly when this tall and a bit shy, but shining with joy, boy stood up and said that this was the very first party he had ever had. His thirteenth. His entry into manhood, a teenager.

I hope to write soon...they promise me that our internet will be up and running in the next few days...but if not, thank you for listening!! this one has been a long haul, i hope not boring...but so strengthening for me to get it all down and still a world out there, to say....much love to you all....xxLynn

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hello! hi!! finally...our internet cafe has been locked up tight since last Friday! those five hours of writing disappeared forever somewhere out there between the big open skies between Tanzania and North America, so be it...patience, flexibility and acceptance is commonplace here...not a bad thing to try to learn....i was thinking the other day...back home, we,I, stress to get things done, especially ON TIME...time is a big deal, punctuality..buthere with African time,nothing is ever done planned...every....people arrive an hour late..without just bring a book or some work, and lay low...but yet here, without the stress of worrying about time...i seem to get just as much done in a different way...people show up to help, to give information, it is a small village, they just appear, and what you needed to do or know gets done....letting things happen, rather than trying to control them, much more magical, and interesting...

Withoug internet back in my little village, climbed today up the mountain to a bigger centre caLLED Kiratu, in a local car, unfit for any kind of regulated driving back home..squeezed in between a double car load of passengers and bunches of bananaS...stalling, spluttering, groaning up the hill, past people pushing bicycles laden with banana leaves, so much that it looks like a huge bush climbing the hill without rider, without metal, without bike...a woman bent over with huge bundles of rice precariously balancing on her head, a baby slung on her back, a child at her side, school children here and there dressed in navy blue sweaters and khaki shorts, three and four together holding hands and dancing and skipping up the hill, donkeys, cows, goats, Masai boys with sticks herding, the hills beautifully reddened, with green trees, here and there patches of freshly hand-cultivated acres planted with maize, rice, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage before the big rains come...

We haven't stopped since i came a week or so ago...i've been able to write a bit, sorry, pole, if i repeat now...but i want to get it all down..

Two projects for me: Huruma, the orphanage that so many of you have supported over this last year...and the Masai girls educaTION fund..without your generous donations miracles would not happen, i feel like I am the conduit, so lucky to be here experiencing first-hand the exciting birthing and growth of these two projects..

Huruma first: we found a big house down the road last March, 90% finished; the owner, a woman from Arusha, an hour or so down the road, unable to finance the rest of the renovations..we took it over...from April to now, we have been able to raise enough money to complete the house..almost there...with a big classroom, front living room, dining room, two bedrooms each for girls, boys, a space for a matron, an indoor kitchen/pantry and two bathrooms..i list all of these things for you to know where your donation haS GONE...outside, we will soon grass in the areas around the house, build outdoor toilets and a kitchen, and hopefully create a playground for the kids...bliss...I am in my element..on day one, we measured the entire house, drew up a floorplan, and arranged on paper the furniture.Yesterday we sussed out the best carpender for the job, ordered 12 bunk beds, 4 tables, benches, 9 desks for 27 kids...enough for the pre school,hopefully ready a month from now. We interviewed all 52 kids who started out with us last discover the most vulnerable poor children who really need assistance...
The 36 we have chosen are all orphaned, and now living with neighbours or relatives..In many cases after school at noon, they go home to an empty hut where they remain alone till nightfall, sometimes until the next day, a bowl of ugali, porriage on the floor for dinner, sometimes, with no food at all.

I interviewed the neighbours of our oldest boy who they nickname Kaza Moyo,meaning hard heart...because, at age 3 he was left alone for over 24 hours by himself, no food, abandoned. His mother and father divorced..she tried to support this boy but couldn't on her own, she remarried a man who disliked children...he ran away after a YEAR and she followed him, leaving the child to fend for himself..this is not an unusual story..Many pregnant women are left alone once the boyfriend discovers the pregnancy..without house, or money, he is not ready for responsibility and runs away. She goes to her family, who kicks her out. Left on the streets without any resources she goes to a witch doctor for an abortion, or has her baby on her own, leaving it on the steps of a church or in the washroom of a restaurant. The baby is taken to an orphanage, or to a pastor, a reverend, a church person to be looked after..or sometimes taken in by the person who finds the is not unusual, these stories...

So out of the 52 little kids we found last March on the mud floor of a local farmer's home, their teacher up front doing his best without salary....we have reduced the numbers now to 26 live-in kids at the new Huruma...10 are primary: age 7 to 9...16 are pre school, age 3 up....most wearing the same tattered clothing i found them in last year...torn raggedy shorts, hanging thread bare dresses, filthy tee shirts, broken shoes or no shoes at all. Up until now we haven't had the money or communication to finance last year's expenses of keeping these children well, but that will change.

WE spent a day working on the budget for the reno, the furnishings, and for the entire year's ongoing operating, medical,education, maintenance, security, staffing...we hired two teachers for the preschoolers, two cooks, one cleaner and three people who act as secretary, director, treasurer, and matron. It is exhilerating and a relief for me to finally be here to work out these details...they are hefty, sometimes at night, i lie in bed and am overwhelmed, very in earth are we going to pull this off?? But somehow i know we will, and we Peter say, we are.

Another day spent meeting with the above people, after lunch when the children had left for the the dark foyer of this decrepid house, all of us around a table, on benches facing each was the first time these people had come together to really talk to each other, to understand what each job required, the to communicate with each other, what to do with conflicting to respect and listen to each other...

I got a huge inspiration with us all there, everyone hugely involved in the well being of these children...a common goal. I made a talk about how lucky we all were to be at the beginning of this project, how it is up to each and every one of us to put everything we have into this, and how we can make this the very best little orphanage is up to us...the feeling was magnificent...

Of course there are what we call back home "issues"....conflicing ideas, and misunderstandings, as is expected...but nothing i think that we can't handle.
With incredible support and enthusiasm from you..i don't feel alone here. Charles is my major support -he knows everything and everyone..People talk and gossip, i don't think there is anything unknown by someone...everyone watches and talks...Charles hears it all and tells me...very entertaining and helpful most of the time.

Ihave also been working with a student from Uganda who comes down to Mto Wa Mbu to visit his uncle on school holidays...Peter...with both his parents gone, orphaned, he was raised by his relatives in a very very poor situation, but now at age 22, with five years of secondary and high school behind him, sponsored by a family from South Carolina, he speaks English perfectly, is the head prefect of his school - an incredible guy who looks like a young Harry Belefonte. With that big smile and open heart he has been there. The kids love him and so do i helping me in every way, especially translation from Swahili into English...Between he and Charles i am in the best hands...also at the ICA office, is Sabina, 26ish...a social worker who counsels people tested positive with HIV AIDS...12 or more people coming through everyday...she heads up the two HIV AIDS positive groups of 35 people or more who meet at the office once a week, offering support, networking, connections, helping them with accommodation when they are thrown out of their homes with their children for being positive..the stigma of HIV AIDS is alive and well here in Tanzania, although with education through ICA workshops on awareness, prevention, volunteer testing and counselling things are changing slowly....what else! I have a delicious hour and 8 minutes left on this machine..i am into my fourth hour here of wired but so happy to finally be able to sit down with some time to0 think and write..

LaST Sunday i came up here to Kiratu to the hospital with my friend Dotto whose twin sister Teddy, age 36 has been isolated and bedridden for the last 5 years with a weird sort of flesh eating disease. She is suffering with holes burrowing into her arms, legs, her hips and especially her behind. It is so terribly sad to see, but her spirits were up to see Dotto (the name given to the second twin born) and the visit. I wrote of this to a friend in Pennsylvania...he called me immediately on my cell with possible help for her. We went back the next day and took photos...we are working on the doctors now to release medical information, to fax over. With this offering of possible help we might find a cure for could easily be something very simple, but something requiring drugs which they don't have here...

My Swedish friends gave me $100 US to 'buy some gardening equipement' for one of the relatives of a child in the orphanage they are assisting...she showed up at the office on Monday...two hours later, she walked out with this money, not only to buy a hoe or two, but to rent an acre of land which can be cultivated twice a year, with enough funds to buys maize seeds, fertilizer, and to hire someone to help her cultivate the soil by hand before the big rains...a dream come true for her and so easily accomplished from our world. I can't tell you how moved she was, the disbelief she felt and now, maybe, in a years time, she will have two aCRES..and be able to afford to send three children through secondary school..that is all that matters here. Education.

Steven Lewis railed to the U.N. about funding secondary schools in Africa and to this day they have here are supported by their government through primary school, it is compulsary, with each child having to pay $50 US equivalent, for uniforms, shoes, and books...but when they finish primary school, at about age 14it is over for most of them...Secondary school is costs now $575. Canadian...for the first year...(beds,desks, fees..etc..) plus food, medical...etc....the following four years are much less expensive, depending on the new it is..if it is new, and needs construction, the fees are much higher..the govt only subsidizes part of the school, teachers etc...It is a travesty that our world cannot come together to finance secondary school for kids here...without furthered education there is no way they can excelerate, learn English, get jobs and grow with healthy bodies and families...they end up on the street, most of them, with nothing to do, get pregnant, become prostitutes...the boys loitering, crime, street kids, starvation, sickness,disease..anger, name is here.

But I see with a little education the miracles that can happen..and with your sponsorship of the project we are working on with sending MaSAI TRIBAL girls to secondary school, this project is really making a difference. Big time.

We have 16 girls now that we are five different Masai villages...the govt has built secondary schools in the areas, but the children must live is futile for them to visit their homes during school season as the parents who desperately need help, will keep them at home, cooking, fetching firewood, looking after cows, goats, donkeys and younger siblings...many parents hope their girls will fail in school, freeing them into arranged marriages with much older men..often as the fourth or fifth wife for the dowry of cows, goats..and then teenage pregnancy - a life of starvation, poverty, and toil often awaits. So by sending them through secondary school they have a chance..I interviewed eleven girls last week in one day, with Peter translating..We asked them about their families...interestingly, their answers this year, in front of each other during the interviews, were different from the stories i was told last year when we interviewed them on their own. A lesson learned...

Most spoke last year of running away from home and those marriages to the headmistress who took them in, looking after them herself in every way, waiting for sponsorship. This year some came from supportive families, but at the end of the group interview..they all stressed their fears of going baCK home over their four month holiday, preferring to stay in school, or in town where we might be able to setup work for them in the orphanages with English tutouring...a great idea i think.

At one of the schools we were told there were four very unqualified teachers who didn't speak English to 250 text books, pens, or exercise books....i felt so depressed as i heard each girl speaking, what in earth is the point!!
we vowed to buy books for them, easy English books, and hope, the next time we get out there, a good hour away in the middle of rolling green hills, and mud paths , cows, goats, and cow dung huts...we will teach a bit of English to them ourselves..what a challenge! |But exciting....

I am staying at the same little guest house i stayed at over the last three years where i was robbed last year of all my US money which i inadvertantly left in my room, understandable, with this kind of poverty, who can blame them..

I have a room with two beds with mosquito netting, a tiled floor, two little table..a bathroom of my own with a toilet, very luxurious! Otherwise the bathroom facilities are a hole in the ground with a place to put your feet on both sides. A tap with water is customary but not always, with a little plastic pail underneath to wash down the hole..I have been healthy so far, no every morning getting ready for each day. Couldn't be safe...

Diet is a boiled egg for breakfast with a little round bun made of rice and fried called a, delicious instant from Tanzania, mixed with boiled milk drawn every morning from the cow stationed and mooing and pooing just outside my office window. Lunch and dinner: you have two choices, either rice with greens (like chard), a tomato sauce and beans....or chips mai eye...a little cooked dish of french fried pototoes mixed with scrambled egg...that's can order roast goat, or cow..don't bother with the chicken, as Lindsey said it is like sucking bones..unlike our chemically fattened big and bloated birds back home. Beer is good here...I am sure ready for one at the end of every huge day...

I take the kids i taught to swim last year,to the local campsite every weekend, where safari tourists stay - very nice grounds with a lovely pool. |This year i have three boys who can swim and three girls who are new at it..I am amazed at how fast they learn, they have no fear! non...after a few rounds of blowing underwater, bouncing them up and down, and watching the boys splashing about, they were able to soak their entire heads underwater..and that was only day one! Can't wait to see what they will do on Saturday!

i have 34 minutes left, and after four and a half hours of it, i think i am out of words to say...But i want you to know that especially this year, i feel i am not alone at all, i have so many of you behind me, supporting so enthusiastically these projects, it is incredible...i wish someday for you to be able to visit Huruma..the Masai villages..the dusty little streets of Mto Wa Mbu...I know it now inside out...well a little bit of it anyway...but each day i see different things..each day i am surprised. Each day someone or something comes along and you can't help your heart opening up just a little bit my friend Brian says, this is as good as it gets!!

Big hugs to you all, and thank you again, until that internet connection gets fixed..or until i get back up here to Kiratu.....much love...Lynn

ps..i have'nt the foggiest idea how to get the photos out of my camera this year..with the connection down in Mto Wa Mbu and without the teacher i had last year. i hope i am not doomed to write, describe without the help of pics for your sake...but tomorrow, kesho, someone will come along....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

JAMBO!! i HAVE 8 minutes and four seconds left to write this blog...our internet connection has been out since Friday...i have so so much to write about...but the only system is an hour up the road by bus - so here we go!! Busy, but doing so much...the Huruma orphanage is really coming together, yesterday an all day meeting in the mud floored dark room with the chair, secretary, treasurer, Charles and I, teachers, cleaner and cooks....going through upcoming responsibilities of everyone...communication, conflict, oh my gawd what a meeting, but i think we accomplished so so much..the building is coming along well...
Miracles happen here everyday....someone gave me $100 US to help a woman with three kids, no future..she now has a one acre plot, tools, maize seeds, fertilizer and someone to help her cultivate before the big rains come in a month...a visit a few days ago to a friends sister with a terrible flesh eating disease, my friend from Penn. called wanting more information, we've taken pics with the diagnosis from drs. here, and firing them over for help...swim lessons with the orphaned kids..too much to write and no time. but soon i will settle into it.happy and safe and very glad to be here..much love to you all, and again, thank you so much for helping with all of this..xxLynn

Sunday, February 08, 2009

JAMBO HABARE!! |Greetings from Tanzania!! It is incredible here, as always, for me...we have not stopped since i arrived late Monday night..
|But before i get into a bit of what's happening...i wrote four hours straight on Friday, only to find that the internet connection at the cafe had gone down while writing. The story was filled with orphanages, interviews with eleven Masai tribal girls from two different without books, four teachers, unqualified to 250 kids..very frustrating for them...the renovation is almost finished on the new house for HURUMA..we have interviewed the ten kids who are now 7 years old and enrolled into primary school, and 16 other families and children who are applying for theHuruma day school....these kids are 3 to 6....we are only able to take the most vulnerable neediest poorest children..and there are so many of them...The reno is fabulous, we have water, electricity....gorgeous rooms with tiles floors..clean plaster..two indoor bathrooms, a big classroom and four bedrooms...for boys, and girls...i can't thank everyone enough who has brought this dream to happen....we hope to move the kids in in thenext two weeks..ordering beds, desks, chairs...etc...
i am racing..
The internet connection collapsed on Friday as i was writing for four hours..i hit 'publish' and the whole thing disappeared!! this is typical, but endlessly frustrating...i begged the woman in charge to leave the computer i was using on, until the connection came back, just maybe i didn't lose it!! it is still off, three days later...with my machine on..waiting!!
we took a crazy bus for 12 people all the way up to Kiratu this afternoon...with 24 visit a friends siser, in the hospital with a sort of flesh eating disease..she was lovely, but so sad to see her this way..the money they raised through the hospital for an operation for her, went into the pockets of the administrators...such is corruption here, everywhere....
But i am happily here for half an hour, with now 3 minutes and 32 seconds to go before this machine goes off.....
took six kids swimming yesterday, it was fabulous...thre girls who have never done it before, got them to put their heads right into THE WATER...amazing...
am measuring, ordering furniture, interviewing, and never stopping..i love it!!the best to everyone..and pray that that story is saved..othrwise i try to write again this week...much love and big thanks to you....without your generous donations, these projects would never get off the ground..take care...xxlYNN