Wednesday, March 25, 2009

JAMBO...our very last day in Tanzania, we have been racing to tie up the loose ends, as i sit here at the internet cafe to write for the last time in Africa i am so so happy...things are spectacular...i feel like i am jumping off this page, and have no idea how i am going to settle down in Toronto come this weekend. Beware!!

Yesterday we had a final staff, village leaders, ICA meeting at MAJENGO to pull things together with everyone, to discover openly how we are all feeling, how our work was going, to discuss any problems, anything lacking before i take off for Canada tomorrow..kesho. We sat around three long tables in the big front room of the orphanage, the afternoon sun pouring in, bright, clean and beautiful..the children peacefully sleeping in the back four bedrooms after a great lunch of ugali, greens and bananas for desert. It was idyllic. A huge world map which Seanna brough a couple of weeks ago tacked up on one wall, numbers and alphabet letters dancing across the yellow walls...and on another main wall, Seanna organized \Miko,a local painter to create a beautiful ASENTE from MAJENGO canvass, a thank you from Majengo, with a big beautiful elephant painted on the middle, flowers, grasses, leaves, and the names of over 200 people, locally: village leaders, workers, staff and well wishers, and friends and acquaintances, even people i don't know! from Canada, United States, Sweden, Australia...mentioning everyone we know who has contributed anything to this wonderful project..the names beautifully written TIKO TIKO style, a little misspelt, but beautifully done - a big thank you to everyone out there who has given so much..thank you!!!
I opened the meeting as representative of the donors from everywhere - occuring to me that we are all one big huge family coming together specifically to support and love these forty children, not just for now, but for many years to come as they make their way through pre school, primary, secondary, high school and university if they choose.....and hopefully, as these kids move along, we will grow and expand to bring more children along - there are hundreds, thousands out there needing help, and with is a wonderful beginning.

WE spoke of the need of everyone there, the cooks, cleaners, the two main leaders of the staff Martha and Killo..the two wonderful teachers,Glory and Grayson, all of us, the village leaders, ICA and the donors,our responsibility to work as hard as we can together to share in the upbringing of these kids...what a special opportunity we have, with each portion of the pie valuable to the next, we are all equal, without each other we have nothing...

Each person spoke one by one thanking the donors, thanking each other for this opportunity to work in this place. I think they really feel how special this is. A few said, when they started back at the original HURUMA setting jammed into the mud floored foyer, that they thought the whole thing was a joke, but now how they marvel at what they all have achieved.

We encouraged each person to come forth with anything they might need to make this place better; everyone was silent until KILLO spoke..They had one bike, his, he had to ride back and forth ten times a day for shopping, answering questions,etc...
Well, the bike i bought seven weeks ago was for MAJENGO....problem solved, along with my cell phone which has lost its light for some reason...tomorrow it will be installed permanently at MAJENGO with a well guarded stash of phone cards for emergencies, nightime sickness, trips to the hospital. Communication.
We have done our best to combat this problem...and to the best of my ability, we have worked things out. Elias from the orphanage PAMBAZUKO will work part time with KILLO and Martha, shopping, budgets, accounting, transfering information to Charles at ICA, bi monthly to me via email and skype. ICA is in charge of all the monies coming in from abroad to our head office in MOSHE...then transferred to a special account in MTO WA MBU for the orphanage, administered by either Charles or Sabina, both highly experienced in these matters, receipts, accounting books, monitoring systems, each person responsible for the next.

I am confident fully in these people, in this system, and in the attitude they all have today, hopefully tomorrow and through the years to come. Corruption was a big issue yesterday. We left without any doubt that anyone caught stealing from the children would be fired, zero tolerance. WE have seen enough, case closed.

So basically i am thrilled. I spent the morning going over the budgets again and again and again, adding the cost of someone to repair the water system, we have outdoor access, but still a dribble inside.....uniforms for the ten primary kids, two each, plus uniforms for the pre schoolers' all 30 of them, day care and live, twice a year for everyone, all 40 of them. Staff medical insurance. We got permission from Father Paul who runs the big Catholic missionary next door with a hospital attached to allow our kids access day and night for a nominal fee; it couldn't be better. Money for transportation, staffing, foods in bulk and daily runs, medical first aid...the list goes on and on, but today, i can safely say, for me, the detailing is over....

Tonight, we are invited to a final celebration fairwell at Pambazuka...the other orphanage where fourteen other kids have been relocated from the very first 'bad' one on the safari route a year ago. We work with them beautifully, sharing information, books, clothing and experience.

Binti wangu and je kuchu..Seanna and Sierra have been teaching beautiful art projects at MAJENGO every morning for a couple of hours to the preschoolers, then on to PAMBAZUKO every afternoon when the primary kids get home from school. IN between they go swimming, walking around town...yesterday they took little street boy Johnny to the NGORA crater for his first safari...he speaks English beautifully at age 14 and was great company for Sierra...his mom showed up at breakfast to thank Seanna for this chance of a lifetime, but for us it was a pleasure to meet this woman raising three kids on her own, a farmer from nearby Kiratu, age 54...

The days race into night....around each corner an adventure,impossible to describe and i wonder how it is that i have fallen into this dusty little place, with all these wonderful people, so deeply at this time of my life.

Charles especially, Elias, Peter...Miriam who runs our favourite MI CASA restaurant a block away, Hamidu the driver who doesn't speak English but with a heart as big as his body...Sabina, beautiful calm, the social worker at ICA who i count on for so many things....Glory, Grayson, the teachers at Grayson stood against the wall while i drew with black marker the outline of his body, labelling each part in Swahili and then outgoing, so caring of those kids..saying goodbye to them today so difficult, Glory running away as we both broke down and cried.

Little Pendo the youngest at age 2 or less, wrapping herself in my another year she will be so much older....Peter found her dirty and dusty hiding behind a wall at her grandmother's home, the poor woman left with two kids to support without means and desperate for help, he brought both of them to is impossible to describle the difference in these children in just a few weeks...bright, shiny, laughing....they come together now as one big family, brothers and sisters under one is a miracle.

Speaking of which...and i have never asked his permission as to whether i may write about this...but remember weeks ago, the one week visit i wrote about with MATT...IAN and BILL, coming all the way over here from a small town in Pennsylvania...?? They came, these three great guys, met the children and everyone connected with this project, asked questions, took notes, and went on safari..they came back and made a film with the children, each one singing Twinkle twinkle little star....
They fell in love.
On April 09 I have been invited to visit their town to do a presentation on MAJENGO with Matt...his family and friends will be there, it seems, with open hearts, a group of people in one small town who has decided to take on this project, not just for a year but for many..making possible this dream to become a concrete reality.

No wonder i am happy...

MUCH love to you all..i promise when i get home, to fill this blog with pictures brightening up an already stunning world..thank you so much!! Hoping to keep up with the writing, a little different in a world of cool and grey....
See you on the weekend!!!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hi again....
I forgot to tell you about our being invited the night before Peter left for Uganda, to the home of his uncle for dinner, Seanna, Sierra and I...for us exceptionally honourable treat to be served in an African home and this was no exception..Bature and his wife live along a long and windy narrow path of packed down reddened mud about twenty minute's walk through tall grasses and homes constucted from local brick, dung, wood and metal from the busy main street of MTO...Peter's uncle is a pharmacist with his own little drugstore, one of ten children, the one, Peter tells me, who is most successful. His mother, Peter's grandmother, was moved last year from her village into this little red brick home with Bature and his wife, and the young assistant they have hired from Arusha to work in their shop; they have never had chidren of their own. Bebe, grandmother, is large and impressive, in her eighties, tall and proud, but crippled now with a painful form of toxemia in both legs, a sore back, unable to look after herself and her home anymore. Seanna and Sierra stay outside playing tag with nearby children, Peter welcoming me into the home. The front room is fairly large nd sparce, with a small three seater couch and chair and across the tiled room, a shelving unit with kitchen pots, photos, a calender. Propped up in the corner of the room stands the plastic branch of a Christmas tree decorated with tinsel, a few bright balls; otherwise the room is empty. Peter sleeps across this little couch when he is in Mto, all of his 6 foot something sprawing i am sure from one end to the next....his grandmother makes her way slowly into the room, with open arms and warm eyes she welcomes me...anyone who is a friend of her favourite mchuku, grandson, is a friend of hers...We sit down together these two bebes....(at first i thought they were calling me baby!! kind of fun..but bebe is a respectful term for grandmother...anyone over 50, here a highly valued member of the family...)She wants to see the picture first of me and Obama, taken during his campaign against Hilary in Indiana last May....I carry it with me here, this picture instantly invoking the greatest enthusiasm, a door opener and then pictures of my grandkids, the one of Finn sitting in my studio in diapers alone holdng a big long paintbrush globbed thickly with bright red paint, half of it blotted on the paper in front of him, the other half on his leg...a big hit, then Johnny, Seanna, Ted...Shauna, Sierra and LIndsey and Jim, she is studying each picture carefully with Peter at her side, translating and holding a flashlight in the waning light - who is this one, who is that? Suddenly with determination, she pulls herself up out of the couch and disappears through the cloth covered doorway, returning soon with a lifetime of photos and official papers, id cards and memories held tightly in one hand, she carefully lowers herself back down into the couch. One by one she goes throught them silently, treasures, shuffling back and forth, looking, searching for this one, that one, and bringing them to me slowly: Peter with his mama in a flowered dress at age four kneeling beside her in a big black chair....his mama standing in a long skirt and black blouse posing next to a fence of bursting red flowers, his mama with his papa at her wedding and finally, someone resting flowers on the grave of his mama, seven years ago.

Peter was orphaned by both parents at age sixteen by HIV AIDS...his dad went first, then his mother, leaving him in charge of two younger siblings , all three moving back into the home his grandmother and another uncle, relatives to look after them, now that his parents are gone. He loves this grandmother with all his heart - he washes her hands gently every night before eating, a special honour for him while he is in town, pouring warmed water from a kettle dripping down into a plastic bowl - a custom here every where you sit down to eat, before and after the meal your hands are cleaned. Dinner is served -rice, delicious soft chicken, the mixture of greens with sauce, but she waits till later for her meal, specially cooked for her without salt, to bring down the toxemia. The uncle is across the table asking questions about how to help her, about diet, exercise, raising her legs...a lantern at the side of the room, darkened now, the family closing in

Peter left the next morning on the early bus for Arusha, then up to Kampala Uganda for the last few months of his final year of high school. After his parent's death, he got a job up at the crater in a big safari lodge as a busboy, was spotted by a South Carolina couple drawn to his wide engaging smile, who sponsored him through four years of secondary school, and now two in high school. He gets top grades, speaks English perfectly and was elected as the head boy of the school by over one thousand students. I hope he doesn't read this, but this guy is a winner,in every way, and has helped me so much with decision making, translation, so knowledgeable of local customs, ideas...i adore him and always have to say but it's so sad that he is so ugly!! Visiting his uncle last year on a Christmas break, he met Charles and became a volunteer at ICA, facilitating workshops to local secondary students on HIV AIDS related issues, how to protect themselves,encouraging his peers to get out there to educate others. It is impossible to imagine he is only 23, bright, articulate, confident, compassionate - this guy is heading for major African leadership one day, for certain.

Peter was with me a year ago when Charles took us to the orphanage the first time, and now, together, with Charles, Elias from Pambazuko and the staff at Majengo one year later, i am 100% confident with this team. Bright, creative, smart and more important than anything, hand picked for the main thing that matters most, their absolute unequivical honesty. It is the ONLY issue for me. Corruption running rampantly through every industry and business, large or small, inside every political setup in every village, every town, every city across Africa - not only Africa: white collar, blue collar, red collar, purple collar, whatever, clean across the planet, corruption everywhere. No secret, but impossible to run a business, and this orphanage is a business, from a million miles across the sea, without complete transperancy and honesty.

We cannot do it.

Two months of searching, watching and weeding out each and every sign of discretion, any wiff of dishonesty. Viciously and ruthlessly, without compassion, I have to say. I simply don't care. We will not and cannot tolerate anyone who is here for any other reason but to love those children with all their hearts and to make their lives better..this is not a place for personal advancement, for putting money not earned into someone's pockets. We have spent two months setting up a monitoring system i believe now to be pretty tight, though not naive enough at this point not to expect variances down the road. But we have tried. The director from one year ago has gone, finally, after seven weeks of meetings, hearings, confessions, accusations, misunderstandings and declarations. The whole community in some form or other was involved. The village leaders took over and after a series of very long and quite painful all-day meetings, resolved the issue. Not pretty, not nice, but necessary, and actually a good start for this orphanage. An example of what will happen unless people are honest.

We now have two people, not one, heading up a staff of eight, Martha and Killo, whose resposibility is the all-round every-day running of the orpanage and pre school, inside and out - the care of the children, medical, education, food, the facility, upkeep, maintenance, gardens, cleanliness, the financial statements, the liaison between what's going on at Majengo and the village leaders, a hand picked Board of Directors, and finally to ICA and our donors.

This is all new to most of us. The fine line between organizing and running something as tenuous as this, and standing way back and watching the eventual customs and behaviours of local life taking over. Remember those well managed piles of age chosen clothing i so carefully set into place a week ago..the t shirts in one pile, the shorts, skirts, pants in others..well just this morning i passed by as Seanna and Sierra were teaching painting to the pre schoolers, to measure the windows in the bedrooms for curtains...huge mounds of clothing shoved helter skelter into the 'wrong' shelves....but hey, who cares, this is definately not my problem.

We ran out of flour and maize yesterday, just in time for Elias' day of budget making....ran up the mountain for another stab at the ATM and we're on board now, with huge bundles of bulk food stashed behind locked doors in our pantry....i love it....they have arrange for their daily run, the buying of milk and fresh green groceries..onions, cabbage, carrots, tomoatoes, name be bought from some of the neighbours who volunteered their services for free a year ago at this place.... giving business to those people who first acted as early founders, it is great...!!

Charles just called, back to Kiratu.....running..for another few days, and then!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

JAMBO!! a little crazed with so many final things to do and one week to go! Things coming together incredibly impossible, so hard to describe here, with each day so hugely bubbling over and filled to the brim to the point where, at night in my little room, i am trying to remember breakfast, where and with whom and what did we meet about..and what great wads of money did i dole out of my little black bag and to whom did i give it: the man who dug the trench for the bouganvillia fencing around the orphanage? Sabina our social working at ICA taking four little ones all the way up to Kiratu to the hospital under emergency with stomach/chest pains, anothers eyes, another's privates and the last one, an enlarged heart.....cost of transportation, everytime we climb that mountain we are dumping cash into that old red Ford, breaking down, and today, on my way to the only ATM within two hours drive, we come across two huge transport trucks crashed together and lying on their sides, one driver dead, the other mangled without two legs now in hospital. Yesterday, on the same road, another crash, a big old lorry lost its brakes on a steep curve and slid backwards down the mountainside gathering speed. That driver headed backwards into a ditch, rolled over and lost his life, the passenger okay...I remind Hamidu, our non English speaking driver, pole pole....SLOW DOWN... i am scared...

Hospital, food and soda everywhere, for everyone we come cards, burlap bags of flour, maize, cornflower....running out after the first batch we bought a month ago...No time to meet with Elias from Pambazuka experienced with seven months with watoto yatima..orphaned children, to iron out budget for food, staffing....tomorrow, kesho.....another trip to the ATM..Fresh fruit, vegetables... paying for the door finally built to close up the pantry, with a key to prevent theft, installed today.

Wonderful how things are falling into place..who does what job? for how many hours a day? who is responsible for what? for who? who checks on who? There is the staff, two great teachers who speak English fairly well with huge hearts....Glory and Grayson, just learned that our pre school kids, ten of them now in primary school..are at the top of the class.....two cooks hanging out in our newly built outdoor kitchen...someday,maybe tomorrow i will get pictures into this blog....a step up, concrete floor and sides which go up to your belly button....with big stones inside, a roaring fire with a six month stash of firewood nearby, a big black pot boiling something atop....soft breezes flowing through open windows, a roof made of corregated metal to ward off the sun.

A secretary, charge of operations..SEanna said, operation manager, and that is what he is..responsible for the running of the place..any conflicts, he tries to work them out...and if not, he goes to a team of village leaders, four of them, two elected politicians both in their thirties, the school headmister, and Vincent, a local businessman ....i learn, the son of Raymond, one of the leaders, was in a bad car crash last year, with his organs grounding out of sort....just two days ago, in the middle of an all day meeting with us, the boy was in operation in far away Moshe....this man visably pained, and yet here in Mto Wa Mbu..doing his job.

WE are changing the name to MAJENGO ORPHANAGE CENTRE...officially, along with a new registration on Friday...The old name HURUMA was for when the facility was jammed into the dank mud floored floyer of one of the origonal founder's homes. It has been decided by leaders: new renovated orphanage, new leadership, new as of this weekend we are Majengo.
I like the name.

Peter left on Tuesday for school up in Uganda...he comes back in December to work full time at ICA...

Tomorrow is budget day.
We have worked out staffing: two teachers,tw0 cooks,the secretary Killo...Martha the treasurer also running the workings of the children along with one of the teachers, Glory....also the matron....two a nurse/ cleaner who sleeps there at night with Glory, the other Witness, the one who washes kid's clothing all day, keeping the outside grounds neat and clean, the flowers and little budding trees watered, the porch swept. A challenge, everyone wants to work here...but the ones who started it all are given the first chance. They have been at it for over a year now, with little or no pay...all of that will change soon....little by little, the dream coming true, i am sure of it...

Pambazuka too...the little family that grew....blossoming from five children taken out of a very corrupt situation on main street now under the loving care of two wonderful people, Elias and Tabias who, without children of their own, were given a calling.....those five multiplied now into 14, all stemming from that first bad place..we have two to go!!

That house, way too small now for a mama and baba and 14 children, 3 up to Zack at young woman Martha living in and helping...they found a new home. Yesterday, signed the rental contract and began a high energy one week long reno project in their new place, much bigger, brighter, with water even and maybe, the ground work for building an nice outdoor kitchen, just like the one at Huruma/Majengo....a tile guy inside patching and painting..screens for the windows, a few new doors, and we vow by next Wednesday, the night before Seanna, Sierra and I take off, to have a big party, with beds, matresses and sheets in place for those kids to celebrate their first night here....Very exciting, very challenging, and i know, with the help of our Swedish friends...Norbert from Austria and that international team we are working with, we can do it!!

Will i ever get over this?

Poor Seanna and Sierra arrived in the middle of all this flurry...everyday we get over to the pool for a few hours, in between their running art classes at both orphanages, walking a few miles to and fro....jet lag..heat, sunburn, 'very weird food', poor dear Sierra....reduced now to Fanta to drink, or water...cucumbers from the market, chipati pancakes....and yesterday i taught the owner of Mi Casa how to soft boil an egg, my eye in Swahili...they thought we were nuts....eating this thing, all gooey and mushy...but dipped with chipati, a good thing....

WE take Old Maid and Crazy Eight to dinner...the local people hanging over watching, figuring out these games...pouring rain last night finally, in the middle of rainy season pure drought this year, the cows on the road boney, with cages of ribs sticking out, that big projection on top of their back barely pulled thinly taunt with skin, no flesh, no fat, hundreds of the poor mangy beasts pushing their way down the wide sidewalk as we weave through them, on our way to Majengo. We play six games before the rain lets down, they dash off to bed...I can't sleep most nights, my head spinning, the odd sleeping pill to ease the all night twisting, turning lamely into a nightly venture, i dread the withdrawal back at home....

I stay at the restaurant with the Old Maid.

The women who cooks the chippsie eggs my eye...a street food version of french fries mixed with scrambled eggs cooked in a little crepe frying pan over hot fire... sits down with a helper..i point out the Maid and say ICKKKKKKK!! making a big fuss of the DON'T WANT THIS CARD!! wITHOUT English they can easily figure out the pairs by the pictures...the game begining with much laughter and frivolity whenever someone picks the OLD MAID....two guys join and we have a big table of five...four games later and i am out of there, dashing through wet streets of mud and stone,to home...twisting and turning.

I write and write, to remind myself, when i get home, of what happened..but no way to describe the days as they fly by, galloping at top speed..yesterday i am ordering the carpender Willy to make three more bunk beds for Pambazuka en route to meeting S and S at the pool, my cell rings and someone is saying something about a Canadian here...i almost hang up, got to go!! bad timing, but he persists...back on Main street, next to the Double M i peddle as fast as i can, i am late for S and S, and they will not be is my doctor Ginny Griffin's assistant from her offices on Lawrence Avenue east of Avenue road back home!! Trudy with her husband. A hundred years ago, while giving me my shots she mentioned a trip of a lifetime this spring, through Tanzania and Egypt....!! I gave her my email...which she lost..but remembered this little town with the strange name and here we are, sitting at a bar in the middle of the afternoon drinking magi baridi...cold water from the bottle, kidogo...small....
they are glowing...
Wild with their safari up the Ngora crater..across the she said, every day, it gets better and better.....

Tears...too tired...and too happy and too thankful....and too relieved that today, all of these things are still standing beautifully....i sign off...
Tomorrow, after budget day..Juseph of this internet cafe promises to help me with pictures.....unless, of course, something comes up...or he closes for a few days. ch!!!.

Saturday, we rent another van and take the ten primary kids to Manyara for their first time...but just before, a trip to the uniforms with good material this time.....just in time to say goodbye...........

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hi...I am so happy!!
For everything..Seanna and Sierra arrived last night, KLM..Kilimanjaro,in two pieces, a long drive back to Mto Wa Mbu with three zebra running across the road AND one big huge tall favourite!! under a waning full was a sign of wonderful things to, a great breakfast and fairwell to Matt, Ian and Bill as they make their way back to Kili and home....we will meet soon, again...
Yesterday, Huruma..Bill had my video camera set up facing the back wall of the orphanage...we brought little groups of kids waiting their turn so curiously, so happily, as Bill sat them down, one at a time, on a bench facing the camera, so gently moving them to the left, the right, into position..focussing, he asked each one their name, and to sing Twinkle twinkle little was gorgeous! Then to say AKUNA problem, loud and clear, as they shot their little arms into the air....Ian standing on a plastic rickity chair holding a bedsheet up as high as he could, preventing sunlight onto small faces...Matt and all of us standing around, those who could speak Swahili, suggesting, louder, look a the white man's nose!!
We did all 44 kids...spectacular, sending Bill home with a couple of treasured tapes, to make a video....
And on to the Masai Chief's boma...we all go, those three, Charles and I...Elias who is the baba of Pambazuka and Peter our great student from much to say and describe, but as always, little time....we are driving with Abdul in their big safari truck, way more comfortable than Charles' truck!! an hour later, we arrive at the boma, out in the middle of what i could say 'nowhere', surrounded by 360 degrees of rolling parched hills and mountains...the Chief came out with brothers, two wives and a flood of little children to greet us....allin traditional Masai sheets, beads...his father in this eighties with 10 wives, following...he had the flashlight i gave him one year ago, and asked for a new one...
we are now into medievil Matt said....their existance depends on cows, their sticks and sword to fend off wild animals...they drink milk mixed with cow blood, they don't eat chicken or fish..or vegetables...they live in mud huts made of wood and cow is all about the animals..they can't conceive of numbers, yet they know each animal by name or family....
The warriors appeared in full dress, beads, redened hair carrying a long sword which Bill was most interested in....we took them inside the small mud hut where Sierra Seanna and i spent one night last year....we took pictures...
It was a highlight...they visited Pambazuka last night, while we took off for the has been a wonderful week...for me, the support and enthusiasm, the very good solid advice i asked for and received, the commaradary, the easiness of these three guys...a great team with our people....amazing...
Huruma is doing wonderfully, a big meeting about cleaning...washing clothes..when to do it, and how...we hooked up a long rope at the back of the house, clothes pegs... I am excited by how it is working..the clothes brought over, neatly packed onto shelves, depending on girls, boys, sizes....
I gave alot of things to the Pambazuka orphanage as well, books, clothing, shoes..we are sharing all the way along...Elias, the 'father' of Pam, with 14 children now of his own, with his wife Tabias, so loving, so caring, and so knowledgeable about how to run an orphanage, the budgeting..hugely new to me and challenging, always watching out not to be taken for a dumb majenga...white person!

Every day, things come together at that place..the children are so very happy....the teachers magical, with 28 kids to teach all day, pre the bright happy classroom decorated with all the posters and maps, alphabets numbers, etc..brought by is fabulous...

Today, visiting our kids at PAMBAZUKa...AND THEN on to the swimming pool, where tomorrow we will bring six kids over to swim...and on to Huruma for Seanna and Sierra to meet those is all so wonderful...

Got to run..i must take a moment to post some pictures, i know...
but thank you all for your enthusiasm and help with what we are all trying to do over here, without your support,there would be no Huruma...take care....xLynn

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

JAMBO!! Everything wonderful here!!! Outside a rumbling of thunder, a steady file of school children making their way along the side of the road, blue skirts and white shirts, a slim pack slung across their shoulders, a herd of goats passing by a little guy running along dragging a cardboard carton on a rope, Tanzania toy.

It is very hot...jotto sana....and humid...We opened Sunday!! Huruma....Saturday, Charles and i driving as fast as we can to Arusha, racing through town jammed with traffic and on to Kilimanjaro to meet Matt, Bill and Ian coming 17 hours by air from Pennsylvania to see for themselves Huruma....did i tell you all this? maybe..i had never met them, never set eyes on them before Saturday night. Charles and i imagining, what do they look like? Tall, with glasses, brown hair, no white, skinny, short?...we are standing at the window watching the groupings, looking for three guys travelling together and soon they are here.... exhausted, disorientated yet raring to go...

We pile the pickup to the top and more with bags, bags filled with goodies for the kids, three of us squeeze into the back, with Ian who is a lovely tall gentle giant of a man reminding me of Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird..he is a birder ga over the flocks filled with ten different species everytime he goes out, birds he had never seen. Matt, who has that magic it takes to take an idea and make this huge leap, reminds me of the actor in The Last King of Scotland, craggy, and smart, insisting he knows very little but what I know he knows is his great passion, i for life, business, people, is incredible finally to meet this man I h ave been communicating with for only a couple of weeks..and his friend, Bill. I am lying sleeplessly in bed thinking of who these guys remind me of and for Bill, i would say Philip Seymour Hoffman...blonde, not too tall, and incredible curious and fascinated with everything...with the gift of gab, the first day obsessing as i would be, with getting his three cell phones up and working locally...communication trying, a day later he could finally text and communicate with his wife, two days later he managed to post one picture of himself on facebook looking at bananas! They are wonderful, these three, so much to say about the easy way we all connected with each other, and i know everyone down in their town in Penn is probably reading this, but to you all, you know how they are!

Matt's enthusiasm and support for this project has helped me so much in times without internet, without Swahili, without connection with family and friends, calling with arrangement, every few nights.

Arusha. Naaz Hotel, a Kilimanjaro beer, a nice talk and 12 hours sleep later....Doris, director of ICA TANZ....breakfast, relaxed, what is this ICA?? I was asking just that three years ago when i first arrived into Zimbabwe...HIV AIDS focussed, awareness, prevention, testing, for Masai girls, HIV AIDS positive groups, ventillation projects inside Masai cow dung huts with fireplaces and chimneys, respiratory and eye diseases, orphanages and little kids the most poor and vulnerable in the world, alone, without mamas and papas....maybe a very old grandmama who can't work, can't see, hobbling along with the little ones making her way for help, food, eaking out bare substance. ICA (Institute of Cultural Affairs) tries to guide people into helping themselves, offering a forum for people to understand for themselves their needs, and how to manage them, how to move forward working at the very lowest grass route level..hands on, to the people most needing help. Doris weaves the story of how she started ICA TANZ...a university degreee at Carlton, Ottawa, a govt job she quit...a big leap forward, and now for the last 12 years, a growing successful small but so effective NGO....

WE pack up and make our way through markets of Arusha Town, hot, dusty, busy...mobbed outside our hotel, working our way to the truck, but in the market men and women buying, selling, carrying pots, bags of rice, maize on their heads, their posture is remarkable. Beautiful to look at people,each one. Someone said it is hard not to stare. I am seeing it all newly through their eyes and loving it. It is so easy being with these guys..Charles always guiding, directing, forging ahead..without him,we all know..the level of comfort would excelerate dramatically. A culture so hugely different from anything else.

Trouble at the ATM but we manage to eject a little and now speeding along the asphalt highway toward Mto WA Mbu, we see a small grouping of giraffes hiding behind huge thorn bushes at the side of the road, a treat. The landscape is like none other... wide open range of rolling hills, parched now for lack of rain, the Rift Valley mountains in the distance, Masai huts in clusters in the colour of the land, Masai tribal people in full traditional dress wandering along the road, managing herds of cattle, goats, carrying sticks...

i have written of this so often before,their bright red and purple sheets flowing, tall, slim, elegant, proud.

Tired and hungry when we hit Mto WA Mbu....head straight to the Double M, the cool hot dusty bar along the main strip of town, red plastic chairs and tables, commotion and busy with farmers, Masai, African life...a metal tray of rice, greens, beans and tomatoe/onion sauce...served by my friend Dotto, the second twin, delicious, fresh, healthy...heading by foot now across a row of women selling bananas, red, yellow, brown, big and small, we have to try them all, and head down past the First and Last Bar across a muddy pitted walkway to the office, women cooking outside in big metal woks, okra, beans, onions, lunch, African music blasting. Unload the truck suitcases filling my office, drop our bags off at my guest house..and on to HURUMA..there is no time to stop.

These guys are in a daze but holding up well....culture shock, huge, too much to take in at once, and so so tired. First stop the original orphanage where we found those little kids a year ago, the little dark room, in the foyer of the house, Limo's....I am not sure what they are place is empty now that we've moved the kids on, but for a few little ones straggling around barefoot in faded torn rags, peaking around crumbling cement corners, dry parched land, hardened with the sun. Some with nerve appear in bunches, Ian is the photographer..they giggle, hide behind each other, and love having their picture taken.

A day later in the safari bus, Bill is taking shots of elephants a few feet away, the kids more interested in his viewfinder than out the window, huge wide black eyes, coy, smiling.

Back into the truck and on the same road, the new house. Charles sent invitations but i had no idea what to expect.

Having trouble again with my sound on my video camera, Bill takes over....we sit on a wooden bench along the side of the house and fiddle with it, dead quiet outside, no kids in sight...two rows of bougainvillea freshly planted in new red soil hauled down the mountains of Kiratu, deep trenches dug across the entire front, a wire fence to be built to embrace flowers. Next year I dream of patchwork in purple, hot pink, red....climbing six feet across the expanse of the house. The front door is open, we are ushered into the main space. Me, i am overwhelmed, two big rooms filled with people beautifully dressed in gorgeous colour, clean and pressed, the local village leaders lined up behind one table, Huruma staff along another, the owner of the house blown away by what we have done...chairs set up and filled with smiling people - a place for us at head table, cokes, fanta, water in little circles along rows of tables set here and there atop clean and very new blue and green bed sheets.

WE sit down, and for the next hour, speaches, everyone thanking everyone,over and over, in Swahili...dreams and visions of this orphanage, what it can be..warnings of corruption, dishonesty, lack of openness...we have had experiences before.. 45 little bodies quietly wedged across little desks right in the next room barely making a sound, unimaginable back home.

I wished the kids were part of this...we couldnt' see them; we could only hear bits and pieces until they were released, flooding out the big garage doors of the classroom filing across the front lawn of the house. WE are dying inside of heat and Swahili. Bill is clever, setting up the tripod outside, the kids lined up across the lawn singing loudly and sweetly Twinkle twinkle little star. The ceremony with speaches is important. African style. Formal, British. The acknowledging of each other, each person with a role to play, the village leaders prominent, taking on the role of 'owner's of the orphanage, the government invited to be responsible for the daily comings and goings, the well being of the children, the staffing, the hiring and is done beautifully here, when it works..

The kids moved in Friday...we've had two days of being a family. Who would sleep in what rooms? I sit with the matron Glory - teacher by day, and treasurer Martha responsible for looking after the kids by room we make a list of who sleeps where....I am insisting that this is the beginning only; if this arrangment of babies sleeping with matron whose shelving is stacked with huge bags of rice, maize, buckets and cans of cooking oil, keroscene, spoons, 50 little bowls, plates..her room locked with the key in her pocket. Theft prevention paramount. If it doesn't work, this is their house, they can change it.

Scheduling. What kids go to primary school, ten of them, in uniforms, with clean shoes, what time? a couple of miles down the road...breakfast, a corn meal porriage with milk and sugar for 45 kids, 8 staff, a banana and bun donut. Pre schoolers...17 or so living in, and 15 arriving for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sleeping out with a relative or parent, lucky enough to have the means. The live ins have no one, and nothing. They arrive with the rags on their back.

The next day we head out on safari, but first to the office to open up the first batch of suitcases, searching for underwear, shoes, new shirts, skirts, a little levi OSH Gosh dress for baby Pendo, Sabina, our ICA social worker holding her gently on the bus telling me how beautiful she looks, her baby Pendo..just like a well dressed American girl...and she is. Boys sticking dirty little feet into pink rubber clogs and dancing across the open courtyard, new shorts with a little rubber giraffe hidden inside the pocket,the big black eyes wide, wondering, wow!! A tee shirt with superman. Ian is the photographer, taking pics as each kid emerges from my office, new clothes,new pants, underwear, dresses, shoes, we are clapping and they are mighty proud.

Back to the opening...Ian pulls out three red juggling balls and throws a show unlike any other, Bill taking pictures, Matt presenting a big black suitcase filled with dolls, little cars, toys...he turns around, what do we do with it! Well i don't he pulls it down at kid level and they sweep and dive in like vultures...
March 08/09...Huruma..the only orphanage centre in the area....opened finally after a year of reno to a grand start.

Nothing ever starts perfectly of course and we are learning..the balance here is to provide, arrange in the background, and assist a little....this is one big family, with mamas and papas and babies and a little girl called Jennifer coming down with malaria on day to the hospital for medication, and today there were three sick ones crashed in one little room at the back, maybe the sick room from now on...making our way slowly.

There are misunderstandings, little power struggles, control issues,who is responsible for what and when...i have no idea how to run an orphanage, none of us do, but day by day it is coming together...everyone pulling their weight.

My dream is a collective,where everyone is equal, giving the cooks and cleaners as much status as the director, the for some, not for all! Each day, meetings, transparency, open forums for speaking from our hearts and minds, with most everyone managing beautifully, our main goal to help the children. Can you imagine how it is for them?

But today, jumping around, after lunch, after showers, the little girls are running around their big room with towels wrapped around their waists...laughing, jumping on the beds....playing....i peak through the window...they all say WOW!! Which is what i am saying everytime i visit this place. WOW!!

Our visitors...a big dinner specially prepared by Adela the woman who cleans at ICA...a big dish in the middle of the table filled with chicken, okra, beans, potatoes, carrots, sauces and i dont' know what else, called, sodas... the end of a huge but great day....

Safari Monday....we rent a big white bus with HOLLYWOOD across the front in huge lettering, filled with 35 little ones age 6 and down....we are all jammed in, Matt in the middle at the back surrounded by kids - his wife made him promise one thing and one thing only, that he couldn't bring home a child....! Ian up front, we see three lionesses stalking, hunting, sitting, waiting, with cubs climbing trees a little bit away under tall grasses, almost never seen in this park, we are lucky. OSTriches, an elephant comes very close to the bus, his huge ears waving in and out, in and out...a fake ploy, it is when they huge the head sleekly you need to worry, ready for the dash....Zebra, favourite, so graceful....i am remembering those two jammed into the van.

Bill behind to the bus mechanic cradling a sick child gently.

Lake Manyara just outside Mto WA Mbu....the best safari to begin, and then on to the Serengeti and NGORA crater..there is nothing like it!

After lunch, the children drop one by one, row after row of limp sleeping children, and then with the rough road, bumping and lurching along, the sickness begins here and there..many of these kids have never been in a car before!

Pendo, next to me on Sabina's lap, murmering mama, mama..she has found her own.

Days merge into nights. Meetings, beer, dinner at my friend Miriam's Mi Casa, we try ugali, the local staple made of maize flower and water...balled up in the right hand, you make a spoon like trough in the ball and dip it into tomatoe onion carrot sauces, or greens, pieces of chicken, beef, goat...all done with the right hand. Someone comes by before and after the meal with a big plastic bowl, pouring hot water with a bit of soap from a pitcher onto your hands for washing. Always the cleanliness, in clothing, freshly washed and ironed, hands, dazzling coiffed hair, unless you are very poor.

They leave after breakfast Wednesday.
WE head into a six hour meeting with Huruma staff: reviewing roles, rules and policies...nine of us in a circle in Charles small office, a bit of a breeze blowing through, ....a forum to reveal stories, ideas, dreams, concrete issues..mostly i try to remain positive, bringing out the impossible greatness of what they have created....little issues: the things we bought for the kitchen, maybe a little overpriced...easy to fool me, but with Charles, Peter from Uganda....and Elias..the baba, or daddy of the children removed from that first corrupt orphanage i wrote about a few weeks ago, 14kids...he and his wife Tabia...going from none, to this number, and managing marvellously, they are teaching me so many things. With these guys, i am learning,
so fortunate to have such a team...each one honest, filled with heart and love, a lot of laughter, learning, smart, experienced, loving, what can i say..i am one lucky woman running around with four great guys....the only muzunga, white woman, around....hey!!

So so much more to say...and no time....
Matt,Ian and Bill get back from safari tomorrow...Friday a day in the Masai chief's boma with his family way out in the middle of the most beautiful country, rolling hills, mountains, with no one anywhere around, Masai roaming the land with livestock... adorned in beads, flowing sheets of colour...they walk everywhere, no electricity, no water, and yet most have cell phones..the only way to connect, texting, cheaply in Africa....everyone has one...

Seanna and Sierra arrive Friday night...8:30, on the once a day KLM flight coming in from Amsterdam...their second visit...Seanna taking university courses in African history, pre and post colonialism....Peter, our student from Uganda, so knowledgeable, so approachable, outgoing...i cant' wait for them to share stories...Sierra will love it..the kids at Huruma...Pambazuka....swimming...

more more more later...sleepless excited nights, tired, but so hugely i said before and keep saying, WOW!!
and before i I am unpacking those suitcases jammed into my little office, not one inch of floor space...opening them up one at a time, we are in shock! The girl's clothing stacks so high, that i have to make two huge piles,the boys too...underwears,sox...suitcases of world maps, number and alphabet charts, flip cards..crayons, pencils, sharpeners, 6 big binders, dividers, the hole punch, three ringed, different from two rings here....what else!! shoes for the WORLD!! every colour and size, for girls boys...hundreds of little shoes tossed into the corner to be sorted out next...little sizes, medium and bigger...i am giving some to Pambazuka...with both orphanages now, we share....Elias, the baba, he helps me, I AM helping them....designing, floorplans, swimming and works!!

so to Danene and everyone from the school she works at....everyone who has donated all these incredible texts, books, exercise materials, sizzors..offices supplies...the list goes on and on and on...big things, little things, bubbles gawd!!
I thank you all so much...i hope it was as much fun for you to put this together, as it is for us to see all these things in action....Wow!!

Friday, March 06, 2009

JAMBO!! On the eve of finally, after one whole year's work, our grand opening of HURUMA ORPHANAGE..Sunday afternoon - 5pm our time here, 8 hours ahead of Toronto - please come!! It has been incredible...the challenge of putting together this beautiful place in Swahili!!...very funny at times! We picked up the 12 bunk beds two mornings ago, dismantled for travelling and stacked ten feet high into the back of Ford pickup and another jelopy truck borrowed...tied on precariously with three inch wide rubber bicycle inner tubing, Charles being too busy, he is letting me drive the Ford,standard, through town and outside along other side of the road, next to cows, goats and streams of curious people lining up like a parade on both sides, scary, with huge 12 foot deep trenches on either side of the road constructed to catch heavy spring rains which haven't happened this year, yet.

Tables, benches and three rows of little school desks all set up in the classroom designed for a garage with two big open grilled doors looking out onto fields, goats and more cows across the a carpender is blocking off the bottom five feet with ceiling boards to prevent the swinging of 32 little heads everytime someone strolls by. Big beautiful four inch matresses covered in thick plastic which actually fit the beds, wrapped in brilliant green and blue sheets, brand new, 24 little blankets and the end of each bed..ready for cold times May or June i am told...i can't imagine. It is very hot here, and humid...while back in Toronto the winds and snow rage I am told.

Outside they built a little raised up cement kitchen, about ten feet by 5....a great breeze blowing though, with a row of toilets and showers behind the house, laundry...a tap outside providing water for these things...inside i am still wondering about water, without pressure, which trickles...and how they will manage coping with 27 bewildered little angels moving in this very afternoon, their relatives and guardians bringing them over where they will be sort of processed through, where the relative or guardian will officially sign each child over to HURUMA...this is how it works here...3 are age 2 and three..up to nine...I can't imagine what this will feel like for them.

Our two cooks, Hadija and Nuruana, and Martha our treasurer of sorts set out two days ago on an excursion into the market to buy all the kichen need - i am sure it was one of the most memorable experiences of their lives with all this money, and free range to outfit their little kitchen with new things...we started the fourof us, with everyone standing around watching by sitting on the freshly tiled floor of the big open living area a few days ago...with me trying to describe things: pots, frying pans, spatulas...i had a list with their help in English..trying to draw pictures,and then writing it down on another paper in Swahili, much laughter and gleeful acknowledgement, almost like the game of Charades when someone 'gets it!!'....we try to put a price on things..more complications...

i drive them into outside of the market and take off....for a mazunga to be anywhere near the market stalls, the price soars three or four times as much... six hours later with out lunch, they show up with armfulls of stuff....they have only begun. Yesterday the same thing....i am running around organizing bed positions, communicating in sign language, handing out wads of money to gardiners digging huge trenches around the entire front of the place, to plant bougenvillia but i am confused about why the three foot deep trenches and the need to order not one but two loads of red soil all the way from Kiratua up in the mountains where i sometimes go for internet. I thought we were simply doing a wire fence with flowers...but hey! this is Africa and things are done in their own way here, and who am I to know?

At the end of the day in dismay they realize they have forgotten 'hot pots'...well, we had spent $1o0. on pots, huge big ones and smaller ones, frying pans....and i am wondering what the heck are hot pots, cooking pots? No it takes some time for them to describe a time when a child may be sick and unable to come to dinner, maybe at the hospital for a visit, and coming home, they need to be fed a nice hot pots are what they keep this in...again, what do i know?

We are looking today for square, not round mosquito nets...the kids have arrived, i am waiting for someone to finish off the buying spree: firewood, keroscene lanterns, solar lights, maize, rice, a cooker for coal, Swahili...snug in the refuge of this internet cafe which is up and working today. bliss..i have had times feeling very isolated, especially at nigh - what a treat to pick up emails and write, especially this blog which keeps me in touch with what's going on,even here in my own life,the days race by!!

A terrible thing happened the other morning, the day i was driving the Ford en route to Huruma from the carpenders..i cruised by the little police station where there were at least forty people crowded around a van, looking inside. I pulled over and made my way through the crowd all exclaiming, but again, without Swahili i had no idea the full extent of what they were saying...inside, was the most awful sight i have ever seen: two big baby giraffes squished into the back of this station wagon, their legs trussed tightly together, one into each other, dead.

Huge eyes the size of the circumference of a juice glass, open and the colour of robbins egg blue, stark, wide. Dead.

Pole. Sorry...i kept saying as i am backing away,sick...pole...this is just awful. Five guys had gone into the national park at night, shot them with an injection of some drug, tied them up as they went down, and stuffed them into this van. Police stopped the car at a road block...four of those guys ran away, the driver caught. Charles says he is for life; to kill giraffes is even worse than lions or elephanants. They died from overdose and the trusses. The police refused to remove them from the van where they lay dead for 24 hours, until a magistrate from Arusha drove down to see for himself what they have done, knowing he would never believe it unless with his own eyes...

I haven't slept well for the last two nights, i keep seeing those blue eyes...

Another scary adventure. i am taking the children swimming when someone notices a squirmy black snake swimming through the water just before we go in....This is not your every day grass snake i am told later....this is highly lethal, and never seen in this pool before. if they bite, without medical aid, you can die.
Why am i writing these stories this morning...???
We got it out with a big long net...where it squirmed across the paved deckside....Charles threw a small board on top of it and jumped on top of it with all his might..successfully...

Of we go now to guy has just shown up with the last kitchen things...
Tomorrow, to Arusha to pick up Matt from Pennsylvania and his two friends. These amazing and very enthusiastic guys flying all the way over here for one week only, to see for themselves Huruma....with six huge bags of goodies for the children...I have never met them, and can't wait....i haven't slept at all the last few nights for excitement!

Will take some time for setting myself up to get pictures into this blog, early next week....until then, have a great weekend!! Badei...see you soon!! from dusty little hot Mto Wa Mbu...miss you!!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hi hi hi!!
Seven minutes to go on this machine..but so much to say...HURUMA, the new house, is finished, inside..but for no electricity and water....and it looks fabulous...gleaming, i can't imagine, just yesterday it was filled with trash, paint cans, wood, spiders and webs swinging to and fro from ceiling to floor....but today it is finished. Tomorrow we load up the bunk beds freshly varnished and lined up down the dusty road, desks, benches, tables, into Charles truck, driving back and forth all day, and the next day, the matresses, sheets, finally those 42 little kids..who at this point i am sure have no idea what is happening to them, will move in..climb up onto those bunk beds, two or three to a bed....outdoor showers and toilets being made tomorrow....and hopefully by Thursday, the water will be hooked's huge...outside they built the outdoor kitchen, made ready a huge lawn, planted flowers, and trees...and someone is making a wire fence with bouganvillia plants lined on both sides, it will be stunning!!
Matt comes Saturdaywith two friends..i can't wait, with six bags of things we so desperately for the kids, shoes, school and art with just over one minute to go..i sign off...and will write in a day or two....with pics, promise!!
much love, hugs....xxme