Wednesday, November 21, 2012
So she came from one of those places, abused, hurt, sullen, angy...she barely looked at me the first time I met her. Held back. Distrustful. Angry.
8 months later, on my next visit she had settled in, had confidence in Majengo, it was a good place, she was getting three meals a day, and cared for by some pretty wonderful people. She loved looking after the little ones. That second visit, she started hanging out with me, a little.
But watched a lot.
Four or five visits later. I am her mama.
Our criteria back then, was marks.
She hung her head.
She'd been held back with little opportunity to excel, at the other orphanage. She knew she would never make the grade. But she was huge in her enthusiasm, her love of life, her love of helping the other kids at Majengo. She bursts with happiness when she sees you.
She tries real hard.
WE said, ok, she's going. No matter what.
And here we are 8 months later, her marks catapulted...her confidence blossomed. And she is now speaking English!! Bilingual!!
Me...i am put to shame. I have been going over for 6 years now, and can't speak Swahili. So this year, my Majengo partner Matt informed me that not only had HE learned Swahili last spring, but so had his 12 year old daughter who he just took over! Yikes! I bought PimLeurs Swahili and did my best to learn. In the car, at the counter over coffee...not easy! but between my trainer and swahili, i am challenging myself big time this year...not there yet...but hopefully this time over it will be a bit better!
And huge thanks to my great friend Rick Hart for coming up with the idea of people donating to Majengo by SELLING STOCKS....especially at this time of year. They would get a full tax receipt for the amount of the stock, and would not be charged capital gains as it would be going to a registered charity. Great!!! Email Rick at MacDougal, MacDougal MacTier: 514-394-3000, firstname.lastname@example.org. if you are interested:
Power for Majengo. In the process of building our brand new own facility for our kids... Today, I met with a woman from Kenya, who is working with Power Africa, a group here in Canada who are getting grants to provide Canadian wind and solar technology and hook ups/maintenance to help whole communities in rural Africa, grow! Why not..very exciting...checking with Charles, our project coordinator at Majengo and an engineer...everyday, something coming together...
Marci and i went to the Goodwill yesterday, crawled out with $500 worth of clothes for the kids, piled high on my table, along with 80 plush toys for Christmas, balloons, tennis balls, skipping ropes, felt drawing pens...
All set to go, bags packed...
Friday, November 02, 2012
Dear Lynn and Matt! "I am still in Nepal. the global conference has just ended today, tomorrow we will be traveling to a town called Nagarkot for ICA gathering, for two days and then home.
It rained a lot yesterday night in Arusha and my house was flooded, some of neighbors houses went down in the street am living, it was sad that my wife was in Dar and my little cute kids were with their aunt and a house maid when water came into my house and flooded, neighbors jumped into my gate and rescued my children, most of properties, food and clothes have been damaged. Grace flied to Arusha from Dar and now they are cleaning the house which is full of mud
Thank you God my kids are all ok, although they suffered to be in water for some hours inside the house without knowing where to go at night".
Oh Charles...thank God the kids are safe and no one was hurt. We wish you well...be safe and love to Grace and your kids. I will see you in a few weeks...! xxLynn
I just got this email while finishing my Halloween update...
Halloween 2012...update on Majengo, and thanks to all your support and interest we are flourishing! I'm usually over there at this time, but this year am on dinner, baths and overnight with Lindsey's two little ones - Jim away filming, but back over Nov 23rd-Dec 14th with Marci Lipman this time, who is planning to climb Kili! Very exciting! More about that from Africa, when we land in a few weeks!
So much to say since i last wrote this blog in Feb!!, been consumed with revamping our website with web-wizard Cassie Barker, holding two big Majengo parties, one in Toronto and one up at my Creativity Art Retreat which were so much fun, and great to catch up with so many friends, plus running last summer's art retreat in Dunedin (www.lynnconnellart.com) which was a big success - ook for our new lineup for Spring/summer 2013! Huge thanks to all who came to support Majengo, to all who helped out, and to Margie Zeidler and her staff who gave us her perfectly fabulous roof-top garden at 401 Richmond to hold that awesome springtime party, with singer songwriter Mary Margaret O'hara and Rusty McCarthy on guitar, the parties raising over $23,000, thanks Majengo Canada!!! And to Judy Steed for getting an article in the Toronto Star.
So here we are! catapulting into our 4th year at Majengo: 114 kids, safe and really happy after so many of them rescued in 2010 from abuse and corruption along the safari route...settling into their huge bubbling happy home, swarming with kids age 2 to 14, 75 bunking onsite into three small cottages, cramped but clean, desperately in need of more space and more mamas to provide emotional and individual attention.
Our rental contracts expire in 2013. This year, we vowed to build them a new home. I bumped into Canadian designer Margie Zeidler last December pulling out of my back yard parking into the laneway behind her house. Upon hearing what we were doing and having worked in Africa a few years back, she jumped at the opportunity to go over, and donate her services, first with me last January and again in April to complete our conceptual drawings. She working hand-in-hand with Charles and the staff at Majengo, visited other established orphanages, with months of drawing, materials and space. Ultimately we've decided on 6 houses for the kids, each with a room for volunteers and a mama; a pre-school, library, computer room, infirmary, arts and craft centre, soccer field and playground, and outdoor kitchens and dining for over 100 people. Our current dining room's thatched roof collapsed a couple of weeks ago, lying now in a heap on the ground! Luckily no one was hurt! They quickly set up eating operations inside the three small cottages - a huge crisis, but soon to be solved!
In June, the government granted us 10 acres of land 3 miles down the road from our current facility. A huge plot, a stones-throw from the soaring local water tower amidst acres of small farms spotted along the road - a wind swept, wide-open palatte on which we hope to paint a wonderful new life for these children. Matt went over to finalize the legals with Tanzanian and US lawyers to ensure North American donors ultimate control over the usage of the buildings and land for as long as Majengo is in operation.
We expect that to be a very long time! Our goal is to support these children through primary, secondary, trade schools, even on to university, whatever is needed to provide them a great start in life, to create a safe, healthy, permanent home for them for as long as they need - an opportunity to flourish.
Between Warren Majengo and Majengo Canada, we raised about $115,000 by August, enough to start Phase One of the build, with another $175,000 to go! Plus, we have to keep up with our $90,000 annual operating expenses covering medical, accommodation, food, staff, eduction - life. Our situation is always 'fly by the seat of our pants', and miraculously to all of us, it continues to keep working! But only because of the hundreds of people generously donating time, energy and money here and in the States. Someone asked me recently, how do i keep the energy going, it has been over 6 years now...and the answer is simply, we have 114 little lives out there that we are responsible for, and there is no way we can stop. So. Anything we can do to help you help us, please let us know! I'm totally open to visiting homes and friends with a slideshow, speaking at local events - whatever it takes. For those of us who have been lucky enough to visit these Majengo children, experience their shining happy faces, the progress of their lives, embrace intimately this African culture, you will see, we get so much more than we could ever give. Welcome aboard!
I'm thinking now of Baby Anna, who was dropped off to us a year ago by the local police, a 9 month baby with the body of 3 months, emaciated, starving, with, they said, a few days more to live. Our cook Adhija took her home by night, and by day she flourished at the orphanage, with staff and children alike making it their purpose to keep her alive. Today she races around, healthy, exuberent and full of life - abundantly loved by everyone.
In September, Jamie Bees and her husband Larry from Warren organized a group of ten Ist Presbyterian church members to begin the build. I drove down to Warren with new Canadian board member Brian Metcalfe who has fabulously taken over the job of Majengo N.A. treasurer - a great friend and accountant for 30 years. He was greatly inspired by the dinner Matt and Kym threw with Jamie and her crew openly sharing their excitement and fears a few days before they took off. Their trip was a huge success. Especially as they were the first group to go over to help build, with no idea what to expect. They broke into three groups: one working alongside local labourers on site, hauling bricks, digging trenches and foundations, and cement-mixing under the hot African sun, astonishing local workers who saw a different side of us North Americans not only sending over money, but getting down deep and dirty to actually help make this dream come true. At this writing, they've dug foundations for three houses and created a series of outdoor toilets and showers.
The second group spent time with the kids at Majengo, teaching art, English, chopping and cooking, washing clothes and cabins and kids.
In Tanzania, public school is basically free, from age 7 to 14, but taught totally in Swahili, which i am trying to learn, after Matt disclosed that after working with Primleur for three months last year he can get by in that language!" Yikes! And me, over there for 6 years with a vocabulary of Jambo! Hi, how are you? It is not easy. Anyway, for those who can afford the annual fee of $650 for Secondary school, they stumble, as it is taught totally in English, almost impossible to transfer from Swahili to English without lessons, and with teachers struggling themselves to learn English. So you can see why our goal of getting all our kids into Mama Anna's will give them a huge advantage down the road.
You too can be part of the build!
Give Get Go (http://givegetgo.ca/who-we-are.html) came on board this year in the form of three wonderful women who have worked on over 20 Habitat for Humanity builds around the world, Laurie, Michelle and Kim, now creating their own company to bring groups over to help build Majengo, go on safari and visit Zanzibar, starting in January!! Check them out! A great way to get the experience of a lifetime for themselves and give back - all in one fell swoop!
So many great people to thank this year!!!
Bravo to Peg Graham and Marion Burnett who raised $5,000 at their annual May ART SHOW....and to the artists who donated a portion of their sales to send 16 more Masai Girls to secondary school...I'll be creating a Masai Girls Education fund page on our website for details...this program is a part of Majengo Canada's charitable foundation projects.
And to Mike Donovan and his Lion Dog African Safari whose clients are visiting Majengo with donations and books to read to the children. I've been back and forth on visitors to the orphanage, worried that the children will soon feel like fish in bowls, or worse, begin to change their behaviour to favour western tourists. Consulted with Charles, our Majengo project coordinator, who advised visitors to do something with the children while they are there, rather than just taking their pictures. So Mike and I, and everyone else who wishes to visit, worked out a program, where visitors are asked to donate $100 for the priviledge of spending time at Majengo, sign our Visitor regulation sheet, and spend their time there reading English books which they have brought, playing soccer, or games, teaching the kids English or art. Because we don't yet have a volunteer coordinator, this process seems to be working well. A win win for both visitors and the children! Also...no candies, money, or favouring individual kids, please..
Lots and lots more..it has been way too long!
again all the best Charles to you and your family...the wild flooding, hurricanes, Sandy, winds, rains, fires and devastating drought this year gives thought toward so many on this planet suffering...who says there is no global warming? And on that note....
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
JANUARY 2012 visit to Tanzania...accomplished!!
Jambo!! Before our January trip, joint meeting in Buffalo with friends in Warren, Pennsylvania and Majengo Canada. We created a long list of things we hoped the team from Canada could accomplish to move us forward....
Huge thanks this time to Canadian team of Seanna and Sierra Connell-Snell, Susan Lee, Simon Lee Hamilton, Margie Zeidler...to Charles Luoga, our on ground project coordinator and our wonderful staff at ICA and Majengo!!!! A whirlwind three weeks...with everyone back home now, jet lagged, exhausted, and missing those kids at Majengo, terribly. Ah...but the memories..
Briefly....impossible to sumerize....but here i go!!
• Team thought kids are in really good shape....happy and settled in one huge Majengo family, staff too. It's been a year since 67 kids arrived at Majengo en masse, a year of huge adjustment for kids and staff plus a major budget explosion for ongoing costs here in North America. Well done to everyone out there who has been helping, both in Tanzania and on the ground here in Canada and the US. WE are in this for life!!! With 114 kids depending on us...what a challenge. And what a feat!! thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
•Majengo Canada got our official charitable status from the Canadian government.... transitioning now into a legal and substantially verifiable organization, responsible for tax receipts, financial accountability and Board approval both here in Canada and in Tanzania. It has been a huge feat! And again i thank everyone on our board in both countries bearing with me especially ....I called it the Founder's Dilemna back in the spring, adjusting from the sponteneity of creative spirit toward growing a grounded, ongoing and successful organization.
A challenge, and I thank everyone for bearing with me through this process!!
JANUARY trip highlights and accomplishments:
•MAJENGO STAFF: Hired Spora Waziri: a nurse/matron with 40 years of government hospital experience in charge of the emotional/physical needs of the kids, diets, monthly reports, education. Welcome aboard! WE now have a staff of 16 local people overseen by Charles Luoga from local agent ICA Tanzania and local village leaders: Mayunga and Raymond, as follows:
-Killo and Martha, sec and treasurer who oversee daily operations, buying food, maintenance, bookeeping, health and well being of the children and staff...
-Grayson our fabulous pre school on site teacher assisted by
-Matilda and Eve, two Masai girls who we supported through 5 years of secondary school and Montessori teacher's college;
-Nuruana, Mariamu and Sauma: three cooks who manage to serve up over one hundred meals, three times a day, over an open fire within a small outdoor kitchen:
-Janet, Hildegarde, Hadija, Felister and Ameni: 5 cleaners who not only shower and keep 77 kids clean everyday, and wash hundreds of items of clothing everyday, but also keeping our three cottages clean and maintained.
-Maulid and Mhina, two watchmen, equipped with bows and arrows to protect the kids night and day...
- beginning the process of finding a great English teacher.
- updated staff salaries, reviewed and approved budget
- assisted 5 staff members with interest free loans to support their own children through secondary school.
-great visit with India and Peter, co-founders of Rift Valley Children's home ourside Kiratu, to research their children's home, for design ideas towards our new Majengo facility, which we hope to begin building this summer....pending on raising capital funding.
-Canadian architect Margie Zeidler volunteering her expertise with photos, sketches and great ideas, in the process of creating initial conceptual drawings for our new Majengo facility, collaborating with staff, ICA, local leaders and children.
- approval from Monduli District Council (like our provincial or state governmental body), of local Majengo government gift to Majengo of a 6+ acres of wide open windswept plot of land, 3 miles away from Majengo, for our new facility.
- Susan Lee and Charles interviewing local lawyers to draft contracts re ownership of buildings, land.
-initial discussions with Charles re ground supervisors and builders for new facility.
-took Majengo kids and staff on safari in nearby Manyara national park: delighted by giraffe, lions hanging and hissing overhead in a tree, zebra, flamingo, ostrich, wildebeast, buffalo, gizelle, elephants!!! all there, 15 minutes from Majengo! 3 vans filled with kids, one getting hugely stuck in three feet of sinking mud and water....
-trips to Kiratu for older and younger kids to playground, swings, slides, climbing walls....blast!
-daily English, jewellery making, craft and art classes...with Simone, Susan, Seanna and Sierra.
--organized and Olympic field meet, with three legged races, running, jumping games.
- Sponsorship Program: 11 children to date
- registered 26 kids (age 1-7), into Majengo pre school, 88 (age 7-14) into primary school, and 2 into secondary school,
-17 kids into nearby Mama Annas English Medium School, big thanks to sponsors Joseph Slepertas (England), Susan Lee, Ralph Hicks, Peg and Marion's Masai Girls Education fund. On Grayson and Charles recommendation of kids doing well, and/or working hard... English vastly improved with older kids teaching English to staff and little ones.
-Simone donated computer for Majengo, taught Killo, Grayson computer skills, which they now teach the children! Wait till we get our new facility, with computers and a library!!
-Registered 16 kids into Masai Girls Education Fund, secondary school program thanks to Peg and Marion.
-Visited 4 street kids in jail for stealing food, in process of getting them out and into govt boarding school, primary. Need sponsor.
-Margie Zeidler creating sponsorship for teacher Grayson into one year Early Childhood Development degree in Arusha. (Grayson preparing teachers Matilda and Eve in his absense.)
-huge staff meeting: with challenges, successes, bought new needed items; maintenance, etc.
-Created proposed policies on children’s rights, behaviour, staff, vision, mission, treatment of kids, properties. To be approved by Board.
-Dennis (govt. social worker) reviewing backgrounds of all kids, to determine vulnerability and need to meet Majengo criteria.
-Welcomed 2 more vulnerable kids into Majengo.
Currently supporting 114 kids: 76 children living in. 37 living out.
-Updated Staff and Children’s bios and pics, age, schools, charts.
And had a fabulous time doing it!!!
Decided to include this into my blog....a record of hard work and great fun...
-New Majengo facility: estimated cost: $250,000.
-Major fundraising efforts in the US and Canada planned. Anyone willing to help,
please EMAIL!!! In the US: email@example.com; In Canada: firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Matt's visit June to review legals, set up process with Charles and staff re building new facility, on ground contractors, builders, construction drawings....
-begin building new facility.
-Jamie taking church mission over in Sept/Oct to assist building.
-Lynn back to Tanzania November....
Would love to hear from you...and welcome everyone to get involved....
Thank you to everyone out there helping...I only wish you could visit to see for yourself what your dollars are directly doing....thanks~!!
Thursday, February 02, 2012
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TEAM JANUARY 2012 visit…a fabulous three weeks with Susan Lee and her daughter Simone, Toronto architect Margie Zeidler and my daughter Seanna and granddaughter Sierra..seems like we have been over here for months! In a way it is much harder to get things done in Africa for me, without Swahili which is no one’s fault but my own and my inability to remember! It’s a language which has absolutely no reference to English, French, Italian or Spanish. It’s here like grabbing a multitude of sounds out of the air, starting usually with MB, or MV, or Mn. M anyway and it goes on from there. Memorizing is the only way to beat it, and when your brain is wired for details, not sound, or images, colour, ideas, and not sound. Ain’t easy!
I’m sitting propped up on my bed at the Continental, which again is a bit of a stretch, Tuesday morning around 6:30, a rooster’s crow squawking a little above the incessant idling of a safari truck, parked, going no where but with the engine on, outside my window. It’s cool at this hour, the raging sun still at rest, the sky blue promising another great day here in the dusty village of Mto Wa Mbu.
When I was first coming, we did art classes and HIV AIDS workshops, but these days we do orphanage, day and night..
Since last December’s explosion of 67 new kids to Majengo, raising our numbers up to 114 kids to look after, with 77 living in, things have settled in beautifully. The kids are happy, calm, and finally in a place where they are safe, fed well, looked after medically and are loved, especially by our 17 staff: cooks who dole out 300 meals a day, cleaners who wash the kids, their clothing and the three cottages we rent, two night watchmen, one great teacher with 2 Masai girls who a great group of Canadian artists sponsored through Montessori, a couple of assistants and a mama and baba who look after keeping the whole thing together.
This trip has been about spending lots of time with the kids, Seanna and Sierra running art workshops every morning, Susan and Simone English classes, crafts, yesterday a full session with all 77 kids stringing beads and looping paper clips together creating magical necklaces and bracelets. Seanna brought in a couple of local jewellry makers last week to weave bracelets for the boys, necklaces for the girls- all decked out and looking great.
A group of sewers from a fabric shop in Minnesota sent over a huge bag of beautiful cotton dresses, gorgeous!! plus all the clothes donated by Simone’s friend Martha. Lots of pics to post when I get home.
We’re finally learning names….especially challenging with the little ones who all wear their hair closely shaven, with beautiful round little faces, Careen, Pauline, Jeska, Esther, Anna, Amina, Fausta.
NEW FACILITY: we’ve been renting three cottages over the last four years…leases up in 2013….77 living in, sometimes 2 to a bed, with a couple of mamas sleeping over. This trip, we’ve been visiting other orphanages, lodges, schools, houses, as research with planning a new facility which we hope to get started this summer!! Architect Margie Zeidler shot hundreds of photos: roof, window styles, size of rooms, furniture, shelving, colour, materials, wood, brick, concrete blocks, ventilation.. lots to think about, working with Charles who'se an engineer, the government inspectors, our staff, kids and village leaders as to what kind of children’s home they best want and what we can best create. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!! Visits to Rift Valley Children’s home…a very well put together facility, small houses, each one with a mama and volunteer… loved the U shaped home founder India shares with 10 kids, a courtyard dancing with flowers and climbing vines surrounded by bedrooms, indoor bathrooms, and a huge living, balcony and dining area with bright blue chairs lined up aside a long table to seat everyone.
Recreation/gathering hall, big communal kitchens like the one we visited yesterday at Manyara Sec School with 4 huge brick stoves, built to conserve firewood, huge sunken pots of beans boiling and a guy with a paddle big enough to fire a canoe plunged in and circling around a massive pot of traditional ugali, a sort of crème of wheat national dish.
A great library with quiet space for homework, a line of computers, books, DVDs. We just got electricity hooked up in our office, with Simone's friend Amy donating a computer and teaching sec. Killo, our top teacher Grayson who we’re sponsoring to further his education with a year of Early Child Development in May, and Hamidu, our driver, computer skills. Education and learning is everything here. Great to see one of these guys surrounded by kids around his desk practicing, cut, copy, paste!
Infirmary, office, indoor and outdoor dining….sports field, and dreams of a big playground with swings, climbing apparatus, which could be nailed together by a handy volunteer showing up next year. It will happen, as the process of Majengo creates itself with the right person coming along at the right time. Susan Lee has been fabulous helping charles and I with budgets, financial statements, logistics, with a great sense of humour along the way….Margie with ecological sensitivities, her adherence to good community planning a la Jane Jacobs, and her architectural and building background…Simone with her camera and incredible connection with the children….Seanna and Sierra too with songs, art skills, fun, creativity, colour….
Me, I am trying to put it all together, harassing Charles daily for updates on legals, land surveys, budget details, staff salaries, comparison's with other orphanages, government minimum wages, numbers of kids, bios, pictures, registering Masai girls into education programs. Every day.
Charles is the glue that holds this whole thing together. Believe me. Not only does he have to deal with us 7 from Canada, driving us around, meals, safari trips with the kids, running up to karatu for the bank, government officials..there is a constant stream of people lined up on benches against turquoise walls, waiting in the ICA office. HIV testing, legal rights, land rights, abuse..there was a flood here in December, one woman had 6 huge bags of incredibly hard worked rice in her room which soaked, started to grow sprouts, losing all but the one on the top. Destitute now, she has to start over, and on it goes. January time to register secondary school aged kids, if you have the money,which no one does. Bits and pieces pulled together to keep their kids off the streets, into school, the most important goal of African parents here.
Charles knows all the stories, the woman waiting for her daughter out in the corridor, who'd been raped by her boss while cleaning his house, fast forward 14 years of supporting this girl, both she and the child with HIV, she waits with the hope of He gets it done, but on Charles time. Drives me crazy, sometime, but patience is something you have to learn to work well in Africa.
Working on legals…the local village of Majengo govt are giving us 8 acres of land down the road, a huge open flat grassy plot next to a half finished govt school which I envision we will help to run with the village, down the road. Most of our kids are either in our own Majengo on site pre school, or trudging down the dusty roads to one of 4 primary schools in the area, a couple of kids walking over 3 miles each way! Along with Mama Anna’s English medium school, a private school teaching all subjects in Engish, a short walk from Majengo.
Met this time Joseph Slepertas, a great young guy from England whose living full time now in Moshi, a town about 4 hours away. H stumbled across the GoodHope orphanage out on the safari route and sponsored two of their older kids a couple of years ago into Mama Annas…coming back this year he discovered it closed, shut down by the government for corrupt practices, the Good Hope kids now living over with us at Majengo. After a few visits he was blown away by what he saw at Majengo, with how much greater the kids were now, happy, safe and well fed…and began to sponsor more and more kids to Anna. We now, along with Susan Lee and Canadian sponsors Peg Graham and marion Burnett, have 14 kids at Mama Annas learning English.
For me it’s been a question of making sure the kids who aren’t going there, are okay. Along with teacher Grayson and Charles, we agreed to support the older kids at Mama Annas, heading into Secondary School in a few years, with only English taught there.
Without English, secondary school kids are completely lost here, as govt primary schools are taught in Swahili only. These older kids who get to go to Mama Annas can teach the younger kids, and staff what they are learning, each night. Last night, during bead threading, it is awesome to come across 11 year old Tatu yesterday with an English kid’s book on her lap, a circle of younger kids around, reading stories in English!! Incredible what Mama Anna has done in only a month for Tatu!!
Spent three weeks working on getting the land grant gifted by the local government, passed by the District Council….and just before leaving, we received a letter of approval. We are on our way!!! 8 beautiful acres of land….to build on, about 3 miles down the road from our current location. There’s a half built school on the property, which the govt plans to finish this year. Margie Zeidler is on her way home right now, armed with photos and drawings,…about to put it all together, after months of research.
WE’ve got our own lawyer, setting up a US/Can and Tanz Board of Trustees or NGO to own and have full control over new facility buildings hopefully to start building in August this year!
Back home Matt wrote that someone has donated $50,000 towards the new orphanage project!! Wonderful and thank you whomever you are!!!
I’m back end of this week..to start a great fundraising campaign up in Canada, now with full tax receipt ability, since October. Anyone out there who wants to help, with dinners, fundraising events, speaking engagements, let me know!!
Just got home...30 hours...Kili to Dar...Dar to Amsterdam..thank you Merit for coming out to meet me! 7 hour wait and on to Toronto, three films later, with the kind of jet lag you can't imagine...all that energy put out there for three weeks, and it's over. Over are the meals, endless of rice, bananas and beans!! Hopping in and out of safari trucks, getting stuck in the mud with 30 children atop the van waiting, looking out my window and way up just above the van, a lady lion perched on a swinging branch, barring her teeth, ready to pounce!! Filippo covers his head with canvas for protection, as we speed away.
I'm going to write more later, with lots of pics. Huge thanks to Margie Zeidler, Susan Lee and her daughter Simone, my daughter Seanna and Sierra for their incredible imput, everyday over at Majengo running classes with the children. Making bracelets, necklaces, teaching English, playing, drawing, dancing, singing...it was fabulous...
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Tatu....oh....she breaks my heart...she is 14 years old, and came to us last December, one of the older girls from one of the corrupt orphanage, age 14, wary, hard, tough, one can only image what she has been threw...when i first met her in January. We didn't have electricity back then, it only came in April, after three years of begging..imagine putting 77 children to bed in the dark. But at the end of our visit, we threw a big welcoming party for all the kids, with great food: rice, ugali, greens, cobs of corn, beans, goat meat and beef, chicken, a real feast...set it all out under the stars, with tables and benches nearby when a huge storm blew open the skies, big rains poured down and we all raced with platters of food under shelter squished into one of our newly-renovated houses, the children sitting on the floor with paper plates filled..clumps of mud a buffet table outside quickly set up and laden with wet food, the generator on full blasting the joy of music in the dark with Matt holding a flashlight as kids poured out and started to dance; they knew all the music, the lyrics, the African beat, dancing, wild, excited. They get the rythm. In their blood.
Suddenly Tatu....so hard and tough and staying away only a few hours before, now dancing as with the wind in her soul, eyes flashing, she grabs my hand, Tatu exploding with life, with hope. We connected that night in the pouring rain, the music, the dance. And as I left the next day for Canada, once again saying goodbye, tears of once again losing, once again connecting and someone leaving, falling, hugging, and once again sadly pulling away from each other. We are, their mama, their baba, with a hug, a love and then, once again, leave...
Coming back a few months later in October, I look for Tatu and find her there. Watching. Outside, away from the others. Crowding around. Filippe, I have known him from the beginning 3 years back, with big ears that stick out and buck teeth, the boy who was nicknamed "fearless one", who had been left alone for over 24 hours by himself, both mama and step papa gone... asking for bicycles. Five of them. The last time he asked for a car or a bus to carry them to school, walking the two miles to and fro, he was pushing for help...but bikes, sure we could do that. And all the while Tatu is standing back behind the crowd watching.
We spend a morning in and out of the shops finding oil paint in colours of red, yellow, blue, green back and white...in little cans, we buy brushes and get the kids to draw animals with felt pens on paper, and buses, and children in front of houses with mamas and babas....I head over the next day with the images and draw big and huge on all four walls of our newly-built office outside the orphanage for guests to come and visit....and the next day invite the kids to come and paint. Wow, it was insane with everyone of them crying ME!! ME!! ME!!!.!!!! I am going crazy, i tell them they are driving me craxy. but....They did it...covered in oil paint which doesn't come off, Proud of their work, every one of them painting....you have to see it...
The day the bikes arrive...they are carreening around the grounds, all of them taking turns on all five bikes...swishing and wizzing about, like mad...jumping off, falling off, laughing...crazy...
Tatu comes to me and says. Holding my hand.
"No mama. No baba. I have a sister."
I say to her, great, wow...where is she?
She bows her head and shakes it back and forth. She doesn't know. With tears.
Until a bike becomes free.
And with her wild skirts flying, she takes off, free.
Tonight here back in Toronto on the first day of the year, after a few days at the River House in Dunedin..i am back in Africa...Tatu...Filippe....Amina...Godlisen, (as in God Listen, oh i love that little kid..he jumps from the top of the bunk beds from one to then next, breaking them...!!! He wants to be a policeman when he grows up....). I once taught them how to swim....
I haven't written for so long..
Once you start something like this...it gets bigger and bigger...
There are things you can't write about anymore..Like the nights you lie in bed and hope with all your heart and dear soul that everything is okay over there....
Funny...it all begins with seeing 52 kids on a mud floor...you, and why you? have to do something about it...i say now, the right person at the right place at the right time...that's about all it is...I was there. Charles brought me kicking and screaming. I'd just been bamboozled by a corrupt orphanage director who threw me out of his lucrative orphanage business on the safari route, luring in tourist money, cause i was the whistle blower. I wanted out. Out of Africa. Weeping, couldn't stop, that day in our office. I'm leaving. I'm heading up to Nairobi...
I want out. I want to go home.
So he takes me on the back of his big old red truck to see 52 kids on the mud floor and hey they are kids. He says you've learned so much about orphanages...so why not put what you've learned towards these kids. Kids are kids. Over there in Africa it doesn't really matter, there are so many kids, like 16 million orphaned out there by HIV AIDS...who cares, in Charles' opinion..if one thing doesn't work out, move your energies to another....so we founded Majengo.
That day. March 2008.
And here we are almost 4 years later...we've got 114 kids depending on us. So. How did this happen? This isn't a situation where you go over there, somewhere, anywhere...and build a school, or a dam. or whatever...you start and orphanage and you build a house and move 27 kids into it, and all of a sudden, three years later you have 77 kids, with 37 more living out that you are responsible for, and you can't sleep at night.
you can't be there full time...no. You have your own kids and grandkids back home..and you are an artist and have friends and a life in Toronto, and in Dunedin and you are running an art retreat for people who want to paint, but all of a sudden you have this huge responsibility a long way away, but so very close to your heart, to your home...
Till tonight, i have been writing, in a more business kind of way.
And i have been very stuck. Writing about catch-ups on visits, on new facilities..on what we have to do. On structure. On administration. This year i have learned much about charitable status, about boards, about structure. Structure. About how it has to be done. About the administrative ends of things.
So. When you donate, I race to my drawer, haul out my bank book and thank you cards, and tax receipts, and photographs of the kids, and get busy...boy am i paranoid of getting it wrong...I got my good friend who is an accountant, Brian who brought in a bookkeeper. My gawd. Believe me, everything i am doing is A one...and if it isn't, it is out of ignorance.
Marci my good friend called today. A friend of hers who wrote me a cheque for $150. asked her, how exactly does the money go "straight over to the kids at Majengo", and Marci said, well, "i don't really know. Knowing Lynn, she probably stuffs it into her bra and underpants!!".
So...I told her what we do, i have to sit down and write it all out, as it is.....
From you...into our MAJENGO CANADA..or in the US, the Warren Majengo Foundation, who have had their IRS status for the last two years or more...
Every month..our local NGO Tanzanian agents over there, ICA TANZANIA..through Charles, the guy i have been working with for over five years now..send us a requisition of how much money the orphanage needs for the next month.
Our budget is 1/3 lower than the two other orphanages we visited..we work every time we are over there, with Charles and with our Majengo staff..to correct and keep our budgets up to date.
So we get the requisition, check it with our agreed upon yearly budget, and wire the money into the bank accounts of ICA TANZANIA. They send the money down to Mto Wa Mbu, where Charles distributes it for food, clothing, medical needs, cleanliness needs, education, staff salaries, etc..with receipts for everything...He keeps the financial statements which we receive every month...and on it has gone....for the last almost three years...
Do I worry. Sure i worry.
There is corruption and deviences and discrepancies everywhere on the planet.
It is your money i am responsible for. That is a huge worry for me.
Now i am painting for Majengo.
All the proceeds of my paintings go toward the orphanage..
I asked tonight a great old friend of mine to give up her life in Canada to work over at the Orphanage, to be our liaison there......yes...Kathie.....yes...think about it. Do it!!!
I haven't written for a long time, and tonight...it feels good to be back into the sheer bones of what we are all doing here...hey..there are 77 little kids over there...and 37 more living out in the community who depend on us...none of whom have a mama and a baba who can look after them...and tonight on this first day of the new year...i thank you all for being such a huge important part of helping them find a way to be part of this world, to grow, into leaders, maybe, of the future....