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....