Wednesday, December 17, 2008
There were two key note speakers:
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, Ph.D.
Maathai founded Kenya’s Green Belt Movement http://www.greenbeltmovement.org planting over 40 million trees and becoming a leading force in Kenya’s pro-democracy struggles. In 2004, when Dr. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, she became the first environmentalist and only African women to receive this prize!
David Western, Ph.D.
David Western is the former Director of the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), and founder of the East African Conservation Centre http://www.conservationafrica.org and founding President of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). Western’s particular interest lies in pastoralism and community participation in conservation.
I attended a number of different workshops, from “the rights and wrongs of Philanthropy” to “Using the internet and media to promote and solicit donations”. What came up again and again was the need for community ownership, and the importance of the process of engaging with the community.
One company that stood out for me was The Intrepid Foundation www.theintrepidfoundation.org, which highlights the importance of income generating projects, to foster empowerment, and develop self-reliance. This I believe the first step towards TRADE NOT AID.
Wangari Maathai’s Key note speech was focused around the need for sustainable management of our limited resources, and the promotion of equity in the distribution of those resources through good governance. Very much tied into this is the culture of creating capacity and to what extent an organization can answer the question-has your project empowered a community? To what extent are we creating ownership? So that we can move from dependency to becoming a partner in development, where there is no sense of entitlement in the relationship.
For me one the most interesting workshop was about moving from Charity to Social Empowerment. The speaker that stood out for me here was Trisha Barnett from Tourism Concern, UK, http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk
who again highlighted the need for community empowerment, but not through Philanthropy or aid, but through trade, ethical tourism and enabling entrepreneurship.
I took a great deal from & Beyond (formerly CC Africa) http://www.ccafrica.com about the importance for working with communities and not for them. Accepting that respect takes time, relationships need to be nurtured.
How does all of this relate to TFFT and the valuable work that we do with orphans? I have a few ideas that I came up with from the conference:
Full Circle After school Program: Have the older children tell us what they think they need to learn , and what they would like to learn after school!
Developing an income generating project, that empowers our students and teaches them the basic principles of running ones own business.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Mama Pendo serving lunch
The boys hanging out & loving the table
Thanks so much to the Bianucci family for this generous donation!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
December 11th – Not that the title has anything to with this blog, but it’s been a busy past two weeks here on the ground in Tanzania (notwithstanding the fact that it really is just really hot in Arusha right now). Starting at the end of last week where TFFT exhibited at the Traveler’s Philanthropy Conference hosted here in Arusha, there’s been a lot of busy work to be done (including having a banner made post haste and printing out some pictures of the kids to decorate our stall). While there were some very interesting people presenting – including Wangari Maathai who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, in part for her work founding the Green Belt Movement which plants trees to combat soil erosion – I can honestly say that a majority of the stalls were focused on selling kitsch to the visiting conference attendees. In one case, a Tanzanian man asked me if he could get a job with TFFT – though he hardly knew what we did. Then, when I informed him that there were currently no positions open here in TZ he seemed completely baffled, spelling out the name on our banner saying “This is ‘the Foundation for Tomorrow’, right? Well, what about my tomorrow? Aren’t you concerned with my tomorrow?!?” Mayhaps we should change the name of our foundation to ‘the Foundation for This Particular Guy’s Future’ (TFFTPGF).
Then, on the Sunday after the conference I was invited to attend a baptism ceremony for Emmy and Ndemno’s granddaughter Deborah, as well as for Omari – a worker at Matonyok who converted from Islam to Christianity. Technically, I was invited to the party after the actual ceremony – but it was quite the experience nonetheless. Imagine – a tent in the middle of the brush, Omari, Omari’s wife, and Deborah at the head table all dressed in their Sunday best. Then the Matonyok gang all done up in matching orange and white baseball shirts, singing and dancing all the while. Then Omari’s (though now called Emmanuel) extended family, occasionally ululating whenever someone took the podium to extol Emmanuel’s virtues. Let me tell you folks, Emmanuel’s grandmamma can really cut a rug even though she must be upwards of seventy years!
It was quite the experience and one which I can honestly say was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. Between the boldly colored dresses, the dancing, the singing, the cake – there was an almost palpable feeling of community to this occasion. One quick note about Tanzanian parties in case you ever find yourself attending one. Whenever there’s cake, the person for whom the cake is made is served last. In fact, the quest of honor is obliged to feed everyone else before he or she can even begin thinking of chowing down on some cake. So make sure to get your cake beforehand if someone throws you a party here in TZ. That’s all I have for this Thursday. Hope everyone’s looking forward to their respective holidays (though, yes I know that Ramadan has already past – BUT Eid al Adha has just taken place, so that counts).
Monday, December 1, 2008
As always, Matonyok is proceeding nicely. Aside from the workers’ wages and some incidental materials that seem to always pop up at the end of a construction project, it looks like the sanitation facility will be completed under budget and close to two months in advance of schedule. I say this as the short rainy season begins, but the roof has been up for about three weeks and has already weathered some heavy storms (most notably last Friday night where it rained torrentially for close to three hours. The local authorities advised people with goats and sheep in their yards to take them all inside, as the rain might be too much for them to handle).
But the structure held up and should be good to go. The electrician has already come and gone, and the plumber is back this week to connect the bio-gas tanker to the sanitation facility. After this, there should be only minimal work to be done – though the electrician has left wires available for the installation of a solar panel system (more on that later).
As this project comes to a close, I can’t help but look back at the expediency with which the workers executed their responsibilities. Everyone, from the timber man to the hardware store to the electrician to Emmy and Ndemno have been completely dependable and have worked diligently to see this project to its conclusion. I now know that since I’ve put it in writing that something will come up. But we’ll deal with as best we can, as always.
It’s actually been a busy month for teachers’ training. Beginning with meeting with the US consulate staff in Dar in early November, the wheels have really got going – and I think that going back to the drawing board and reinventing the program is a great idea. I’ve been able to meet with some leading educators in Arusha, and they all agree that working on a smaller scale closer to home is a much better idea (and much more marketable since it undercuts the need for six $3,000+ flights to America) and some have even advocated keeping it within Arusha, while working with the international schools. But I’ve been able to get some contact and have gone back to revise the proposal time and again. It’s currently known (rather aptly) as ‘Work in Progress’.
However, I’ve gotten some good feedback and will have something tangible to offer by mid-December. Even if we start the program in early February, there’s still much time to work out the kinks and select motivated teachers from our affiliate schools. Most recently, I met up an ex-pat who operates a teacher’s college in Magugu (yes, that’s a real place) and has been a great help on this project. She thinks that it’s a much better idea to streamline the program to include only one academic field per year – starting with maths, then science, then English and so on for an extended period of time.
Needless to say, there’s been a lot of editing and re-editing which I believe is for the best, since I’d like the program to be implemented as effectively as possible. Though, there’s still the question of quantifiability – something that I’m currently working on this month. So, that’s all I have for now. If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! I’ll try to be more diligent in writing.
Friday, November 28, 2008
This past Tuesday, Lou hosted our Fikiria Kwanza scholarship children at her home for a fun filled afternoon of sports. Lou had her house decked out for sports day - including a chalk track for all the races! It was a huge success and the kids has an amazing time. I sorted the children into teams, having the five older children (Amani, Eliupendo, Joyce Mbise, Jesca, & Joackim) as our awesome team captains. They did a phenomenal job helping to keep the little ones on track and leading their teams to success!
It was a scorching day, so we had to have at least one water activity. Lou set up a water and cup race, in which each team starts with a bucket of water then has to fill one cup at a time and race down to the finish line where an empty is waiting to be filled. The first team to fill their bucket (with the most water) are the winners. The kids all loved this game, some deciding the water was better used on themselves rather than the buckets, but in the end the Pink Team was number one.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I also finally feel like TFFT is “coming out” in Arusha, I now have people calling me wanting to introduce me to people, and come and see what we are doing, it is really exciting to finally feel like I have more local support and people recognize us and what we are doing here. We will be having a little Christmas Carol evening fundraiser mid December which will be a good opportunity to get to know more people in the Usa River Area.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
View of the library from the reading corner
Eliupendo enjoying the reading corner
I have never seen kids so excited to be visiting a library and reading! Fikiria Kwanza sends every class at least once a week to visit the library and you will see them racing to be the first ones in and with a book in their hands. It's been amazing to see their enthusiasm and excitement for the library, making all the hard work very worthwhile. I am currently working with the librarian to setup a reading club where there will be a book of the week for the children to read and discuss together. The library has been an enormous addition to Fikiria Kwanza's educational resources and will immensely benefit the children's learning progress - we're all very excited to have it up and running!!!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
My Mom was in Arusha visiting, so we spent the day with the children listening to stories of teachers, school, friends, and families after the performances were complete. It was great to spend some down time with all the kids, as I am normally there giving out school supplies or tutoring in a more formal setting. I was able to get a little bit more insight into some of their personalities - for example, Zacharia wants to be a photographer. He had my Mom's camera for two hours just snapping every possible scene and got some amazing shots! Ombeni Elia wants to be a teacher or the President, I also learned that he is an excellent tour guide as he took my Mom around campus telling her all about it.
Parent's Visiting Day brought other visitors for the children as well. Aunts and Uncles, Mama's and Aunties, and friends for Violethi, Simon, Isack, Zacharia, Richard, Aminelly, Happy, Glory, and Irene also joined in on the festivities. Most of the visitors were new faces for me, so I was really happy to meet everyone and so appreciative that they made the long journey to visit the children - the endess smiles were enough for me to know that it made their weekend!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Back in Arusha, we have had huge dust storms, rain storms and all weather in between, making our internet connection erratic to say the least! Change is in the air! It looks like our rainy season has started. I am headed to Matonyok this afternoon to check on the progress of the sanitation block which is going up at lightening speed, the roof is already being put on and it looks like it will be done and ready by the end of the month, which is so exciting!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Howdy peoples. Sorry for the delay, but I’m currently working on my third computer in as many months and even this one is a bit temperamental. So, again even though there is a blog there are no pictures. But I’m sure that you can use your imagination…
Everything is going incredibly well with the Matoyok sanitation facility. Currently, the entire foundation is finished and the brickwork is nearly completed, which means that the next big step is the roofing and extensive plumbing. This, Ndemno tells me, will be completed the first week of November which means that the tiling, grouting, and finishing touches will be done by – at the latest – the third week of November. Since the timeline projected that the sanitation facility be functional by February, we can hope to have the entire building operating well before the projected opening date.
On that note, the workers have been putting in a lot of time on this project and the progress is staggering. In less than 10 days, they put in over eighteen rows of bricks which, at face value, doesn’t seem that impressive until you couple that with the fact that the number of bricks being used is well over 3,000. Using my recently acquired math teaching skills, this means that the workers put in over 300 bricks a day (a long process including the soaking of the bricks, mixing the cement, cutting bricks to fill awkward gaps in the rows – while keeping all the rows of bricks level – and sticking the entire business together with copious amounts of said cement). Further, using some advanced math teaching techniques, I can deduce that each row of bricks is comprised of between 166 and 167 bricks – a staggering number, especially in light of the fact that these men have done more with 3,000 bricks over the past 10 days then I could hope to accomplish in my life.
And while you might suspect that the quality of construction would be shoddy due to the rapid pace of building, the contractor makes it a point to spend time with the workers every day to make sure that the work is progressing quickly and solidly. He is unafraid to make a worker take out a row of bricks that he feels is not up to snuff – a fact that might irritate the laborer, but in the end will make the entire building that much better. So, that’s all from Eastern Africa. Hope everyone’s enjoying their end of October and have their costumes all picked out for the All Hallows’ Eve celebration. I’m going to be a ninja.
Friday, October 17, 2008
This week of Full Circle was dedicated to Reuse in the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The program's four groups (Tembo, Nyoka, Kima, and Sunguara) reused old newspaper and magazine clippings to create their own collage art on a cutout shaped like a person!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Since then, we have moved onto explaning and recognizing nouns, pronouns, and personal prounouns. This week we started learning the correct use of "There are..." and "There is..." They seem to be catching on faster and faster with each new concept and I am seeing definite improvements in their English as well as their confidence in themselves. After spending a lot of time with these students after school, I am realizing that although their grades may not always reflect it, they are trying so hard and doing their very best.
Fikiria Kwanza and Usa River send out official grade reports at the end of every term that averages the student's three months of work together. Throughout the term, they will compile grades per month for students as well. The grade averages for September are to be finished by the schools today, I'm looking forward to seeing what improvements have been made. I realize that boosting all of our students to a "C" will be a slow, working progress over the next year but every time they remember that H comes after G or learn how to spell three or know that cat is a noun or can read a whole paragraphy of a story, I know that eventually we will get there!
I was lucky enought last week to meet with Allavida www.allavida.org an organisation that works to transform development funding in East Africa, in order to enable poor and marginalised people transform their lives. They also organise seminars addressing social investment, which I am particularly excited about! The next allavida seminar will take place early next year in Dar. Sign me up!
A definate highlight of the week was going to Kitengela Glass Factory www.kitengela-glass.com in order to pick up a donation for our Nairobi fundraising event. We set off in a small car-first mistake! I estimated it would take us about an hour to get out there-second mistake! It took us over 2 hours to make it out there, but it was SO worth it! As their website describes it:
"The magical ambience of the place is peppered with sculptures, animals and secret mosaic pathways which lead to niches of busy artisans all transforming recycled glass and scraps of other materials into beautiful artworks, jewellery and home ware."
Magical it was, surreal is also a word that comes to mind! I was in constant awe, it is one of the most incredible places I have ever been to. We were given a tour around the factory, got to watch women make beads, men make vases and wine gobblets, walk on their suspension bridge over a gorge...and we left with a huge box of beautiful items kindly donated by Anselm and Kitengela glass for our auction. All in a days work!
I don't think that a single day goes by here where I do not say to myself "I LOVE my work, I would not want to be anywhere else, or doing anything else" Thank you to TFFT for giving me this opportunity to be here. I am truely truely happy here.
Monday, October 6, 2008
October 6 – Well, sorry to everyone about not writing last week. Since it was the end of Ramadan and about a third of the Tanzanian population is Muslim, the Tanzanian Government celebrates Eid as a national holiday. Which makes a great opportunity to head to Nairobi for a few days for a) holiday and b) to do some work. While I must that there was more of the former than the latter, we did procure some interesting donations for the February 28th fundraiser for TFFT (everyone, mark your calendars now. I promise that you’ll be able to sit so near to the head table that you’ll be able to smell my cologne.) I’ll let Lali explain exactly what was donated and where we had to go to pick up said donation. Needless to say, it was like a scene out of a Tim Burton film. But with blown glass instead of socially marginalized lead characters…. I’ve already said too much!
So, now it’s October and we’re back in the swing of things here in Arusha. Headed back to Matonyok today to check on the math scholars… and to make sure that they had been keeping up with the work over these past few weeks, I gave them a test. That’s right, I’m that much of a stickler that I routinely give my math subjects (subjects being the operative word) tests. And, I feel like I can safely say that I’m the hardest non-native, non-Mathematics familiar volunteer teacher this side of Kijenge Chini. Boo yea!
Aside from the academic side of Matonyok, most of the material has already been transported to the center to begin construction of the sanitation facility by the end of this week. That is, if we can manage to buy 40 bags of cement at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, prices fluctuate wildly here in Tanzania, so a bag of cement can range anywhere from 14,500 Tsh to 17,000 Tsh in a given week. Which, I must admit, wreaks havoc on writing a feasible budget for the project. Either way, I’ve been working closely with Emmy and N’demno over the past few weeks to find other legitimate ways of saving money on the construction process, while simultaneously maintaining strict quality guidelines.
So, that’s all for this week. I’d like to get into the history of some of the students at Matonyok (four new since last week… the government keeps approaching Emmy and N’demno to take on new students for various reasons) but I can do that later in the week. Enjoy your whatever day it is!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
As I've posted, Full Circle (TFFT's Holistic After School Program) is under weigh. Last week, David Tye of Trees For The Future attended our Thursday session. We had been speaking for some time and he was eager to speak with Fikiria Kwanza's boarding students about the many uses of trees.
Monday, September 22, 2008
9/22 – Currently, it’s the Muslim holy month of Ramadan where Muslims fast from day break to sundown. Not only abstaining from food, pious Muslims will tell no lies, partake in no gossip, have no sexual relations, smoke no cigarettes and will not even drink water during this period. And let me tell you, today was hot. Not only was it hot, but my Tanzanian friends assure me that the next three months will be equally as hot. A conversation I had today:
“Doesn’t it get this hot in the USA?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Not in a lot of the country. In fact it’s the first day of Fall.”
“So, it’s not hot in America right now?”
“There’s a NEW MEXICO?”
“Forget it. Yes, it gets this hot in America.”
Then we arm-wrestled and N’Demno threw me into a pile of bricks. Not really. BUT – I have been meaning to write (and sorry for the lack in communication last week. I definitely wasn’t in Zanzibar, lounging on the beach…) that the bricks have been delivered, all 31,250 of them. And man oh man, let me tell you, there are a lot of bricks! It took three trips with a tractor, and even then they had to ask for help from some of the neighbors. Luckily this coincided with my teaching of ‘estimation’, where I asked the class how many bricks there were in one particular pile. My favorite answer: 7 million.
We have since moved past this and the math pupils are doing better and estimating their hearts out. Aside from that, Matonyok has taken on another 14 year-old Maasai girl named Elizabeth from the Arusha region known as Simanjiro. She was meant to marry a 70 year-old Maasai village elder when the regional social worker came to Emmy and N’Demno to ask if they could take her in to prevent this marriage. Both Emmy and N’Demno realized that there was little else for them to do but take her into the family that they have created in Arumeru, and she seems to be adjusting well to the change in environment. I actually have Elizabeth in my math class, and she’s smart as a whip. However, she doesn’t speak any English so there’s another barrier that we’re going to have to overcome. I have no doubt that she’ll be speaking English any time now.
Anyhow, hope all’s well with the readers and I’ll see if I can post some pics by the end of the week.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
"WEENA, WEENA, WEENA!", the girls shouted as they jumped up and down erratically. They had just defeated the boys in a Tug Of War match. Full Circle, our holistic after school program, is underway! The program is designed to bring the concepts environmental conservation and nutrition into the lives of its participants.
Usa River Academy put on quite the show for graduation! They hosted families and guardians on campus for a day-long celebration filled with music, dancing, singing, and speeches.
While most were in good spirits for the day, there were a couple who didn’t seem quite themselves. Dickson Ephrahim and Dickson Simon, two of the most outgoing and attentive students in our scholarship program at URA, were not interested in spending time together with everyone or the cake. This really surprised me until I stepped back and put myself in their shoes. They had just sat through an entire day of graduation ceremonies, first of all, and then secondly they had to watch all of their friends and classmates spend time with their families, mothers, father, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, and cousins – the whole deal. I felt terrible once I realized what they were probably struggling with throughout the day and I can’t imagine how tough those days must be for our scholarship kids.
At the end of the celebration, Upendo packed up her things to head back to Good Hope Orphanage where she’ll spend her time until Form One begins next year. A couple of her friends showed up to graduation towards the end of the day and helped her with her things. Good Hope is about two miles up the same road as URA, so all eight of us piled into the TFFT car. As we pulled out of the driveway of URA, all of her friends started to belt out a song for Upendo. One of my favorite things here is how Tanzanians have a song, or make one up, for every occasion. It was the most amazing performance I think I’ve ever seen, maybe it was because we were all in such a small space and their voices were so powerful, but really I think its because it was so great to see her interacting with her friends, watching them give her support and congratulations for her huge accomplishment of graduating from primary school.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
About 12 million young people between 15 to 24 live with HIV/AIDS
6,800 more people are infected with HIV every day! Almost half of them are under 25!
Young women are about three times more vulnerable to HIV infection that their male peers
2 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2007
2.5 million people became infected with HIV in 2007
96% of infected people live in developing countries
Rosie and Rachel are more than just numbers, just part of the statistics, they are two of the sweetest, most humble, little girls. Last week my parents were here and I took them to FK to have a look around the library and to meet some of the TFFT scholarship students, when we walked into the class room, Rosie came up to me, grabbed my hand and lead to me to a sheet of paper on the wall, which ranked all the students for June, Rosie was number one on her class! I was so proud I wanted I cry!
HIV belongs to a group of pathogens known as retroviruses, which carry their genetic material on a single strand of RNA-rather than the double stranded DNA. It chooses White Blood cells as its host cell, on the lymphocytes surface they are studded with CD4 molecules. For HIV these act like a piece of Velcro and the virus binds to these molecules and forces it’s way in, commandeering the cell’s DNA, and replicates itself-one cell can produce 10,000 viruses. These burst out of the host cell, destroying it in the process, and look for more cells to invade.
Until Rosie and Rachel’s CD4 count is below 200 they are not eligible for ARV’s (anti-retroviral drugs), they are however susceptible to opportunistic infections. It is heart breaking when we take them to the dream clinic for their check up’s and blood work. It is heart breaking that treatment-ARV’s-are being rolled out so slowly, it is heart breaking that despite mother-to-child transmission being preventable, it wasn’t for these two little orphaned girls.
Yesterday I met with a Homeopath based in Arusha who mentioned Peter Chappell’s work in Ethiopia with HIV/AIDS, and the resultant remedy PC1(AF), which helps with appetite, breathing, weight, resistance to infection, and generally makes people feel better. It has been extensively tried on people around the world with AIDS, with marked evidence that the resistance to infection strengthens and the immune system is boosted. One great thing about PC1 is there are no side effects, as it is a natural remedy, and it requires low compliance. We have started Rosie and Rachel on it in order to try and boost their immune systems.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
9/8 –Well, another week has gone by and both the Teacher Training and the Matonyok projects have shown some progress. First, I met with two different teachers who would be willing to offer critical analyses of teaching methods for those teachers selected for TFFT’s program. This is important, as selected teachers will be spending time overseas in a new educational environment. This environment will include new teaching models and ideas, and to accustom the selected educators for this experience, we’re planning on establishing a pre-departure training program where the Tanzanian teachers will be given feedback on their teaching methods and ideologies. Hopefully, after this training, the teachers will not be that shell-shocked by the American teaching paradigms.
Second, the Matonyok project is coming closer to signing a contractor for the sanitation unit. I write ‘closer’ because I’ve met with the young man who Emmy, N’demno and I have all selected as our favorite, and we’ve already written an estimate for the job. The next step is meeting with our lawyer to get a legally binding contract with him to complete the job by December, and within the budget. I hope to have all of this completed by Wednesday.
On a completely random note, I’ve begun teaching math classes at Matonyok twice a week. For those of you who know my mathematic ability, this should be mildly amusing. However, the class level III is learning multiplication, division, fractions (my favorite), decimals and other things that I didn’t think I would ever be teaching to a class of six. Just goes to show you. Either way, it’s a blast to get back in the classroom again after these long three months. I’ll keep you posted to see if my tutelage is actually worth its weight in salt. Happy second week of September, all!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I completely underestimated the task at hand when I began my day on Sunday. I realized that there are two very important parts to picking up a child - first locating the child and secondly finding their trunk of belongings (shoes, clothes, school uniforms, ect). I quickly learned that just because a child is at a certain location does not mean that their heavy, metal 4’ x 2’ truck is there also. So it was a great adventure with my limited Kiswahili knowledge to figure out with the guardians exactly where all of their things were. Some pick-ups were less chaotic than others, with the children all packed and ready to go as I pulled up. Mama Mike was a star, managing to get all 11 scholarship kids from her village waiting together on her porch with all of their things. I made other stops at Good Hope Orphanage, Patandi Village at Baba Juma's, Arusha Bus Stop, Matanyok, Tacoda Boy's Home, and Mama Nora's Orphanage in Makumira. In the end, after a lot of broken Kiswahili and hand gesturing, a few personal escorts in the car, and lots of radio sing-a-longs, all of our scholarship children (and their trunks) arrived safely at their school ready to take on third term.
Over the holiday, I had only seen a few of our scholarship students so it was wonderful to see all of their bright, smiling faces on Sunday. With each drop-off, I was able to witness the scene of each child’s arrival to FK and URA. The whole day seemed like a waiting game for the children, waiting to get to school, once they got there, more waiting for the arrivals of the other students not there yet. Anticipation was building with each passing minute they were patiently waiting so with the progressive arrivals throughout the day, the excitement and energy of the welcome scene only grew. The air was filled with hoots, hollers, shrieks, and shrills from the students upon seeing each other. It was a race to see would be first to embrace or give a high five, sometimes even tackling each other. I loved listening to their little mouths barking Kiswahili at each other, there’s just something so endearing about listening to a child’s voice, especially speaking a foreign language.
My heart melted over and over with this “welcome back” scene each time I brought a group of kids back to school. In previous months, I had noticed and recognized the bonds and friendships the TFFT students have made with each other but it was only made even more evident to me on Sunday. The genuine excitement, pure joy and happiness that exuded from their little bodies was really something special – their family was all back together again.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
8/25 – Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Managing Director at Peace House, a secondary school that provides education for Tanzanian orphans. Similar to the School of St. Jude, Peace House’s goal is to provide quality instruction to those members of the community who need it most – in this case, children who have been left orphans as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
I was actually there to discuss some ideas regarding TFFT’s Teacher Training program, as the instructors at Peace House are Tanzanian citizens and have only vague notions of Western educational models. I’m hoping to team up with the administration at Peace House in the coming months to develop some joint program for teacher education.
By the way, the campus is amazing – state of the art and fully functional. Right now, the school is providing free education for over 200 students – but the facilities can hold upwards of 800. They currently employ 10 teachers but are looking for ways to revolutionize the caliber of teaching in Arusha over time, including the use of volunteer instructors and teacher swapping from the local international schools. Through this program, the Director hopes to create a sustainable environment for educating Tanzanian children for the future.
A disease that has ravaged sub-sahara Africa, infecting over 28 million people. A disease that has killed off older generations of Africans leaving behind millions of orphaned children. A disease that has stalled progress in educational, economic, and development sectors...
"A great many things made Africa particularly susceptible to AIDS, some of them innate to the communities where the disease flourished, and many other imposed from outside. The key factor is poverty. Put simply, millions of Africans are living with a virus from which they might easily have been protected if they had had access to education about it, or to the means of defending themselves... and the destitution and weakness of many sub-saharan states crippled their ability to respond once their populations were infected." - Stephanie Nolan, 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa
Before coming to Tanzania, I knew what HIV/AIDS was but it was never real to me. I had never been personally affected by the disease, I didn't know anybody who was or knew anybody who knew anybody that was - that's how far removed you can be from AIDS in countries like America. But in Africa, it's a completely different story. It is everywhere.
Support for International Change, is an NGO here in Arusha that provides free HIV testing, they were kind enough to come out and test our children. The Foundation for Tomorrow sponsors two little girls who are HIV positive, Rose and Rachel. Every month, they recieve basic checkups from doctors and every three months bloodwork has to be done to measure their CD4 levels. A CD4, Cluster of Differentiation 4, is a type of protein that is found on the surface of helper T cells in the bloodstream. CD4 acts as a receptor as HIV binds to the CD4 in order to enter host cells. The levels of CD4's helps to measure the course of HIV and treatment, when the level drops below 200 is when anti-retroviral treatment will be given to a patient due to minimal supply in Africa.
I had my first monthly check-up visit with Rose last week at Dream Clinic. Africa has its own concept of "time," even when it comes to having appointments. So Rose and I waited and waited for her turn. While Rose was happy drawing away in my notebook and eating the stash of lollipops I had given her, I looked around and watched every man, woman, and child there. There were about thirty people, some waiting for their appointments and others had come to attend an informational session. My heart went out to each one, wondering what their story was... how often do you come to the clinic? how long have you known that you're positive? how is your family? do you have children? are they infected?
The nurse called Rose's name and she strolled into the clinic like it was no big deal. Every doctor and nurse not only knew her name, but stopped to take the time and say hello. This visit happened to be time for a blood test but Rose was so brave. My heart was breaking, holding her hand as she tried not to look at the needle, her lips quivered, and the tears began to fall. Every child I have seen crying here is so much more dramatic than any other I've seen. Maybe its because their faces and cheeks are smaller and thinner? The tears just drop directly from their eyes down to the floor, they dont roll along the cheeks and it just makes the tears so much more profound. But Rose was strong and quickly recovered from the trauma of the blood test -
Rose's CD4 levels are good, for now at least.
I packed some popcorn for the trip, hoping it would help to ease any anxiety a doctors visit might provoke in her, so I broke it out for her after having her blood taken. A smile spread across her face as she took the popcorn and softly said asante. We had to wait a few more minutes to finish up in the clinic and as the other children spotted Rose with the bag of popcorn, they flocked towards her. She generously shared all of her popcorn with 7 other children, so much so that she only had a couple handfuls left for herself - that's just the kind of little girl she is.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
August 6th - This week, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the Matonyok Parents Trust – an orphanage that provides a structured environment where some of the area’s neediest children can come to learn. Since the term ‘matonyok’ come from a Maasai term meaning ‘struggling very hard together’, there is little wonder that the directors – Emmy and Ndemno Sitayo – are working hard to provide quality education for Maasai children who have been neglected or left parentless for whatever reason. In particular, the Trust hopes to educate Maasai girls to not only offer them a better quality of life, but they hope to end the brutal practice of female circumcision and prearranged marriages that currently is part of the Maasai culture – at least among the students that attend classes at Matonyok.
Both Emmy and Ndemno have committed their lives to helping children. Emmy, a nurse by training, would visit the remote countryside to offer her services to developmentally disabled Maasai children. It was then that she realized the need for a more comprehensive center where these children – as well as orphaned children – could come to learn in a supportive environment. Opening their home at first to one child, Emmy and Ndemno now have thirteen children living with them in their two-roomed house – as well as seven children who come from the surrounding areas to attend classes at Matonyok. It is both Emmy and Ndemno’s hope to build a learning complex where they can educate fifty children a year, thereby improving the quality of life for some of
TFFT is working with Matonyok to take the first step in this dream. By upgrading the sanitation facilities (which currently constitute four posts in the ground surrounded by plastic tarp), we hope to have built a fully functional shower and bathroom facility by February 2009. This will help not only to raise the level of hygiene among the children at Matonyok, but it will also help to prevent communicable diseases – as there is currently no money in the Trust’s budget for emergency medical attention.
posted by T.C.
The sun emerged from behind the clouds for the first time in weeks on Thursday.
That day, we were on our way to
The trek from the main campus to the garden is short, but filled with wonder. You walk through Fikiria Kwanza’s crop of coffee plants, pass under tall trees that house frightening birds, and avoid stepping onto the hills of some of the most vicious ants I’ve seen to date! The path winds briefly through this wildlife and spills you out onto a dirt road that runs parallel to the campus grounds.
We spent hours hoeing the designated area for our garden, and with the help of some of Fikiria Kwanza’s gardeners, were able to brush up on our language lessons. The garden should be ready for planting by the beginning of September, and yielding foods within a few months. We can’t wait to see what the cooks at Fikiria Kwanza do with the variety! Until next time…