Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Traveler's Philanthropy Conference Dec 2008

Two weeks ago I attended the Traveler’s Philanthropy Conference here in Arusha. The Centre on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (CESD) hosted the three day event, in Arusha at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge. At the core of Travelers Philanthropy (TP) is the idea of “giving back” of time, talent and treasure to tourism destinations, with Arusha being the gateway to Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Northern Safari circuit in Tanzania, it provided an ideal venue! TP is slowly gaining ground as an important form of development assistance flowing from tourism businesses and travelers into projects that support local communities, our focus however, was on giving a hand up rather than a hand out.

There were two key note speakers:
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, Ph.D.
Maathai founded Kenya’s Green Belt Movement 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 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, 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,
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) 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

Feeding Table for Nkoaranga Orphanage

Nkoaranga Orphanage, a partner orphange of The Foundation For Tomorrow, has recently received a very useful and helpful donation from the Bianucci Family. The Bianucci family spent some time this past summer volunteering at Nkoaranga Oraphange and helping out in any way possible. They have become very involved with various projects to help improve the facilities and way of life at the orphanage.

The Bianucci's realized the need for a safer and more managable approach to feeding time. On an average day, there are two to three Mama's working at the orphange with the 25 children, all who are under the age of five. As you can imagine, every day is quite an adventure... especially when it comes time to eat. The older children have got it down, they all sit at the miniture table in their miniature chairs and are able to feed themselves for the most part. You will have the occasional fast eater who will have finished their own food and try to snatch someone else's but for the most part it all goes pretty smoothly. The infants and toddlers are were it gets a little tricky. There are 8 of them right now and with only a few adults, there aren't enough arms for everyone to be held and fed at the same time. The orphange does have some smaller high chairs for this age group; however, they tend to be a little topsy-turvy.

After a visiting Cradle of Love, a local orphange for infants to two year olds, the Bianucci's had the perfect solution. Cradle of Love uses a feeding table for all of their meals and it works brilliantly. I arranged for ADRA, an organization working on a variety of development projects across Tanzania, to build the table for us - they did an awesome job! The table is high off the ground and shaped like a horse-shoe, allowing for the Mama to stand in the middle to easily reach all the children facing her. The table holds 6 children at a time, who are all securely seated in individual seat holders from which they can't fall out or escape from. It has been an amazing addition to the orphange, everybody seems to be really enjoying it....

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 is Hot in Tanzania

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


12/1 – Hello everyone and happy December. I must apologize for my delayed blogging… I’ve been through about three computers this month as well as two power bricks and all of this technological difficulty has taken its toll on my ability to write for an extended period of time. So here it is.

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

Sports Day at LouLou's!!!

Lou Course is the newest volunteer addition to TFFT Tanzania, she initially became involved to help me with our tutoring program at Fikiria Kwanza but that was just the beginning! In just the past couple weeks, she has started tutoring, hosted a Sports Day at her home in Usa River, and is organizing a Christmas Carol Fundraiser to benefit TFFT. The kids adore her, completely adopting her as their own, LouLou as they call her. Needless to say, she has been a delight, bringing excitement and enthusiasm to every activity!

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!

Lou and I planned to have several different games, we started out with a relay race first to get everyone's blood flowing...

Rosemary is in the lead with Odemary giving her a run for her money...

Then we had several games of Tug-of-War, in which Blue Team were the champions. They managed to beat every other team and were so happy to be able to say they were they "weeeennas!"

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.

After everyone had exhausted themselves, Lou and her fabulous team of cooks and helpers provided us with a delicious feast of beef stew, rice, chapati, cabbage, and bananas! She even had vanilla and chocolate ice cream cones for dessert, the kids were in heaven!

A very, very special thanks to Lou and her awesome team for making Sport Day possible!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

I have been spending more time at FK recently, it has been magic! I really like the new tutor, Raphael, who is doing a phenomenal job with the kids. Yusuf finally knows the alphabet! R is a massive, gentle giant and I think the kids have a lot of respect for him! I took the kids old tennis balls this week to play with, and it was amazing watching them, we had balls flying every where. We need to work on hand eye co-ordination! So with the help of our new volunteer-Lou, we are planning a little sports day at her house next week, where we will do slip n’ slide, tug of war, egg and spoon races and ball games! I can’t wait, it will be such a nice break for them to get out of the school and have a fun afternoon running around! I don’t think Lou quite knows what she is in for!
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

Fikiria Kwanza Library

Fikiria Kwanza students have been enjoying their new library donated by TFFT for almost a month and a half now! It was a slow beginning to the library due to delays in furniture construction and internet installation but it's all coming together quite nicely now. After the furniture was completed in September, I had a goal of opening the library to the children on October 1st. There was a lot to be done: unpack and alphabetize the books so generously donated by Scholastic, create a coding system for all the books, label all 8,500 books!, shelve them, and also train the new librarian. It was a lot of tedious work and long days but I managed to have it up and running by October 1st! The library looks great - we have 6 large bookshelves and one small one filled with books, a reading corner with a low table surrounded with pillows, and an area that will serve as the computer center. SatCom will be doing our internet installation which we hope is on track to be completed by the end of the year.

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!!!

Mandu and Yusufu

In the photo above, you see Mandu sporting the 3-D shades to be worn while reading Polar Bears 3-D Adventure. However, the kids love to wear them no matter what book they happen to be reading, its hysterical.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Usa River Academy Parent's Visiting Day

Last Saturday, Usa River Academy hosted a day full of singing and dancing preformances, speeches, food, and christmas carols for the families of student's attending the school. Parent's Visiting Day is really special because Usa River administration does not allow for any parental visits throughout the course of the term except on this day. So all of the children have been anxiously awaiting this day. Luckily, since The Foundation For Tomorrow has 32 children attending Usa River I get some special treatment and am permitted to visit more than just this one day. Although I frequently visit the schools and TFFT students there, this did not decrease their excitment for the celebration. I was getting reminders every week from them since the beginning of term not to miss November 1st!

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

Working to Get Greater Support

This past week has been busy. I started off the week in Dar es Salaam, following a forum last Friday in Dar, run by the East African Association of Grant Makers (EAAG), on mobilizing philanthropic resources in Tanzania. Whilst everyone acknowledges the help Tanzania needs, it seems few local companies are willing to support local NGO’s like The Foundation For Tomorrow. It was exciting to meet with some of the movers and shakers in the region. I was definitely the youngest person in the room! I then spent a few days in Dar meeting with various companies, such as DTB, Knight Frank, KLM finding out about their CSR programs and presenting proposals.
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

Updates at Matonyok

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

Go Clean - Body Collage

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!

Pictured here, you'll see a few of the kids hard at work on their collages. Thanks to the donations of local shops StiggBucks, Ciao Gelati, and Msumbi Coffees, each participant was able to choose 5 images to work with for their collage. All of these shops are located in Arusha town within the Shoprite complex. If you are ever in town, stop by Msumbi for some amazing coffees, Stiggbucks for great food, and Ciao Gelati for a tasty desert. 

This week, the kids learned how to use glue properly, and how to share with others so that everyone could have a good time! I was particularly impressed with some of the creative thinking the kids had, like in the picture below. Patrick did not choose any images of human facial features, so used the sunflower he picked as the head of his collage!

Go Clean has proved an extremely enjoyable portion of Full Circle for the kids, and having them in small groups has made a world of difference for me. I have been better able to get the educational aspects of the program across to the kids, and they really seem to be learning! I can't wait until Go Bean, the nutrition portion of the program, which is scheduled to start next month.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Full Circle - Go Clean!

TFFT is proud to present: 

Fully equipped with prideful teams of 6-8 sponsored children doing art projects and learning about the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). I've designed October's activities so that we can take the opportunity to extend September's (GO GREEN) message of environmental conservation. This month, the kids will use creative expression in art projects that emphasize the importance of Reducing the amount of waste we create, Reusing the waste we do create, and Recycling anything we possibly can.

Today, we REUSED empty toilet paper rolls to make rain sticks (you remember them from school. Cardboard tubes filled with rice, beans, stones, that make the sound of rain when you turn them). Special thanks to Mary at The Impala Hotel, Asha and Katherine Lioyd at The Arusha Hotel, and Isabelle Muthoni at Kibo Palace Hotel. They were all kind enough to collect empty TP rolls so that the kids could do this project today! 

Because of the complexity of some of October and November's projects, and the large number of boarding students at Fikiria Kwanza Academy, I've decided to work only with TFFT kids in small groups for the rest of Full Circle. The kids line up eagerly at the dormitory door when their group name is called!

For our rain stick project this evening, we started with Group Tembo (Group Elephant) and Group Nyoka (Group Snake). Pictured at the left is Group Tembo (L to R): Rachel, Namayani, Daniel, Lomanyaki, Stephano, and Odemary. Below is Group Nyoka (L to R): Neema M., Rosie, Athumani, Mandu, Joshua, Neema S., Patrick, and Veronica. They were encouraged to draw any pictures they liked for the outside of their stick, and many of them chose to draw images of rain and growing plants. I was impressed to see how they connected the rain to nature, growth, and life. 

After the younger kids finished their projects, we released them and called the older kids to participate. Group Kima (Group Monkey) pictured to the left, and Group Sungura (Group Rabbit), pictured below were next in line to make their rain tools.
In Group Kima from left to right are Yusufu, Rosemary, Ndera, Mathayo, Joyce E., Sofia, and Helena. In Group Sungura Clockwise from the Left are Amani, Joakim, Magdalena, Mary, and Nancy. Unfortunately, Jesca, Eliupendo, and Joyce W. were not able to participate during the program because they were doing chores. Nancy was kind enough to take them the materials they'll need to make their own rain sticks over the weekend.

The project was enjoyable for all involved, even Alley, my TFFT staff helper today! 


TFFT is working to provide all of our students with quality education and one of the best ways of measuring their knowledge and progress are their grade reports. One of my main goals over the next year is to have all of scholarship students earning at least at "C" average in all of their subjects at school. Almost half of our scholarships students need some special attention oustide of the classroom to help boost their grades to this level. With lots of hard work, encouragement, and afterschool tuition we hope to see the results we desire! I have been tutoring students in English at Fikiria Kwanza on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays and Usa River students on Tuesday and Thursdays. I have been using all kinds of different resources, teacher's advice, websites, syllabus books, old exams, and instructional books. I am still working to find tutors for our students in other subjects which is proving more difficult than I originally thought.

The students at Fikiria Kwanza are much younger than those at Usa River, so we have been working on learning the alphabet, counting, basic math, and spelling. With these younger kids, learning the basics is proving to be a very slow process, much slower than I could have ever imagined. I have been coming up with different learning techniques to keep them interested and excited about coming to tuition. I had number and letter file cards laminated in town in order to play games with them and this has been very successful. They love being able to get up and around with all the energy they have after school. I have also resorted to bribery - sweets for their completed homework. They loooveee Dum-Dums.

At Usa River, I am working with anywhere between 10-15 students in English. (There are always some who are earning about a "C" but still want to come to tuition.. I can't say no to that!) They range from Class 5 - Form One but they are mostly all on the same level so it allows me to teach them all together. It's a real pleasure coming to tutor at Usa River, they are so attentive and willing to learn. I'm surprised that it isn't more of a challenge to get them to dedicate one of the two free hours of the day they have to more schooling. I think it just goes to show their interest in learning. The first subject we worked on were question tags (You went to the market yesterday, didn't you?). Just like at Fikiria Kwanza, it was a very slow process, it took us three weeks to have everybody using the correct question tags.

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!

The weeks are just flying by, I can't believe that it is already the middle of October! Last week I was in Nairobi fundraising and meeting with people regarding our fundraising event on the 28th of February 2009.
I was lucky enought last week to meet with Allavida 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 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 is here!

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

Tree Planting with Trees for the Future

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.

Mr. Tye stood before a group of about 40 of them and asked one simple question: "What are trees used for?" They readily volunteered responses. "Firewood!", shouted some of them. "They keep the air clean," said one. With soil and fertilizer donated by the school, we instructed participants to fill polyethene tubes and plant three single seeds.

With pride, participants posed for the camera holding their soon to be tree saplings. When they are ready in a few months, we will transplant the saplings onto Fikiria Kwanza's campus, where the kids can proudly show off their green thumbs!

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.”

“Right now?”

“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?”

“Well, it is – but in the Southwest, like in Texas, Nevada and New Mexico.”

“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

Full Circle Is Underway!

"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.

Through games and hands-on activities, our kids (and most of the other boarders at Fikiria Kwanza Academy) will develop the tools necessary to start and maintain an organic garden, germinate and plant tree saplings, and they will learn the importance of the 3R's (reduce, reuse, recycle). 

Last week, we worked on developing leadership skills and emphasizing the importance of team work with Tug Of War. The kids were forced to work TOGETHER as a team to pull win their match, and their celebrations were impressive. Tug Of War was the official end Full Circle's first week, and I'd say we went out with a rather big BANG!

The program will last for twelve weeks, and thanks to the generous support of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, The Foundation for Tomorrow will be able to fund our ambitious projects! 

Upendo's Class Seven Graduation!!

Saturday, September 13th was graduation for Class Seven and Form Four from Usa River Academy. TFFT had one graduate from Class Seven, Upendo Estomi. The Tanzania Educational System has three different levels. The first is basic level which consists of pre-primary school (the equivalent of Preschool and Kindergarten) for Baby Class and Pre-Unit. The second portion of Basic Level is Primary School, which takes seven years to complete, beginning with Class One and ending with Class Seven. After the completion of primary school, students head onto Secondary School, which takes four to six years to complete depending on the capacity of the school. Most commonly, Form Four is the last year of schooling for the secondary level. The third, and highest, level of education is Tertiary when students will attend university or vocational training.

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.

Upendo had requested a cake for graduation.. lucky for me (and the kids) I was able to find a couple boxes of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix in town. I’m not so sure how I would have been able to pull off a cake for 32 kids from scratch. The three cakes turned out wonderfully – every last crumb and drop of icing was eaten by the kids.

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

Homeopathy for our children

According to The World Bank
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

Maths Education for Matonyok

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

Henry-our TFFT dog!

Today I got a fright! I could not find Henry, our characterful little guard dog! I went every where, out side, up and down roads, asking everyone if they had seen a dog with a red collar-no, no, no! I was getting desperate, it reminded me of when Henry was kidnapped and a ransom of $50 was paid to get him back! After combing the streets, local dukas, and fruit stalls, I came home almost in tears only to find Henry in Alleys room eating Twizzlers looking very pleaseed with himself!

Back to School!!!

The third term of the school year started on Monday this week! Meaning that all boarding students were required to report back to school on Sunday afternoon. I spent Sunday driving all over Arusha (and surrounding areas) to pick up over 50 children and drop them off at Usa River Academy and Fikiria Kwanza. There are some guardians who look after the kids during break that are able to transport them back to school, like Mama Pendo from Nkoaranga Orphanage, which was a huge help!

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

The Power of the Internet

9/1 – Well, happy September to everyone!  Last week was pretty chaotic, with people visiting from South Africa and our inter-web being down for about half the week.  It’s mildly disconcerting how much I rely on the internet for work, and this black-out period has really brought that unsavory fact home.  I forget how people dealt before the advent of such a time consuming tool?  Lots of snail mail and newspapers, I imagine. 

So, enough orating.  The last week of August has been productive, though not as productive as I would have hoped.  The contractor with whom I’ve been communicating on the Matonyok project failed to show up for a meeting late last week, which means that we might have to pursue a new course of action.  Unfortunately, many of our prospective contractors are either American or Dutch, and the Tanzanian government taxes non-natives some exorbitant rate which in the end will drive the bottom line of the project up quite a bit.  Something about native employment rates which, in the end, makes quite a bit of sense – since why would an NGO planning on helping Tanzania pursue ex-pat architects and contractors?  We still have yet a few contractors to contact who are Tanzanian and who will hopefully sign on to this project, but we need the structure built by December and fully functional by February.  

On another note, I was invited to a gathering at Matonyok on Sunday where members of the board of the Trust were trying to raise enough money for a new running water source – about 350,000 Tsh.  However, and what I found particularly interesting, was that they made a conscious effort to not rely on international support for the project.  Rather, they plan to raise the funds from within Tanzania, among their friends and neighbors.  This ‘ground up’ approach is something that I really haven’t seen among many organizations in the area, and I commend Emmy and N’demno on their perspicacity.  

Monday, August 25, 2008

Peace House

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.  

Dream Clinic


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

A Bit More from Matonyok

The Foundation For Tomorrow has a big job helping a handful of special kids.
As I noted in my last blog, the children at Matonyok don't have any real shower or bathroom facilities on hand. Rather, the bathroom consists of a hole in the ground surrounded by four posts enclosed with plastic sheeting, which provides only very minimal privacy. For washing, the children fill buckets with warm water and clean themselves early in the morning or late at night to prevent being seen by other children while bathing.

In both cases, there is no running water and the risk of communicable disease is high. Also, because the children wash themselves so early in the morning and late at night, there is an issue of safety – as wild animals (including snakes, which have been seen on multiple occasions behind the bathroom facility) and insects can harm the children. I really wish i could upload some pictures to show you just what the facility looks like, but unfortunately the internet right now is ridiculously slow and I can't even post a thumbnail.

Anyhoo, that's all from my neck of the woods. Postings to come...

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 Tanzania’s neediest children.

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.

Our Organic garden at Fikiria Kwanza

The sun emerged from behind the clouds for the first time in weeks on Thursday. Mount Meru flaunted its peak for Wazungu and Watanzania alike. Alley and I marveled at its impressive size, and realized how fortunate we are to be living in such a beautiful country.

That day, we were on our way to Fikiria Kwanza Academy to do what I like to call “my first effort at manual labor”. TFFT is partnering with the school to start an organic garden, which will yield enough fruits and indigenous vegetables to supplement the basic rice and beans diet of all of its students. So, on this day, I approached one of the school’s groundskeepers and asked, in my weak Swahili, for two hoes, a bucket, and some assistance.

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…