9 March 2009
We have officially purchased the land on which we will build Matumaini a brand new home!! It has been a long process since I arrived, meeting the landowner, meeting with the lawyer, drawing up contracts and agreements, ensuring the past land disputes have been resolved, agreeing on a payment plan and transferring the money, but we have now finally signed the agreement and paid a down payment of half the total amount. We will continue to pay the remaining amount over the next six months. Now comes the hard part: finding over $200,000 to build :). Any takers??
A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I started talking about ice cream (I think there was a drawing of an ice cream cone in one of their coloring books) and it came out that many of them had never eaten it; many didn’t even know what it was. So I brought two big cartons one Sunday afternoon, one carton of chocolate and one of a vanilla strawberry mix. They really loved it! Most preferred the vanilla strawberry; others liked a mixture of both. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Last Sunday was the annual Kilimanjaro Marathon here in Moshi. Since Michelle and I ran the 5K last year, many of the boys have been asking to run this year, so I decided to take all of the Matumaini kids as well as about 14 neighbors. They were all ready on the dot at 6:30 am when we arrived to pick them up (this is unheard of). So we piled 32 kids in the back of a pick-up truck and drove to the starting line. I drive with Sharifa, the only child who didn’t run, to Moshi College stadium where all of the races ended and all the festivities took place to wait for everyone to come in. Amazingly, they all made it and were even smiling upon arrival! Alexi was the only exception; apparently he cried along the way – he was too tired, but eventually made it through the finish line. It was fantastic though as every runner is given a gift as they arrive: a nice bag, a Tshirt, and a bottle of water, all from Vodacom, one of the main cell phone service companies here. Vodacom Foundation also made a point to honor five Moshi orphanage centers, Matumaini being one. So 10 of the kids ran for free and were given another Tshirt, they were all given roast meat and cake to eat, and then Vodacom Foundation gave to each orphanage 4 big sacks of maize, 2 sacks of beans. 1 of rice, 1 of sugar, over 20 big packets of salt, and a big bucket of oil. It was really so nice. The kids had a great time and I was so happy to give them such an opportunity. It’s important for them to get out and see more people and experience large-scale events. Some of the little ones were so amazing and surprised to see some older ladies (they called them bibi which means grandmother) running the marathon. It makes me happy to open their eyes to new things. For several days after, they were all complaining of sore hamstrings and calves :)…and they thought it would be so easy!
Stephen and I finally conducted a Six Mamas meeting a few weeks ago. Four of the women are doing very well and all have at least Tsh 200,000 (about USD 150) in their bank accounts! The other two are struggling a bit. We had a long discussion about the issue of saving money and how best to go about doing so. I explained the idea of planning ahead, thinking about how many children they have and when they will enter into secondary school (much more expensive than primary school) to get an idea of what their financial commitments will be and when so they can plan. I gave the example of people in America, upon giving birth to a child, beginning to save for that child’s college education – the idea that they save for 18 years to ensure their child has the opportunity of an education. They were amazed by this. I know this concept is hard to grasp because it’s completely new and different; they never have had enough money to even think about saving. But it is important they learn and we will continue to help them plan for the future. We also went through some of the problems they are having and met individually with each woman to discuss privately her specific issues. This was important to me, as I had some frustrations I needed to air.
One such frustration was that Mama Puro had come to me the week before, saying she had no food for her family that day. Her husband hadn’t brought any money so they weren’t going to eat. This angered me beyond words because I knew she had over Tsh 200,000 in the bank. So I needed to talk to her about this. I explained how angry I was and also sad, that when she tells me something like that, of course I want to give her money because the thought of her kids not eating kills me. But I can’t give the money, because a) it creates dependence and b) it sends the wrong message. Her excuse was all about her husband and that sometimes he brings money and other times he doesn’t, so she never knows whether or not there will be food. What I told her was that she already knows her husband is unreliable. Thus, she must always plan for her family’s food herself, period. If her husband then brings money for food, great! She won’t have to buy it that day, but if he doesn’t, she will be able to purchase it herself. This seems like such an obvious concept to me but is clearly a way of thinking they are not used to. After a lot of back and forth discussion, she seemed to understand.
Another frustration was Mama Godi. She had asked me the week before the meeting to help pay for Christina’s secondary school fees. This bothered me because Christina is her only child in secondary school; she has two younger children, one in Class 7 and one in Class 1. She has over Tsh 200,000 in the bank and has 17 total piglets that were just born, meaning she will be coming into a great profit within the next few months. There is no reason she needs help from us, which is what I explained to her. We went through the money she has and what she will be gaining soon from the sale of the piglets and showed her that she will be more than capable of paying for the fees on her own. I told her the same thing I told Mama Puro – that the goal of this project is for them to be 100% self-reliant with no dependence on Knock’s funds. I told her to believe in herself and I am here to help along the way. She seemed to understand and appreciated my views.
Overall it was a successful meeting. We just purchased the food for the next three months. This time, Knock paid 50% and the women are contributing 50%. After three more months, we will contribute 25% and they 75%. Then, the project will be their responsibility entirely. We really hope it works. Michelle explained to me though that even if some of the women are successful, but not all, it will still be a worthwhile endeavor. I definitely agree. Empowering women is extremely important in the developing world.
Shimbwe Dispensary and Clinic
I went up to Shimbwe a week ago to see the progress on the renovations we planned and gave money for in August. At both the clinic and the dispensary, the only construction that has been completed is the installation of new ceiling board. That’s it. I am sure you can imagine how happy I was to see that :)…No painting, no plastering, no electricity at the dispensary, nothing else. We met with the village leaders who explained that right across the road from the dispensary, they will be building a new health center, funded by the government. A current building across the road, now being used for village offices, will become wards and the dispensary while the village offices move across the road to the current dispensary. This is apparently happening within the next several months, pending completion of renovations of that current village building, also funded by the government. So we are halting all renovations on the dispensary building until they move across the road. We will then assess the situation and determine whether our help is still needed or not. In the meantime, we will continue to purchase some much-needed medications to ensure the clinic and dispensary have an appropriate supply. This has been quite a case of TIA – This is Africa!