18 February 2009
My arrival here was like a homecoming. Upon exiting the chilly, yet stuffy KLM plane, the smell of the warm and breezy Tanzanian air immediately touched my soul and the difficulties of the 24-hour trip melted away. It’s always funny first seeing the kids because most of them get awkwardly shy and take a little time to re-warm up to me. They warmed up just fine though and are all doing well! There hasn’t been much growth in the physical sense aside from several lost baby teeth and the entry of new permanent teeth. Sharifa is a little more sassy and outgoing. Anna is talking a bit more. Jackson is doing so well in school – at the top of his class. Roger, Emma, and Dericky think they are just such cool older boys. Haika (Mama Chapu’s baby who is 17 months old) is almost walking on her own and talks a lot. She says a lot of words and understands even more. She knows I am Kim and can say my name. She says “Shel” which means Michelle. One of the first improvements to Matumaini I noticed when I arrived was a pretty impressive music system put together by Roger. At the head of his top bunk, he has a little set up of a few radios, batteries, music tapes (I know it’s tough to remember what these are like!), and several wires. He propped up a big speaker in the corner of the room and somehow connected the correct wires from a radio to the speaker to make music play out of the big speaker! It’s amazing. He also taped to the ceiling a small light and has some wires connected to it and a battery so they have some light at night in addition to their kerosene lanterns. I’m beyond impressed with him.
Mrupanga Primary School
Several weeks ago, I visited Mrupanga Primary School, where most of the Matumaini children attend school. Michelle and I had decided that the best way to help them and relieve some of the burden on the parents would be to purchase the food needed to feed all 316 students lunch for the year. This way, we can ensure they are eating while also lowering the school fee required by the parents. One of the teachers, Mama Faraji, and I went one Saturday morning to check prices and find the best place to purchase the maize, beans, and large tins in which to store the food. We traveled to Kiboroloni market and wrote down some prices, then went into town to a shop I had never visited. There we were given much cheaper prices. So, we negotiated with the Mama there and decided to purchase all of our maize and beans from her. We had to wait for the actual purchase, however, until the money arrived in our Knock account. The following Wednesday, I went to the bank, withdrew about $3,000 worth of shillings, and went shopping for six months worth of food. I had enlisted Baba Chapu to help me find transportation for a reasonable price, so he met me at the bank, found us a big truck, and off we went to collect our food. The beans were loaded easily from the store, but we had to then travel to several different places to collect our 30 bags of maize. Baba Chapu tested the maize from every single bag to ensure that it had not sat for too long (you can tell by looking at a sample from the bag – if there are small holes in the kernels, you know there are insects in there and the maize has been sitting in the storeroom too long). The place where we collected the majority of the bags was actually a very neat little factory where they process several tons of maize into flour. It was very loud and there was maize dust flying everywhere. Last, we went to pick up 10 large tins, which would hold the food and guard it against insects. We delivered it all to school and there was tons of excitement from the kids. As the men were unloading the bags into the school’s storeroom, the kids kept asking me, “Who are those beans for? Who is that maize for?” and it felt so good to say, “It’s for you!” The head teacher and Mama Faraji stood looking at the stacks of bags and had tears in their eyes; I think it was a big relief for them to know their students would have enough to eat each day. We are also paying for the cook’s salary, oil, and salt. Those three aspects were previously included in the school fee, so now each child’s school fee has been reduced greatly. The kindergartners pay Tsh 6,000 instead of Tsh 10,000, Class 1 students pay Tsh 12,000 instead of Tsh 16,000, and the Class 2-7 students pay Tsh 10,500 instead of Tsh 14,500. We hope this will help the parents and encourage more of them to pay the school fee in total. The amount of money we spent seemed like a lot as a lump sum total, but when we calculated the amount per child, it came to $15 per child to eat lunch everyday for an entire school year. Unbelievable.
The following Monday, I sat in on the school’s committee meeting. They were very appreciative of our help and without my suggestion, asked if I/Michelle would be present at all of their committee meetings this year. Of course I agreed. We would love to be involved in the goings-on of the school. I had then called a parent meeting for Wednesday of that week so we could announce our donation and really so I could explain how important a partnership this must be between the donors and the parents. Our donation is not to encourage laziness to pay their fees or send their children to school; it is quite the opposite. I wanted to make it clear that we would not be paying anyone’s school fees. About 55 parents showed up, which is about one-third. Not bad for our first meeting. They were so happy to hear about the food donation, then happier to hear we were also paying for oil and salt, and cheered the loudest when the head teacher explained we were also paying the cook’s salary. There were lots of smiles and true African cheering. Then I spoke. It was a little nerve-racking because as comfortable as I am with my Swahili, I’ve never spoken in front of such a group before. But it went very well. I explained everything I wanted to explain and made it very clear that this is a partnership and not only work on the part of the donors. They seemed to understand and agree how important it is for them to pay their school fees. Then the head of the committee reiterated what I said so they could hear it again. I was happy about that. We also announced that we will be buying textbooks. In the majority of the classes, there are 7-10 students sharing one book during a lesson. It’s really unacceptable. They were ecstatic about that. We feel these are the best two contributions to this school that we can make at this time in order to make the best difference in the educational lives of the students.
Tanzania Home Ec
Last week, the Class 7 students were learning how to bake a cake in class. The three Matumaini boys in Class 7 really wanted me to come watch, so I couldn’t refuse! I was so amazed at how perfectly the cake came out without an oven! They used a charcoal stove, put a big pot on it and covered the bottom of the pot with sand. Then they had a smaller pot with the batter in it and put it in on top of the sand and covered it all. Once the cake started to rise and bubble, they put hot charcoals on the top of the cover and left it for a while and it cooked perfectly! It was incredible. Then the teacher taught them how to mix frosting and they decorated it. They definitely have a ways to go with their decorating skills but all in all, they did a great job.
Land for Matumaini
One of my biggest priorities upon arrival here has been to secure a piece of land on which to build a brand new Matumaini. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Mambo and I went to see the land that he really wants. It is about a 15-minute walk north (away from town) from the current location, which makes Michelle and I very happy; keeping the kids in the same general location is very important to us. It is about an acre in size and can sufficiently handle all we want to build there. The Mama who owns it is very eager to sell. The cost is Tsh 18,000,000 or about $14,000. It is a lot of money for us, especially given the state of the economy right now, but it is important that we take the step. So Mr. Mambo and I have been speaking back and forth with a lawyer to draw up all necessary contracts. The lawyer was thankfully aware of this piece of land and knew there were some disputes over it in the past that were handled in court. He instructed us of course not to purchase yet and to wait until he could get his hands on the most recent court rulings. We are still waiting for information from him on the last appeal he knows to have taken place. We are hoping there are no lingering issues so we can go ahead with our plans to purchase. To say I have not been extremely nervous about taking this huge step would be a lie, but it seems like a valuable risk and an important step in the building process. Some wonderful women who have volunteered to help us are writing grants in the US to cover the cost of the building itself and Mr. Mambo plans to write grants to the Tanzanian government here.
Shimbwe Dispensary and Clinic
I finally met with Philip yesterday, the man who coordinates our work in Shimbwe. I was disappointed to hear that the renovations on the dispensary have yet to be completed. According to him, the contractor doing the work ran away with the money and was never found (a very common occurrence here). He found another man to do the work, but apparently he didn’t work in November and December, so he is just starting now. The work at the clinic is complete however. My opinion is that Philip was feeding me some stories and finally got his act together once he knew I was back and would be checking in. But I’ll never know and I am just hoping the work gets done in a timely manner. I plan to visit next Friday, the 27th.
I have not been up to visit the project, but I have heard of two great success stories. The grandmother of Roger, Eriki, Dericky, and Jackson sold two very large pigs for about Tsh 470,000. With her profit, she purchased four more pigs and put the remainder of the money in a small village account. Another Mama sold two pigs for about the same amount and with her profits, purchased two pigs and with the remainder, started a small shop where she sells soda and other small things. She is now able to send her two children to school. Last year, we received a generous donation to fund food support for this project. One of the large TV stations here as well as a few newspapers got news of the project and filmed the day Mr. Mambo gave out the food to the project participants. He and the project were on television and in the newspaper. In addition, a radio station here several weeks ago, while announcing the good work for children that is being done in Moshi, talked about Matumaini. It’s nice to have a little bit of press!