Friday, March 24, 2006

Photo: A Gesture of Thanks

I am returning to Canada today but my journal notes are not complete. Perhaps a book is in my future to finish telling stories about the wonderful people in Tanzania.

I want to end, for now, with a photo of a little girl I met on the road on Wednesday when I was leaving Longido for the last time. Whenever I took a photo of a child, I checked the image in the viewfinder, gave the child a "thumbs up", then showed it to her. When this girl saw me coming she spontaneously gave me the "thumbs up" sign. Though her meaning was different than mine, I interpreted it to mean "a job well done" during my project visit. I was deeply touched.

Photo: Food for the People

This project visit has been about food as much as anything else. Here women in Kimokouwa are each being given a supply of beans we purchased and had delivered to the village. They express so much gratitude to TEMBO supporters in Canada.

Photo: About the Girls

These two girls represent hope for Tanzania. Educating girls mean families are better fed and smaller in size. It also ensures the incidence of HIV/AIDS goes down. Keeping girls in school also encourages boys to stay. The education of girls is central to Project TEMBO'S work.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Photo: Mzungu Maasai

Yesterday before leaving Longido I was officially designated an important woman in the Maasai community when I received this adornment. I told the women they had, indeed, made me feel important. I am priviledged to have many families.

Photo: Heavy Burdens

Images of women keeping this country going are everywhere. I saw these women returning to their bomas in Kimokouwa. A split second earlier, two very young girls split off, going to their bomas. Roles are set at an early age.

Photo: An Egg Can Change a Life

As I depart, the Longido Women's Chicken group are negotiating an agreement with Cafe LaMama to provide her with 10 dozen eggs a week. The first of many, I hope. To begin with, it will not amount to a great deal but it is filled with possibilities for the women. Their confidence increases by the day. The egg seen here is one of "our" eggs that I had for breakfast at Cafe La Mama's this week.

Photo: About Water and Women

Much of this project visit has been about water and about women. They meet in this photo about everyday realities in Tanzania: women do most of the work, and there is not enough water. Here, the girls from Longido Primary return from the community tap with water for the evening, after finishing class for the day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Visiting Village Schools

I heard Baraka come calling outside of Pam’s window at 6:00 a.m. and rolled over knowing I had another three hours until breakfast. After working on my laptop, which had re-charged the night before when the generator was on, Bev and I walked to Café La Mama’s for breakfast. Though we teased Pam a good deal, we thoroughly enjoyed the delicious stack of chapattis she placed on the table before us when we walked through the door. Her early morning cooking lesson with Mama Francis had been a great success.

Our first stop of the day was a visit to Longido Primary School. Rose, the school principal for 17 years, warmly greeted us and was anxious to show us around. She introduced us to the class of Form Seven students. These were the young people who would be graduating in 2006 and, just as for students their age everywhere, they wondered what the future might hold for them. It was easiest for Rose to use Swahili to tell the students about Project TEMBO and when she was finished we introduced ourselves.

I talked to the students about the importance of having a dream and then asked if anyone had a dream of what they would like to be when they finished primary school. Hands went up one at a time: a doctor, a teacher, a pilot, a pastor. The students were inspired by adults who were making a difference in their small community. I told them Project TEMBO would help them realize their dreams by helping as many girls as possible to go to secondary school. Then, in response to a question by a boy, I explained why we focus on girls: They are greatly outnumbered by boys in secondary school; and they often leave school by Form Four to help at home by caring for younger children, or by walking great distances to find water or firewood. I did not mention another reality among the Maasai: If girls do not go to secondary school they are immediately given to older men in traditional marriages. I assured the boys that LOOCIP (Longido Community Integrated Program, directed by Steven Kiruswa) would do its best to find sponsors for them. Finally, I asked how many students wanted to attend secondary school. Almost every hand in the room shot up as hopeful eyes stared back at me. Our work for the coming year was clearly cut out for us.

Next, we followed Rose into crowded dormitories where nearly all of the 898 students at the school boarded, two to a bed in bunk beds, some with mosquito nets, some not. Small “suitcases” were neatly stacked on the floor in each room. The setting was similar to other schools Marian and I have visited in Tanzania. Outside, changes of clothes washed by each child were laid across acacia bushes to dry in the sun. Rose pointed to a building where the children ate, explaining that the school had been one day away from closing due to lack of water during the recent drought.

Rose accompanied us on the 15 minute walk to Longido Secondary School. She wanted to introduce us to the five new girls from her school that Project TEMBO was sponsoring. Along the way, we met Magdalena, the sixth girl, on her way to Ketembeine with her social worker, to a newly built secondary school about 65 kilometers away. Magdalena was a street girl Rose had ‘parented’ and raised for the last seven years. Now Pam agreed to assume her financial sponsorship for, at least, the next four years.

At Longido Secondary, Bev met Neema, the young girl she wanted sponsor. Neema, an orphan, was pleased to know that Bev would sponsor her for her entire stay at secondary school. I promised the other girls sponsors in Canada would do the same for them. Agreeing to return to pay tuition and school fees in a week, we said goodbye to Rose, clearly grateful for our involvement with her students. I was aware that it was now mid-afternoon and we still had one more school to visit in Kimokouwa, about 15 kilometers away. I suggested that we call Mama Francis to see if she would drive us, rather than wait for who knew how long for the dala dala. Mama agreed to 10,000 shillings and dropped us at the school entrance about 45 minutes later.

Kimokouwa Primary School is materially very poor. The classrooms are overcrowded, dusty, and the once-painted walls indicate there is no money for anything other than work books and pencils. Everyone here is from the surrounding Maasai bomas. The village center is a cement u-shaped building with a room for the village council; a larger one for council meetings that doubles for many other things; and a couple of store rooms. Longido, with its dukas (small shops that sell everything from rice to soap to razor blades) and ‘bars’ and a few places like Café LaMama’s looks bustling by comparison. There is absolutely no outside stimulation anywhere and this is something Meikas (shown in the photo above), the principal from nearby Namanga, wants to change.

I brought along some money for a class trip to a national park Meikas spoke of during last year’s visit. Project TEMBO collected some of this from donors and Marian donated the rest. Meikas identified other priorities now. The drought had left many children hungry. Some could help here. But Meikas also spoke of purchasing a generator and small television so he could show the students videos about HIV/AIDS and other social issues, or programs about Tanzania and even images of their new president. I said he was free to use the money for the school, as he wished.

We visited two classrooms and were impressed by the level of discipline and respect we witnessed in the students, as we had been in the Longido schools. When Meikas came to the school four years ago, only two or three students a year were passing the national exams that qualify them for secondary school. This year there were eighteen and next year his goal is higher.

Kimokouwa Primary is the school Kokoyai Paulo attended when Marian and I first visited her in 1998 when she was ten years old. When she finished Form 7, Kokoyai did not have the marks or ability to continue in school. By the time she was 15 she was pregnant and given in marriage to an older villager. Project TEMBO grew out of this experience. Kimokouwa Primary School will always have a special place in our hearts. By working with Meikas, we hope to help him in his work to educate growing numbers of young students who are realizing that educational sponsorships help make dreams come true.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Getting Caught Up - March 7-9

The bead makers are busy beading up a storm. And it is a good thing, since both bandas will exceed their budget. They will make up the difference by creating more jewelry for Project TEMBO to sell in Canada. Yesterday, when we came into Arusha, Baraka and I visited the bead man in the market to purchase more supplies for the women. They especially needed more white beads and more wire.

After I had checked into the New Safari Hotel, where I will stay for three nights because there is no room at the Lutheran Center, we went over the supplies needed for the Kimokouwa banda. Since it will be a different shape, I wanted to be sure it would be “close” to the budget we set. By using the list of expenses for the Longido banda and making a few adjustments – and many additions the new fundi had left out – I calculated we could manage the additional cost. I bought more Tanzania shillings at the bureau de change and Baraka took the money with him when he returned so the fundi could get started with the work.

In Arusha, I met up with Pam Mountenay Cain and Bev Bennett-Arnold, two “retired” teachers from Ottawa who have come to Tanzania for possible work as consultants. They hope to lend their expertise to the building of a new private teachers’ college near Dar es Saalam. They are also interested in seeing the work Project TEMBO is doing and I am thrilled to be able to take them to our project area. Everything about life is different in rural areas, including education. To fully appreciate the difference, it is important to see other settings, so our first stop is a visit to St. Constantine’s, a private international school in Arusha.

St. Constantine’s sits on a sprawling 35 acres of land and is a collection of classrooms, computer and science labs, dormitories, housing for teachers, a cafeteria, kitchen, offices, library, an auditorium, two swimming pools, sports fields and a basketball court in the making. It is rich in resources and stimulation, and has a very low class sizes of around 20 students. It has many things a school in Canada would have. When the power cuts out a large generator kicks in. A continuous supply of water is supplied through a pump house. Students attending St. Constantine’s are often children of foreign diplomats, personnel at the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal, or successful business people. Mama Janet, the headmistress, escorted us on a thorough visit of the premises.

The next morning we met Steven in Arusha. He had come to town to buy books for the new community library in Longido. To ensure he had suitable books, Steven had consulted staff at Longido Primary and Longido Secondary School, as well as other community members who made useful suggestions. Many of the books on his list had to be ordered so Steven opted to purchase books on Tanzania animals, vegetation, birds, nature and geography. These books would be appropriate for many primary school graduates and students who had attended secondary school or above. Later he will add books in the Maasai language and in Swahili for people with little or no formal education, as well as books for adult literacy and vocational training. We left Kase Bookstore on Boma Road with a full box for the library.

We picked up some ‘take away’ food at the Bamboo Café next door to eat on our way to Naasha Teachers’ College in Arusha where we had arranged to visit three of the students Project TEMBO is sponsoring. Steven had made arrangements for the students to attend Naasha after they were unable to get into other institutions. We found this Montessori Teacher Training Center tucked away behind a solid iron gate on a small crowded unpaved mud road. The head teacher told us a new building was under construction nearby as he showed us through the two tiny rooms crowded with desks where the students sat shoulder to shoulder for classes. In this extremely run-down, resource-poor setting, students come each day eager to learn so they will one day be able to find employment.

We met Luca and Elizabeth and were told Consolata, who has frequent epileptic episodes, was absent. Luca needed money for accommodation since previous arrangements had fallen through. Elizabeth needed money for a passport photo and for a school field trip to a national park. Both Luca and Elizabeth were positive about learning and grateful for their sponsorships. As we left, our amazement at how teachers could teach and students learn in such a setting stood in stark contrast to the broad smiles on the students’ faces.

We made the one and a half hour drive on the Arusha-Nairobi Road in the comfort of Steven’s African Wildlife Foundation vehicle and arrived in Longido in time to get settled into the guesthouse. Pam and Bev had opted to stay in Longido and experience rural community life rather than make the long commute each day. It was not the Holiday Inn, but everything in Tanzania is relative. Steven called Mama Francis to arrange for something extra special to be prepared for supper and after enjoying a stew of bananas, potatoes, and meat, along with beans, rice, a green vegetable, and some fresh fruit we were ready to settle into our private rooms for the night.

Before leaving Café La Mama’s, Pam had arranged to help Mama cook breakfast the next morning. Arrival time – 6:30 a.m. Baraka agreed to set his clock a little earlier so he could accompany Pam for the 10 minute walk down the hill. Bev and I would enjoy the sleep-in.

Safari Photo #7

If you stay at the Tarangire Safari Lodge you will unzip your tent to this stunning sight early in the morning. It is everything you imagine an African morning to be.

Safari Photo #6

The tembos. There were hundreds of them in Tarangire National Park, none cuter than this little one. Everything is lush and green, now that the long rains have thankfully begun.

Safari Photo #5

March is just after the birthing season. We were delighted by the sight of babies like this - also wildebeest, baboons, warthogs, antelopes, and my the next photo...

Safari Photo #4

In the awesome Ngorongoro Crater, lazy lions parked themselves right alongside our vehicle, ensuring that we could not move. We enjoyed watching five of them stretch and sleep, occasionally wandering over to get a drink from an indentation filled with recent rainwater.

Safari Photo #3

Tarangire National Park is a favourite place of mine. There is a variety of landscapes, and diverse vegetation. And especially, lots of elephants. Here we are at a picnic site having lunch as storm clouds are settling over parts of the park.

Safari Photo #2

Baboon troops were everywhere we went, including right outside our door at the Lake Manyara Hotel. This one is looking a little pensive, a departure from the usual mischievous, playful behaviour.

Safari Photo #1

Pam Mountaney-Cain and Bev Bennett-Arnold from Ottawa joined me for a few days on safari to some of the magnificient national parks in Tanzania. We met this fellow with a few of his friends - enjoying lunch near the roadside in Lake Manyara National Park.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Strategy For the Chicken Group

This morning after breakfast Baraka and I went to the road to catch the dala dala to Kimokouwa. We were taking the fundi along so he could look at the site the village chairman, “the honourable councilor”, had chosen for the women’s banda. I intentionally stood talking to people for as long as I could until the driver began honking the horn for everyone to get in. It’s really pointless to try to figure some things out here. You’d think the vehicle would have taken off down the road, knowing more people would get in along the way. No, the driver continued up one side of the road and down the other, slowly, slowly, or pole pole, as they say here. Then he’d stop and lay on the horn alerting people as though this were the last call. I knew it wasn’t and so did everyone else, obviously. This went on for 45 minutes. There is not a thing you can do about it. There may not be another vehicle for a few hours and it is 15 kilometers to Kimokouwa. The same thing happened yesterday on our way to and from the market in Oldonyosambu. So much time is spent getting to and from your destination. Frustrating, to put it mildly.

We were dropped off right at the site. The ground looked so different than last week when it was beyond bone dry. Now it was quite damp with green shoots on what had been dead-looking branches, and there was a green hue all over the ground. We walked to the designated area and Baraka drew the design in the earth. This banda will be different than the one in Longido. Rather than being rectangular this one will be circular, just like a Maasai boma. It will still be made of an “iron” (tin) roof supported by iron rods with a half wall of bricks and cement. We discussed a diameter then went about marking off the area that would have to be cleared. By now we had been joined by some Maasai and a woman carefully piled stones where Baraka and the fundi had indicated boundaries with sticks. Before we finished, I reminded the fundi that he had a budget and must operate within it.

As another dala dala slowed on the road Baraka and I ran towards it. Our second task was to look at goats for the Kimokouwa women in Namanga, about 20 minutes away. On arriving we found out we were too late. The goat market operates in town from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. only. We would have to return early tomorrow. We purchased cold drinks and wandered around a bit, crossing over into Kenya on foot. A visa is not necessary if you are just visiting the local area on the other side. However, there are checkpoints just down the road where you will be required to produce valid documents. Namanga, Kenya is a very run down town compared to Namanga, Tanzania and I was happy to re-cross the border and board a dala dala back to Longido. Once in the village, I opted for an hour of quiet time in my room rather than lunch.

I arrived at Café La Mama’s in time for our 3:00 p.m. meeting with the women’s chicken group (pictured here), which officially began at 3:30 with nine out of ten women present. I provided sodas for everyone, which is customary when you call a meeting or, in our case, even when you attend one as a guest with the “honourable chairman” in Kimokouwa. I suggested we begin by doing an evaluation of their chicken project. My first question for the women was: How have Project TEMBO chickens made a difference in your lives since receiving them a year ago? One woman put it simply: My chickens lay seven eggs a day and I sell them for 200 shillings each (about 20 cents.) This means I have an extra 9000 shillings (about $9.00) a week. Everyone nodded in agreement. No one needed to explain to me the significance of this added income in the life of one family here in Tanzania. I explained to the women that Project TEMBO wanted to help their group so they could be even more successful and that their group would help “give birth” to another women’s chicken group. We could do this in two steps. The first would be to have them choose someone from their group to attend Dr. Steven Kiruswa’s course on Small Business Development one Saturday a month for the next six months. I explained what some of the topics would be and that in the end they would write a business plan. If their plan was accepted, they would be eligible to borrow up to $1000.00 for their project from LOOCIP, the local NGO Steven works through.

Secondly, TEMBO would provide some further money to them so they could increase the number of their chickens. Spontaneous applause all around. If they were going to have more chickens they would need to increase the size of their chicken bomas, some of which are greatly in need of repair. I suggested we could build a high quality, large chicken coop that they could operate together. They weren’t ready for this yet since, they said, everyone did not care for their chickens in the same way. They would rather have their own money to enlarge or improve their existing bomas. Okay, we would do as they requested. As well, I gave them the option of each receiving two new chickens or another 50 kilogram bag of feed. As I had hoped, they chose the feed so their chickens would be healthier and end up producing more in the long run. Everyone was thrilled with the new support they would receive and wanted me to relay a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Project TEMBO donors in Canada. I recalled a year ago, when Marian and I first met with some of these women, that a few of them were crushing stone by hand to provide the very basics for their families. Life was definitely better for them now, thanks to a few chickens, some eggs, and many generous supporters.

I had an early supper of rice and beans before I headed back up the road to the ADP. I wanted to do some work and I was also detecting a pattern to the long rains that had now settled upon us. It seemed to me they began around 8:00 p.m. I had guessed correctly as rain drops began dancing on the metal roof, right on time. They were accompanied by high winds that forced me to shut the windows in my room. A few minutes later there was knocking at the main door of the guesthouse. When I opened it, Elizabeth, a young woman we had met on previous trips, was standing there. I could see she was pre-occupied. Elizabeth was carrying bad news. Two of her cousins in Kimokouwa, young boys aged six and seven, had been killed in the storm the day before. Maasai boys this age are responsible for the cattle during the day. They had left the herd to play in a steep ravine. Suddenly there was a surge of water created by the heavy rains and the boys were swept away. Their bodies had been discovered a few hours earlier. We talked for a few minutes and I expressed my great sadness at this tragedy then settled her into another room for the night.

After reading for awhile, I fell asleep to the sound of a steady downpour that I knew would continue for most of the night. Long awaited rains, carrying the promise of new life with them for many, and indescribable pain for a few.

Finally, the Rains

I was not in Longido when the rains began last week. First on Tuesday, then again on Wednesday. Two good downpours. But I was here last night for a whale of a storm. We had gone to eat at Café La Mama’s around 7:30, as usual, and just as we were ready to leave, the lightening began followed by a heavy downpour. I went outside and stood watching from the safety of Mama’s large verandah. It was teeming. Soon I was joined by others from inside, and others running towards us from the darkness looking for cover. More lightening illuminating the pitch blackness like a fluorescent bulb sputtering on, followed by loud cracks of thunder. For over an hour I stood watching the raindrops create puddles and smelled the soaking earth as the rain pounded on the tin roof above. This storm was just not going to let up. Finally, Baraka announced that Mama, Mrs. Francis, was heading to Namanga to pick her husband up at the Tanzania/Kenya border and would drop us off at the ADP first. What a relief.

The storm continued throughout the night and in the morning I awakened to a very overcast sky and misty air, a new experience for me in Tanzania. I have never been here during a period of such heavy and prolonged rainfall. My fire was not lit and Youster was no where to be seen. She had gone into Arusha and might not have made it back last night, I reasoned. No problem, I have used bottled water to wash with before.

I met with the fundi to go over the progress of the Longido banda and have a look at our expenses to date. The iron posts are in and the roof is almost complete (pictured here). The fundi ran out of “iron” – they are really tin - sheets and will pick more up today. The estimate had also not allowed for new tables inside to display the jewelry. The fundi said using the old stands would be like washing only the outside of a cup. I agreed and suggested we take a walk to someone in the village who sold wood. The pieces were various sizes and quite rough and jagged but the fundi said he could fashion table tops from them. We ordered what we needed then took a walk to the banda site.

I first greeted the women and then asked if anyone had TEMBO jewelry I could look at. I was presented with a colourful display of the women’s handiwork – sets of multi-coloured earrings, many with matching bracelets and anklets. Like the Kimokouwa women, they were running out of the lobster claw closures I had brought from home and asked for more. Also more wire and invisible plastic strands they use for bracelets. I said friends from Canada would bring more and I would get it to them by next week.

Some of the women were sitting under the roof of the new banda and others were making jewelry in the shade of the old wood and skin covered banda ‘tables’. The main roof had been removed a few days earlier. The fundi explained that he could use the posts from the original banda as table legs for the new jewelry stands. I agreed recycling was a good idea. We explained to the women that the fundi was ready to begin the brick wall on Monday and would need their help getting water for the cement. They agreed to assist him by bringing as many buckets of water as he needed for the job. There is a large cement cistern on the site to catch rain water and they would add their buckets to this.

Today Baraka and I went to a weekly market in Oldonyosambu, about 45 minutes away, in the hopes of purchasing new goats for the Kimokouwa women’s group. The women wanted mainly females, and not too old. There were many goats on display. Baraka examined some and we were told others had already been sold. We were out of luck and wouldn’t be bringing any home with us. We did, however meet a man from another village close to the Kenya border who reminded Baraka of a goat sale that goes on all week. He said the goats were a good quality since they had been cross-bred with goats from Kenya. They would be good milk producers and healthy females for breeding. He agreed to take us to the village in his truck on Monday.

We wandered around the market area, weaving in between hundreds of Maasai children and adults who had come for this weekly highlight. Maasai blankets, sandals made from discarded automobile tires, cooking pans, medicine for cows, oil, sugar, salt, maize, beads, new kangas, used clothing, fruit and vegetables, tethered donkeys, deep fried sweet dough and samosas. Everything was here in a one-stop shopping area. Women left carrying full sacks or coloured plastic buckets of supplies on their heads. People loaded boxes into waiting dala dalas.

On the journey to and from the market I could see that the entire area had finally begun receiving rains. The earth looked soaked and some parts of the road were even flooded. I asked Baraka if Longido was now experiencing the yearly ‘long rains’ even though they were a month early. He replied, yes. The area is like a hot house. Only a few days after the rains began the earth is already greening. What a beautiful sight! Shoots are coming out of what has been such desolate sand. Nature’s regeneration in the bleakest of conditions is an amazing thing.

But nature’s blessing has not been enjoyed by all creatures. The chairman from Kimokouwa village, who joined us for breakfast earlier, reported that 24 head of cattle died in the storm last night. They were simply too weak from the drought to withstand the driving rain without shelter. The tragedy continues for many families.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Photo: Meeting Stella Again

I first met Stella a year ago at St. Francis School, a primary school run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro which I also made a return visit to this week. Among the 120 students are many hearing impaired and blind children. Stella, herself a deaf woman, was working at the school doing laundry, helping out with cooking, ironing, and cleaning. Stella was also illiterate. I, along with Doris Moore, another Canadian woman working at the school, decided to co-sponsor Stella for vocational studies in sewing.

Here at Imani, which means "hope" Stella is learning to read and write. She proudly showed me her note book for studies in sewing. Stella is making great strides and is happy and confident in her new setting. After observing me taking pictures, Stella took my camera and turned it on me, taking a perfectly centered photograph.

Photo: Visiting Imani Vocational School

Imani Vocational School is another project founded by the Sisters of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro. Sister Placida, pictured above, has vision, courage, and boundless energy. She is introducing me to one of the girls who is learning to do crocheting. The young girl cannot walk because her legs were broken twice as a child and never re-set. A surgeon will be visiting the school in June and he will meet this girl.

The school was founded in 2003 and teaches tailoring, carpentry, construction, computer skills, english, brick making and other courses to abled and disabled young people. On the back of the property they have an area where they also raise a few dozen pigs for food and profit. Gardens lay barren because of the drought.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Photo: Riding Up the Slopes of Kili

One of the projects I visited this week was in a small village on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here, friends with CACHA, the Canada-Africa Community Health Alliance, were providing a free medical clinic to villagers and people from the surrounding area. The morning they were here in Macumbe they arrived to find 1000 people waiting for treatment of one kind or another. The people had begun forming a line at 2:00 a.m.

To get to the village, Baraka and I took three dala dalas and then this truck that was carrying supplies to the village. We climbed on top of bags filled with ripe bananas that would be used to make banana wine. We were two of about 15 people hanging on to the cross bars as we navigated rocks and huge pot holes on this "no road" up the base of Kili. There were some moments when I closed my eyes. It was better that way.