First, thank you to everyone who took the time to follow the link in the last post and vote for KIWAKKUKI. We are getting closer to the top ten! $8300 would provide school fees for 83 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS this year. After all that I have seen here in Tanzania, I am convinced that an opportunity to receive an education may be the only hope a child has of escaping a lifetime of poverty.
The end of January/beginning of Februrary is the start to a new school year here in Tanzania. In December all of the kids took end of year exams and yesterday every internet café in Moshi was filled with children looking up their exam scores. The town was filled with anxious faces. Those who pass their exams are eligible to go on to the next grade. Those who do not pass must repeat the entire grade or drop out of school. As you can imagine, yesterday was a very big day!
On Tuesday, Bree and I had the chance to go to Rombo, a small village nestled in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We traveled with 3 women from KIWAKKUKI and 3 volunteers from Norway. As I shared previously, I had spent some time working in Boma Ngombe the week before safari so I had some idea what to expect. For Bree, Lene, Camilla and Maggie, this was their first time into rural Tanzania. Our morning started out an hour later than expected – no surprise there. The first stop was to a small school. We were greeted by about 25 extremely shy children and we handed out balloons and blankets to every child. One boy in particular stood out to me. He was always smiling and, somehow, he managed to end up with three balloons – every other child only had one. As crazy as it may sound, I left with the feeling that that little boy has a bright future ahead of him. If he can find a way to acquire three balloons, without taking them from any other child, I know he will find a way to succeed in life.
We stopped at 2 other schools and 2 homesteads in Rombo. At one school, the children gathered together and sang a beautiful song for us. I can’t wait to post the video for you to hear! The sound is indescribable. Both of the schools host clubs sponsored by KIWAKKUKI that educate children about their sexual health rights. They also involve the children in sustainable development projects and teach them how to grow corn, raise animals and milk goats. Our day in Rombo is now known as the “goat tour.” The women at KIWAKKUKI were so proud of the goats they were able to give to the schools and the families we visited. Everywhere we saw a goat we were instructed to go into the goat pen and take a picture! At one point there were 10 of us crammed into a goat pen about 3 feet by 5 feet in size. Needless to say, the goat was not too thrilled to have a throng of unwanted visitors in his home!
One of the biggest struggles that I have had here in Tanzania is that it is hard to find a way to lead change or make a difference in such a small amount of time. Many of the volunteers I have met here struggle with the same issue. It often feels as though we are on a “goat tour” while we are here. Everyone wants to show us what they are doing, but no one is prepared to put us to work. Many volunteers are specialists in their field and their skills are seldom used. The only exception to this rule seems to be the medical placements. Our Tanzanian coordinators, Ally and Deo, spend a lot of time in the evening talking with us about how to better utilize new volunteers. It will not change overnight, but we are seeing small changes and I am hopeful about the future.
Today was my last day at KIWAKKUKI. Bree and I were able to write up and submit a grant proposal for a new children’s rights program this week. Mama Kishe could not believe we were able to complete the grant application in 3 short days. We couldn’t believe it had taken her 3 weeks to do what she had done! Ah, the difference between Tanzanian time and Mzungu time. All of the volunteers in the house joke, but some days it seems to equal the difference between the first and third world.
As you know, dinnertime is my favorite time in the house. Not really because of the food…it’s all starting to taste the same now. But the time we all spend around the table is always full of entertaining stories from the day. Tuesday night, after sharing about our goat tour, Sumaia blurted out “Oh my goat!” We all got a good laugh.
It is hard to believe I only have two “dinnatime’s” left here in Tanzania. Tonight we are having ugali, chapati (a flat bread), guacamole, potato wedges, and spaghetti. Quite the combination of foods! After dinner we are watching Michael Jackson videos together. We started the DVD last night, but lost electricity earlier in the evening and the laptop battery died right as the Thriller video was about to start. Fatouma and Sumaia were devastated! We’ve been waiting all day to finish the movie. It should be a great night.