Mothers and Daughters to Kilema

Looking out onto a snow white B.C. landscape makes it even more unbelievable that we will soon be on the rutted roads and dusty red footpaths of Tanzania within a few days. Fields there will be transitioning from dry season browns to rich auburn reds, fresh turned soil soon ready for planting. At this time of year with the start of the short rains all the local farmers and school children will be balancing hoes or ‘jembe’ on their heads or on the back of bicycles, at the ready for tilling and tuned to ancient agricultural cycles. Most school children learn to farm, as well, as a part of their daily school lessons. We will be seeing it all and more in the next few days.

Our own preparations and planning have miraculously come together (and it seems the moons as well) to allow Fiona Manning, her 11 yr old daughter Hailey, Rita Parikh and her daughter, Anjali and Eva and me to arrive within hours of each other at Kilimanjaro International for a much awaited reunion in Tanzania. Most of our time will be spent at Kilema Hospital, cradled on the lower third of Kilimanjaro between a series of deep ravines. It’s a simple and beautiful setting where I hope Rita and Fiona and the girls will enjoy meeting the welcoming cast of characters we spent our last year with; tender hearted Dr. Anna Nyaki, hardworking Mama Kessy( HIV nurse), Sister Mary Krista, full to bursting with laughter and Dr. Mushi , the philosopher king and excellent hospital intelligence source.

Our January visit coincides with the start of the new school year where the fervor to obtain school supplies, uniforms and enrollment for another year is intense. Last year, on behalf of many generous Canadians who sent us to Tanzania with twelve thousand dollars, Chris and I funded some 60 orphan and /or vulnerable children from villages around Kilema Hospital to go to secondary school, supplied with uniforms and books. These children would otherwise have had their schooling interrupted and gone to work in the surrounding fields, or in the local markets to earn money for themselves and their families, languishing on the outside of the structured school experience that other more fortunate children enjoy. While Tanzania has been recognized by the UN for its efforts to improve literacy by building schools and making primary education free, there are many extra costs including uniforms, school supplies and at the secondary level there is no access without tuition which ranges from about Can$90- 250. A secondary education, though for the very fortunate, is a universal symbol of hope and progress in a country which is 159th out of 188 on the Human Development Index and where 90% of the population lives on $2 per day.

In these last months the interest and enthusiasm of friends and donors has given us such a feeling of hope; that we can do something again for these children for another year. Thank you to all the friends and donors who have helped us match last year contributions and more. Many of those donors were children themselves like Evelyn, Amadea and Chloe, Solana and Claire following the example of Sage, Thea and Britta last year. Fund raising and contributions have totaled $13,000 and that directed through Cacha –Canadian African Community Health Alliance, will be wired ahead and waiting for us at Kilema to allocate. Can hardly wait to see excellent students like Stephen  who persistently sought support last year with such remarkable manners and excellent grades!

We also received bundles of goods on the doorstep; bundles of fleece blankets, exquisite party dresses, eye glasses and shoes and shirts purchased from Value Village. St Patrick’s School filled boxes with collared shirts, trousers and P.E. shirts. Thank you everyone who pulled these items together during an already hectic season so we could fill duffel bags destined for Tanzy. It is great to arrive laden especially with goods for the tight-budgeted Kilema orphan and vulnerable children (OVC) program which supports some 200 children.

Oak Bay Rotary recently directed two thousand dollars to fund sewing machines at the Kilema vocational school and a garden project at Kisaluni School, both a short walk from Kilema hospital and two sites which we will visit and follow up with on behalf of the local Rotary group and Dr. Perry Bamji. Thank you to them and to many Ontario Rotarians we will overlap within January who have been doing excellent work with school related construction/ projects in this region.

Time will be fleeting with many jobs to do and schools and villages to visit but what a team to work with; Fiona, Rita, Angali, Hailey and Eva. Thank you to everyone one who has helped us head over to Tanzania with full resources in hand. I wonder if that beautiful girl, Mt. Kilimanjaro, will have the snow covering I see outside my window now. It will be a thrill to see her again especially with dear friends and our daughters. Stay tuned to see how the gal’s adventure plays out!

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