Kilema 2011: And Then What Happened

Most of you will know that I am writing this from Victoria, home now for two weeks but still reflecting on our final busy week and hoping to remember what was an eventful, satisfying, moving and often funny experience in blog form. A bit of a hole in the visual record exists now after a stealthy hand got my camera at the Moshi bus station two days before leaving Tanzania, so we need to remember in words.

Wonderful days are ones spent in the village, where we hike along footpaths and visit the homes of sponsored children. It is a privilege. This trip we organized three days of home visits which are the only way to get to know the caregivers of the orphans, to see and assess the level of poverty and determine if the sponsorship continues to be well founded. We visited four orphan families in Mandaka, three in Sembeti to the to east and four in Ruwa where KSF funded students study at Rukima and Ifati schools. Six of us including two Canadian medical students from Ottawa, Naill and Bojana, taxied up to Ifati and Rukima and pulled out the box of counter notebooks to be divided among the students, 4 each. After providing bank receipts for the students funded this year we set off on foot through a maze of red paths that link individual shambas, meeting and greeting people along the way and accompanied by one of the Ifati teachers who spoke English well and was in every way charming. The first house was a cement structure owned by the grandfather of Ifati student Augustina  and is where Augustina and her mother live. Father had died and the mother makes money by subsistence, selling corn and mangoes and working as a day labourer on other shambas. The mother looked well though was desperately shy to have such a large group of wzungu( white people)in the house. But everyone knows it is part of the job of sponsoring; to evaluate the caregivers and homes, economic means, presence of cows or goats, size of land plots and whether other relatives may be present and contributing to household income. Like single mothers everywhere she has significant challenges.
We carried on farther downhill to Stella’s shamba, with house made of wood slats, pole and mud. Her mother has been ill with a cough for one year and was distinctly weak. Naill, the med student along with us remarked that of his list of differential diagnosis none were good. This mother, unable to work, survived off the charity of others and I felt grateful we’ve sponsored her daughter Stella who speaks excellent English and has described some very specific academic goals. She wants to be a university science professor. It was a reassurance that all these girls progressed so well at often disadvantaged government schools. All of them were forthright and spoke quite wonderful English. Both remaining students had family members trying to make a living on now very small shambas, divided through the generations until no sizable plot remained to sustain a family. Our guide, Godina, had the quote of the day. ” The only shamba left for our children is an education”.

An afternoon of walking around rural communities is physically taxing and a good reminder that local people are tough. We never saw anyone eating or drinking en route even as we sipped at our water and divided up the mandazi buns. Most seem to hold on to their need or discomfort quietly until they get the opportunity to relieve it. The students had even been courteously carrying our bags so after the final home visit we climb out of the last ravine and tucked into a local bar up on the main road for sodas all around. By 4 pm and refreshed by a Coke we needed to head home and so started walking, our student escorts at the ready. We planned to hitch for 15 minutes then call a taxi if we needed to. Before long a water project truck, full of wzungus, pulled up in a cloud of red dust…. but didn’t stop, to our surprise. Next came a diocese pickup also trailing a red cloud which pulled to a stop well beyond us, the driver ambivalent and more eager to greet local friends with a calabash of mbege on offer. Rushing our goodbyes, we hurled ourselves into the back and it was Lockie first who said, “There are pigs in here!” Well, for a boy this was a heavenly discovery. Even the rest of us, glowing with contentment at a productive day, felt quite warm toward a dozen baby piglets, experienced as we were with a few weeks of quirky living. Somehow at Kilema everything seems to work out fine in the end.

In the final week we welcomed a second group of visitors to Kilema Hospital, two high school principals Jeff and Steve (who I know well from previous visits starting in 2008) and 16 grade eleven /twelve students. All brought with them enthusiasm for a rich experience in East Africa but also a viral plague from Canada. Within a night the visitor center was strewn with unwell teenagers, bag lined boxes next to the head of each. By 2AM Sunday was at my door, “Mama, they need you at the visitor centre. They all sick”. One student wanted to return home. Others were anxious, being so far from home. The following day more students and Jeff failed to show for breakfast and the group and the day’s program divided in two, one for the sick and one for the well. Audrey generously played nurse, counselor and den mother to the afflicted. I confess we cringed (but were very empathic) when one girl complained about her mattress- the one we had quietly switched from Cacha house that was so awful! The following night Sunday called me again to go to the visitors centre for another complaint and I was met by both brave and grim faces and gallows humour among the chaperons. By now I know the group recovered, enjoying an albeit shorter program of school visits, teaching experiences, infrastructure projects and having a team building experience that they’ll reflect on for years to come. I am reminded that there is a challenging adjustment to life in Tanzania even without illness to complicate things further. But it is still worth encouraging people to experience this part of the world and places like it. Hats off to Steve, Jeff, Carolyn and Anne. You survived!

On January 21st our KSF Tuition Project cash transfer arrived as part of a larger transfer to the Kilema OVC program and we relished getting on with the remaining leg work of bank deposits, which guarantee student acceptance at school. The school headmaster needs to see the deposit receipt from the school’s bank. At first the blocks of cash, the size of a small wedding cake, had us giddy, with the largest denomination equivalent to $10. The transfer for KSF Tuition Project was $12,800 shilling or $9000.00 Canadian, all from donations. Quickly though we got earnest and eager to pay out our tuitions and in a sense off load some cash as quickly as possible. This would be the banking day for many students Sunday and Irene oversee through the Kilema OVC and for our KSF tuition Project students, about 65 students in total though some are still waiting for results. At CRDB bank we hastily deposited the following in Tanzanian shilling: Can$1=$1,465TSH

Elinora  – $ 786,000 for Olaleni Secondary school
Jenifer – $500,000 for Mandaka Vocational
Henry – $ 295,000 for Kilimanjaro Driving School /$ 500,000 for Mandaka Vocational
Victoria – $110,000 for Resesa Secondary School
Elizabeth – $147,000 for Resesa Secondary School
Elidaima -$147,000 for Resesa Secondary school
Lucina – $196,000 for Ngaruma Vocational School
Neema – $196 for Ngaruma Vocational school
Maximilian – $800,000 for Uomboni Seconday school
Zenais – $660, 000 for Hai Vocational School

With Sister Clarissa, our ride, held up at Kilema Hospital we split up the bundles of cash, even Audrey muling an envelope-wrapped block, and caught a cramped dalla dalla to Moshi, heading directly for NBC Bank branch on the clock tower corner.

Frank-$313,500 for Lombeta Secondary school
Joseph – $313,500 for Lombeta Secondary school
Happy -$313,500 Lombeta Secondary school
Deo – $610,000 Lombeta Secondary school
Happyness-$ 300,000 Lombeta Secondary school
Beatrice – $ 330,000 Lombeta Secondary school

Completing these Sunday, Irene and I hustled through busy markets to the Nelson Mandela Bank and sat on the floor with our deposit slips, counting out funds amidst throngs of people there for the same reason. School fees. I was happy to see the bank open since the previous week I had seen water pouring out across the marble, under the front glass doors, down the steps and into the open sewer. We passed through the” bulk cash” door at the rear of the bank into a small cubicle where I’ve seen police and army chiefs enter under armed guard before. Here we began the remaining multiple deposits while a very patient teller saw closing time pass her by.

Flora  -$110,000 Mrereni Secondary school
Ambrose – $320,000 Msinga Vocational school
Glory -$400,000 Narumu Secondary school
Samuel -$171,000 Kisaluni Secondary school
Doreen  $138,000 Ifati Secondary school
Jackline  $138,000 Ifati
Violeth  -$138,000 Ifati
Christopher  -$138,000 Ifati
Elizabeth -$138,000 Ifati
Stella – $138,000 Ifati
Erica -$104,000 Ifati
Gasto – $138,000 Ifati
epiphania -$105,000 Rukima Secondary School
Idda – $ 105,000 Rukima
Augustina -$105,000 Rukima
Glory -$105,000 Rukima
Andrea -$105,000 Rukima
Eric -$100,000 Pakula Secondary school

Further students were paid directly at the school during a village visit in Sembeti a few days later on a wonderful village visit with Rose Minja, originally from Zambia who works at that village OVC program.
Ester  $53,000 Kirefure Primary school
Goodluck  $53,000 Kirefure Primary school
Germin  $53,000 Kirefure Primary school
Emanuel  $53,000 Kirefure Primary school
Glory -$53,000 Sembeti Primary
Selina -$50,000 Mengeni Primary
Daniel  -$50,000 Mengeni Primary

Student Franki  received funding in December 2010( 570,000) for entrance into a teaching college and on the second to last day I bolted to Arusha on a local bus then taxi to the Bishop Durning teacher college in Samawary. Franki had been frantically texting about my whereabouts and arrival time and I worried the same fate would befall him as Maximillian. But the headmaster reported Franki was adhering to the abundant school rules and that no “bad influences would be tempted to the school” due to elicit cell phone calls. Franki, a double orphan with a remaining uncle in Mbeya, looked fit and enthusiastic and expects to be a primary school teacher within two years. He was thrilled and wished me to send his thanks to everyone as do so many of the students.

The remaining 23 students are awaiting form 4 results which will not be out until the end of February. Sunday and Irene will be following up with their progress and if they have passed and are able to proceed to Form 5 ( grade 12) we will fund them. The question is what to do if they fail to pass. The larger Kilema OVC program cannot continue to fund these students and as a part of that program KSF students should be bound by the same rule. We will wait and see and at the very least hope to offer students driving lessons or a short vocational program for specific skills. For a summary of preliminary funding for 2011 in Excel form, receipts, or funding summaries for previous years please contact Cacha or me at [email protected].

We’ll miss many things about Kilema. Returning to Cacha house from dinner in the final week I commented that the stars are especially bright when the power goes out and within minutes Audrey and me, all the hospital wards and outbuildings were plunged into complete blackness. Enough moonless obscurity to cause Audrey and I to cling and shriek. Even after our eyes adjusted we couldn’t see to navigate the path and holding on to each other we inched ahead, our feet like tentacles feeling for the grass at the path edge. “Where’s your new cell phone,” asked Audrey, “with the built in flash light!?” Lockie had been playing ‘snakes’ during dinner and still had it. Immediately the wind gusted and rainfall started along with our own laughter and both increased in volume as we looked for the faintest of visual clues in the blackness. Nearing home the CIDA interns sitting on our porch lit our way with their own cell phones and as the rain cleared we stood out under the stars and marveled at various constellations and the brilliant Milky Way trail of lights across the sky. The candles and kerosene lamps were glowing on the wards by then and we hoped they’d delay starting the generator. Stargazing during the blackout was how we spent our final evening at Kilema, in fact. Lockie pulled two chairs out from under the porch and insisted we sit under the night sky and try impossibly to commit it to memory.

I certainly miss our traveling family, Audrey and Claire Takoski and for a week Priya Machado and Rob our film makers from Amsterdam and of course Lockie. All were resilient, enthusiastic, flexible, helpful and very funny and I thank them for all they put into this experience. We would have had no purpose in going if not for all the donations this year from a wide community near and far which provided the above children with membership in school, something we take for granted in Canada. Enormous thanks to every contributor! There were many.

Here’s the link to photos from our 2011 adventure!

and finally ……we ate the rooster in the end.

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