Just a quick note to indicate that the team is grateful to be home safely! Special thanks to Jonathan Janzen who served as our proxy for the blog, due to internet challenges.
Our original plan was to leave for Mwanza from Shirati at 6 am Thursday, but Fred still had some receipts to get signed to fulfill CACHA and CRA project requirements, so we changed the departure time to 8AM. That allowed us to have a final breakfast of mandazi, chipata and pineapple at the dining hall instead of while driving. It was just as well, because rain started around 5 am, heavy at times but by 8, had slowed to a light drizzle.
Once loaded, and final goodbyes said at the Diocese, we made a final stop at 8:05 am at the Technical School to see what progress had been made. The electrician’s work was completed, just waiting for the 3 Phase meter to be registered, and the Shop Classrooms would be powered as originally designed. The plumbers had replaced all the defective drains to the septic tank, shower stands installed, the buried water line from the tank on the rock was in place, and they were actually doing final base prep to mount the tank and fill it with water. After a spirited goodbye from the boys (and girl) in the Welding/Mfg class, we set out for Mwanza, some 5 plus hours away.
Rainfall was sporadic, some places heavier, some places hardly at all. We pray that more will come, it has apparently been inordinately dry this year. Fred mentioned that on one of his recent trips from Mwanza to Shirati, he had seen over 100 elephants in the area where the Serengeti National Game Park abuts the main highway. His thought was that they were scavenging further into civilization because of the drought. We only saw wildebeests and zebras in this area. Only! Still pretty amazing to see them.
The trip was uneventful, except for about six speed traps along the route. Kaeecee, our driver, was slightly late to drop below 50 kmh at one, and promptly received a 30,000 TZS fine ($17 CDN). Fred’s comment was that it is the Tanzanian Police budget that is being augmented. The placement of several of the 50 KMH zones made little sense in terms of population or safety. We arrived safely at the Otieno’s home in Mwanza around 1 pm, and enjoyed a fantastic lunch of pizza and juice. It sure was great to taste pizza again!
After lunch, Leisha, the kids, and all of the team except Terry and Fred went to check out the beach. Mwanza is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, same as Shirati, but further south. Although cloudy and cooler because of the intermittent thunderstorms, it was still very comfortable for the Canadians and the children. Fred and Terry headed uptown to look for replacement parts for the Diocese’s older Toyota Hilux pick up truck and to a hardware store to get some new tools/spares for the Welding/Mfg. shop at the Tech School. Things like a set of quality drill bits, hacksaw blades, 4” grinding and cutting disks, a new small vise (It’s interesting how a pipe extension on a small vise handle can cause unwanted consequences!)and grinding wheels for the bench grinder. Pretty normal for a couple of guys to spend the afternoon hanging out at hardware and auto parts stores I would say.
After we all arrived back at the house, we had a supper provided by a catering owner friend of Leisha’s. Curried chicken, rice, meat filled chipatis, fresh garden salad, and pop was on the menu and enjoyed by everyone. After supper, some played games or read with the Otieno children, and others caught up with their devices, then heading to bed. Friday noon will be the beginning of approximately 25 straight hours of flights and layovers, starting in Mwanza, then Kilimanjaro, Addis Ababa, Dublin, and finally Toronto. The last leg from Addis Ababa (with a short refuelling in Dublin) to Toronto is listed as over 16 hours.
Our trip has been amazing. We have learned things about each other, ourselves, another country’s flora and fauna, and another culture. We have been kept safe, healthy, and been humbled by our hosts and hostesses’ friendliness, hospitality, and humble generosity. We will never be the same as we were before we arrived. Our thanks to all of you who have supported us with prayers, good thoughts, messages, meditations and following us on this blog. We could not have done this without you!
This will be our last post for Shirati 2017. Check with us as to when we will present our report at Shantz church sometime in the next 6-8 weeks.
The Shirati 2017 team:
Anson and Connie Ehgoetz, Zach McGrath, Katie Hamm, Jane Schultz-Janzen, and Terry Janzen
Terry started his day by running (walking fast?) to the school to check the progress of the plumbing Fundi. Progress was not as anticipated because the drain pipes on order needed to come from Mwanza (5 hrs away), but they did arrive later in the afternoon. Then Terry met the diocese team for devotions to thank them for their hospitality and to bless them as they move forward with new leadership. The rest of the team met for a yummy breakfast of mandazi and boiled eggs. Instead of installing the two water tank/eave trough combos for the two mud huts, we realized that there were a lot of loose ends that needed to be completed before we left on Thursday morning. Most of these involved Fred but the three men returned to the Technical school to assist the electrical Fundi to bury a high voltage conduit underground to connect power to the washrooms. The water tank combos will be installed by the plumber Fundi in the next week or so.
While they were doing that, the plumber Fundi and helpers arrived to install urinals, showers and one new sink as well as an underground water line from the tank situated on the rocks adjacent to the washrooms. This tank will be filled with water from Lake Victoria pumped by the Shirati Hospital Solar powered water pump. Gravity will bring the water to the washrooms.
Meanwhile, Connie and Katie delivered a large sack of rice and another of beans to the Leper Community at the hospital. After introductions and hearing more about their specific challenges we shared sodas, cookies and bananas as a way to celebrate God’s love and new connections. We were moved by their generous and sincere gratitude through prayer and song. Connie and Katie then met Terry, Anson and Zach at the Technical School to meet the students, and give them each a backpack with notebook and pens. Teachers also received a backpack and with supplies including chalk.
Anson was in heaven as we all thoroughly enjoyed our lunch of mashed potatoes, ground beef and cooked cabbage with pineapple for dessert. After lunch, Katie, Anson and Zach began packing for home. Connie returned to the hospital to visit Sarah(Palliative Care patient). Terry and Katie presented the diocese staff with a small parting gift and blessing for the future. Before supper Steven arrived with friends to take Connie, Katie, Anson and Zach on piki pikis (motorcycle taxis) to Mt. Oboke for a wonderful sunset view of Shirati and Lake Victoria. Terry visited with Challo (our ping pong pal) to view his market gardens about 10 km from Shirati, irrigated by pump with water from nearby Lake Victoria.
Terry was able to remove a number of items from his To-Do list today, including signing the new MOU, getting Fred to confirm bank approval for the new Shantz/CACHA account, pay some outstanding Diocese laundry and Room and Board bills, and have several individual heart to heart conversations with some of the new leaders in the Diocese, and another two trips to the Tech School to see the progress made by the workers.
Photos today include some of the other things of interest in Shirati. Playing a game similar to Duck, Duck, Goose with kids in the neighbourhood, David and Leunida, our cooks, Zach with a beautiful huge moth on his hand, and Jane on a mission with Steven and his Piki Piki to pick up some items from the Guesthouse
Our last day of service was over, with meaningful interactions and assistance again being the highlights. Tomorrow at 8 AM Shirati time, we leave for Mwanza with some time to re-energize and debrief with Fred and Leisha.
The day started with a breakfast of toast, peanut butter, jam, Nutella, maple syrup from Quebec (brought by us!), with sliced cucumbers as our fruit. Terry and Fred spent a chunk of the morning with the plumber (trying to get repairs done so that the Tech School washrooms work properly) and the electrician (to see why the 3 phase power is not working in the Tech School classrooms).
After some delay due to the extra time it took to deal with the Tech School problems, Katie, Zach, Anson, and Simeon the Guest House manager, went to the hut build to help with the work there. Connie stayed back to assist with the ambulance transfer to the hospital of Sarah, the first mud hut recipient, who is receiving palliative care. Once the transfer was completed, she spent the rest of her day visiting the Leper Ward and the Children’s Ward.
Fred and Terry stopped by Juma Hardware to order more materials for Tech School repairs, and then paid our huge bill by cash which was finally procured by Terry on Monday. Plans were for this to happen a week earlier but a variety of circumstances worked against this happening. Despite not being paid, Mr. Juma was gracious and trusting of us (with Fred) and allowed our tab to balloon until today when we were able to clean it up. Then they picked up a larger lorry (truck) that could handle a larger payload, put two empty plastic water tanks on it and then filled them both with water to take to the hut build to use to make the mud. Needless to say, the ride to the job site was quite interesting, especially since Terry and Fred had to ride on the back with the tanks that did not have lids on them! With the rough roads and open top tanks, both of the guys got a good soaking.
Arriving at the site, the early crew was just finishing a snack and rest break from tying the horizontal mud supports to the poles. Terry and Fred joined in and within a half hour the mudding began. Assisted by the widow who we were building the hut for, and several others including Grace Chacha from Mama Maisha, Kaeecee, the Otieno’s driver, and several others, we were able to finish the mudding by 6:15. We had hoped to do a Mt. Oboke climb to celebrate Zach’s birthday but everyone was beat, and we arrived back to the Guesthouse just in time for a quick shower and supper. Okumo Migire, the current Director of Community Development, surprised Zach with a birthday cake to share with all of us.
Closing the night out with a few games of UNO, everyone then headed to bed. It is hard to believe that there is only one more day left to try and finish up all of our projects.
After abit of rest on Sunday, our team was ready to return to our service projects again today.
Terry, Anson, and Zach got up earlier than usual and walked down to the school to continue working on the construction of more work tables for additional classes. Using the tools brought from Canada was very helpful and efficient for drilling and cutting metal pieces. Pictures of the finished work tables from Friday were sent to the registering body as step one to applying for Technical School status in hopes of a site visit soon.
The guys returned at 8 am for breakfast with the rest of the team. At breakfast we were all joined by Avelon, Tanzania rep for CACHA who came to support us and deal with some financial matters with Terry. After a breakfast of chepate with peanut butter or for some, the maple syrup brought from Canada, Terry and Avelon then proceeded on the half hour drive to the bank while the boys returned to the school. By noon all welding and painting was done for the new work tables and the legs and frames for 4 more tables were also completed. Both team members and the students were so excited!
Katie and Jane hired piki piki drivers to take them to visit the Tina School, an independent school running with USA sponsorship but administered by local businessman Fred Cha Cha. This is the elementary school that Terry Jane and Jonathan connected with for several projects in their first visit to Shirati and the place where they and Dylan, Nathan and Justin distributed approx. 300 backpacks ( donated by Chapman tours and many KCI staff) - full of school supplies to the entire student and staff body two years ago.
Arrivng on the property was inviting and invigorating. The school yard area was cleanly swept. White painted rocks provided welcoming pathways for all to walk and a Tanzanian flag flapped in the breeze by the admin building. Walking into the staff room was another heartwarming homecoming for Jane with hand shakes, hugs and introductions of Katie being made all around. This included a longer conversation and update time with Jonathan's friend teacher Goa and Jane who they later visited as he was administering a provincial oral exam with hs level 3 students on a bench outside his classroom.
After signing the visitor guest book in the administration office, Jane's good friend Linda Arot was called on to take the ladies on a tour to update them on what was going on at the school. Another teacher was requested to cover provincial testing that was occurring in her class.(NOTE: We had just arrived without notice but this did not throw anyone off or cause any upset feelings about the 'on- call' created!) It was encouraging to see new clean washrooms- (one squat pot for each class which students were responsible to bring water for and keep clean)- as well as a dormitory for level 7 students to stay in to help ensure better attendance for this their final grade before moving on to secondary school. It was also interesting to note great several worn blue Chapman Tour backpacks still in use from our distribution 2 years ago!
Meanwhile support worker Stephen and Connie took piki piki and bought soda and watermelon to take to visit Sarah, the dying widow and mother of 4 and before moving her family into the new mud hut we built last week ( see Aug 16 for details). Terry, Avelon, Care so ( driver) and Fred purchased a mattress, bed frame and blanket for her as she had been sleeping on the ground until now. The boys and Katie headed to market first to pick up their newly sewn shirts and shorts but they were not ready. Then the entire team attended the delivery of items and helped move the family into their new home. At last, Sarah was lifted by a male neighbor and her young son onto her new bed. It was very moving.
After supper the team played Dr President for awhile as a way to decompress. Chocolate had been found at a duka by the market earlier today so it served as a wonderful treat and the perfect way to end to a very full but rewarding day.
Note from the editor: Make sure to check out the post for August 14th, as it was missing the write up (unbeknownst to me!) It should give some more context regarding the following posts. My bad!
Sunday breakfast began with a birthday celebration for Katie. A card was purchased from a Connie Magotti's duka (store) which was actually written in English and even played a Happy Birthday tune when opened! Team member Connie Ehgoetz also found chocolate wafer cookies which served as a gift alongside a lovely blossoming branch which Anson picked from a nearby tree and placed in a coke bottle.
As we began eating our breakfast, we could hear loud music coming from the chruch. By the time we finished breakfast and arrived at the door, all seats were full to the sanctuary. Apparently the service began at 8-830 am ish but we had understood 9 am so when we entered the was alot of shuffling and moving and offering seats of for us the obvious visitors. We sat down just in time to be called on to go to to the front where Terry was asked to introduce each of the Shantz Team members by name and bring greetings from our chruch in Canada with General Secretary of the Diocese Richard doing the translations.
The service was full of variety with highlights including:
- the 'choir' consisting of 3 singers ( 2 females and 1 tenor) all singing in beautiful harmony accompanied by a male on an electric keyboard and drum machine. The remaining 20 or so choir members did a most fluid and rhythmically smooth choreography to each piece.
- a sermon by the bishop which included a summary of his recent time spent in Florida at the North American Mennonite Convention. He even noted Anson was wearing the shirt from the conference and had him to stand to show the theme: 'Love is a verb.' Initially Anson thought he was in trouble when he was called on!
- Also during his talk the bishop announced that after careful thought he had decided that women no longer needed to have their heads covered during Communion at church. This resulted in clapping and female uvulation ( calling out in high pitched warbling woo woo'ing sounds!). The female sitting beside Connie and Katie helped to translate the sermon for them and heartily joined in the uvulation even though a pastorin front of them turned around and asked her to be quiet!
- the passionate congregational singing of " I surrender all" as everyone in the chruch individually walked up their cash offering regardless of how minimal and dropped it into a wooden box being supervised at the front of the church by a deacon .
The service ended around 10:15 am allowing time for us to hire driver Kaeesi and go to the nearby fishing village of Soto with guesthouse supervisor Simeon as our guide . Simeon was a welcome translator when Terry negotiated a suitable fee for a boat ride on Lake Victoria. 1 life jacket was offered but was not used.:)
For about an hour we enjoyed a relaxed boat ride and gentle lake breeze viewing many activities along the shoreline such as men and boys fishing, children bathing, and women washing clothes. Eventually we returned to the docking area of the fishery only to note that our driver was nowhere to be seen. After a walk through the village and up a hill to the rocks where dugga (small fish) were being dried, we were able to get a signal and make contact with Fred who reached our driver.
Upon returning from Soto and eating lunch together, some went to their room for a nap. Others stayed up and had an in-depth conversation with Leisha and Fred regarding our insights and questions so far regarding our time here. This couple has wisdom beyond their years and we are so priviledged to work with them as our service project coordinators due to their passion for the people they serve as well as their long term knowledge of the culture and religious beliefs of the community.
For supper our team of 6 as well as Fred, and Leisha and their children Innocent, Wesley and Gretchen were driven in two shifts to the home of Bishop Kateti where we were treated to an amazing feast. Dishes this evening consisted of 3 types of goat, boiled bananas, boiled potatoes, rice, cooked greens, fresh banana and soda all served around two outdoor tables.
The drive back to our guest house was the first time we had experienced a night journey and we quickly understood why driving after dark is avoided due to the combination of animals crossing the road unexpectedly, the inordinately number of large rocks on the path, people walking without flashlights plus bikes and piki pikis( motorcycle taxis) weaving all over the bumpy road. Thankfully we returned to the guest house safely.
This morning at breakfast we invited our amazing cook David to join us and try the maple syrup we had brought with us from Canada. Richard, general secretary form the diocese also joined us. The syrup was out on our chipati, a pancake or sorts which normally people roll up and eat with their hands. He liked it saying that it reminded him of honey.
Connie and Jane went next door to the Shirati Hospital where they spent part of the morning observing and learning about the HIV treatment clinic for youth. HIV is prevalent through Africa and the Rorya district is no exception. The young people who arrived were all have been diagnosed with HIV from birth or toddler on because of early intervention. And since they have been receiving medication and treatment one Sat a month since their diagnosis, they are doing well. Despite their physical condition and the extreme poverty they are dealing with, the youth looked well dressed and seemed happy even though many had walked miles on a Saturday just to get there.
The morning began with an educational component lead by Challo the Head of IT at the hospital who has taken courses to help him serve in this role. After introductions of us the Canadian visitors and formal pictures, the youth were then lined up with their medical file to go visit the Dr before receiving their medication. A hot meal was then offered to them comprised of rice, beans, a vegetable and meat. This was all is made possible due to the generous donations of a donor from Dar es Salaam. Even though most come from very poor families and had to walk several miles to atrend, the youth looked well dressed and very healthy thanks to the early and continual intervention. Funding was available to send anyone present home via piki piki. ( motorcycle taxi).
Connie left part way through the educational part to go to help with serving breakfast in the wards. This time hovever there was no breakfast to be found. While she did try to discover where the food was, she was not able to discern an answer. Instead she went to the children's ward where she visited and spent some time playing w a 2 year old and a one and only push toy located in the courtyard. There she learned that toddlers do not wear underwear or diapers and so when holding one, you must do so at your own risk!
After spending time at the HIV clinic, Katie and Jane walked to the duka ( store) of Connie Magotti, past acquaintance of Jane and Terry from previous visits. There they purchased 74 lined paper notebooks and pens. These are valued commodities that are not easy to come by. Leisha eventually joined us. They returned to the diocese where the 3 of them plus Connie and they stuffed string back packs donated and brought with us from Canada. 50 of these will be presented to the students at the soon-to-be Technical School students. The rest will be given to those in need in upcoming visits via Leisha and Fred.
The guys continued to work at the school completing the work benches need to meet requirements for designation of a Technical School. As they worked together with the students ( who came in even though they had no school!)..to cut wood, continuing to make tabletops. They they painted them. An American man named Michael dropped in to help abit who is visiting his wife who has placement at the hospital. The students told Fred that they did not mind working on a Sat as they were so excited to finally do something practical in their welding class!
In the evening our team along with Fred, Leisha and their 3 children Gretchen, Wesley and Innocent were invited for dinner at Mama Ellen's house. She is the highly respected women who translated for all of our female hygiene kit distributions over the past week. She is also a hired worker for Mama Maishaa agency along with Leisha.
Mama has been a nurse for 39 years before beginning her work with Leisha so her home was lovely. Her husband owns the local hotel (6 rooms) and runs two other businesses despite his ripe age of 75 years! A sheep was killed in our honor and hired staff prepared it in three ways. Additional dishes on the menu included sheep stomach and bile sauce! Most were very excited to eat our first salad ( lettuce is rare and expensive and not recommended to be eaten by visitors due to possible sickness that could be caused). This contained tiny sliced tomatoes, pepper and onion in a vinegar sauce and was delicious!
Everyone was asked to take off their shoes before entering and lined up to wash their hands before we ate, all important traditions. Because they were well off and owned a television, it was put on the MSNBC station for us. ( Thanks Leisha for the explanation as we were confused at first :) This made conversation abit difficult and was also a reality check for those of us who have not been following American news. Obviously life is still going on with different issues continually being faced by our friends and neighbors in the USA.
Once again we were touched by the friendship and generous hospitality offered by this wonderful couple!
We are slowly adjusting to things like the heat- (even though for the locals here it is winter) -thanks to the addition of some fans in our rooms purchased two years ago when the Shantz team of Dylan, Justin, Nathan, Jonathan, Terry and Jane were here. We are also more accustomed to getting in and out of bed with the mosquito nets and are feeling more at home with the language, trying our best to embrace at least a few Swahili greetings and responses with those who welcome us "mzungu" both while walking down the street and during various service projects.
The guys returned to the school today which is approx. 3/4's of a mile one way down from the diocese guest house. It is a lovely down hill walk there with lake Victoria in sight as you go. Returning back in he heat is another story!! Jane and Katie also walked down to tour the facilities a second time this time during schools hours which allowed them to meet with both teachers and students as some classes were session.
Meeting a new male math teacher there who Jane could actually play the Mennonite game with as she discovered Sheri knows his aunt from a previous service project here in Shirati!
Meeting two students in the sewing class who were busy make Zach's shirt that he had ordered at market on Monday! ( the teacher is also a tailor in town by the market!) One of these sewing students. girls walks 5 miles one way to school each day for her classes and has no parents. Thankfully a donor is paying for her school. Other classes offers at the school are electrical, auto, computers, English and Life Skills.
Fred was in and out making contacts and buying supplies in preparations for our jobs next week with some time spent with the guys. Terry, Anson and Zach continued to enjoy their time with the welding students working on the tech tables which will help the school meet technical school requirements. Those who had better English were excited to talking with and Zach and Anson to compare details about their lives here and in Canada. Most young people indicate their wish to go to Canada for better opportunities. One student was surprised to learn that Zach was not a father yet!
Connie spent her morning at the hospital visiting each ward. Two nurses who saw her arrive took her around unexpectedly and translated for her allowing her to meet and visit with each patient and in the children's ward, speak with each mother who was staying with her child. She was also happy to be allowed to help serve breakfast to these patients. Meals for children and young mothers who have just delivered babies are the only ones food is provided for at the hospital.
At noon all 3 women once again joined Leisha, Mama Ellen and Grace with driver Caeesi, this time for a visit to a Sarugi Secondary School, on behalf of Mama Maisha. Since this a school partnered with CACHA and an active lunch program initiated by Erla Koch of Ontario, Fred and less hi decideddecided it would be a good school to visit.
Once again the girls were totally engaged in the entire presentation and, despite the fact that it started late and ws not over when the bell went for the end of school, none of the 120 girls moved. Instead they stayed engrossed listening to Leisha who spoke first in English then Mama Ellen who translated into Swahili.
When Jane explained the kits and Connie demonstrated the way to use a Days for Girls kits, one girl called out, "Wow!" In a big voice before the entire group burst into applause. Later when individual photos were taken with each girl as they were presented with their kit, the same girl called out to us, ' I love you!" As she clutched her DfG kit and left for home!
The only disappointment was that we did not have enough kits to give each of the 120 girls present this time. And so the lower two levels of classes were asked to leave after the educational part, before the presentation of gifts to the older ones. Some of these younger girls remained outside the pavillion and asked if they could please also have a kit. This was heart breaking for us and has given us motivation and homework upon our return home to make sure these girls are not forgotten.
Before supper were finally able to initiate ping pong on the special table at the hospital created years ago by Lloyd Koch and friends. We were joined by IT head Challo from the hospital joining us. It was an action-packed hour of fun despite the mosquitos and the fast approaching darkness which made seeing the ball challenging.
All in all it was another amazing day with a lot of on-depth sharing occurring during our post-supper debrief time.
This morning after breakfast the guys from our team walked down to the Technical School, or I guess we should say the 'school.' We discovered sometime ago that this school operated by the diocese that Jonathan, Terry and Jane had helped to build in 2014 still has not received registration as a Technical School. As a result, Fred requested that Terry, Anson and Zach go help construct work benches that will help with it's registration requirements.
Work took place in the welding shop with the guys being joined by several students and the welding teacher throughout the day. The young men were cooperative and hard workers and they managed to get the majority of the work done although with alot less restrictions than in Canada. Personal protective equipment (PPE) while mostly available ( e.g. there were only two pairs of welding masks) were not always used. By the end of the day they were pleased to have the overall structure for two larger sturdy tables and two smaller ones established.
Meanwhile, the women were off with Leisha, Mama Ellen and Grace to the fishing village of Kyanasaga to meet pregnant women there associated with Mama Maisha. This drive had a beautiful view of Lake Victoria en route. A predominantly Muslim area, the majority of women we met with had their heads covered. At one point during the outdoor presentation there was also a call to prayer that went over the village on loud speakers. Leisha brought us to this village since it was the with Mamma Maisha dispensary that had the highest percentage of clients on pregnancy track out of the 5 dispensaries.
We arrived there only 30 minutes late (tardy arrivals are very normal for everything around here ) but there were only 2 women present sitting under a tree. Leisha assured us that more would come as often the arrival time of a group in African is dependent on the arrival of the guests. Sure enough, after being warmly greeted with vigorous handshakes and some hugs by the 2 MHA workers for this area, we as guests were offered chairs under a tree then proceeded to sit and wait about one hour. Gradually more women arrived with 16 women there at the one hour mark and 21 women present when Mama Ellen began to speak at the 75 minute mark!
Mama Ellen went over minor and major ailments to be aware of when preganant and when and how to seek medical help if needed along the way. She also encouraged the women to have a birth plan and to get to a hospital if possible in advance of their labour to avoid roadside deliveries or even death due unexpected complications.
We then explained and presented the heavy flow Days for Girls hygiene kits made with pregnant women in mind. There was great applause and excitement when they viewed Connie and Jane's demonstration and many thanks were spoken as each individual was given the kit along with a birthing sheet. An individual photo was then taken of each woman before posing for the traditional entire group photo.
Additional noteworthy things that happened on this visit that were moving for Katie, Connie and Jane:
-The village chairman(aka the mayor) and male health worker from the dispensary also attended the meeting
-For awhile this male health worker present was met with animated comments about disatisfaction by the women regarding their frustrations with the lack of quality pre-natal care being offered at the dispensary. Thanks to Mama Ellen and Leisha who mediated the lively discussion, notes were taken and ideas created for ways for the health worker to try to improve the situation with Leisha promising follow- up.
-Names and stats were kept of each woman who attended. Among the details, of the 21 women present, 5 were on their 7th preganancy and 4 where having their 8th child.
We returned home in time to walk down to the hopefully soon-to-be Technical School to have a tour and to see the work the guys had been doing all day. The structure looked wonderful! More about this will be incuded on Friday's write-up!
In the evening we all finally had energy to play several games of UNO after our late supper of lentils and rice. Let's a just say there was a lot of spirited discussion about last card declarations! :)
Wednesday was a very exciting but very full day.
In the morning the women drove by van to a nearby elementary school in the village of Nyharo for our next Days for Girls distribution. Leisha had chosen this school as 8 girls had shown up pregnant at the school last year. It was her hope that having some education would provide opportunity for intervention and prevention for other young girls and of course give them each a kit.
Mama Ellen and Grace accompanied us once again. We were also joined by the 3 MHA's assigned to this area on behalf of Mama Maisha. The tone of this school was very different than Tuesday's school. We were not met or welcomed by any school administrator and the two female teachers who began sitting in on the presentation walked out during the talk. While every girl had shoes on and wore the mandatory uniform, many of them had ripped stained shirts with missing buttons and very tattered shoes. The girls there however were much more animated than those the day before and gave us an impressive large group spoken thank- you after the distribution followed by spirited hand clapping!
When Leisha asked if there were questions after Jane presented the components and directions for the Days for Girls hygiene kits( w help from Mama Ellen as translator), one older girl asked what they should do if they had no water to soak or wash the pads when at school. This question was also asked the day before as it appears that not all schools have a water supply of any kind.
Water is indeed a prized but limited commodity here and must be walked for ( sometimes it is miles away) and gathered in pails from a river or water hole usually by the women or girls. But many of these water sources are dried up this year due to an extreme drought. It was a sad reality for us as visitors to learn about the lack of water at these schools.
After the traditional handing out of the kits to each individual girl ( which went much faster than the day before!), group photos were taken. We are learning that ceremony for these events are very important.
The drive to the location of the hut build was unforgettable. At one point our driver had Grace phone Stephen a diocese worker who was already on location withTerry, Fred, Anson and Zach to get directions which seemed funny to us as there were very few discernable land marks anywhere!While we started driving on a main dirt road, we eventually turned off onto a cow path full of stones and brush, then spent the remainder of the bumpy drive moving through a dry grass field! Thank goodness Stephen took his piki and ended up meeting us to show us the way. ( see pics!)
Upon arrival at the hut build site we were surprised to see the entire sisal frame already been completed by the men. A 'fundi' ( hired construction worker) spent his day working on preparing the roof despite the hot sun. The rest of us spent the remainder of the day doing the mudding alongside other community members, from time to time taking breaks to hold a baby , play with the children or simply chat with others in the shade.
The hut was being built for a widow named Sarah who is terminally ill with four children ages 12 and under. Widows in Tanzania are usually not cared for by anyone after their husbands die, and so Fred felt that it was important that she would be given quality new lodging before she died.This would also bring the community together and make them aware of the need for someone to possibly step up to take care of the children after their mother had passed away and provide a dry place for them to live.
A large water holder was brought by the diocese truck and a special blend of ground gathered by several women throughout the day in bowls was mixed by two men with their feet and some shovels to create just the right texture for sticking in between the sisal poles.
After the entire hut was completed we were all offered porridge from their few cups. We were all touched and humbled knowing that this family who had so little was giving us what they had in friendship. We also provided everyone involved a cool soda, picked up by one of our drivers but paid by our team. We then took pictures of everyone involved before heading back. The men took the diocese truck loaded with community members who were dropped off at various places en route. Because many walk miles to get anywhere an opportunity for a ride is accepted whenever possible.
Connie from our team spent some time sitting with Sarah a few times throughout the day and before we left, and gave her a blessing ( with the help of Leisha's translations). In it she wished her peace, told her she had a lovely family and reminded her that she was loved.
Our debriefing and devotion time before supper was a time of much discussion and emotion today. We had been touched by the contentment and bond we had shared through a common task and we were so blessed in return.