Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’
Two nights ago we spoke on the telephone with our H4C partner in Sakila, Tanzania. We have known each other for twenty-two years. We have visited Tanzania and toured the educational, medical, and water sourcing projects there more than that many times. We have stood by our African friends during times when there was rain and during times when there was no rain. Now they find themselves in one of those times of “no rain.”
We asked questions about water shortage, the severe drought affecting the Horn of Africa, and water rationing. These are the answers. “We give two gallons of water to each family per day due to the shortage of water in the whole country. We do not know how long the shortage will last but we will say until it rains which may be in October or earlier. We have lost all beans (crop), and half of corn…we will need about 200 bags of corn and 150 bags of beans. We will need about $20,000 to buy diesel, beans, and corn.”
“Hakuna Maji…Hakuna Umeme” translates from Swahili to English as “No Water…No Power” and the connection is that electricity in Tanzania is driven by government owned Hydro-Electric Plants.
One nation separates Tanzania from the miserable suffering in Somalia. That neighboring nation is Kenya to the North. It is too late for the hoped for arrival of rain to ease the affects of the drought this year. Funds are needed now!
Hope For Change International is setting up a fund, “Food in the Famine”, to be sent to the Horn of Africa. Visit our web site www.H4Cinternational.org to learn how to donate. Click on the FOOD DONATIONS button if you do not see the “Food in the Famine” section yet. Every $$$ will make a difference. All donations will go completely and directly to meet the needs of East Africans.
You are about to read a fascinating account of a collective effort of compassion that almost derailed. In the public schools of Pennsylvania, all twelfth grade students are required to complete a senior project, often a community service project, to fulfill their graduation requirements. Our Hope For Change story takes us to Radnor Township School District located west of Philadelphia in the Main Line. “The mission of the Radnor Township School District is to inspire in all students the love of learning and creating, and to empower them to discover and pursue their individual passions with knowledge, confidence, and caring to shape the future.” (Italics mine)
On April 20, 2010 my twin sister, Mary Brown, called me on her cell phone and asked, “Sarah, does Hope For Change operate elementary schools in Africa?” Mary is the Director of a non-profit organization, “Teen Learning Community”, which assists Main Line seniors with conceiving, organizing, and implementing their senior projects. On that day while Mary was talking with Jin Hwang, president of the senior class at Radnor High School, she was informed that a certain “pencil project” had hit a impasse on the tracks ~ so to speak. This senior project, “Pencils For Africa”, challenged the student body of Radnor High School to purchase and donate pencils for children in an elementary school in Africa. However, the go-between agency failed to follow through and contact the two project organizers, Radnor seniors, Gigi Blanco and Lauren Bridges, regarding possible recipients of their collected pencils. On April 20th, they had no school to which they would send the pencils.
Mary put Gigi on her cell phone and after brief introductions, I said we could help. My husband, James R. Smith, Director of Hope For Change International (H4C), would be traveling to Tanzania in June. Visiting our schools would be included in his itinerary. The cell phone exchange ended with my asking, “Could Gigi and Lauren get the pencils to our home by early June?”
Another thing…seniors are required to prepare a verbal presentation of the stages of their projects to a review/grading committee comprised of teachers and the senior project coordinator. The girls’ presentation was scheduled for Thursday, April 22 ~ two days away. After weeks of hard work in collecting the pencils, now only two days away from their presentation, they had no destination school for the pencils ~ which now numbered over 1,000. You can imagine the disappointment that would be caused by a “no completion” grading of their efforts! The caboose had to be put on this train. By Wednesday, the eve of their presentation, all plans were in place for James to take the assortment of pencils to Africa with him! That is, if the young women could get the donated pencils to him by early June. The presentation would go on with now “Plan B” destination schools in place.
When I checked in with Gigi on Thursday afternoon, she passed along the good news that, “Yes, we did our presentation today and we got a Distinguished Pass which is the highest you can get!” James and I were thrilled that children in two H4C African schools ~ one in Sakila Village and the other in Arusha ~ would be the recipients of their endeavor!
Five weeks went by and the pencils which were now stored in a “pretty good-sized copy box” had still not arrived at our home. Here was another gridlock for the pencils on their journey ~ no money had been collected for transport of the pencils.
Enter Paul Grimsland, our H4C Philippines Director, who had just returned from a Foundations Center Seminar held in Manhattan. During the breakout session, Paul had met Lisa Williamson, Director of Communications for a school district. Can you guess which school district? If you said, “Radnor”, then you win the prize.
This amazed Paul too. Interestingly, I had casually let Paul know about the “derailed pencil project” back in April. Once we talked after he returned from the Seminar and we realized it was the same “Radnor”, Paul put me in contact with Lisa and the pace picked up after that.
Lisa made arrangements for Gigi to drop off the pencils at her family’s home in Wayne, PA. She and her husband, Phil, would make sure the pencils kept moving. On Saturday, June 5th, Lisa and Phil took the pencils to Wayne Post Office and VOILA! they were on their way from the Main Line and the homerooms of Radnor to our home in Saugerties, NY.
By the following Tuesday, the “good-sized box” was sitting on our dining room table in plenty of time to be included in James’ packing and for the air flight to Amsterdam en route to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.
You may, as I did, want to know the back story to this scenario and to read why Gigi and Lauren chose education as the theme of their senior project. So here are their answers…
When I (Gigi) was in the 9th grade, I was nominated to win an award from the Emergency Aid of PA Foundation, only a handful of girls from Delaware County got this nomination and to narrow it down even more we each had to fill out an application. Within the application, we were required to write an essay under the prompt, “If you could start your own non-profit organization, what would it be?” I decided to call mine the Ethiopian Embrace and send school supplies over to children in need. Then, I had the idea that this would actually be really cool if I brought my made up organization to life, so doing it for my senior project was the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to begin the Ethiopian Embrace, so I researched over the Internet to find an organization close to it and I found the Pencil Project.
My (Lauren’s) older sister was always doing community service for different schools in Africa, and seeing how many lives she was able to change really inspired me to do the same. She actually ran the African Education Program for a while, and so I had originally planned to do my senior project through that. I have also always been interested in international culture, and aspire to go in to international business so this was the perfect start for me. Then, after talking to Gigi, we realized what we wanted to do was very similar and we could be twice as successful if we worked together.
We are both African Americans, so we really saw this as an opportunity to give back to our roots. Also, Africa has always struggled, and we know that as a continent it has so much potential; the least we could do was to give them basic necessities to prosper.
We would just like to say hello, and hope that they are all enjoying the pencils! We know the students will put them to great use, so stay in school, be creative, never give up, and you will move mountains! We believe the very best in each and every one of you, so keep smiling, and we promise you will be great in life!
Well, this picture of an avocado tree will have to do until our African traveler sends me the “actual” image of the avocados that he has to dodge while he ambles along the village paths. ”You have to be careful when you walk under the trees because avocados are falling from trees and will hit you on the head.” Do you think this image is big enough? As I look at it, I feel like ducking under so an avocado doesn’t fall on my head! James has not been on the Internet or our blog publisher, WordPress, long enough to send “his” picture to me. But ~ it might be coming in the next few days and then I will replace this image ~ or maybe NOT!
Here’s some very good news ~ the well-driller from Gillette, Wyoming, whose real name is Trusty, arrived on June 26th (or thereabouts) in Sakila, Tanzania. Trusty’s plan is to drill twenty or twenty-five new wells within the two weeks of his stay. Factors such as drilling in the right spot and breaking of equipment will limit the number. James tells us that, “Each village is very joyful when they see the well-drilling rig come to town.” Here’s the bad news: Trusty and his trained African crew are up and out drilling wells but they are not having success. Despite digging deep in two spots they have not found water. This is disconcerting and has praying people doing just that ~ praying that they will find water.
Here are some other facts:
1) Three containers arrived with food, medicine, drilling supplies, educational materials, building materials, clothing, etc…
2) Elementary school registration begins this week; additional sponsors are needed or the number of students will be cut back.
3) The orphanage has had its needs met.
4) There has been good rainfall so that the corn crop is going to be good!
Our Hope for Change African partner, Eliudi Issangya, sends his smiling “thank you” to everyone who has contributed to the ongoing projects that supply water, medical care, educational opportunities, and trade training to the people of Arusha Region. In a future blog update we will tell you the state of affairs of “New Hope International Hospital”.
There’s another picture that James has to send me ~ when he delivers those pencils to the students of the elementary schools in Sakila and Arusha.
Please visit our web site www.H4Cinternational.org and also send us your comments ~ we’ll be happy to hear from you. ~ Sarah
The countdown until James’ departure for Africa on June 16, 2010 has come and gone a week ago. Earlier today, Wednesday, June 23rd, we spoke using his Motorola phone with a SIM card. James is adjusted to the environment in Sakila Village, Tanzania. As his wife, I was relieved to hear that!
Since his arrival, there has not been electricity in the village, or more accurately, the supply has been intermittent. James does not forsee having electricity to power his lap top or the Internet until next week. In light of that I will post these “send-off” pictures in the meantime.
When I spoke to our African H4C partner, Eliudi Issangya, this morning he was exhuberant when declaring that, “James had arrived safe and sound. ” Eliudi will host James during the visit without the help of his wife, Mama Helen, who died on February 2, 2010. She will be missed greatly.
On a personal note, I am writing a daily journal of “life at home” while James is in Africa. We’ve never taken the time to count the exact number of trips he’s made and the number of our goodbyes. The estimate of twenty-one or so has served to make the point that he has gone there a lot. On “Day 3″, which was last Friday, I pulled out James’ old U.S. Passport and attempted to count the Tanzanian, South African, Mozambique-ian (heh-heh), and Kenyan visas stamped on the pages. I wasn’t able to do it which was daunting for me since I love to count things. Anyway, he’s been using his new passport since the trips in 2003 so I would only have half the number anyway.
Here’s a shout-out of “thanks” to our H4C Philippines Director, Paul Grimsland. Paul drove James to JFK on June 16th and there’s a good possibility that he will be making the trip down to JFK again when James returns. Don’t tell Paul I said that though.
Paul is punctual and reliable and a good friend who’s heart burns for doing what he can to provide educational opportunities for impoverished youth through our child sponsorship programs. I can tell you that Paul loves these kids! By way of making that point, read some of his MBELE! blogs posted earlier in the year. (See the archive box up above to the right.) Another tremendous friend, Vinnie Smith, has altered his work schedule many times in order to transport James to and from airports. Wow, personal drivers sure make the difference in getting started from home and getting back to home.
This backpack in the picture above holds a lot of pencils, more than one thousand, and a lot of caring by the students of Radnor High School which is located west of Philadelphia in the great state of Pennsylvania. I plan on writing a blog titled, ”The Journey of the Pencils”, to tell the entire fascinating story once James sends me a picture of the recipients in Africa. However, this will be the first “thank you” to all those PA residents who assumed a role in this effort to demonstrate concern for the children in an African village school.
Finally, H4C sends thanks to all of you who financially support our water, medical, trade-training, and educational projects in Africa. If you are newly learing about HOPE FOR CHANGE please visit our web site www.H4Cinternational.org and learn more.
Sarah Anne Smith
Mama Helen with one of her daughters Rogathe and one of her grandchildren, Shirley.
The first time I went to Africa was in 1993; that seems like two lifetimes ago. Since 1993 I have been back to Africa well over twenty times (thank you MSCF!). Most of these times I have stayed in the home of my dear friends Eliudi and Helen Issangya, in Sakila, Tanzania.
The first time I rode from the Kilimanjaro Airport to the village of Sakila I felt as if I had travelled to some foreign planet, or possibly the moon, that’s how strange it was to me (and also to my good friend, Mike Wood). Now when I go to Sakila it is truly my “second home.” Other than my own house I feel most at home when I am in Sakila. Much of that credit goes to Mama Helen Issangya who saw to it that I was welcomed and cared for over the last seventeen and a half years. This dear woman, wife of my great friend Eliudi Issangya, and mother to six children, has now passed on to her eternal home, a greater home. A land that will never grow old.
This blog is a small attempt to show her the honor and respect that is due to her for taking care of me and the many other people who showed up at her home in need of care. Mama Helen was always there for me. She made sure that I had the food that I needed, the clean water that was necessary, and she showed great compassion towards me as I went through everything from malaria (1996) to a heart attack that caused me to be hospitalized and have surgery in Amsterdam in 2007. She had suffered so much with her illness that she knew how to care for those who were in pain or distress.
Helen treated me with such respect. I hope that I sincerely returned that respect back to her. Thank you Mama Helen for giving yourself to all of us for all these years. I, and many others, African and Americans, will never forget all that you did for us, and the “Mama” that you were to us. Be at rest, Be at Peace, Mama Helen.
Helen Issangya went to her eternal home on February 2, 2010.
James R. Smith