"Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things. Awaken people's curiosity. It is enough to open minds, do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire."
Another busy week under the belt. Sunday I drove the 80km out to Shepherds Secondary to pick up Livi (after spoken permission from Mama Lucy) only to be informed by the gate keeper that without written permission I was unable to take him. This is great of course, that the school has tight security, but a bit of a pain to travel all that way for nothing! So after a quick hi to the kids and a chat to the matron, I made my way back to town. Livi caught the bus in on Monday morning, and Monday and Tuesday were spent at the hospital, the final result being a new pair of spectacles and unfortunately amoeba 🙁 Thankfully, easily treatable and with a course of antibiotics he will be fine in no time! Of course, what sounds like a simple doctor’s trip actually took us 5 hours on Monday morning from 8am – 1pm, and the whole morning on Tuesday, with a break for a meeting at lunch and I returned in the afternoon to collect the blood samples in the afternoon. Having had experience with Tanzanian hospitals before, I came prepared with a very thick book – however even that wasn’t enough and I finished it with more than half the waiting time to go! Not to worry, goal accomplished and Livi and I had some great conversations.
On Thursday Blandina and I spent the day at Haradali School, measuring all the kids for their new uniforms. What a mission! The school is currently out of stock in small shirts, sweaters and skirts so we got about half the job done. Hopefully we’ll be able to finish the rest before I leave. We also bought the last little bits of stationery that we needed; colours for the art class, mathematical sets for grade 5 and the last exercise books. I took the entire set of uniforms home that evening, in an effort to get them all named. Every item needs the name sewed on, even the socks. Normally the school would do this for a small charge, but with only one seamstress and an entire school to sew for, Blandina and I figured it would be easier to find our own fundi and give the Haradali fundi a break.
So off I go with 291 items to be sewed. I decided to enlist the same fundi that had helped me with the naming of blankets and sheets, because he had done a great job and finished it fast too. I thought – of course, he’ll be able to get another fundi to help and then have them done by Saturday morning which is when I need them. So I spend that evening dividing the uniforms into separate bags, with little name tags and signs to show what needs writing and where, and cross-checking the items I had with what I’d written down at the school. After about 3 hours I became so delirious with boredom and frustration and MATH that I decided to get dressed up in one of the uniforms and finish the work that way, just to keep myself entertained! Once finished at about 10.30pm, off the uniforms go to the fundi with all the confidence in the world, and a strong word about needing them by 9am this Saturday, not midday, not the evening, not next Saturday but THIS Saturday at 9am SHARP. Yes, yes, yes of course, no worries, hakuna matata he says. I should have known better!
Saturday morning and at 10am Blandina arrives and we go to pick them up. He even had an hour extra! We get there, and after the original greetings he drops the bomb. ‘Oh but Dada, so much work, so much work.’ Yes, I say, but we discussed this work two days ago and you assured me it would be done. ‘Oh but dada…’ So we tell him to bring out what has been finished – out of the 291 items that he had 2 days to do – he’s done 27. 27?!! Oh boy. And half of them he’s stopped halfway through the name like he just got bored! Needless to say, with steam coming out of my ears, Blandina and I packed up the remaining uniforms and raced off to school where we had 53 students waiting for us in eager anticipation of receiving their newly named uniforms. Not to be. Thankfully the school granted us a few extra days to get the job done and the children will receive the various parts of their uniforms on Tuesday – we decided to give the rest of the work to 3 women close to where Blandina lives. There’s a saying here in Kiswahili that all Fundis come from the same mother – because after the first time of good work, they all lie, steal and produce poor work! With a reputation like that to live up to no wonder!
On the way to the school we got a call from Shepherds Primary letting us know that Eliza was very ill and upset. So Blandina left me at the school, and headed back to town to pick up Eliza and see if she needed a hospital visit. The children were great – obviously understanding that just because Blandina wasn’t there, under no circumstances does that mean that they treat me any different than they would Blandina, and they were quiet almost the entire time, listening when I spoke and repeating what I’d been saying to confirm they understood. What a breakthrough! Normally I’m just the mzungu that they can play with and ask for extra supplies behind Blandina’s back.
The school granted us the use of a classroom, and while the grade 4 students were still in extra tuition study (they work Saturdays too) I held a discussion with the rest of the children in swanglish about the coming year. We spoke about the new uniforms, and how they must last the children for 2 years. No biting the sleeves, losing items, writing on their shirts in pen (yes, we’ve had some students do this – don’t ask me why, I have no idea!). Teddy, Amani and Samuel each took turns to stand up and repeat my instructions to the class, confirming all of the children understood the main points of the discussion. We also talked about taking care of their bags, shoes and stationery. I gave my best attempt to explain in Kiswahili with a bit of English here and there, that to show respect for their belongings was to show respect for us and also for their sponsors, which of course is of the upmost importance. To be careless with these things, and to have poor behaviour is to disrespect not only the work that Blandina, Vinnie and myself do but the effort sponsors go to in order to provide them with such an incredible opportunity, and any actions as such will result in the termination of their sponsorship, and the opportunity being given to a child who is willing to really work hard for it and wants it.
The children were very serious in their understanding, and promised to take care of their things well. Rukia stood up and we all applauded her for being a role model in the programme – she has the same bag and shoes from when she was at Davis almost 3 years ago, and although she needed new shoes this year, her bag is still in fine condition. A lot of the students ask for new items every term, so hopefully by applauding Rukia we were able to show how it is actually possible to take care of your things so they last, and when you do, there are positive benefits.
Our next topic was about grades. A lot of our Haradali students are falling behind in their grades. We did some positive chanting about being the best in the school, and spoke about how ACE students need to be role models for the rest of the student body, and not the underdogs. I had each student stand and repeat what place they wanted to be in their class this year, and shout out ‘I can be the best!’ By the end of it all the students were smiling and looking really amped up. At the end I thanked them all for being amazing, and let them go one by one after checking off their attendance and if they were still missing any items. Most of the students were great in letting me know that they had everything they need, with only a few who tried to slip in a request for something I know very well they already have. The grade 4’s had finished tuition by then so we had the same discussion and then finished up by about 1pm. There were only a few students who didn’t show up which was disappointing, as we had seen them on Friday and made each of them repeat what time they were supposed to be at school.
Blandina was still at the hospital by this time, as Eliza is indeed quite ill. the scarring on her stomach from where her surgery was to remove a hernia 2 years ago has become infected, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The paediatric Doctor wasn’t at the hospital (St Lutheran), and they seemed to have no record of Eliza’s previous surgery there, which while frustrating as it is, is not unusal for most hospitals here. They booked Eliza in for an appointment on Tuesday afternoon; however Blandina and I are both quite worried so I am taking Eliza to the Aga Khan centre after this morning’s meeting instead to get immediate treatment.
We are having a dinner tonight with Mr and Mrs Severua from Haradali, Mama Lucy and her son from Shepherds, Freda and Emmanuel, our lawyers and hopefully Lachie if he has recovered from the flu to celebrate becoming officially registered as an NGO in Tanzania as of last Thursday! It will also be a chance for me to thank each of the schools for their commitment to our programme, and for trusting in us to follow through with the work we do – there were a lot of doubts in the beginning about working with an 18yr old volunteer, but after 3 years of hard work and dedication from all sides, we now have a team of strong and passionate people; sponsors, schools, and the 3 of us, B,V and M, all committed to giving these kids an opportunity for a better future. This is certainly a cause for celebration, and we plan to make this year the best one yet! Vinnie – we all wish you were here.
There will be an email coming soon with more information about the trip in September, along with more photos of the kids in their new uniforms. I am in Nairobi from Thursday until Tuesday for a workshop, but will get the information out before then! Remember – emails and questions are always welcome if you guys want to know more specific info about any kids, or just questions in general.