Amina, Neema and Watoto!

My daughter Amanda arrived two nights ago but laid low yesterday feeling a bit shaky.  She is feeling more herself today, so far has gone to market with Neema, reorganized the bookcase, her room and the classroom, sent a Skype message to her class at St. Eugene’s School in Simcoe and is sitting on the floor right now, reading a book . . . Lucy, our volunteer from Australia arrived last evening, in darkness, after the power went out . . .  again.  We went to town to provision and while walking the aisles of Shoprite, Peter paused and asked what a box of food was.  It was “Frosties” a version of Frosted Flakes cereal and we just had to bring a box home.  No one has ever heard of cereal . . . nor, it turns out, did they know about burgers until we took them (again yesterday) a favorite!

Katy, our long term volunteer from Port Dover, ON and I attended Young Roses School yesterday and met with head mistress Aurelia.  Aurelia updated us on the status of our Tumaini children attending that school.  Francis is an outstanding student, serious and always working hard to improve.  He is a very adept reader and this will carry him far in a country which needs English but finds itself weak in its use.  Aisha and Kelvin are progressing well, they lack only practice in English and that too is coming along.  Ester, it turns out is very intelligent and now that she has begun speaking (instead of selecting to remain mute) she is developing quickly.
Today I heard her firmly and loudly send a younger child to lala (nap).  I have never heard her use a “big” voice, nor give a command before.  Her confidence grows!  And Katy can validate Headmistress’ declaration without a doubt that had Ester not come to us, once her grandparents had passed, she would have been “used”, and then killed because of her “deformities”, which is why they hid her away all those years and arrested her development.  You will remember her Babu (grandfather) cried when he heard her speak after seven years of silence . . . she is catching up academically and socially.  Jenny is a concern for us all.  She lacks discipline and is physical with the other children.  She plays “coy” and flirtatious and headmistress asked us to review her history.  Her mother was horribly poor when I met the family and I would not be surprised if she had “sold her wares” to bring food into the house.
We suspect that Jenny may have been witness to the behaviors of a completely powerless mama, dependent entirely upon the whims of a man for her and her children’s very survival.  It has damaged Jenny and we must work to help her find her own dignity . . . and some wonderful news! It turns out that Christina is advancing far beyond our academic anticipations for her.  Christina is intellectually challenged, yet, wins competitions with the other children in identifying letters of the alphabet.  She can almost spell her own name and can put picture and word together.  Young Roses has agreed to test her to see if we might remove her from her current special needs class and give her entrance to a full academic program.  She will struggle, but she LOVES school and hungers to learn!  Wish us luck!
Dalia Jovent, you may remember is a woman who visited us this past summer and begged for assistance in obtaining a prosthetic for her arm after a thief in a home invasion recognized her and then decided she must die.  He “chopped” at her with a machete and she raised her arm in defense . . . it came off and she has been struggling to find enough money for the surgery ever since.  Dr. Pat provided the funding and we hoped that she was sincere.  We became concerned when Mama Grace saw her in the village without her new arm, but she visited us yesterday and, well, you can see in the picture!  She is so proud to swing TWO arms when she walks and the device actually opens and closes.  She has promised to return when Pat visits us in February!
Amina was back in the hospital (returned home today), at the DREAM clinic for AIDS support.  I honestly cannot understand how she is still alive . . . her tumor is active again and causing tremors, blindness, memory loss and immobility but she knew who I was when she heard my voice yesterday and was happy to know I had returned.  She couldn’t see me but clutched tightly to my hand while we visited and she was happy . . . she is my daughter Amanda’s age and her situation cuts too closely for me.  There is nothing more for us to do but make her comfortable and welcome her two girls Angela and Glory into our Tumaini family.  Fellow Tumaini director Cindy and I returned to the hospital in the afternoon when Grace asked us to intercede on Amina’s behalf.
It seems that a ‘family friend”, having heard “Amina has a mzungu” and wanting to take advantage (you may remember that Amina’s own mother did this to her, even stealing the food from her house) of the opportunity, appeared at the hospital and began bullying Mama Gift who has been caring for Amina for almost six months.  There is virtually no nurse care in a hospital in Tanzania and so a patient must have someone stay with them (usually in the same bed) tending to their toilet needs and providing food . . . no caregiver . . . no assistance, and Mama Gift has been lovingly caring for Amina since about June.  Cindy and I arrived and listened to the interloper’s self profession of love and concern for Amina, until I explained that Mama Gift has been volunteering her time and that no money is involved in the process of loving Amina.  It took her about three minutes to pack up her possessions and vamoose!  She was gone!  It is heartbreaking to watch people take advantage of someone so sick.
December 18th – We have struggled without either power or water, but have both today and earlier this a.m. attended Mana OVC the orphan group we support.  The children greeted us with a song of thanks for school fees, and uniforms and shoes (they need all but shoes again this year) then announced that all but one of the primary students who were required to write the national exam passed and will advance to secondary school.  Let me present you with a perspective of this situation.  After our greeting, introductions of Lucy and Amanda who will help Katy and our teachers with tuition for the children, and after the disbursement of pipis (candies), I asked about shidas (problems) the children had.  Cindy, Grace, Lyimo, Agnes (the latter three voluntarily direct the sixty Mana OVC orphans) and I sat outside under a tree and welcomed children to share their problems with us.
Thirteen year old Neema (meaning Grace and a new Neema, not our existing one) sat and explained to us how she used to live in Moshi (a neighboring village) with her parents until her Mama died of AIDS.  Her Baba is HIV+.
He has remarried and the family has moved here to Usa River, but Neema has failed her mandatory national exam and in the government school system, will not be given a second chance.  Without our help her academic opportunities are over.  Her sick father and stepmother, in desperation have instructed her to find work and for an attractive, young girl, unskilled and uneducated, what options for earning money do you think remain open to her?  Unless we can find a sponsor to help us send her to school (at a cost of about $700.00 annually for fees alone) she will end up selling what she needs to in order to survive.  It is not that this little girl didn’t apply herself (she was twelfth out of 140 students in her class); but that the teacher was weak which made the entire class perform poorly.

The children are as happy and as wonderful as they look in the beautiful photos Cindy and Kal are capturing . . . who by the way have settled in comfortably and are extremely hard at work.  Kal is head of construction and installation and we’re getting some things done the right way around here, and, well, you can see the photos.  Everyone is happy and we look so very forward to a wonderful Christmas together, much of which comes because of you.  Asante kwa pendo . . . thank you for your love!

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