Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tanzania: Mission Accomplished

From Tanzania 2012
Well, there you have it -- 7,000 bedkits have been distributed in Tanzania! 11 days of distribution have come to an end, and as a result there are many, many children sleeping well in rural and inner city areas of Dar Es Salaam.

Today, on our final day of distribution, we delivered 350 bedkits at two locations within the city. We started our day at Uhuru Mchanganyiko Primary School -- a school for students with special needs. It was a lovely school with lots of gardens and friendly children. Many of the students were albino and were given some extra clothes (i.e., long sleeved shirts) and hats from some of our team members. After distributing 150 bedkits at this school, we packed up and drove to our next site -- Buguruni School for the Deaf. This was a government-funded school with approximately 250 students, and an on-site residence for the some of them. The children we delivered the bedkits to here were extremely aware of the process, always showed their appreciation by signing "asante" (thank you) and were full of smiles and giggles. When we finished distributing the 200 bedkits we had a tour around with Judith - a woman who is a part of the England-based charity - Tanzanear ( This charity is involved with Buguruni through fundraising, support, and advocacy. There seemed to be a lot going on at the school today. There were volunteers helping out through Tanzanear. The Lion's Club was giving medical tests to the students, and children were learning in their classes of approximately 12 students. We visited the deaf and blind class, which has four students who are making rugs, paper beads, curtain tiebacks, amongst other things. We had some very interesting discussions with Judith and it gave us a lot to think about.

Including the 7,000 bedkits delivered by
the Tanzania team this year, our total is
now 1,244,130 bedkits since Sleeping
Children began in 1970.

When we were ready to leave, we said goodbye to our 28 overseas volunteers and wished them well. They have worked so hard preparing for the distributions, behind the scenes, and during the distributions and we really appreciate all they have done. Some have been working with SCAW and Mama for 12 years! Others helped make the school shirts and bags that were in the bedkits this year. It was a great team effort by all and it was an emotional ending to eleven wonderful days.

Amazing job everyone - thanks to our team leaders Ted and Mama for great organization, attention to detail and support. Thanks to all the volunteers for all the hard work on the hot days in the sun. Thank you to all the donors who made a huge difference in the lives of the children over here. You helped more than you know. And of course - thanks for the children -- for teaching us to put things in perspective, amongst many other things. We will never forget your smiles.

Until next year -- mission accomplished!

Team Tanzania 2012

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Monday, 23 July 2012

Tanzania: Ugindoni

From Tanzania 2012
Day 10

Today, we again took the five minute ferry ride across the bay in order to save driving time. Unfortunately, the volunteers driving the trucks with the bed kits had to drive the long route around the bay because the trucks were too heavy to go on the boat. We left the hotel at 6 a.m. but the drivers had to leave their homes much earlier. All of the volunteers have been wonderful to work with and even though they speak very little English and we speak even less Swahili, they often anticipate our needs or quickly figure out where we want the mattresses and bedkits to be placed.

Students from each school have been assigned to sweep the sandy pathways clear of sticks and leaves, and carry the heavy wooden tables we use for the photography equipment and the tracking sheets.

From today’s location at a school in Ugindoni, we distributed 700 bedkits to children from two schools that were much smaller than the schools we have visited previously. Each had around 500 students enrolled. There were a few sprinkles of rain. Following the distribution we walked in the grass and sand, past fields of sweet potatoes and other vegetables, to the homes of two of the bedkit recipients. Their homes were made of tree branches, thatch, and mud. Children sleep in one room and the grandmother or parents sleep in another room, on wooden platforms cushioned with cardboard boxes or on grass mats on the ground. Tonight some or all of the family will sleep under a brand new mosquito net.

We have one more day to give out bedkits. We are both sad and glad. Sad to be leaving the wonderful children, volunteers and Mama, but glad to have almost completed the delivery to 7,000 happy kids and glad to be returning soon to our families.

Marilyn Hagerman
for Team Tanzania 2012

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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Tanzania: Magomeni Mviringo

Distribution #9 – Saturday, July 21, 2012

This morning our distribution was in Dar Es Salaam. We distributed 350 bedkits on the grounds of Mama Wandoa’s church.

When we arrived at the site, Mama had 40 children standing and seated ready for the first group photo. As we have observed at all the distributions the children patiently and quietly wait in the hot sun when they have to. We then took a second group photo of 50 children!

Despite the fact that today is the first day of Ramadan and several of our volunteers are fasting – they still worked hard with us.

After we completed distributing the 350 bedkits to needy children from four different schools we drove to Mama Wandoa’s farm about 1.5 hours away. Mama is building herself a small home there so she has a place to stay overnight when she wants to go check on her animals and the pineapples growing.

That afternoon Mama held a commemoration for the opening of the new well on her property for the use of the whole community. A group of Canadians from Ontario had provided funds last year for the well to be built.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we will not have a distribution.

Lala Salama (Swahili for “Peaceful Sleep”).

Kathy Devine
for Team Tanzania 2012

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Friday, 20 July 2012

Tanzania: Gomvu

Today is our 8th distribution. We travelled to Gomvu via our van, and a short ferry ride. There were three schools who received bedkits, for a total of 700. The bedkits that we have distributed to date in Tanzania is 5,600.

When we arrive at the distribution site, we have some time to take pictures of the children. They are delighted when we show them their photos on our cameras. They stand around giggling, and want us to take more and more.

The photos of the children for the distribution went well. A rooster even tried to get his picture taken.

When we were leaving the school, down this dusty rural road, we came upon a motorcycle that was loaded with seven mattresses. Everyone standing beside the motorcycle looked pleased and waved to us as we passed.

Hadi kesho. (Good night)

Team Tanzania
Ted, Karen, Kathy, Marilyn, Jeremy & Jenny

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tanzania: Kibugumo

Day 7
From Tanzania 2012

Well another 700 children will sleep well tonight after our distribution today in Kibugumo, Tanzania. We arrived early to site different from our other distribution days -- today we rode the ferry! We brought the van load of travelling volunteers and bedkits on a 5-minute ferry ride with many other vehicles and busy locals. Due to the large size and weight of the mattress trucks -- they drove the long way around and met us at the site.

We arrived to see a school with some gardens and lots of greenery -- trees (several palm trees), shrubs, plants, and bushes -- and butterflies! The students were sweeping the dirt with their personal brooms made of sticks, while others were filling their plastic bottles with water from the well to water all the plants and grass.

The students joined in singing songs with us and giving high 5’s before the bell rang when they gathered to sing the national anthem and then rushed into the classrooms (hoping to get a seat in a desk and not on the floor) to start their lessons. Ted talked to the parents, (See video below.) explaining the items of the bedkits and with the announcement of each item, the response was cheering and applause. We had government members present during the distribution who participated and will participate in the bedkit selection process. They were observing the end result of the work they had started earlier, as well as talking to those involved in the process, including the families.

We left the and drove away watching the overseas volunteers drink from coconuts, and the older students spread out in the yard writing a test.

Team Tanzania 2012

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From Tanzania 2012

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tanzania: Ulongoni

From Tanzania 2012

Today we arrived at a very large school -- the only one in the community. Ulongoni Public School has 3050 students, 35 teachers, and 7 classrooms. There are on average 300 students aged 6 to 14 in each class, and two school times (AM group and PM group). It takes some students up to 3 hours to walk to school, others multiple bus rides (if they can afford it). It was Sleeping Children’s first time at this school and we were greeted with students singing and drumming to songs. A few government members were present overseeing the process, as well as parents, and numerous extremely interested students making large crowds around the team as we set up the site.

Early in the morning, a very special 13-year-old came up to Mama Wandoa remembering her from a SCAW distribution in 2007 in Kitunda. We had the opportunity to interview her and find out how the materials in the bedkit held up, as well as helped her life. She told us, with much emotion, how the bedkit drastically made a difference in her mother and her very minimal life. Both suffer health conditions and, before receiving the bedkit 5 years ago, they slept together on the floor. Sleeping on a mattress made a world of difference to her -- receiving a good night's sleep, being able to wake up early to do things, and so on. As she put it, "Everything changes." She used everything in the bedkit and to this day she still uses the mosquito net as well as the school shirt. She is a leader within the school, and a very sweet teenager.

Along with talking to her, we had the opportunity today to discuss with the community officer the selection process of the children who receive bedkits. In short -- a lot of time and research by the Director of Education and her team goes into selecting those students in need of bedkits (though all of the students are needy).

We finished at the distribution site and went for a visit to the factory where the mattresses are made. We discussed possibilities for mattresses next year and our thoughts on the product we received this year.

From Tanzania 2012

We are now stuck in a typical Dar Es Salaam traffic jam, being approached by men selling potato chips, stuffed animals, car products, beverages, coat racks, and maps of Africa.

It was a special day to see how much a past bedkit given out impacted one child’s life, and still touches children five years later.

Team Tanzania 2012

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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tanzania: Kigogo Fresh

From Tanzania 2012

As we head out of Dar es Salaam at 6 a.m. towards Distribution #5 at Kigogo Fresh it is still dark but we hit traffic as usual and one vehicle horn soon becomes a symphony of horns. Arriving at our site one hour later we decide to give our wonderful driver Saif, the “Driver of the Year Award.”

The beautiful distribution site is at a school where the Head Mistress is a very caring, interested, and involved individual. It shows as the children are full of energy and pride as they sing the Tanzanian National Anthem and their school song for us. Three children and two drums are the percussion section for the school adding rhythm to the songs.

This elementary school has several signs around its small patches of garden and sandy grounds emphasizing the importance of saving the environment and being "green" – "Nitunze Nikutonze."

With mountains and railroad tracks as a backdrop, we distribute 700 bedkits to the neediest of the 2,000 students. If only we had more to give.

Lala salama (Sleep well)

Team Tanzania 2012
Ted, Kathy, Jenny, Jeremy, Marilyn and Karen

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Tanzania: Kimwani

From Tanzania 2012

Today the entire school of about 2,000 Kimwani students sang their National Anthem, then the choir of around 50 students and a drummer serenaded us with a song and dance of "Welcome" before we bagan the distribution of 700 bedkits. (As shown in the video below.) It brought tears of delight to our eyes.

Although health issues are evident (a few children could benefit from corrective eye surgery or foot surgery and most of the children have had malaria at least once) parents and children really appreciate the school items found in the bedkit - the exercise books, pens, pencils, and especially the school uniform. Without the uniform they cannot attend school.

Sleeping Children is constantly working to provide things which the families value, in a cost effective way. Each day through an interpreter, we interview 3 - 4 children and their parents. The bright smiles and look of delight in their eyes as we place the mattress on their heads tells us that the donations received by SCAW are making a huge difference in the lives of many families.

Marilyn Hagerman
for Team Tanzania 2012

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From Tanzania 2012

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tanzania: Bunju A

From Tanzania 2012

Today our team was excited and thrilled to visit homes of previous bedkit recipients from 2010. We first met with Mama Wandoa, our Overseas Partner, and some of the children who had received the bedkits. Team Tanzania wanted to follow-up on the children's thoughts on how their bedkits benefitted their lives. The children are between 11 and 12 this year.

Mama and Ted asked the children various questions such as what items they are still using, as well as what items they thought might be helpful in the future. They all responded that they were using the mattresses, school bags, lined books, and
bed sheets. They thought that more clothing, and school uniforms would be helpful and appreciated. We thanked the children for their insight.

We then went to a couple of the students' homes to view their bedkit items. They were so proud of their homes, and were excited to show us their precious abodes. There were SCAW mattresses, mosquito nets, school bags, and bed sheets in their bedrooms.

When we returned to our vehicle, other children who had received bedkits in 2010 had arrived at the school and we were able to take their photo with Mama Wandoa.

I know that all of our team members appreciated the comments of the students and that they allowed us to share their world. It was wonderful to actually experience how the bedkits affect people's lives.

Kijijii is a Swahali word that means village. Sleeping Children Around The World and the Overseas Partner come together to assist the children of Tanzania. It does take a village to do this great work for them.

Ted, Karen, Marilyn, Kathy, Jennifer & Jeremy
Team Tanzania 2012

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Friday, 13 July 2012

Tanzania: Day 2 - Goba

From Tanzania 2012
Today we had about a one-hour drive outside of the city into an even more rural school setting than yesterday.

We arrived at the site in Goba to see the children in their uniforms sweeping the sandy ground with their brooms made of sticks, though all had frequent pauses to check out the set up of the day to come.

Today was a special day for the students of this school and those of another school to be the receiving their bedkits. It was also a special day for Mama Wandoa as this was her 12th year (to the day) of distributing bedkits in Tanzania with Sleeping Children.

We also had one of our team members, Marilyn, celebrating her birthday, with "Happy Birthday" sung to her by some very eager students. The students also sung their ABC's (a variation of the version Canadian students sing), the Tanzania national anthem, and they taught us how to count to ten in swahali - a very happy group today.

Until tomorrow - kwa heri!

Team Tanzania 2012

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This just in! We wanted to wish our Team Leader - Ted Swanston - a HUGE congratulations for becoming a Grandpa again!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tanzania: Day 1 - Kwembe

From Tanzania 2012
Thursday was our first distribution day. We woke up early to get to a school in Kwembe, a site in rural Dar Es Salaam, about an hour outside the city centre.

As we approached the site, the children ran up to the van with much excitement. Mama Wandoa met each of us with an incredibly warm embrace, as her local volunteers were unloading the materials from the trucks.

The children got called to class while the mothers (and some fathers) watched from the side. Once we picked our photo spot and began to set up the bedkit and signs, some older students came out with "hockey stick shaped" machetes to cut the grass in the area of the photo.

Before the distribution began, Mama Wandoa and Ted explained the Sleeping Children organization and our mission, as well as describing the items in the bedkit to the parents. The mothers were extremely appreciative - clapping and cheering after each item was introduced, again a very overwhelming moment.

After the speech, the children began to line up - dressed in their bedkit t-shirt, with their "kanga" tied over their shoulder. Last year the children wore their kanga around their waist, but Mama suggested this new way would make everyone feel more comfortable. Another change from last year, was the addition of socks to the bedkits, a request from parents in the past.

The children were appreciative, often looking very bashful and full of excitement. At the end of this hot, and sunny, mid-30's day, which is considered to be winter according to the seasons in Tanzania, we left Kwembe knowing that 700 children will have a bed to sleep on tonight.

Until tomorrow - kwa heri!

Team Tanzania 2012

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Tanzania: The team has arrived

From Tanzania 2012 Photo Album
Tanzania 2012 Travelling Team (Left to right): Karen Morgan, Marilyn Hagerman,
Ted Swanston (Team Leader), Kathy Devine, Jeremy Miller and Jennifer McCabe.

Jambo from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania!

Our team of six travelling volunteers arrived here on Wednesday night - to be greeted at the airport by the lovely Mama Wandoa - our overseas counterpart. We visited her home to see the hundreds upon hundreds of assembled bedkit bags for the children, filling up three rooms in her home, piled high to the ceilings.

Outside were two huge trucks filled with the mattresses for our first day of distribution (700 bedkits). The sight of all these bags and mattresses was overwhelming - knowing the amount of work that it took to put everything together, and all the efforts of Mama and her local volunteers, it made everything feel very real.

Ted, Marilyn, Kathy, Karen, Jenny, & Jeremy
Team Tanzania 2012

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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Monday, 9 July 2012

Sri Lanka: Mission Accomplished

From Sri Lanka Album

We regret the delay in getting these blogs to you in a timely manner, but we have been in several areas where there has been no WiFi service.

On our last day of distribution at the opening ceremony, we were privileged to hoist our Canadian flag along with the flag of Sri Lanka, and our SCAW team sang our national anthem with great pride. We are now leaving the island secure in the knowledge that 4,000 children and parents are happier because SCAW has been here.

The bedkits have been a bright spark of hope to the people who have been so affected by the civil war, the severe drought that is now devastating the area, and the contamination of the wells that supply drinking water to the villages. (This has happened because due to the water table dropping, the existing arsenic that is in the ground has leached into and poisoned the water).

Including the 4,000 bedkits delivered by
the Sri Lanka team this year, our total is
now 1,237,130 bedkits since Sleeping
Children began in 1970.

There is an African word, "Umoja" that means "the spirit of togetherness". Thousands of miles away, that spirit is alive and well in Sri Lanka. To our donors, everyone involved in SCAW in Toronto, the parents, teachers, the officers and soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army, our partners - the Kelaniya Rotary Club, Brian, Emma, Gary, Heather and Joy, "Thank you" for sharing this spirit with 4,000 children.

(May you live long and well).

for Team Sri Lanka 2012

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sri Lanka: Day Five

During each distribution a special element of the opening ceremonies was the lighting of the oil lamp. This is an old Sri Lankan tradition for special occasions, celebrations and festivals. The oil lamps came in different sizes, shapes and constructed from various materials, such as tree branches, bamboo, clay and brass.

The traditional brass cockerel is very significant to the Sri Lankan people as it the national emblem.

Each oil lamp was also ornately decorated with an array of beautiful flowers such as frangipani and lotus. What made the lighting of the lamp so significant was the underlining meaning behind it - the symbol of unity.

Each member that lit the lamp played a significant role in the distribution, (the SCAW team, the Rotarians, the army , the principals, teachers and students) coming together for a truly amazing cause: the children.

Team Sri Lanka 2012

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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sri Lanka: Day Three

From Sri Lanka Album
Another amazing day as we headed to A/Sampath Nuwara Welioya for our third distribution.

The impact of years of war were evident, not only through the barren landscape, but through the stories shared by the head mistress during our welcome speech. The team was moved by stories about these rural families abandoning their homes each night to seek cover in the surrounding jungle, and by the visual reminders of bunkers on the school site.

To see the children now attending school free of fear, and relationships redeveloping with the army, gives this village hope towards a brighter future.

For SCAW to be a part of this is something pretty magical.

Team Sri Lanka 2012

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From Sri Lanka Album

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sri Lanka: Pulmoddai

From Sri Lanka Album
Today we travelled to Pulmoddai where we were met by a marching band and greeted with a traditional floral necklace.
From Sri Lanka Album

The students had taken the time to prepare a performance of a special welcome song and traditional dances as shown in the video at right. (Click to view)

The Sri Lankan Army again was outstanding in working with us to ensure a fast, accurate and efficient distribution of 690 bedkits.

Team Sri Lanka 2012

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Monday, 2 July 2012

Sri Lanka: Tricomalee

From Sri Lanka Album
What an eventful day!

The team awoke early ready to set off at 6 a.m. for Tricomalee, a six-hour journey to the most remote village on this beautiful island.

Upon arrival we were told that instead of handing out 450 bedkits we distributed a whopping 728 bedkits!

We were presented this morning with name tags from the Rotarians. They kindly translated our names phonetically in Singhalese and Tamil.

From Sri Lanka Album
This year the Sri Lankan Rotarians worked extremely hard in putting the bedkits together. Based on last year's interviews, they were able to fulfill the parents requests and provide the students with hard-soled shoes. The quality of the bedkits is superb! The parents and the children interviewed could not believe they were receiving so many much needed items after going without due to the civil war.

Lynette Jenkins
for Team Sri Lanka 2012

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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sri Lanka: The team has arrived

Photos taken at the pre- distribution meeting
on Canada Day in Negombo, Sri Lanka 2012
The Canadian Sri Lanka team are (Left to right): Brian Sutherland,
Emma Squire-Smith, Heather Roswell, Joy Squire-Smith,
Lynette Jenkins (Team Leader), Gary Jewitt.
From Sri Lanka Album
Our Rotarian hosts: (Left to right): Ravi, Sydney, Chandra, Pani, Garmini.
From Sri Lanka Album
The 2012 Canadian team has arrived safely in Sri Lanka.

We were met by our Rotarian hosts in Colombo, after being guided by two gracious airport officials in their traditional saris, through the challenges of customs and immigration intricacies. We have been fortunate to have a day to recuperate after our long, 24-hour travel journey, and what a great way to celebrate Canada Day, dressed in our patriotic t-shirts and waving the Canadian flag!

Tomorrow, we leave for Trincomalee at 6 a.m. It will take us six hours to travel to the north eastern side of the island and there, we will do our first distribution of 450 bedkits.

More news to follow tomorrow...

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