Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tanzania: What a Great Team!!

I'm taking the liberty of a change of pace with today's Tanzania Live update - Day 6 and 700 bed kits having just been given out at a school in Chem Chem.  I wanted to share with you what an energetic, skilled and dedicated team of Sleeping Children volunteers I have the pleasure of leading.  You have met most of them in photos and videos accompanying Live Updates they have sending, but I wanted to tell you a little about each of them.

Several things happen at each distribution - the SCAW team has the joy of greeting the children and their parents, and then we get down to work including choosing a photo site, setting up the bedkit, taking a photo of each child, interviewing parents and children, and finally, the joy of briefly meeting each child, looking in their eyes and wishing them Lala Salama, a good night's sleep, and giving them their bedkit - the personal touch that shows each child that someone cares for them.  

Our team also came to Tanzania with the goal of sending a more vibrant and complete picture of what happens on a SCAW distribution each day, using social media tools like Facebook, You Tube and others.  You are seeing the results of their skill and efforts.  My team is accomplishing this second goal beyond my expectations.

Each of my team members that you see in the videos and photos is an outstanding individual who volunteered to come on this trip.  Let me say a few words about each of them.

Lori Albrecht - it is largely thanks to Lori that our team is sending back the wonderful "one-minute videos" with highlights of each day.  In addition to her responsibilities for the day (and learning considerable Swahili to speak with the children), Lori is videoing the children, parents, overseas volunteers, SCAW team and capturing many of the wonderful sights and sounds of a SCAW distribution.  After each distribution, in our vehicle or back at the hotel, Lori then works on selecting the "pieces" she likes best from all the videos she has taken, and distills them down into her "one minute of magic" each day.

Graham McDougall is the youngest member of our team at 17, and he has an amazing knowledge and passion for photography, computers and video creation software the names of which I have never heard before.  Graham has taken hours of footage on this trip, from which he plans to make a short video showing the highlights of a SCAW distribution.  Graham has also been advising Lori with some technical aspects of putting together her "one minute videos", including using a Wi-Fi Hot Spot for mobile internet while on the road, and figuring out how to cope with variable strength internet at our hotel.  

Jennifer Travis is from the United States, and our team and SCAW are very excited to have Jennifer travelling with us on a distribution.  Jennifer is passionate about interacting with the children, and making the distribution day a truly special occasion for the children.  Whether blowing bubbles or bouncing balloons, Jennifer had large groups of children surrounding her and enjoying every moment they were with her.  Jennifer's energy and passion for making things special for the children are resulting in many, many smiles on the children's faces in the bedkit photographs.

Lori, Graham and Jennifer are on their first SCAW bedkit distribution.  Jeff McDougall (Graham's dad) on the other hand is on his fourth SCAW trip.  Jeff has exceptional leadership qualities and interpersonal skills, and is making a significant contribution in many ways on this trip.  I had never met Jeff before this trip, and the other day said to him I feel like I have known him all my life.  Jeff provides good ideas and wise counsel, and is a pleasure to work with.  I hope SCAW will see a lot of Jeff in the years to come. 

Last and certainly not least, team member Leslie Banner will be taking over as Tanzania Team Leader in 2014.  I have not traveled with another team leader for many years, and am benefiting from hearing Leslie's suggestions in a wide range of areas involving the leadership of a Sleeping Children team.  I have the privilege of working with Leslie in other areas in the SCAW organization, and have learned on this trip that she is as effective in leading a bedkit distribution as she is in contributing in other leadership areas back home in SCAW.

Every member of my team is contributing to making the Tanzania 2013 trip a success.  So today I would like to recognize each of them, and thank them for their efforts in ensuring six successful bedkit distributions so far, for making each day special for the children and their parents, and for their skill and efforts in enabling our team to share many special moments with the outside world through video, audio, words and photographs.  I am very proud of each of them.

Ted Swanston For Team Tanzania

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tanzania: A School with in School within a School

Our van drove into a schoolyard and we thought we had arrived at the destination for today’s distribution.  Not so!  The school we drove into was in front of a school that was in front of another school!  The total population of the three schools was close to 3000 pupils in the primary school years P1 to P7.  We were to distribute at the middle of the three schools.  The first school appeared to be a “more expensive” school with newly painted buildings and an entrepreneur who had set up a stall to offer food to the students who could afford to buy it.  While one meal a day is supposed to be offered to all students in government schools, most cannot afford to do this without passing the cost on to parents.

Today we talked to over 1000 students and parents who were going to receive a bedkit.  The story of Sleeping Children Around the world was simply told and the bedkit items were shown to loud cheers, particularly when the school supplies were held up to the families by our traveling volunteers.

The din at the schools continued all day while we handed out the 700 bedkits. Many more children did not receive but watched eagerly through the windowless “windows” hoping there might be a chance they could receive one.  Teachers watched the process of the distribution in amazement and little actual teaching occurred in the classrooms today.  In this school class sizes averaged 50 – 125 per class with only double desks for the students, a blackboard for the teacher and student notebooks to write in. 

This distribution left all of us touched by the magnitude of the numbers of needy children in Tanzania.  Parents are struggling to send their children to primary school at least and thanks to our donors, they will be able to achieve a good night’s rest on their new mattress and free from the mosquitoes bearing the dreaded malaria.  No wonder the children smiled and laughed when we asked them to for their pictures.  “checka, Checka” we asked  (smile, laugh).

To see all of the pictures from today and the rest of the distributions. please visit: Tanzania 2013 Pictures

Team Tanzania
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Tanzania: "Asante Sama"

We have finished our fourth distribution day, and have now presented 2,450 children with their precious bedkits.  The fourth distribution began well, with the overseas volunteers already there unloading the big pile of mattresses for the day.  The children and parents were also there soon, dressed in their school uniforms or brightly coloured clothes, and we had a chance to explain to them what would be happening.  The day was hot, but full of reward.

Tanzania continues to be a feast for the senses.  From the smell of spices on Zanzibar, to the sight of seemingly limitless open markets, to the sound of 100 children singing as they arrived on site for the distribution squeezed into the back of an open truck, the varying smells of the city, or the sound of the volunteers laughing kindly at our few phrases of broken Swahili.

However, the sweetest sound has to be the whispered “Asante Sama” (thank you very much), as we gently place the new mattress on the head of a child who will be taking their treasure home.  The response we have come to use is “Lala Salama” (sleep well).

Thank you to those who have donated to SCAW.

Jeff and Graham McDougall for Team Tanzania 2013
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Monday, 29 July 2013

Tanzania: Our day of rest!

Sundays are a day of rest for the SCAW team here in Tanzania...NOT! On our days off our fearless leader, Ted has planned big and exciting things to experience here in this beautiful country! We planned a side trip to the island of Zanzibar, a twenty minute flight from the mainland in a 12 seater prop plane.  It was all about culture today, folks!

We began our tour with a relaxing breakfast buffet at Serena Hotel, and met up with our local guide for the day, Said Suleiman Mohammed, an herbalist and tour guide specialist for Zanzibar. He led us to a local spice farm and we enjoyed the lychee fruit from the tree, fresh sour sop, jack fruit, dorian and tried a vast array of spices as we learned how the traditional plants grow and how to use them to treat common ailments and diseases.

We shopped, met with a jeweler to learn about the properties of Tanzanite, a rare gemstone mined only in Tanzania and toured the Stone Town. With the incredible knowledge of dates, historical facts and practical knowledge about herbs and spices, our guide was outstanding in his profession. We were welcomed into a traditional home to experience a local meal, prepared over an open fire. We were asked to remove our shoes before sitting on the dinner mat, where we sampled rice pilaf topped with squid in a coconut sauce, shrimp, cassava, and bread fruit. On our way to the airport, we wandered through the fish market and took one last look at the exquisite doorways in the Stone Town. The day was a cultural experience that we will never forget!

Team Tanzania
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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tanzania: Inner City Distribution

Today the team completed a distribution at an inner city location at Mama Wandoa's church.  It was a shorter day, with 350  kids receiving bed kits this morning.  The day was full of surprises and many tears were shed, both in sadness and joy.

We were able to assist a very sick boy in need of medical attention and marveled at the strength of his mom as she  hoisted her 11 year old son onto her back to carry him home with his new bedkit.  We interviewed three joyous parents and children to get their feedback and suggestions on the bed kit they received today and hear how it will have an impact on their lives and family.  We greatly relished the joy of many children and their parents as we sent them off with their backpacks on and mattresses balanced on their head!

We had a very special treat in the afternoon, we were invited to attend a wedding at Mama's church!  The wedding party and family arrived at the church dancing in a parade led by a band of drum, trumpet and trombone players. The guests were lined up outside watching and we all followed the procession into the church.  There were five choirs that sang and the drums and trumpet continually added emphasis to the exuberant cheers of the guests as they let their joy be made known all throughout the ceremony.  Although we couldn't understand the language, weddings are beautiful in every language and we greatly enjoyed it.

What a blessing  and honour it was for us to be able to experience this joyous occasion.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Tanzania: Majohe

Our distribution today in video!

The team completed Day 2 of our distributions at Majohe and are enroute back to our hotel.  After completing the distribution, we visited the homes of two families whose children received a bedkit today.  These families live in a remote rural area, and rely on growing a small cash crop for subsistence food and to try to earn a little extra if anything is left over.  A mother, when asked about water for the family, said calmly she walked fifteen minutes to get water and then home again with a jug of water on her head.  How many times a day she had to do this to support five children, we did not ask!

Visiting a bedkit recipient's home from Tanzania 2013

Following the family visits, we proceeded to the factory that produces the mattresses for the children.  The company, Unoplast, has supplied mattresses for the bedkits for ten years, since inception of SCAW's involvement in Tanzania.  The General Manager spoke to us of the importance to him of being involved in this charitable endeavour helping the needy children of Tanzania.    

Pictures from today!

Team Tanzania 2013
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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

TanzaniaL Dubai!!

The entire team has met up in Dubai and we are looking forward to the flight to Tanzania.

The Tanzania Team from left to right: Graham McDougall, Jeff McDougall, Ted Swanston, Leslie Banner, Jennifer Travis, and Lori Albrecht
Our computer geniuses hard at work in Dubai:

Team Tanzania 2013
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Tanzania: Post your comments here:

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