Friday, 30 August 2013

Honduras: Cristo el Picacho

Cristo el Picacho is 12 Km. from the City of Tegucigalpa.  The distribution site houses elementary to high school children and funded by the Catholic Foundation of Cristo el Picacho.  It is situated way down the mountain thru a very narrow zigzagged Stoney path.  I closed my eyes and I thought we would never be able to go up again.  Our driver Luis is very skilled.

There was a concrete outdoor playground that was perfect for what we had to shoot today.  There were 10 shots comprising 50 children each for the 500 Bedkits from a very generous Donor.  It was a very challenging positioning of the children that I have never encountered in all my wonderfully adventurous career with SCAW.  Due to the number of children, it had to be shot from above.  Irene did a very daring stunt as you can view on the video.  Wow!

After one of the harshest Hurricanes that hit Tegucigalpa,  many were left homeless.  The Foundation built homes in this area and uprooted the families.  Most of the families live in two room homes, the kitchen and an all purpose room.  Most of the children have to hike for more than 3 Kms to get to school.

On the way back to the hotel, we toured the picturesque Town of Santa Lucia.  What a treat.  Throughout its cobbled narrow streets and the quaint brick homes, one is presented with the most amazing scenery below beneath the blue sky.  Another heart warming day!

Linda Taiabjee For the Honduras Team
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Honduras: Women's Co-op

On Wednesday, after a very successful distribution at Colonia VIlla, we had the opportunity to visit a Women's Sewing Co-op. Organized two years ago to provide training and employment opportunities for women, this program is supported by the Rotary Club of Tegucigalpa, our Overseas Partner in Honduras and facilitates the economic independence of women, most of them single women.  About 50% of the bed sheets included in this year's bedkits were sewn by the Ladies.  This was a pilot project to determine their ability to deliver a quality product at the right price and on time.  The Co-op produced a superb product and hopefully they will have the opportunity to manufacture all the sheets or other items for next year's distribution.  This is an example of how a $35 donation does far more than provide an bedkit for a child. Since items in the bedkit are manufactured in the country of distribution, it supports the local economy which is experiencing troubled times, high unemployment and limited opportunities.  The trickle down effect is significant. Women have the opportunity to earn wages and support their families.  The bedkit provides comfort for a child; a lifeline for its mother. 

Thank you donors on behalf of the Women's Co-op and their families.

Team Honduras 2013
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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Honduras: Mucho Gratias!!

Today was the second day of our Honduran 2013 Bedkit Distribution and our team drove up the steep hills of Tegucigalpa to arrive at the Republica de Mexico school. We were honoured to have the Mexican Ambassador to Honduras there to welcome us and say a few words. The school principal also made a speech and said many kinds words about SCAW and all the generous donors that ensure that so many of her needy students receive the wonderful bedkits. The Tegucigalpa  Rotarians have everything so well organized at the schools, with so many of the members and wives helping our team at every step of the way in the distribution process.

As a first time travel volunteer, today it was my turn to be directly involved in actually handing a bedkit to each child. What an amazing experience! Many times as they said a very heartfelt "Gratias" to me, I wished I could somehow send that little child's appreciation and loving smile back to all the donors who make this all "Mucho Gratias"!!!

Kathy Grant for Team Honduras
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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Honduras: Day 1!

For the first time in so many days, there was no rain!  I have monitored the weather for a few weeks before our departure and it rained every day, after all, this is the Hurricane season in Honduras.  Today, the Sun helped our picture taking, giving us a bright sunny day with a refreshing breeze that made it comfortable for the 654 children as they lined up waiting for their photos to be taken.

We selected the site, arranged the photo Bedkit to reflect a clear identification of the contents that your $35.00 donation will provide to a child who should have these in a normal household, but doesn't.  A new addition to the kit this year is a colourful backpack which the children  loved.  

Our team settled quickly and smoothly doing our individual tasks as if we have done this together for a long time.

With the assistance of the Rotarians (both husband and wife), The First Lady's group of young people headed by the ever capable and efficient Miguel who have helped in the SCAW distribution for many years, teachers and others, our first day was successfully concluded without a hitch.

Later, our team visited the Park at the tip of one of the mountain that surround the City of Tegucigalpa. The huge statue of Christ with His hands stretched out towards the City giving his blessing makes us aware that Honduras is heading towards a brighter future through their Children.

Team Honduras
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Monday, 26 August 2013

Honduras 2013: The Team Has Arrived!!

We have arrived In Honduras,greeted at the airport by a contingent of The Rotary Club of Tegucigalpa and their wives. The media is there to greet us as well, interviewing us for the evening news. Perhaps we were not the most elegant or articulate, somewhat tired from the long trip and very early morning start, but we were enthusiastic, spreading the word about the upcoming SCAW project, delivering bedkits to over 5000 children.
A quick trip to check out the venue for the first distribution and we were given  our first glimpse of the colourful bedkits. A knapsack has been added to the kit this year.

Our reception was highlighted by a tasty, traditional Honduran lunch at the home of Ramon and Conchita, also attended by many of the Rotarians who have worked diligently to make this distribution a reality. It was an opportunity to renew friendships for those members who have worked In Honduras before and a wonderful insight for new team members of the warm and generous hospitality that the SCAW teams are always given.
It was a great start to what will be a most rewarding time as we continue the SCAW dream, bringing smiles and comfort to the children of Honduras. We look forward to our first distribution.

The Team: Steve Allen, Kathy Grant, Karen Morgan, Linda Taiajbee, Irene Harrison (team leader) Jim Gibson

SCAW Team Honduras 2013

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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Tanzania: Mission Accomplished!!

We're done!

From Tanzania 2013
Tanzania Team 2013 is pleased to report that 7,000 needy children will tonight be enjoying a good night's sleep thanks to our donors, the efforts of our overseas volunteer partner, Upendo Information and Counselling Centre, and the Sleeping Children team.  Following the distribution we met with our overseas volunteers, and thanked them for their hard work over the last six months, and everything they have done on behalf of the children.  Today's farewell was emotional for our team and certainly for me, as this was my third and final year as Team Leader on the Tanzania distribution.  Tanzanian volunteers who in the first year worked with our Sleeping Children team as colleagues now feel to me as if they are family.  We did not say goodbye, but rather that we look forward to the next time we see each other.

 Many of Mama Wandoa's Tanzanian volunteers are Muslim.  Not only have they worked hard and long every day of the distribution, but as it is Ramadan they have not taken food or even water from sunrise to sunset. One volunteer explained they are happy to do this, since community service is an important component during the period of Ramadan.  The children who received bedkits in Tanzania are a testament to the service these volunteers, and others, have provided.

After our distribution, our team visited the historical city of Bagamoyo, sea-side destination of the east African slave caravans.  Our team saw the old fort where the slaves were held, followed by the slave market and port where slaves were loaded onto dhows to be transported to Zanzibar and then on to other countries around the world.  Today the dhows are still here, but now they are largely are used for fishing in the Indian Ocean.  Our guide told us that fishing is the major activity in the Bogamoyo area.  Walking on the beach we passed a fisherman who proudly showed us his catch of prawns.

From Tanzania 2013
Seeing this fisherman took me back to Mama Wandoa's volunteers, people of meagre means who volunteer to help the children.  Several days ago I had an opportunity to interview five of Mama's volunteers, and one question asked was how they made a living to support themselves and their families.  Two men said they would go down to the ocean at dawn, and wait for the fishing dhows that had been fishing all night to return to shore.  These men would offer their service to the dhow captains, to help them unload their catch and earn a small sum, and perhaps a few fish to take home to their families.

So even at Bagamoyo, with the distributions over, my mind was taken back to the amazing group of volunteers who make the Sleeping Children distributions possible.  I will not forget them.

Our team hopes you have enjoyed the updates, videos and photographs they have sent back over the last two weeks.  I can assure you they worked hard, and represented Sleeping Children and its donors well in all aspects on this trip.  Thanks to our team, we are bringing home hours and hours of video covering all aspects of the bedkit distributions, interviews with our overseas volunteers, bedkit recipients and others.  This video will be reviewed by Sleeping Children when our team returns to Canada.  Our team hopes this material will help spread the word about the charity in new ways, through new communication channels, that will help Sleeping Children ensure more children get a good night's sleep.

And so we say good night, and thank you donors.

Ted Swanston
On behalf of Team Tanzania
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Monday, 5 August 2013

Tanzania: The Power of the Blog

When writing the blog to send to our indomitable blogmaster Laurie Guay, we are always struck by the comments that have come from far and wide.  So often they are from Sleeping Children Around the World volunteer travellers, many of whom over the years have been in tanzania.  They have experienced Mama Wandoa and her team of young volunteers who toil endlessly behind the scenes every night to ensure that we have the right number of mattresses and bags to give to the children the next day. they have worked for months to make sure all is ready for us when we arrive to take the pictures for our donors.

The comments to our blogs may be from family and friends concerned about our welfare so far away from home.  This warms our hearts as we are experiencing so many new sights, smells, tastes and smiles as we travel through the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam.  We seem to be in suspended animation here as we work with the children and then return to our hotel to shower the dust off that swirls around us at each distribution site.

We know that there has been an election in Zimbabwe, the former president Bill Clinton has been in Tanzania to look at his funded projects for sustainable farming and that many American embassies have been closed around this part of the world (but not the one here), but we seem to be so engrossed in our daily activities we are almost unaware of the world around us.  

Our  friends in SCAW whom we may even have travelled with understand the power of the distribution on each and every one of us.  Whether a first time volunteer traveller or a fortunate multiple-time ones, we all share the understanding of the emotional highs of making a difference in the lives of 7,000 children here in Tanzania.

As this distribution draws to its close our feelings of sadness at its ending and the satisfaction of working hand-in-hand with our Overseas Volunteer Partner becomes more difficult to describe to those who have not had this privilege of traveling for the 100% charity, Sleeping Children around the World.  The blog comments often come from our brothers and sisters in the charity who understand the experience.

Getting ready for our second last distribution
before the sun is up
For those reading the blogs, looking at the videos, and following our stories, it is heartwarming to hear your comments and questions about the distribution.  We look forward when we reach our homes to present to groups small and large, friends one on one and in small groups to talk about "our story."  Be prepared for our excitement as we relate our Team Tanzania 2013 experiences. Just ask us, "How was your trip?" and be prepared for a fulsome story of an experience of a lifetime, an experience that changes each and every one of us.

Leslie Banner
for Team Tanzania 2013
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Talking to the 700 boys and girls who will receive a bedkit today
and their families, mostly mothers and grandmothe
Our ladies trying out the bench for the pictures
Arranging the bedkit for the children

Tanzania: Going Above and Beyond

A key element of the Sleeping Children Around The World bedkit program is to generate local economic benefit in the countries where distributions occur.  In Tanzania, a local manufacturer Unoplast Limited supplies the major item in the bedkit, the mattress.  Parents and children's faces light up when, before each distribution, we speak with them and show them the colourful mattress each child will be receiving.  

Unoplast has been supplying mattresses for over ten years for the bedkit program.  Each year Mama Wandoa, the head of our overseas partner organization, gets at least three competitive quotes, but Unoplast has always earned the contract to supply the mattresses.  This year Unoplast supplied 50 mattresses at no cost.  Their Marketing Manager, Mr. Chirag Patel, spoke to the SCAW team of the importance their firm and management team places on their participation in the bedkit program (you can see an excerpt of Mr Patel's comments in the wonderful one-minute video that team member Lori Albrecht created and is below).

Mr Patel and Unoplast went "above and beyond" being an excellent supplier at Saturday's distribution for albinos and other challenged children.  As promised, Mr. Patel arrived at the distribution site with a medical doctor, Dr. Stanley Lwiza, and Nurse Elizabeth Kondela to examine the children.  Twenty-two of the most at-risk children were given a thorough physical examination, and the doctor and nurse discussed the results with each child's parents.  The medical staff provided suggestions to the parents for treatments that would help their children, and in some cases referrals to specialists for follow-up.  

I spoke with the Doctor and Nurse following their work, and it was clear that they were moved by the experience.  They said they would be willing to come back next year to examine other children who were to receive bedkits, and provide what advice they could offer to their parents.

Sleeping Children Around The World and Upendo Information and Counselling Centre wishes to express their appreciation to Dr. Lwiza and Nurse Kondela, and to Chirag Patel and Unoplast for making the visit possible by these medical professionals.

We tried to say "thank you" to Mr Patel by having him hand out bedkits to the challenged children.  I hope Mr Patel and his family enjoy these two photos, and that in some small way they can express our team's appreciation to him.

 Team Tanzania 2013

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Tanzania: Home Visits!

We had a chance to visit a boy named Saidi, who received a bedkit 3 years ago.  This boy lives with his grandmother, older sister and uncle in some very cramped quarters.  The area was enclosed by a palm leaf fence and inside it was a cement structure where we were told the grandmother and sister sleep and then the mud structure you see in the picture where the Saidi and his uncle sleep.  There is also a chicken coop, complete with suitcase!  Behind that was a cordoned off area we were told is the bathroom.  The cooking is done in the small space beside the mud hut.  Our team was warmly welcomed into their yard and we greeted one another and asked about who lived in this home and the specifics of the site and Saidi and his bedkit.  He was still using the mattress and the mosquito net he had received.  The school supplies were long used up, but he still had the school uniform.  We were invited to go inside his bedroom and had to take turns going into the hut because the space was so small.  You can see Saidi sitting on his bed with the mosquito netting hanging above him.  We were told by the headmaster of the school that he is very bright and does quite well in school.  His grandmother told us she wasn’t sure he would pass his exams for secondary school and even if he did, there was no money to pay for him to go.  Tuition is approximately $100 a year plus the cost of uniforms, books and other expenses.  Our bed kit helped him stay in primary school so he could get the basics of an education.  It is difficult to listen to the dashed dreams of a bright boy whose future hangs in the balance, as we stand in a tiny space filled with things we in North America can barely even imagine but are the day to day life of this lovely boy.  The school supplies offered in the bedkit, a uniform, 6 exercise books, 3 pencils, 3 pens, an eraser, ruler and pencil sharpener truly can mean the difference between going to school and not being able to afford those necessities.

And of course, our one minute movie!

Jennifer Travis for Team Tanzania
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Tanzania: All The Helpers - Part 2!

Lori for Team Tanzania 2013
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Friday, 2 August 2013

Tanzania: All the Helpers!

Just finished our 8th distribution, with the knowledge that 5,250 children will be getting a better sleep tonight than they may have had for a long time.  The need is apparent everywhere around us, and the joy at receiving such a precious gift is sometimes very palpable.

As we were wrapping up today, I was thinking of all of the people that have come together to make this possible.  First, there are the donors, who have cared enough to purchase a bedkit for a child they do not know and will never meet.  Then there are the travelling volunteers, who have the privilege of handing out the bedkits and meeting these children first-hand.  There are people at the SCAW office, who arrange distributions, accept donations and produce tax receipts, match photographs with donors, and a host of other activities that make SCAW work so well.  Overseas, there are a number of volunteers, from the ladies who dress the children, to the stunt drivers who drive trucks to the distribution sites, to the volunteers that unload the trucks and assist with the distributions, to the translators who work so tirelessly whenever we need to talk to someone in Swahili.  Also, the manufacturers of bedkit items see the value in what is being done, and provide some of the bedkit items at cost (or even donate from their resources to help).  Finally, there is Mama Wandoa and her family, who have taken on the task of coordinating the bedkit assembly, the finding of children who need the most, and the logistics of having us, the bedkits, and the children all at the same place at the same time.

All in all, I would say this is a pretty good team effort!

Jeff and Graham McDougall for Team Tanzania
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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Tanzania: What I Mean

Bottom line, my Swahili is no good.  I live in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States.  My grasp of English is astounding, I can say what I mean and mean what I say.  I have no trouble getting my point across, whether I am speaking to my husband and children or to the plumber standing in my bathroom.  If I need to find mango chutney but don’t know the aisle at the supermarket, I have the words to ask the questions that lead me right to it, no problem.  But here in Tanzania, what I mean doesn’t always come across so well.  When we arrive at a new site and get out of the van, what I mean is, “Good morning!!  I am so blessed and excited to be here and see all of you.  I am thrilled that I am part of a team that can bring you a bedkit that will make life so much better for you and give you things that you otherwise could only dream of having, brand new and clean and all your own!”  What I say is “Stand up!”  Whoops, wrong Swahili word, try again quick before they start wandering away in confusion. “Habari ya hasaboi, good morning!” Yes, that is it, it’s not exactly all that I mean, but at least it is a polite greeting.  Time to get to work.  What I mean is “Oh, how wonderful, I love seeing you in your new clothes!  Please, line up here and stay in line to follow me right this way so we can arrange you to take your picture to send to the sponsors.  Those sponsors may be moved to tears to see you, you have been so blessed by their generosity.  Please show them how excited you are to receive this bedkit.  I can feel your excitement because I am here with you, I can rejoice with you.  Let’s work together to let this still picture share that excitement!”  What I say is, “Only one of you, follow me.”  They obey and I wonder why the whole line of children won’t come and then realize, yet again, wrong word, try again.  “All of you, follow me this way.  You, sit right here please and you, please stand over there.  Now, laugh!”  That is the best that my Swahili words can do.  I hope it is enough.  I hope that the joy on my face and the excitement in my eyes can convey the words that I just don’t have.  I hope that the love is passed on in my touch and in my smile.  I hope that the experience of having these visitors delivering a bedkit filled with things that all belong to you convey just how worthy you are, just how special you are and make you feel as blessed as I do to have been a part of your life for this very short time.

Jennifer Travis for Team Tanzania 2013
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