Friday, 25 July 2014

Tanzania: Final Distribution!!

Today we had our final distribution.  We distributed 750 bedkits in groups of 50.   There were a couple of breaks throughout the day, where we took the opportunity to play ball and blow bubbles with the kids.  Since it was our last day, we left the kids a couple balls and bottles of bubbles which put big smiles on their faces. 

At the end of the distribution the SCAW team and the overseas volunteers came together for a final group photo with the bedkit.  It was not goodbye though, as we were all coming together later that evening for a celebration meal.   We managed to visit a couple more homes of families in need where the parents express deep gratitude for their child’s bedkit.

We were all happy to call Dar es Salaam our home for the past couple of weeks and we wish Steve Allen, who travelled with us, much success as he takes over as the new team lead for Tanzania over the next 4 years.   

Here are some pictures from our distributions!!

Team Tanzania 2014
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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Tanzania: Kimbaba

Day 6 of our distribution was at Kimbaba, in the district of Kinondoni, which is the northernmost of three districts of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  We arrived to the school, which was on a steep and jagged terrain.  We managed to find a flat surface to set up for the day of distribution ahead of us.  

Before we started the distribution, we visited a small class of children with special needs who greeted us with a song and a warm hello.

(editor's note: due to some technical difficulties, the video of the children singing could not be uploaded to the blog.)

Distribution of the kits went very smoothly and we managed to keep dry, despite the hints of possible rain throughout the day.  After the distribution, the team was invited to visit and tour the factory, Banco, the bedkit supplier.  At Banco, they create and cut the foam of the bedmat, select and sew bright materials to cover the mat followed by packaging and shipping.  Benjamin, our overseas volunteer was nearby as the staff loaded the truck with bedkits for our distribution the following day.

The manager of the factory said he really valued the overseas volunteers who connected him to SCAW and they were honoured to continue to have the opportunity to be a supplier to children in need.    

Team Tanzania 2014
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Tanzania: Mburahati

Day 5, our half way point of distribution, took place in Mburahati. This was the closest distribution to our overseas home as well as our biggest distribution of 800 bedkits. We were lucky today as we were able to pick out our photo site almost immediately. Our biggest struggle of the day was the wind blowing the bedkit out of place. Luckily Joan had quick reflexes and was able to sort everything out. During one of our breaks, we had a group of children gather around to sing some lovely Tanzanian songs. Along with this they ATTEMPTED to teach us some Swahili words, including numbers from one to ten. We were fortunate enough to remember the first three numbers being moja, mbili, and tatu. During this break, our original thought was to go for lunch but unfortunately we had forgotten our lunches and had to deal with few snacks. Although it was our biggest distribution, we finished in good time with few delays and a lunch ready for the next day. 

Team Tanzania 2014

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tanzania: Mji Mpya

Another early start, this morning we set out to Mji Mpya.  The school we visited was new, replacing a former school that was damage in a major flood years ago.  In the flood, many families lost their homes as well, so the community is now underway to re-build what they lost.

We distributed a total of 750 bedkits today.  The distribution went smoothly even when we were faced with a brief downpour.  Undeterred, we set up the equipment when the sky cleared, and completed taking photos of the children, including one photo that had 80 children, for an 80th birthday! We also were fortunate to enjoy hearing the students sing their national anthem.

We ended the day by  saying goodbye for the weekend to our overseas volunteer partners and goodbye to the children who now have new bedkits to go with their new school and homes.

Team Tanzania 2014
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Tanzania: Majohe

Our team set out on day 2 bright and early to Majohe, where we went to a school with over 3000 students.   We received a warm welcome from the students who sang a beautiful local song to us.  After 15 minutes of singing, Benjamin (our overseas partner) jovially told us that if we did not excuse ourselves, the kids would sing to us all day long!

After distributing 710 bedkits, we wrapped up the day.  As we started to pack the vehicle, the students gathered around our team and vehicle, wanting to spend some time socializing with the team.  Two new team  members blew bubbles into the air and entertained the kids until it was time to say goodbye.   

Team Tanzania 2014

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Tanzania: Congo La Mboto

Our Team arrived last night after traveling for about 24 hours. We were greeted by Mama Wandoa, Wendy and Benjamin  (our overseas volunteer partners). Our driver, David, took us to our place to stay. Once we got settled, we enjoyed a good sleep.
Although we were a little tired this morning from our flight last night, there was so much adrenaline in us from being excited for our first day of distribution.

There are 3 team members on their first distribution. And they fit in as if they have done this before.

Our first site was at the school in Congo La Mboto with 2,000 students.
After distributing 740 bedkits, we were given a wonderful good bye with many students giving us lots of high fives

The day concluded with buying groceries for our team, making dinner and a early time to go to bed.

Steve Allen for Team Tanzania 2014
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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sri Lanka: A Visit to two Cottage Industries

We went for a visit to two of the Cottage Industries that produced materials for the Sri Lanka bedkits.  Being unfamiliar with the term “Cottage Industry”, we were fascinated to see that it was not a large scale factory, but a much smaller scale business run out of a local home. 

The first cottage industry we visited was a small home with one large room converted into a sewing room.  The company, Lasha, employed 9 people to sew t-shirts and shorts.  They said that the work commissioned to them by SCAW to produce 8,000 t-shirts and 4,000 pairs of shorts kept their shop busy for 2 months.  The contract with SCAW that has lasted at least 2 years,  allowed the shop owner to expand his operation and purchase more sewing machines.  It was like a “mom and pop shop” where a husband and wife were the employers to the nine local employees. 

The second cottage industry we visited was where our mosquito nets were produced.  They were all made in a small room in a home where the woman that sewed all 4,000 nets with one sewing machine.  She was able to purchase a Serger (a special sewing machine that finishes and trims the seams).  Through SCAW’s commission of her work she was able to purchase the Serger.  To sew all 4,000 nets it provided her with over 3 months of work. 

It was a wonderful experience to visit these cottage industries to see how the donor’s money also creates meaningful employment for so many local Sri Lankans. 

No visit to Sri Lanka would be complete without a ride in a Tuk-Tuk.  Before we departed Sri Lanka we knew we needed to have the unique experience of a Tuk Tuk ride.  Weaving through the streets of Colombo it was an exhilarating experience!

Six happy travelling volunteers will be heading home shortly with stories of culture and experience…but mostly of the smiles of the children in Sri Lanka.  

Team Sri Lanka

Monday, 7 July 2014

Sri Lanka: Distributing 4,000 Bedkits is Complete!

There’s a strange feeling about the day of the last distribution.  Each day we’ve been working hard and learning little tricks along the way to make each distribution day run a bit smoother than the one before.  At the beginning of the distribution, the number 4,000 sounds so big, until you’re down to the last 50 photographs. 

“Upon our arrival to the distribution site we were entertained by school children performing a
Traditional Tamil Dance

It’s incredible that five days of distribution have passed by so quickly.  It’s hard to believe that we have covered so much distance and visited so many schools and distribution sites.  But it’s not hard to picture the smiling faces of 4,000 children for whom we have provided bedkits and imagine them well-rested and healthy, ready for their next school day. 

Our distribution’s success is largely due to the support from our Overseas Partners, the Rotary Club of Kelaniya.  They have been with us along the way; passing on all there is to know about Sri Lanka’s culture and specifics about the children at each distribution site.  They really are our “partners” in this venture. 

Team Sri Lanka

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sri Lanka: Interviews

Upon our arrival at each site we are greeted by children and paraded into the distribution site.  During yesterday’s and today’s distribution we were presented with a beautiful flower garland made from local flowers. 

At each distribution we take some time to speak with the parents of children whom are receiving a bedkit.  We want to know about their family life and how they feel about the items in the bedkit.  Sitting down with a translator, a sample bedkit is displayed.  A team member asks a series of questions in English and the translator communicates the questions and responses.  Today was a unique experience in that two translators were needed.  The questions were asked in English, which were then translated into Sinhalese and then to Tamil.  Sinhalese and Tamil are the two most widely used languages in Sri Lanka. 

Through the interview we learned how gracious the parents were about receiving the items in the bedkit.  They were especially pleased to receive items that would assist their children in attending school such as the backpack and school shoes.  The parents explained that the dry season in the area (July-October) was the most challenging weather related time for their families.   

Two successful days of distribution and 1,600 happy kids, like this one seen below, have headed home for a good night’s sleep. 

Team Sri Lanka

Friday, 4 July 2014

Sri Lanka: Visit to the Recipients' Homes

Our visit to Sri Lanka is being enriched by being in the company of our Sri Lankan Rotary Club Overseas Partners.  Everywhere we go we are learning about significant traditions, culture, history and also about the wildlife and vegetation.  At the arrival of today’s distribution site, we were treated to a cultural dance performed by the students in costume and accompanied by drum.  It was spectacular!

Once our distribution was complete we were taken to visit two homes of children who were recipients of a bedkit earlier in the day.  Each house was a long way from the main road down a narrow dirt path.  We were warmly welcomed into the homes by the mothers who expressed their gratitude for receiving a bedkit.  The homes were basic built from mud bricks, with 2 or 3 rooms and concrete floors.  Outside in the yard were small plants and trees.  We learned from one of the families, that they harvest their own Jack Fruit.  It’s a large starchy fruit that is a staple to the family’s diet and has several uses. 

A great day had by all with many, many smiles from both SCAW volunteers, children and parents.  

Team Sri Lanka

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Sri Lanka: Our First Day of Distribution Complete!

We arrived to a marching band and were greeted by young children presenting a bundle of leaves to each Canadian volunteer.  It was clear from the energy around the school that the children knew something special was about to happen.  The school had put many hours into preparing for our visit.  They had used packaging Styrofoam to create a mural of the words “Sleeping Children Around the World” and carefully attached it to the back wall of their school hall. 

Once the distribution began, the children were eager to join the line to have their photo taken.  We managed to get many smiles and even a few giggles for the photographs.  Receiving their neatly packaged bedkit, the children showed their joy by saying “Thank You”,  showing beaming smiles and signs of respect to the SCAW volunteers distributing the bedkits.  Sounds of excitement and happy conversations were heard as many of children boarded buses to head towards home.  

Team Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: The Whole Team has Arrived!!

After spending a day acclimatizing to the lush Sri Lanka climate and humidity, the team has travelled four hours in preparation for their first distribution day.  Our team was minus one member for the first 24 hours, as Ricki was delayed in Winnipeg due to weather.  We were delighted to see her arrive in Sri Lanka on the next day’s flight.

Our Rotarians have travelled to the distribution area with us.  They are eagerly awaiting our rendition of “O Canada” at the beginning of the distribution tomorrow morning.  We are just as eager to hear the Sri Lankan anthem and get our first glimpse of 800 of the 4,000 Sri Lankan children who will be receiving a bed kit.  

Team Sri Lanka
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