Saturday, 25 July 2015

Tanzania: Thank You from Team Tanzania!

Last night we said thank you and goodbye to our overseas volunteer partners at an end of distribution party that the SCAW team hosted.  These volunteers worked so hard for months to prepare for these past two weeks and show so much heart and love for the children.  The SCAW team has been so very privileged to work with such caring people.

Throughout this distribution, team member Helen has been training to take over as team leader in Tanzania.  By the last distribution she had taken on most responsibilities including organization of team members and photography.  Upon hearing that Helen would be returning as team leader next year, the overseas partner volunteers cheered and gave some very touching speeches, knowing that Helen is kind, capable and passionate and will do an amazing job when she returns next year.

This morning, we said goodbye to four of our team members as they left on safari and the rest of us will board our return flight to Canada later this evening.  We have grown as individuals, as a team and have become like family during this experience.  Murray Dryden would be overjoyed to know that 5000 more children are now sleeping peacefully.  The SCAW donors have made this possible.  

Thank you.

Team Tanzania 2015
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Friday, 24 July 2015

Tanzania: Our Final Day

This morning we headed out into the country for our final day of distribution. The distribution site was just down the road from where we were yesterday. We arrived at the smallest of the schools that we visited this trip and were greeted by many children and their parents who were already there waiting for us. Locating a site for pictures was complicated because of voter registration that was going on in the same compound. Everyone who wants to vote in the fall election has to register and have the fingerprints entered into a central database.

Once we got started, the day went quickly as we were taking groups of 10 children. With Mama Wandoa's team and a few of the older school boys, we were able to successfully deliver 715 bedkits to needy children.

It was a bittersweet moment when we took the last picture and gave out the last bedkit. We celebrated the end of a successful distribution, but also realized that we would now have to start saying goodbye to the wonderful team that Mama has assembled.  

Tonight we will be having a pizza party form Mama and her volunteers to say thank you and goodbye.

Jim for Team Tanzania 2015
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Tanzania: Labels

We drove about an hour north of Dar es Salaam up into the hills for our second last distribution. Before we started we showed the parents the items that their children were going to receive in the bedkit. They seemed happy and responded with lots of clapping.

We shared the different jobs throughout the day. Working together all 715 pictures were taken and bedkits handed out.

At the completion, we met with some representatives from the school board and the headmaster of our school who wanted to speak to us. Mama did the translating for them.They told us that this gift of a bedkit will encourage the students to continue with their education. They said that the contents were very useful to everyone, and would be shared with all of the family. They wanted us to thank all the donors who made this possible. Many families come from from a very difficult environment and the items in the bedkit will help to alleviate some of the challenges they face every day and will enable them to stay in school.

I helped pull labels today, and noticed that there are many different reasons to donate a bedkit...."in memory of",  "Happy Birthday ", "To the best Nanna ever", Happy Anniversary", "Merry Christmas", etc.  whatever the reason, a child was helped and a family was helped. Thank you donors.

Suzanne for Team Tanzania 2015
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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Tanzania: Special Thanks!

The distribution as a whole went very well today. Each member of the team worked very well together and we were able to conduct some interviews with parents, children and teachers. When we pulled into the school in the morning there were literally thousands of children lining or path! The school we visited has between 5000-6000 students and too few classrooms so many classes were held outdoors in the courtyard. When speaking to a teacher we were told that there are easily 200 students per class. I was astonished!

Today was the fifth distribution for team Tanzania 2015 and thanks to SCAW's incredible donors we were able to make at least 715 more children very, very happy. In fact, what I have come to realize is that there are so many more who benefit from one single bedkit. Yesterday, we were fortunate to have visited three homes and I was also able to interview two mothers whose children had received bedkits. Through this interaction, we learned that the bedkit is often a gift for more than one child in the household. One mother mentioned that both of her sons would share the mattress and that the mosquito net could be used by the three older children, as their current net, old and worn, is being used to protect the babies.

We had some large group photos today, one of which is very close to my heart. The school where I teach in Peterborough, Edmison Heights PS, helped provide 34 children with a good night's sleep this evening through their fundraising efforts this past June. These bedkits represent a fraction of what the school community donated toward SCAW, with many individual bedkits having been purchased as well. My heart was filled with so much gratitude as I looked upon the faces of those our students have helped. Thank you, so, so much.

In all honesty, I knew that I would fall in love with these children when I first decided to volunteer with SCAW. What I did not know was that I would fall so much in love with SCAW. I am hooked. After 5 distributions and over 3500 bedkits so far I know that my involvement with SCAW has only just begun.

Lala salama.

Laura for Team Tanzania 2015
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Tanzania: Smiles That Light Up Our Hearts!

We returned to the same site as Monday for our distribution today – beside a large soccer stadium.  This certainly worked to our advantage as we photographed a group of 100 children.  You should have seen the bewildered faces on the children as we lead them across an open lot toward the stadium. But then there was much excitement as we seated 100 children into the bleachers for their photo.  The trip back across the lot toward the awaiting bedkits and mattresses was a joyful trek!

After our distribution was over, we had the privilege of visiting three homes of today’s bedkit recipients.  In one home, a grandmother was raising eight of her grandchildren.  They were surviving on a meagre living, and only were able to afford one basic meal a day. 

After dinner we had 14 children from an orphanage visit us. We were almost as excited as the children. We were able to share the shoes and clothes that our friends and families from Canada had sent with us.  It felt like Christmas, with squeals of delight as each child found something to wear. In the midst of this excitement, I was able to help a young boy named Jared, about 8 years old, and a double amputee.  We found a pair of shiny black running shoes that fit his prosthetic legs, and his smile lit up the room and my heart.

Helen for Team Tanzania 2015

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Tanzania: Imagine

For us North Americans, try to imagine living on 60.00 to 240.00 per month, minimum wage in Tanzania, depending on what industry you work in. A very high percentage of the population in Tanzania do just that, so it is no wonder that they need our/your help, No wonder they live in small meager homes , most often without electricity or running water, live mostly on rice and fish and can fit all their personal belongings in a 5 gallon bucket.

Your $35.00, makes all the difference in the world not only to the child receiving your bedkit but to the whole family, as many if not most of the bedkit items are shared. We have been told over the years that their child is not sick as often after receiving a bedkit and teachers have said the child’s school attendance has improved because the child is getting a better rest. What a GREAT gift for a child. Thank you donors. Wish you could be here!

Clarence Deyoung for Team Tanzania 2015
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Monday, 20 July 2015

Tanzania: A Wonderful Day!

Oh what a wonderful day!  There truly are never two distributions that go the same!  We found out last week that students at the school where we were to go today were writing exams and so we had to find a new location on very short notice.  Mama Wandoa took on the task, and upon arrival at the new location, we were thrown another loop and brought to a third location.  Luckily, the team was able to make the best of the situation and set up a great display for the photos and get the distribution rolling in good time!  The drive took just over an hour, we were able to begin distributing the bedkits around 10:00 a.m. and were home at 3:00 p.m.

715 children today were fortunate enough to receive a bedkit.  It was overwhelming to see them leave with such beautiful, big smiles.  LALA SALAMA (sleep well). We were lucky enough today to see the children dressed in everyday clothes as school was out because of the older student's examinations.

Though 715 children received a bedkit today, it was so very sad to see the crowd of people on the opposite side of the fence who were unable to receive the same.  There is so much need in this country that we wish we could have brought one to every child.  It is our hope that we will be able to see the same smiles on the faces of those who did not receive this year by giving them each a bedkit on a future distribution.

Rita for Team Tanzania 2015

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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Tanzania: An Off Weekend

We do not have any distributions over the weekend. So I would like to recount what happened yesterday at our distribution. One of the requirements of SCAW is to interview parents and have them assess what is included now in the bedkit, and to find out if there is something that would be more useful to them. I interviewed a grandmother who was raising 3 children because both their parents were dead, and her granddaughter Mariam had received a bedkit. During the interview I learned that her vision was very poor and she was unable to see the blackboard at school. Mama Wandoa, our oversees Volunteer coordinator, was translating for me, and she said that she might know someone who could help. The owner of one of the products manufactured for us just happened to come to see how a distribution was carried out. Mama spoke with him, he talked with Mariam and her grandmother, and he immediately offered to pay to have her eyes examined and to buy glasses for her. WOW. 

Thank you donors for changing the lives or 715 children. An addional and unexpected bonus was knowing that a child would also have her vision improved. Helping someone else, one person at a time.

Suzanne for Team Tanzania 2015
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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Tanzania: Second Distribution!

Our second day of distribution took us to 2 schools adjacent to the 2 schools where we were yesterday. When we arrived at 7:30am the children were already there, curious and excited to check us out. Something new was happening at their school today!

Many eyes were watching as we got everything ready to begin. As soon as some of the children were dressed in their new school clothes, Jim lined them up ready to have their photo taken. Each team member is assigned a job to ensure that the flow of the distribution goes smoothly and efficiently.

Today Helen had a successful first day photographing the children.  After the picture is taken, the child picks up the bag with his/her own clothes, goes through another checkpoint then receives the bedkit and finally the mattress.

Today my job was to hand out the foam mattress to each child, the last stop. There was an enormous pile of mattresses (715) stacked behind me. Fortunately, I had help from 3 young volunteers who worked diligently making sure a mattress was ready for me to hand out. It is quite a sight to see a 6 year old with his new bedkit strapped to his back, his own clothes in a plastic bag in one hand and then I give him a 6 foot long, rolled up mattress. He has to perform a real balancing act when I put the foam mattress on his head. He reaches up his hands to hold it in place while also holding onto his other possessions. Then he looks up at me with his huge eyes and smiles as he walks away.

Suzanne interviewed several parents/ grandparents to get their thoughts on items in the bedkit.
With the help of all our team members, Mama Wandoa and her helpers, and all the other volunteer helpers, the work of distributing 715 bedkits  is successfully accomplished.  The children will sleep well on their new colourful mattresses. Many thanks to our thoughtful donors who make this possible.

Anne for Team Tanzania 2015
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Friday, 17 July 2015

Tanzania: Our First Distribution!

Today was Team Tanzania's first distribution at Umoja with 710 bedkits.  We arrived at the site just after 7 a.m. to see Mama Wandoa and her team of Tanzanian volunteers already hard at work folding and tying the mattresses.  We were greeted by a crowd of hundreds of school children and were able to spend a few minutes playing, giving high fives and enjoying their brilliant smiles before listening to theTanzanian national anthem and watching some steel drum and dancing performances by the kids.  

The distribution itself ran fairly smoothly with only minor bumps.  Much less bumpy than the roads of Dar Es Salaam!  This was the first distribution ever for myself and Team member, Rita.  I feel like I have been waiting for this day since finding out that I was invited to come to Tanzania last winter, and it was truly a day to remember.  The sun was hot but the day was filled with people coming together and working hard to give children the gift of a better night's sleep.  I had the chance to practice my newly acquired, though limited, Swahili such as 'jambo' (hi), asante (thank you), habari (how are you?) and of course, 'lala salama' (sleep well) and enjoyed making this contact with so many children.  Another highlight was seeing the labels printed with donor names of people from back home who have been so very supportive of our participation on this trip.  

I am currently writing this blog as we are at a standstill in traffic, that which is very common here in Dar.  What took us 25 minutes to drive this morning is looking to be a 2-3 hour return trip home.  There is still much to do this evening and we look forward to another full day tomorrow for our next distribution.  We hope that you will enjoy reading this blog and taking the journey with us over the next 9 days.

Until next time, lala salama.

Laura for Team Tanzania 2015

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Tanzania: Day 1

Today started early as some of us attended a 6:00am church service with our hostess Mama Wandoa.
Then after breakfast we met Mama and visited a potential supplier of mosquito nets for future distributions. Next was a stop at Mama's house where we saw all the bed kits and clothes that were stored there. We also met the people working for Mama who were responsible for sewing all the clothes for the distribution.
Next was slow drive through Dar es Salaam's nightmare traffic to visit the mattress supplier. It was a very interesting tour of the factory where all the mattresses were produced.
Grocery shopping followed, then a pre-distribution meeting with Mama and her daughter Wendy.

Jim Howley for Team Tanzania 2015
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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Tanzania: And The Team Is Off!

Team Members are: Anne Andrew,  Suzanne Andrew, Rita Chisholm, Clarence Deyoung, Jim Howley, Helen Scutt, Laura Smith

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