Thursday, 25 August 2016

Honduras: The Final Day!!

The final day!

You never know what will happen at the conclusion of a SCAW distribution and today was unlike no other. 4000 children's lives have been enriched by the generosity of SCAW donors. "Muchas gracias" was heard over and over today as we end the Honduras distribution. And show their gratitude - the children at the final school performed for us. Little did we know that we would be a part of the performance!

A sincere thanks to all the donors, the SCAW team, the Rotarians and the Rotaracts who helped make this yet another successful journey!

Team Honduras 2016
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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Honduras: Thank You!

As the end of our distribution in Honduras draws near, we are appreciative of the friendly welcome and gratitude expressed to us by the beautiful children and their parents of Tegucigalpa and surrounding areas.  Each day, the Team has been greeted by crowds of smiling faces and waving children and parents; some days there are banners and signs decorating the entrance to the distribution sites.
The colourful bedkits have popular animated characters on them that are easily recognized by the recipients, who occasionally point out their chosen favourites.

One of the best parts of our days is when, after our work is done, we are entertained by some of the children with singing and dancing.  They seem to enjoy the opportunity to share a piece of their culture and talents in appreciation for the gifts they have received.

Team Honduras 2016
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Honduras: The Rotaracts

Today the usual functions of the Tegucigalpa Rotary Club members were taken over by the Rotaract Club. The site was previously scouted and the organization was handed over to them. They delivered the bedkits to the site, did some paperwork, and planned the snack.They even assisted in making a second opening in the site perimeter to be used as the day's exit.

Thirteen Rotaract members, including 2 who had not been previously involved, oversaw the distribution of 417 bedkits along with the SCAW team members.

The Rotaracts displayed great organizational skills and were so good with the children. They were a delight to work with and to know.

Team Honduras 2016
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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Honduras: Interviews!

We have just finished our sixth amazing day of distributions, averaging over 400 bedkits per day.

SCAW is always trying to improve on methods of distribution as well as the quality and benefits of the items included in the bedkits.  With that goal in mind, several interviews are conducted using an interpreter with parents or grandparents who have accompanied the children to the schools where they receive their bedkits.  When interviewing these people, questions are asked such as where does the child sleep and what do you consider a good night sleep. The interviewer also enquires about the health problems that the family faces and what times of year are the most difficult and why. We are interested in knowing at what age the child started school and at what age the child will stop attending school.

The interviewees are shown all the items in the bedkit and are asked which item they feel is most beneficial and which is least beneficial. They are told that the reason this question is asked, is so that kits in the future would have more high-quality, useful items in them. Most people answer that everything in the kit is most beneficial and there is nothing that is least useful.  They are also asked to suggest a bedding item or article of clothing that they feel would be more useful than the articles presently included in the bedkit, again to make sure that we are providing them with the items that best suit their needs.

All interviewees are asked what they would like to say to the donors of the bedkits and they often get quite emotional. They thank and bless us for coming such a long way to help their children's living conditions by giving them such useful items.

We all feel proud to be part of an organization that can offer children a good night's sleep and put smiles on their faces.

Team Honduras 2016
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Honduras: Dedication of the Children!!

Today we were treated to a special event! Not only do the children spend time everyday with their studies but when we arrived a today's site there were 50 children practising their band performance for the upcoming Independence Day which is still almost a month away.

The school today although in a very poor area was extremely well maintained due to the dedication of the principal, teacher and parents.

At the end of the day the Rotarian SCAW project leader waited while the last 2 boys received their bedkits even after the distribution was complete.  All examples of 'true dedication'.

Team Honduras 2016
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Friday, 19 August 2016

Honduras: Visiting Recipients!

 We had another great day with 444 bedkits handed out to 8 different schools. This was by far the poorest group of children that we have seen. After all the bed kits were handed out we headed out to a community where bedkits had been handed out last year. We visited the home of one 8 year old girl who proudly showed us her bed. It had the mosquito net draped over it and the pillow and sheet and blanket covering the colourful mattress which she got last year. She lived with grandma and 7 cousins.

Then we headed off to a home where we had to walk a single mud and rock path to reach the home of a 10 year old boy. He has to take that path plus some dirt roads to walk 20 minutes each day to and from school. We walked up some steep steps to the home where he and his 2 siblings lived with their grandmother. He too was very proud to show us his bed and backpack. The joys on the faces of these 2 children would melt your heart!

Team Honduras 2016
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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Honduras: The Rotaracts!!

These young men and women aged 18-30 aspire to provide good will to their country! The 10 members of this particular Rotaract team work closely with their 'padrinos' (mentors) - the men of the Rotary Club of Tegucigalpa  - to enrich the 4000 children who will benefit from the SCAW project. They meet every Saturday evening and prepare themselves for our project. Many of them are working and book time off to participate!

Team Honduras 2016

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Honduras: Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

Imagine these children teaching us how to sing "Head and Shoulders" in Spanish!? While waiting to get their pictures taken we were challenged as were they to be able to keep up with each other. With a little help from our Spanish volunteers everyone had fun!

Here are some pictures from today:

Team Honduras 2016
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Monday, 15 August 2016

Honduras: Our First Day!

Hola! Today the 2016 SCAW Team began the first of nine days in Honduras by distributing beautiful new bedkits to 444 Honduran children. Children were brought to the location by parents and teachers from varying distances. Our overseas partners, the Rotarians of Tegucigalpa, have outdone themselves in sourcing such colourful and child-friendly bedding. The children were excited to choose from a variety of their favourite animated characters and super heroes! Our first day ran very smoothly in a small area within the school grounds and with the help of many Honduran volunteers, organized by the Rotarians.

The Team was pleased and impressed that at the end of the distribution to be given a tour of the Military Co-op which makes all of the shirts and shorts for the 4000 children who will receive bedkits this distribution. We are sure that SCAW donors will appreciate that these outfits will be put to good use as physical education uniforms for the children at school.

The Military Co-op manufactures military uniforms, boots and clothing; these items and the SCAW outfits are produced by almost 500 employees. The industry uses some of its profits to support projects, which include speaking to school children about leading lives that will help to keep them from the gang lifestyle that is prevalent in the country. They support people with disabilities by employing them to perform some of the manufacturing and sewing jobs in the operation.

All in all it was a fun, interesting and inspiring day for the Team. We are busy preparing for and looking forward to our second day tomorrow.

Team Honduras 2016
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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Honduras: The Team Has Arrived!!

Team Honduras 2016 has arrived and will begin their first distribution on Monday. Stay tuned for another exciting journey!

Back Row - L-R: Mike Carravetta, Marianne Tomlinson, John O'Donnell
Front Row - L-R: Theresa Carravetta, Karen Bridgman-Acker, Ricki Miles, Kathy Christie

Team Honduras 2016
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Friday, 22 July 2016

Tanzania: July 22, 2016 - 5000 Bedkits!

This afternoon, in Mchickichini, the 5000th Bedkit was given to a delightful child, beaming with joy, as she held each item, packing them in her "mifuko" (bag), giving thumbs up and smiling from ear to ear.  She waited patiently, blowing bubbles and playing with the SCAW team.

The 5000th Bedkit was purchased by our team as a thank you gift to the overseas volunteers here in Tanzania.  The jobs of the volunteers included: helping children get dressed into their brand new clothes; carrying, folding and tying 715 mattresses each morning; cutting off the bracelets used to identity Bedkit recipients; helping the children find their backpacks and baggies (Swahili for bag!) with their school uniforms; sizing the children to receive their Bedkit (large or small); and helping our team to learn Swahili (some of us can count all the way to 20, and a few of us know 5-6 colours).  Many of the volunteers are also employed from January to July, preparing the bedkits- cutting fabric, sewing clothes, and packing the 5000 bedkits. Other volunteers gave up possible work days, proud to be able to help children who need it.  I asked one volunteer if he was sad because it was our last day of distribution, and he told me no- that he was happy because he knows the children are happy, and he cares about them. Each volunteer has a story, each has given of themselves to ensure 5000 Tanzanian children can sleep better and dream bigger thanks to the generous gift of a Bedkit.

The gift of a Bedkit is a gift that keeps on giving.  In some ways, this thank-you gift to our overseas volunteer team had 4 recipients, and we could see the impact for all four immediately- the volunteers, the child, her family, and the SCAW volunteers.  The volunteers were beaming with pride, smiling for the camera ("Cheka!" - Swahili for smile), and so grateful for their thank you gift to be a gift for a child.  The child was delighted, happily posing for the camera, arms around SCAW volunteers, and giving the thumbs up.  Walking away with her new "godoro" (mattress) balanced on her head and her "mifuko" (bag) on her back, we saw her mama greet her happily.  We know that the Bedkit will help her family- and we can only imagine the ripple effect of this gift.  We as SCAW volunteers were gifted with the opportunity to see- for the 5000th time in 7 days- the incredible joy of receiving a Bedkit.  The young girl shook our hands, looked us in the eyes and warmly told us, "thank you".

The gifts we have given this week, thanks to generous donors, have been gifts for us, too.   We have been gifted with love and laughter, with hope and humility, and been gifted with new friendships to cherish for years to come.  5000 bedkits delivered to 5000 children adds up to so much more.

Asante Sana.
Thank you.

Team Tanzania 2016
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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Tanzania: July 21, 2016 - Preferences

As we just ended the second to last distribution today, the sunniest and warmest day so far, we have been noticing that kids are choosing their mattresses so differently- it's fun watching them! 

There is the “quick one”- They would pick any- actually- the closest

Then, the “analyzer”- They already know what they want because they saw how the distribution works, and they made up their mind while waiting in line for their pictures to be taken

The “shy one”- who would choose the one you have your hand on 

The “digger”- the one they want is actually in the middle of the pile, the one you cannot reach easily

The “twins”- who wait for their best friend and so that they can choose together

The “weather vane”- who chooses one, and then suddenly changes their mind to pick a different one.

One thing is for sure- each child will surely have a good night’s sleep on their brand new mattress, regardless of what kind of chooser they are. 

Gen for Team Tanzania 2016

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tanzania: July 20th, 2016

After finishing another distribution today in Nzasa, I have really begun to realize just how much of an impact on these children’s lives SCAW is making. Another 715 bedkits and mattresses were handed out today, and another 715 families will have a good night’s sleep tonight.

When we arrived in Nzasa this morning, the kids seemed really excited to meet us, like they always do. However, there seemed to be something extra in their excitement when they received bedkits today. The bedkit distribution seemed to go a lot faster and the children were full of energy and fun. Overall, another great day, another great distribution.

Team Tanzania 2016 
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Tanzania: July 19th, 2016

Distribution number four in Tanzania was in Kawawa today, and another 715 children and their families will have a more comfortable place to sleep tonight.  As our Swahili improves, our interactions with the children are getting fuller.  The children are excited to talk with us, to listen to our singing and laughing, and to find out about our homes.

The need in Tanzania becomes more evident to us every day too.  Showing the bedkits to families always invokes loud cheers from them.  Seeing the family reunions after each child leaves with their new bedkit, we see the smiles from a distance.  We also see the prevalent need for support when the distribution is underway, as children and families wait nearby, hoping that extras will be available for them too.
It is a particular joy for us to see the names of personal friends and family who have donated a bedkit, and to meet the child(ren) receiving a bedkit from someone we know at home.

We have been told many times that this is winter in Tanzania, and that the children and families are finding the cold temperatures (22 C at the lowest) difficult.  As for our team, we are managing well in the Tanzanian sun, dust, and humidity.  Each day is a lot of work, and a lot of joy.

Team Tanzania 2016

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Tanzania: July 18, 2016

Our team was privileged to visit the home of a bedkit recipient after our distribution on Monday. We drove a long way on some very rough roads to get to there, which means that the children would have to walk a long way each day to school.  The home had two rooms, one for family living and the other for sleeping. Mama and the two children of the family were very excited to receive the bedkit. She explained that she would cook outdoors on an open fire and she had bought some chickens, hoping to get some eggs in the future.  We left our visit feeling very blessed with what we have in Canada.

Team Tanzania 2016
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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Tanzania: July 17, 2016

Sunday is often described as “a day of rest” but not for this year’s SCAW team in Tanzania.  Despite having no bedkit distributions today, we were out the door at 6:40 a.m., heading to church with Mama Wandoa, Benjamin and Wendy.  The choir’s music was beautiful and lively, and at the end of the service we were invited to visit the children’s Sunday School where our team taught “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to the children—great fun was had by all!

In the afternoon, we toured through the Village Museum and learned so much about traditional customs, housing and heritage of seven different tribes of Tanzania.  Several of our team members and our driver joined the dancers and learned some new moves to try at home. 

At the end of the afternoon, we went to two community markets to see local artisans at work and to practice our bargaining skills in order to purchase a few souvenirs. 

Today’s experiences will help us better understand the families and children we are meeting, as we continued to learn about the unique and wonderful Tanzanian culture.   We are fully refreshed and ready for distribution number three tomorrow.

Team Tanzania 2016
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Saturday, 16 July 2016

Tanzania: July 16th, 2016

Day two and we were anxious to fine tune what we discovered on day one!  

We left close to 6:30 am and arrived an hour later at the school in Buyuni.  Trees shaded the grounds of the school  and hundreds of children and their families were there excitedly awaiting our arrival. 

We were introduced to the families by Benjamin and entertained with a music circle by the children.  We were told the theme of the children's entertainment was based on road safety and it looked like a fun and creative way to deliver an important message.  Watching children fill buckets and water the grass, the teacher told us that the signs on the trees remind the students that sharing the planet and keeping our planet green is their goal.

The Head Teacher told us that 2,260 students  attend his school, aged from 5 to 11 years . There are 45 teachers in the school, and two teachers  are assigned to every 100 student classroom.

Yesterday I asked students from a similar size school if they "liked their teachers" and was overwhelmed by the positive response in English of "we LOVE both our teachers!"  Education is an important goal of most of the people of Tanzania. 

Today, we gave out 710 Bed kits without any glitches, and thanks to the volunteers, we learned enough Swahili to say to them "This is a gift to you from a friend in Canada" as they lifted the backpacks onto their backs.

Team Tanzania 2016\
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Friday, 15 July 2016

Tanzania: July 15, 2016

Today we had our first bedkit distribution in Temboni at a small school about fifteen minutes off the main road. When we arrived, the children and their parents were thrilled to meet us.  We quickly set up and with Mama Wandoa’s help had the distribution on its way. A highlight of the distribution (and a real moment of enjoyment for someone who had never been on a trip before) was seeing how happy the children were when we handed them the bedkits and mattresses. When we showed the parents what was in the bedkits they were overjoyed and cheered loudly. It’s so great to think about that over seven hundred children will be sleeping better tonight.

Team Tanzania 2016