Monday, 31 July 2017

Tanzania: A Culture Filled Day!

Today is Sunday so there are no bedkit distributions. You might think we got to sleep in and relax but NO began at 7:00 and lasted until 11:00.

It was an honour to attend Mama Wondoa's church, Magomeni Mviringo Lutheran in Dar es Salaam. This new church building was started in 2012 and although it is still a work in progress, the building is used every Sunday and throughout the week for a variety of programs including a 6:00-7:00 a.m. 'Praise and Prayer' service for daily encouragement.

Attendance on Sundays averages around 800-1000. The Sunday School roll includes 285 children with an average of 100 each Sunday. We had the opportunity to visit the Sunday School where we entertained them with a song and they entertained us.

Today was a special service lead by the young people ( ages 18-35) with music and drama. Three church choirs and two visiting youth choirs sang and danced-the acoustics were amazing with the open air sanctuary that soared five storeys high. The congregation responded to each performance with the ' Trinity Clap' (three claps; Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The SCAW team was welcomed by the pastor and introduced to the congregation.

The afternoon was spent at two craft markets where we were able to watch artisans at work and make purchases to take home to family and friends.

Ruth Sealey and Linda Straus forTeam Tanzania 2017
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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tanzania: Exploring Zanzibar

Since bedkit distributions in Tanzania take place at rural schools, today most of the team booked a personal day trip to Zanzibar. It was a very exciting and eventful day full of amazing sights, sounds and smells. The morning was spent touring Stone Town. Our guide Sahid was a wealth of historical information about the island, buildings, its people and its markets-fish, meat, fruits and vegetables.

After enjoying a tasty Swahili lunch, our guide took us on a very informative walk through a spice farm where we smelled and tasted many spices -lemongrass, peppercorn, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, mace, cloves, nutmeg and cardoman. We stayed at the spice farm a little too long and found ourselves running late. This was further complicated when traffic stopped due to road construction. Given the limited time to get to the ferry, our driver chose to drive down the sidewalk. It made for quite an adventure! Luckily we arrived at the ferry with four minutes to spare.

The return ferry trip to Dar es Salaam took longer than the morning trip of an hour and a half because of strong head winds and very rough water. It was a once in a lifetime adventure on "Spice Island."

Ruth Sealey and Linda Straus for Team Tanzania 2017
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Tanzania: "La La Salama"

Team Tanzania was on the road by 7am this morning. Today would be a big day as we were to deliver 790 bedkits to Sanze Primary School, located about a one hour drive southwest of Dar es Salaam. It is a hilly region with lots of tropical vegetation. The earth is so red due to the iron content in the soil.

When we arrived at the school, many parents and children were there waiting for us with big smiles and waves. Momma Wandoa’s team was already unloading the bedkit supplies. The SCAW team helped to tie up the mattresses to make it easier for the children to carry them home.

The team worked very well on our second day. On this distribution, we have four new team members out of a team of seven, so we have had to develop a fast learning curve. But there is an experienced group of Tanzanian assistants to help out all the SCAW team members.

To be begin the distribution, the children change into their new school uniforms. The colour of the uniforms varies with each school. The children are lined into various size groups for picture taking. Our partner, Mama Wandoa has her team complete this challenging task.

After picture taking the children receive their bedkit and a mattress. I personally had chance to wish them a good night sleep by saying “la la salama”, as they left carrying their new bedkit.

As a retired teacher it was interesting for me to meet two teachers at the school, Zamda Abdallah, grade 5 and Ndimbumi Undongole, Kindergarten  teacher at Sanze Primary School in the village of Kisarawe. We shared information about our teaching experiences and the challenges of the teaching profession.

Today was a wonderful distribution day. We finished early but got caught in traffic on the way back to our lodgings. However, I slept well that night, knowing that 790 children would have a chance to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Donna Henderson for Team Tanzania 2017
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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Tanzania: Learning in New Places!

This morning we were on the road at 7:00 a.m. The ride to Go Go Public Elementary School was an interesting one. The trip took us much longer than it would have for the same distance to be traveled at home because of the many stops. When you stop at a red light in Dar es Salaam, you REALLY stop and by that I mean for up to 15 minutes.   All due to construction and a lack of infrastructure, similar to many Canadian cities.  While we waited for the traffic policeman to allow us to go through, we watched many people walking between the cars selling various goods, shovels, peanuts, potato chips, maps (very large maps) to name a few. Along the way there were rustic stands selling almost anything you could imagine.

Upon our arrival we were greeted with lots of hugs from Mama Wandoa, her son Benjamin, her daughter Wendy and her grandson Jerome as well as many volunteer helpers . The trucks containing the backpacks and the mattresses were already unloaded and we were ready to start our day.

Being a retired teacher, I needed to see the inside of a classroom. So during a lull in activity I found one of the teachers sitting at her desk in an empty classroom. It was about one o'clock I was surprised to find that the 100+ five year old students that she teaches had already finished their day. She invited me in to look around.  There was nothing there but a cement floor -- no desks, books, toys, activities and certainly no computers. Sadly, the children sit on straw mats on the floor. The walls had a few hand made charts yet this wonderful teacher was excited to show me what they were studying. After leaving her classroom I was introduced to the assistant to the principal. He was an enthusiastic young man who clearly loves his job and thought nothing of the fact that he had 250 students in his class. I laughed thinking about what our Ontario teachers would have to say about that! He introduced me to his class and the students gave me an enthusiastic welcome.

From there I headed to meet the principal. He was so warm and welcoming. He asked if I knew of a school in Toronto that might like to partner up with his school so that they could learn more about life in Canada. I said I didn't have connections with Toronto schools but I would be more than happy to hook him up with the students in the school that I retired from in St. Thomas.  He said that the children are learning English; yet they have no books to read. I walked away from him knowing that I would do my best to make that connection for him and his amazing students as well as finding a way to send him some used textbooks. What a gift the textbooks that are too old and outdated in our schools would be to this community.

The day was long but it went by quickly because the children were such a joy to work with. Seeing them meet up with their parents with their bedkits made me forget about that dusty bumpy road that got us there. I will think twice before I complain about some of the trivial matters that I find irksome. I have shoes on my feet which is more than some of these children.

For the record we distributed 765 bedkits to deserving students.  The chaos was well controlled by the volunteers and the incredible logistical challenges were somehow overcome by these same volunteers.  For us it was relatively simple and straightforward but we all knew that the efforts of others were making us look like heroes!  And we are grateful to them for all they do! They must love the children as much as we do!

Kay for Team Tanzania 2017
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Friday, 28 July 2017

Tanzania: On The Go!

Team Tanzania 2017 has been on the go with our first distribution today in Gogo! 785 children and their families are sleeping better tonight thanks to the many donors who make this all possible.

Our bright-eyed team departed Toronto Pearson Airport on Tuesday, and we arrived in Dar es Salaam Wednesday afternoon (not as bushy-tailed). After claiming our luggage, we were immediately greeted by the big smiles and open arms of Mama Wandoa, Benjamin and Wendy. No time to spare, we jumped right into business, visiting Mama Wandoa’s house which housed the backpacks full of bedkit goodies, and met with one of the men responsible for sewing garments and backpacks for the bedkits.

Our first distribution site was in Gogo, just over an hour’s drive from Dar es Salaam. We arrived to crowds of excited children and parents, waiting in anticipation. Well… they weren’t the only ones excited, so were we!

Team Tanzania 2017 is half distribution newbies, and half veterans. Working together, we soon found our distribution groove, and did a lot of high-fives with the children along the way. As a newbie myself, I was fortunate enough to help out in an array of distribution tasks. But by far, the most special task I performed was interviewing parents and children who had just received bedkits.

With a strong focus on sleep habits and quality of sleep, I was able to connect one-on-one with nine families. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers and their children spoke with me (with translation help from Benjamin) about their lives and how well they sleep at night, prior to receiving a bedkit. I learned more about these families than I ever anticipated, holding back my emotions as I was moved by their stories and inspired by their strength.

What a wonderful start to our distribution journey here in Tanzania. My cheeks already hurt from smiling so much, and I can’t wait to get started on day two! 

Lyndsay Wallis for Team Tanzania 2017
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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Sri Lanka: Distribution Completed!!

The distribution is complete!!!!  The team distributed 800 bedkits today to reach a grand total of 5,000! 

After our distribution, we had the opportunity to visit a boarding house where approximately 20 girls reside while they attend local schools.  Their families live outside the area.   Several of the girls living in this boarding house received bedkits today and are thrilled to be given this generous gift.  

Team Sri Lanka 2017
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Monday, 10 July 2017

Sri Lanka: Day Five Complete!

Day 5 is successfully completed! So many happy faces right from the beginning today in Sri Lanka. We started off this morning with an O' Canada sing-a-long and the kids absolutely loved it!

800 little ones will be returning home for a happy night's sleep after today. 😊

Mariah, a science major, has also included a diagram of a heart from a mural on the side of a school.  We've seen plenty of these types of visuals at schools throughout the distribution.

Mariah for Team Sri Lanka 2017
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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sri Lanka: 855 More Bedkits Given Out!

Another successful day here in Sri Lanka.  Although it's Sunday, we had a full turnout, distributing 855 bedkits.

Teachers accompanied some of the children who came by bus

Parents were on hand to collect others with their bedkits in tow

Children receiving their bedkits 

Waiting to catch buses home

Happy faces all around . . .

Team Sri Lanka 2017

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Sri Lanka: Bringing Joy!

Today was the hottest of three distributions. Full Moon Celebrations were going on in the District. The SCAW team are doing a fantastic job bringing joy and a better night’s sleep to 850 children.

Happy faces preparing to receive their bedkit

Various methods of travel for parents and children
taking home their bedkit

Various methods of travel for parents and children
taking home their bedkit

Various methods of travel for parents and children
taking home their bedkit

Can always count on an ice cream vendor
to keep the children cool with a treat

Faces of two Sri Lankan children about
to have a Suwa Nindak. (Good Sleep)

The young child’s expression tells the story!

Team Sri Lanka 2017
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Sri Lanka: Our Distribution in Pictures!!

Another successful day!  Working with our local Sri Lanka partners, we distributed 850 bedkits.  

Here are some photos!

Neil watches welcoming ceremony with children presenting
betel leaves to us on arrival at their school gate.

Very excited children lined up to get photos and receive bedkits.

Brian with three teachers who accompanied their
children by bus from another nearby village.

Children outside after just receiving bedkits.

Time to take the new bedkit home!

Mariah with some of the children who
helped out at the distribution.

Team Sri Lanka 2017
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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Sri Lanka: We Are Hard At Work!!

We arrived early at our first distribution site to be greeted by young students gifting us Betal leaves.  We then were marched into the school grounds by the school band.

Once children had received their bedkits they waited with friends to board their buses back to their home villages. 

We were fortunate to visit the home of one of the bedkit recipients.  We were able to see how the young boy receiving the bedkit will be able to benefit from it’s contents. 

A great first day of distribution filled with lots of smiles!

Team Sri Lanka 2017
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Monday, 3 July 2017

Sri Lanka: We Are On Our Way!!

Here is Team Sri Lanka at Pearson International ready to take flight yesterday evening.

We'll be distributing 5,000 bedkits next week.  Stay tuned to follow our adventures!!! 

Katie Sandiford for Team Sri Lanka 2017
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