Thursday, 26 July 2018

Tanzania: RJ's Fourth And Final Distribution!

We just completed our 4th and last distributiin. 

Warren, our team leader, has kept us on a tight schedule all week with departures no later than 6:30am. We still like him.

Today our destination was Kiromo. By 8am, we received a warm reception by hundreds of children, their teachers and the head of school, an amazing lady who runs a tight ship.  They all gathered to sing their national anthem.  We reciprocated by singing ours.

500 bedkits were distributed, a process that requires logistics and time. Time to interact with the children. If language is a barrier, singing, dancing and playing are international. And that is what we did.

Today, 9 parents were interviewed. These exchanges are extremely valuable as we learn that while the current content of the bedkit's offers much needed items, the need for antiseptic cream, closed shoes, books and individual cups is real. 

We were warmly thanked by the teachers to whom we presented gifts for the school ranging from a much needed first aid kit to soccer balls.

Throughout the week, we got the chance to discover Mama Wandoa, whose life is totally absorbed by the need to help others and create a safe place for everyone in her community. MERCI Mama for being who you are!

We cannot end this blog without acknowledging the amazing work of the Tanzanian volunteers who were with us the entire trip.  The distribution of 2000 bedkits in 4 different locations would have been impossible without them.

We are on the way back to the hotel.  The bus is silent.  Some are sleeping while others are simply watching life unfold in Tanzania at the end of a work day! 

RJ goes to Tanzania will soon be coming home

Raymond James' Team in Tanzania 2018
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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Tanzania: RJ's Third Distribution!

Another bright and early day for our dedicated group.  We left the hotel by 6:30am but stalled in typical Dar traffic.  Finally we were on our way!

We arrived at the school to waves and smiles from children and parents.

Our traffic delays prevented us from playing with the children first, as we usually do.  They love chasing the bubbles and seeing themselves in our photos so we hope we have more time with them tomorrow.

We thanked the older school boys for helping set up and gave them each a small gift.  We also interviewed parents to gain insight into the health and welfare of their families and how we may improve the quality of the bedkits in the future.  What a great way to learn about the lives of the families.

After the interviews we got down to the job of handing out bed kits.  There were two children that had symptoms of malaria and had to be taken to the hospital so we quickly took their pictures and gave them their kits and mats.  Seeing these children in such poor health, weak and lethargic, really brought home the need for the bedkits.

We moved quickly through the remaining 498 children after which we presented the teachers with gifts.  The soccer balls always bring howls of delight, but in talking to the English teacher, we learned that English textbooks would also be appreciated.  He has a class of 100 students and only two textbooks to share among them.

Next was a side trip to visit Mama Wandoa’s farm. Over the last few years she has been building a church on her property and her congregation has grown from 3 to 30!  She has six acres of farmland and harvests mango, pineapple, and cashews.  She always dreams to do more and she continues to inspire us and I’m sure countless others.

The final stop of the day was at a Salvation Army run center for children with disabilities and Albinism.  It was well kept and the children were well cared for.  They go to school and learn other skills such as computers, sewing and gardening.  These skills help to support them in the longer term.

A full and enlightening day.  Thank you Mama and Benjamin for guiding us.

Until tomorrow!

Raymond James' Team in Tanzania 2018
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Sri Lanka: Mission Accomplished!!

What a fantastic final distribution we had! We were paraded into the school grounds and up to where there were 3 flagpoles. Karen,our leader, unfurled the Canadian flag and the Sri Lankan and school flags were also unfurled. We were led into the auditorium where the children, their teachers and some of the parents were seated. It was awesome to hear our national anthem played. This was followed by the children singing their anthem. A young girl- about 10 years old, was the emcee. She addressed us in English and explained who we were and why we were there. Four young girls did a lovely traditional dance followed by a small choir who sang a song in English and a young lad who accompanied them on the violin. Another young girl sang a song accompanied by a lad playing on a tambourine type drum. It was so delightful seeing the children leading the celebrations. From here we set out to do the last distribution of 193 bedkits. The joy on their faces and their wide eyes staring at the bedkit laid out was a joy to behold. What a gift it was for us to witness and partake in. it was a glorious finale.

The team with the final bedkit recipient.

Team Tanzania 2018
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Tanzania: RJ's Distribution Day 2!

Today we got to sleep in until  5am and had a nice breakfast thanks to the hotel for opening their restaurant early.

Off to our 2nd day of distribution. Again we had lots of fun with the children who thoroughly enjoy bubbles and selfies!!

The children were very patient with us while we sorted through the logistics. Getting smiles from the children proved to be a challenge until we found the secret formula that seemed to be a common theme in getting giggles out of them

After the distribution we met with the school teachers and gave them a few extra gifts to share with all the kids. 500 more children will sleep well tonight.

All in all, another successful day and looking forward to Day 3

Diane Groot for

Raymond James' Team Tanzania 2018
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Tanzania: RJ's 1st Distribution!

It was an early 5am start to our first distribution in Kwala.  After a long and bumpy drive, we arrived just before 8am and were greeted by Benjamin (Mama’s son), the Head of School and hundreds of beautiful children.  The team was energized and ready to put smiles on 500 faces!

We enjoyed being a part of their assembly and listening to their national anthem.  Our team leader, Warren, spoke to parents with the use of a translator.  The bedkit was displayed and each piece was explained.  They were also told that pictures would be taken of their beautiful children.  The team received a round of applause from the parents.  

It was time to begin!  The team got organized to take three large group photos.  By the third photo, everything ran like clockwork!  Great job everyone!  

It was amazing to interact with the children, take their pictures or just say ‘mambo’ (Swahili for hello) with a fist bump.  It was an incredible feeling to hand over a bedkit and mattress and see the happiness in their eyes.  The children were very polite and many of them spoke English and said ‘thank you’ or ‘Asante’ (Swahili for thank you). 

At the end of the distribution, the team met with the head of school and teachers and presented them with an assortment of great gifts to share with the children such as soccer balls, tennis balls, sports jerseys, frisbees, pens, pencils, bandaids, crafts, desk kits, etc.  They were thrilled and very grateful.  

As a thank you, Mama Wandoa received a rooster from the head of school.  He was very docile and liked having his picture taken! 

Raymond James' Tanzania Team 2018
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Sri Lanka: Second Last Day Of Distributions!

Our second last day of distribution lead us to two locations, where we were traditionally greeted and welcomed. The receiving of flowers and/or betel leaves gives one a sense of not only be welcomed but that we are honoured guests and a hand of friendship is being extended to us. The crowd of children and parents who align the parade route as we proceed into the distribution location are clearly filled with wonder and expectation. If for no other reason, the trip to Sri Lanka , just to see the wonderful smiling and gentle children, is worth all the time and effort. 

Although both of our locations did not have the greatest of backgrounds for our photos, they were both well organized and things moved fairly smoothly. Our second location at CEF CHILDREN EDUCATION CENTRE, was quite a surprise. It is facility for training preschool (they refer to it as kindergarten) teachers. It is quite unusual as it is a centre run by a Buddhist Monk, who receives most of his support from donors in Japan. He is also unique in that he is a member of the local Rotary Club and has just completed a term as District Governor. It was here that we were treated to a delicious lunch including rice, dahl, chicken, vegetables and fruit. The best of all was distributing 225 bedkits to smiling, appreciative and needy children.

Sri Lanka 2018
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Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Tanzania: Raymond James' First Sunday!

This morning we were up bright and early to join Mama and Wendy for a 7 am church service. We enjoyed the beautiful voices of multiple choirs and the children who sang to us before they went off to Sunday school. We were introduced to congregation as special guests of Mama.

We visited with the children in Sunday school and then went over to Mamas house to look at the bed kit contents, mattresses and the sewing facility where they make the children’s clothes and backpacks.

We returned back to the hotel and did a bed kit evaluation/ quality control.
The rest of the day we prepared for tomorrow’s first day of distribution.  We are all very excited. 

Diane Groot
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Sri Lanka: Gratitude!

More than halfway through our distributions, Day 7 marked 12 distributions and over 4000 bedkits handed out to very deserving children.  When arriving at each distribution site, we have been received graciously and welcomed by each Sri Lankan community.  We have been honoured by beautiful welcoming customs including being given bouquets of flowers or a necklace of fresh flowers placed around our necks, being handed leaves representing honour and worship, and receiving presentations from school bands and dancers in beautiful costumes.  During many of the distributions there is a short presentation where the members of SCAW, school officials and rotary members will light a large oil lamp to signify the opening of the celebration. In each case, I feel so fortunate and humbled to be shown such grace and gratitude and will fondly recall the kindness in Sri Lanka.

Team Sri Lanka 2018
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Tanzania: The Raymond James Volunteers Have Arrived!

Left to Right: Teresa Raidl, Thomas Riadl, Annie Lau,
 Warren Wagstaff, Diane Groot, Darren Coleman,
Susan Coleman, Dominique Vincent
After 24 hours and 3 flights we arrived safely in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where we were greeted by Benjamin, Wendy and Mama Wandoa. A short drive lead us to our comfortable accommodation and much needed sleep. Next morning we met with Helen, the leader of team one Tanzania. Her enthusiasm was obvious and got our team very excited about what was to come. The entire team was looking forward to the two days before our distribution to acclimatize to the new time zone. The first day was being spent getting used to her new surroundings. Shopping for food and water and exchanging for Tanzanian schillings. A little shopping at some roadside markets. The Tinga Tinga market and Mwenge market was full of paintings and new friends. It was surprising how popular we were! We headed back to the hotel for more rest as tomorrow we will be spending the day with Mama and seeing more of the sights of this amazing place. 

Team Tanzania 2018
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Monday, 23 July 2018

Sri Lanka: Two Interesting Distributions!

Our team had an interesting distribution today.  Our first one had space constraints, but due to the hard work of the SCAW team, we managed to ensure that all the children received their bedkits.  Go Team!!!

Our second distribution was quite smooth and we certainly appreciated the Shoe Company's quick shoe sizing for the children.

Our treat after the distributions was a wonderful meal at Rotarian Ravi's home.  We met his wife Dilhara and daughter Thanukshi.  

Thanukshi's convocation is today at Colombo University.  She is graduating with an International Business degree.  Congrats, and thanks for the lovely meal. Very much appreciated by the team.
Team Sri Lanka 2018
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Saturday, 21 July 2018

Sri Lanka: Contrasts!

Our second distribution day provided contrast in locations and in feel.  We had a 500 kit distribution in the morning and found ourselves in a small photo location with an outdoor stone wall as a backdrop and minimum space for the children to change, be organized and proceed through the various stages required before receiving their kit.

The afternoon distribution of 200 kits took place on a lush green mountainside with staggeringly beautiful views and plenty of space for our team and the children.  Yet both distributions were rewarding and successful despite their differences.  

We also enjoyed connecting with many children and parents as we visited the home of one of the families who had received a kit.  We were truly honoured to have been invited so warmly into their home and appreciate their willingness to share their lives with a group of strangers.  The small community all came out to see us and we were accompanied back to our van by an enthusiastic group of young boys.

Team Sri Lanka
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Tanzania: Mission Accomplished!

What an accomplishment! 6000 happy children will sleep a little better and be able to cope well at school.  We had a very hot and dusty last day at a very large school at Boko.  We were privileged to visit the home of one of the bedkit recipients. What a difficult life for a young single mother with 2 children in a one-room house. This gentle welcoming woman earns a living by breaking rocks with a hammer. 

Last night we celebrated with Mama Wandoa and her family. We surprised her with balloons and gifts and birthday cake and ice cream. She was overwhelmed with all the cards and letters from SCAW friends and with the binder full of labels from bed kits donated in her honour. It was such a delight to give back to a woman who gives so much to others.

Our team is now journeying on. Two are heading back to Canada, two are going on safari for a few days and our intrepid leader and her husband are going to climb Kilimanjaro! We wish them a safe and successful climb!

It has again been my pleasure to be part of such a wonderful team and to spread the word about SCAW. 

Team Tanzania
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Friday, 20 July 2018

Sri Lanka: A Busy Day!

Today the Sri Lanka team was busy with two distributions around Colombo.  At our first distribution, we were welcomed with freshly handmade flower leis as a token of the students' gratitude.  The second distribution was planned by the rotary group in the area and they visited 6 local schools where 50 of the most needy kids were chosen from each school.


There were many students with disabilities and we were able to learn valuable information from the interviews conducted.

Team Sri Lanka 2018
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