With 300+ students, 30 teachers and staff members, community members stopping by to meet with Alice about the community housing project or the microfinance project, the campus is always bustling with people and there is always something going on (even during school breaks!). Over the break, the kids loved watching movies, especially Tarzan! Rebecca, one of the three caretakers that live with and care for the kids living in the Orphan’s Home, is one of the most loving and welcoming people I know. “There are always more than a dozen extra kids at Alice’s house — from the 11 children living at the Orphan’s Home to the many neighbors who simply want a safe place to play. Everyone is welcome. So here’s to overflowing dinner tables and a generous kind of love.” – Glorious Volunteer, Erin Brennan-Burke Ebenizer and Amar pose for the camera!
The team has made so much progress on the shop units over the past two weeks! I can’t believe that, in such a short amount of time, the foundation for the shop units is almost done! As discussed in the first shop units update, the shop units will provide rent-free space for QEA to sell their surplus from the school farm and fish pond. Not only will the school shops be income generating for QEA, but they will also provide many other benefits to the greater community. Due to the shop units prime location, they will be able to service people from all over the region who come to the area to visit the church, secondary school and hospital. Here are just a few examples of how the shop units will positively impact the community of Mlali and surrounding region: 1) Kids will be able to stop at the shop to pick up supplies on their way to school. 2) Typically, family members of those in the hospital stay outside the hospital for the duration of the patients stay. During this time, the family members are responsible for bathing them and providing them with meals. The shop units will the perfect place for families to pick up supplies and food while their family member is recovering in the hospital. 3) Right now, Mlali is going through what is called the “season of hunger”. What this means is that the community is waiting for their next harvest to be ready, which causes there to be less produce available to be sold, less food available to be purchased, and ultimately, leaves many people unable to bring an income into their home and many people searching for other ways to find work to make money. The shop unit project has employed a team of builders for this long term project which allows the builders to make enough money to provide for their families during the season of hunger. As you may know by now, today was my last day in Mlali, and I will be heading to Arusha to work with Glorious School for the next few months. Even though I won’t be in Mlali to track the progress of the shops, my fellow global advocate, Barbara Bemer, will be keeping us updated every step of the way! Stay tuned! Take a look at all of the exciting work that’s been done on the shop units in the past two weeks! Builders working hard to finish the foundation. Irene and Felista showing off their dance moves! Foundation all ready for cement! Finished product! As the foundation is the hardest part, now that it is nearly done, the walls and roof will go up in no time! Can’t wait to see the progress we make in the next two weeks! Before saying goodbye, I had to snap a picture with Babu and the head builder!
It wasn’t clear what exactly I was expecting to feel after landing in Tanzania, thirteen days ago, but as we sped along the dirt road, I gazed out the window into the unknown and found myself feeling comfort and certainty of a connection to this place. I woke up with a new mama and three sisters, a host family eager to invite me into their lives and kitchen (word is, best in the neighborhood)! Technically, I’m living with one family but quickly learned that everyone I meet becomes an immediate part of this inner circle, a source of constant support, unity and friendship, which makes for an incredibly strong community. This level of civic engagement courses through daily life in Arusha, building infrastructure and effective systems that I imagine, can only be seen by experiencing the relationships firsthand. Members of the community are trusted and held accountable, debts are paid, food is provided, tools are lent, knowledge is shared, education and healthcare covered, and a solid understanding of the importance for well being of all. The incentive? Survival. The most exciting way to travel through Arusha and commute to work everyday is by boda boda. Just hop on the back of almost any motorbike in town and hold on tight, not too tight because you’ll injury yourself if you don’t loosen up while on the rougher dirt roads, and enjoy the views of life happening all around you. Walking can also be extremely pleasant and at the same time overwhelming because you are greeted and acknowledged every step of the way. The eye contact and conversation are refreshing, energizing. The boda bodas may be fast but the pace of life in Tanzania is much slower than what I am used to. I have come to appreciate reducing my walking speed, staying for tea and sharing stories before getting down to business, becoming less dependent on power (electricity is not available 24hrs a day) and my regular need to check in. I have tapped into a new awareness of what surrounds me and my own participation in it all. I have spent my weekdays at Glorious, where I will be working, with the founders and most inspiring, loving couple, Alice and Julius. It is truly a dream to be able to work with this community centered organization and to be part of their future and family. Did I mention the 200 children attending the primary school who I get to spend my free time with? Well, they are ebullient small beings with a thirst for knowledge and experience who approach you with open arms and hearts, demanding your companionship throughout their school time adventures. The wealth in communities in Arusha, Tanzania is unlike any I have experienced before, yet it feels instinctual, familiar, an opportunity to explore what is foreign with a confidence that we are all in this together.