Tanzania - Marie

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    Mama Gladness (host family mother) with 2 of her adopted children, Nema and Mandu. Mama is a truly amazing and strong woman and she laughs at everything. She has 2 sons, but adopts and cares for many children without families. She runs the Tengeru Cultural Tourism Program and is the treasurer for all the cultural tourism programs in Tanzania. Even though she didn’t get very much education through traditional schooling, she works very hard to improve the schools in the area and to ensure that her own children and the children of her neighbors are able to be educated.
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    Two other volunteers from another organization with Crispin and Moody (center). We went on an all day hike into the hills above Tengeru to see the big waterfalls. Crispin is the director of the Tanzanian Millenium Hand Foundation, and Moody is the assistant director. The organization would not function without either one of them. Crispin is always pushing to reach out to more and more orphans and widows in the area and Moody works tirelessly to make it happen. Even within the 4 months that I was there, I saw the program improve, grow and develop.
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    The neighborhood kids all know about the volunteer house and go to meet the new volunteers. Jesca and Ireni were two of the girls that would come over often to color with me and try to teach me Kiswahili.
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    This was a special day at the orphanage. Visitors (wageni) came and brought them all knitted hats that their church group had made along with a chocolate and a toy car for every kid.  There were 36 kids at the orphanage when I left, and I want to say that these two little girls are some of my favorites, but really they were all my favorites. While I was there, I saw them improve on learning more English phrases, being able to count, and becoming familiar with letters; they were also just really fun to play with.
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    I taught the kids how to sing a song I knew from camp as a kid, “Baby Shark”… a huge hit. Their uniforms were made by the students at POSA (Positive Step Arumeru, an HIV/AIDS support group. The organization will pay to send older orphaned kids to school, but the Tanzanian school system is so bad that it is very easy to fail out. POSA was started as a way for these kids to learn skills so that they could get a job and not be dependent on someone else for the rest of their life. POSA began with 15 girls, but in November, more boys and girls were added to the program.
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    One of the widows living with HIV that the program helps out. This picture is from our Christmas lunch, her baby is very distracted by the fried banana. The organization helps the women set up their own small business and has a vegetable project, a poultry project, and now a pig project that the women assist with to earn some income. We also did home visits to make sure that they were taking medication correctly, had enough to eat, and were healthy. On the home visits, we would deliver vitamins and sometimes toothbrushes or food.
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    Queenie is the niece of Mama Gladness. I ran into her in the road, so I went with her to grind her corn to make flour for ugali, a polenta that is a staple of the Tanzanian diet. Queenie washes the corn before we take it to the machine.
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    I help Bibi and the neighborhood kids to remove the husks from coffee beans. Bibi is the mother of Mama Gladness and lives around the corner from her with Queenie and Memu (Mama’s youngest sister). Even though she is very old, she still works very hard in the fields. Memu and Bibi grow bananas, corn, bogus grass for their cows, beans, and coffee. Even though coffee is the “cash crop”, it is sold for about $1 USD a kilogram and requires a lot of work to harvest and prepare to sell. Bibi has really led an amazing life and has seen dramatic changes in her country during her lifetime.
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    I go with Memu and Bibi to get bananas to sell at the market. Memu and Bibi have to cut down the whole tree to get the bananas and carefully maneuver it so that it does not crush the coffee plants. The tree is cut up to feed to the cows and Memu carries the bananas back on her head.
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    Jesca and Ireni received their first communion while I was there. I went with them to church, then went to Jesca’s home afterwards. Here, her sister is helping her to get ready to greet her guests.
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    Jesca dances with her other sister on the porch of her home. For this important day, we danced and celebrated until dark. Jesca’s mother is the seamstress in Tengeru and made the dresses for Jesca and her sister.
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    Linda, one of the girls at the orphanage, greets me on Christmas day. Greetings are very important in Tanzania, everyone takes the time to stop and say hello and ask how the other is before moving on to discuss business.
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    Umi is the daughter of the cook at the orphanage. Everytime I see her, she usually has some kind of food in her hand.
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    Brian enjoys his Christmas lunch of pilau, fried banana, potato, chicken, beef, fruit, and fanta. It was a very special day for the kids and for me- it was my last day at the orphanage.
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    Zulfa savors her fanta. She lives with her grandparents and is one of the sweetest most angelic little girls I've ever met.

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