toward the ledge:

changing the world thru loving and serving others. without agenda


i only have two hands…says “teacher” edward lazaro

tuesday morning the nurse volunteers and i enjoy a visit to the kilimanjaro children’s foundation- a nursery school for the very poor, the orphans and street children in the community it serves.

the kilimanjaro orphanage was founded in 1997 by edward lazaro, better known as “teacher”, and later the nursery school was created – all a vision of his passion and heart to help orphans of AIDS and others that needed his help.  although i have been here several times, today was the first time i have had the privilege to meet him – and indeed, he introduces himself as “teacher”.  as he explains – i only have two hands.  and with the hands of so many other people such as yourselves, i am able to help these children.  it makes me cry just typing the words as his passion to help his people shines in his face, his eyes, his actions, his words.  he is much younger than i would have imagined, as i know how much has been accomplished in the past 14-15 years.   he has taken children into his home to care for them.  he has paid for surgeries from his pocket, and like so many that i have met here – they do not operate from ego or their own needs.  they operate from a place to build up others.  how can we not respond from the heart when that is placed before us?  his vision has been largely supported by donors in the US as well as from volunteers that come from organizations such as foot2afrika.

edward lazaro "teacher" in 2001 teaching class in the original classroom

a retired physician from the US oversees the medical side of things, along with some local medical student assistance. however dr. greg (whom i met several months ago) is currently back in the states, anticipated to return in november. so there has been a bit of a gap recently.  although our nurses will be doing basic health evaluations at two of our orphanage projects, we have been told that this nursery school may have some medical needs as a result of this interim gap, and so our purpose today is to determine what those might be and if we (the nurses, that is! ) can help.

aside from supplementing their first aid supplies at the school (which our nurse volunteers will do) he tells the story of some children that suffer from anemia, and in fact, one died just a few months ago from this.  can you imagine – from anemia?  something we do not have to even consider.  but their diets are so nutritionally poor, this is a reality here. there are currently five children struggling with such conditions, at least one that is HIV positive.  they do take an iron supplement but funding isn’t available always.  our nurses suggest added vitamin c or oranges but families are too poor.  after our visit, the nurses purchase enough iron supplement for the next month for the five children and are exploring the potential of purchasing and planting orange trees so that all of the children can enjoy healthy fruit.  it is an enlightening meeting and we all hope that these small ways will help teacher and the children.

currently,there are over 200 children in this nursery school.  during our few hours there, we enjoyed observing the ‘baby’ class learn numbers, then helping them with their writing assignments (as with any students, some did well, some were totally lost!). i slip over to another class and enjoy singing along with them during songs like “the wheels on the bus go round and round”!

this was my buddy for the morning. completely adorable, isn't he?

after numbers class, they lined up for porridge break – this is often the only meal that some of the children will get for the day- and it’s a mug of porridge.  they get their mug, go back to the porch, and sit quietly, waiting for their teacher to come and give the signal that it is okay to eat.  they are precious!

mugs....waiting for a child and the porridge

the queue for porridge

here are more photos that i uploaded to the foot2afrika-tanzania facebook page (this is a public link so everyone should be able to view).  you will catch a glimpse of the volunteers, more of the children, etc.

well it’s no secret that i love being here lol, and i am reflecting this morning on what i am grateful for today. however, since the power  has been out all morning (it’s 10:15 am wednesday morning), i’m going to quickly finish this post with a few things, although it’s not a complete list. laptops have a limited battery after all.

  • having the opportunity to work with people like margaret mponda, ‘teacher’ and others that give so much of themselves selflessly to help these children. i am always inspired by them.
  • to be able to discover ways to help them in their causes, directly and indirectly (connecting them to resources, financial measures, ideas, emotional and spiritual support, friendship, whatever is needed).
  • love meeting intelligent and talented young people from around the world who bring with them their own heart and soul, and willingly engage to help in their chosen project (it is awesome to watch them shop, create a idea of support, fall in love with the children and open their eyes and heart to new realities and perspectives).
  • discovering for my own self new ways to give and shine, and grow.  every day delivers a new lesson to learn.  sometimes patience.  sometimes cracking your heart open just a bit wider.  sometimes boundaries.  sometimes joy or perhaps frustration at the burdens people must bear.
  • that my health is holding up so far, even though many of the others have been struggling with various respiratory illnesses (colds, allergies, what not).  my immune system is protective thus far.  and  i popped a calf muscle yesterday sprinting across the street to avoid a car, gimping me up, but  i am thankful that we have an occupational therapist in the volunteer pool that was very helpful in working on the muscle. (it was dumb on my part, i just ‘took off’ wrong and heard and felt the POP, you know what i mean?).   i will have to take it easy a few days so it can heal up.

well, that battery indicator is getting low, so must finish this and check a few emails before powering down.  wishing you all a fabulous day, whatever you are doing.  find a way to connect to your heart and do a nice thing for yourself and for someone else, even if it’s a small thing.  nakupende!  XXXOOO

“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”
(Saint Francis of Assisi )


a day…in the moshi life…..

it is hard for me to fathom, but  i have been back in tanzania for nearly a month already!  days are busy but fulfilling; not without some issue and drama from time to time (we are dealing with humans after all and believe me, i’m one of them) but the focus and mission number one is always:  how can i serve this organization as well as the children in the orphanages, the women of rudisha and the passionate individuals who lead these groups – as i have been placed here to do? how do i share my heart and love and shine my light?  some days are easier than others, some days are distractions but i try to remain cognizant of why i am here.

i hope that you will enjoy, or appreciate this post as i share with you a day in my life.  or rather, a compilation of recent days.

6:30 am  – coasting in to wake up (it’s hard to sleep in what with the sun a-shining in the big window and the rooster crowing ever few minutes and the morning kitchen crew knocking at the gate door).  about 65 degrees and lovely!

7:00 am – breakfast which includes mumbling (me, as i’m not very perky in the morning) with volunteers over toast, peanut butter, papaya, hot tea and milk. i’m thinking some red bull would be helpful.  and yes, we can get it here, believe it or not!

7:30 am – most volunteers are leaving the house for their projects, as they have 50-70 minutes walking commute or combo daladala / walking.  i straighten my room, do a bit of laundry, check for emails from prospective volunteers from around the world, communicating with others that are in the process of applying and/or coming in the next month or two.  follow up on a few marketing emails and volunteer project updates.  dressed for the day myself, the last thing to do is pull my hair back and wrap the bandana around my head.  yay!  for the first time in weeks, the sky has cleared enough that we can see the peak of mt. kilimanjaro from our house!

8:30 am – last friday, our newest volunteers arrived – five nurses from the UK.   they will be splitting up to do basic health evaluation/assessments over the next 3-4 weeks at a few orphanages as there is no medical/health budget.   today, we are visiting children of destiny and msamaria so that they can meet the directors, children, see the facility and make a list of needs and to-do.  tomorrow, we will continue to shop and prepare for the assignments. and because we have an aggressive schedule with so many of us, we are hiring a taxi for the morning.

margaret tells the story of the children of destiny to ella, heidi, hannah, brigid and maria

1:00 pm – after msamaria, we head to town for lunch at indo-italiano.  we enjoy a nice breeze on the patio and a good lunch, and share experiences and ideas from the visits.  it was eye opening for sure, and both places had a diverse level of management, organization, needs, etc.  but in both places – there are children who have lost much, and have great needs and capacity for love, which we all respond to!

hannah, maria, and i enjoy kids at msamaria

2:00 – after a bit of time taking care of internet needs, we tackle the first part of the shopping list.  some stationery and office needs, price comparisons and haggles.  we even picked up a ‘personal shopper’ – they are quite annoying when these guys follow you around on the street, trying to sell you something etc.  hapana asante!  no thank you!  we say over and over.  they follow you in the shops – and then listen for what you are trying to buy.  then soon, they show up with that item in their hands or tell you where you can find it.  in this case, we were looking for scales, to weigh the children on, and we didn’t really know where to go (no, there is no wal-mart, target or other such obvious places lol).  while haggling at a local shop for other things, our ‘shopper’ comes up to me …. mama afrika, i have found the scales!  come quickly!…..i follow him a ways to see where he is pointing.  after the girls finish their purchase we make our way to the shop, haggle again for the scales, and we decide that in this case, the service rendered was valuable and we gave him a few shillings for his assistance.  probably we will be sorry because he will try to ‘shop’ for us every time he sees us but we did appreciate it and this is how they make their living.

4:00 pm – done for the day, i decide to make the 40 minutes walk back to the house (it’s mid 90s here today) while the girls head for a pedicure (oh, believe me, pedicures here are NOT like at home.  just the polish, and there is no hygenics involved.  done right on the streets.  but it’s pretty cheap at 2,000 shillings or so – less than $2.00.  as i walk back, i enjoy giving out candy from my back pack to children that i meet along the way.  two of the little girls take my hands and we walk for 15 or so minutes together, hand in hand, quietly, enjoying each other’s company while they enjoy their suckers.  i have enjoyed the pleasure of the smiles of the kids as they get the candy, unexpectedly, their quiet asante sana, and while it’s just a small thing, it’s a joy.  one of our volunteers said she purchased bananas from mama on the street and gave her a bit extra making that mama’s day.  then a bit later she gave those bananas to another person that was asking for money.  that person was very grateful too.  again, a small thing but the volunteer felt amazing for helping two people, and three people were impacted by her shining light – herself included.

5:00 pm – thank god i figured out how to maneuver the shower, yippee hot water!  i do the same thing every evening, but sometimes i get cold or tepid water, sometimes hotter water.  hakuna matata, as long as i get a shower!  then i get a skype call from a previous volunteer that lives in california who is also one of our youth trade center partners.  it was good to catch up.

7:00 pm – dinner with the volunteers, there are 10 of us right now – 8 from ireland, 2 (including me) from the united states.  it is ‘burrito’ sort of but delish. also a fresh veggie salad and juice.  a power outage in the middle of dinner (it was short duration) plunged us into total blackness and we all froze until sarafina found a lantern.  seems like dinner time is a popular time for these things to happen.

7:30 pm – updating facebook, taking care of some emails, a bit of admin work since i’ve been out of the office all day.  my office is cooler now (during the afternoon, the temperature in the office often climbs to 95 degrees, making it quite uncomfortable to work, and also at times causing issues with the pc).

9:30 pm – some conversations with volunteers outside in the open patio area.  it’s a lovely evening, 79 degrees and a light breeze.

10:30 pm -enjoying reading (reading ashley judd’s book all that is bitter and sweet) before bedtime.

11:30 pm – lala salama, rest well when you make it to slumber land yourself!

it’s been a long while since you’ve enjoyed some swahili lessons, are you ready?

  1. nasikia nzuri sana!  na-see-kee-a n-zoo-ree sa-na (i feel fantastic!)
  2. heri! hay-ree (cheers!)
  3. napenda sana chakula hiki. na-payn-da sa-na cha-koo-la hee-kee (i love this dish!)
  4. nina njaa! nee-na n-ja (i’m hungry!)

miss you all, love you too!  nakupende!  love to hear from you.

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hallelujah! first 2 weeks back in africa.

well, it’s wednesday and  i have been back in africa for 13 days now.  as much as i love and miss my family and friends back home, there is such a good feeling about being back on african soil.  i am blessed to have such a large extended family – all of you at home in the US – my african family – and the international family that continues to grow with the volunteers that come through the foot2afrika doors.

it took about 9 of those days to get communications established – a local phone, internet – and even yet it’s not all complete. in the process of working through the issues, i am just sure that last friday was really a monday.  i swear to you.  what should have been a simple loading of the usb-pay-as-you-go-internet-modem became a challenge of wit, patience, and humor.  not to bore you with all the details (and it’s not all completely resolved yet) but i am working with a temporary solution right now.  i was reminded friday that i had not yet fully decompressed my somewhat anal american ways into my laid back african hakuna matata chill, LOL.  *shrug* i am getting there!

although the countdown to departure was a tad on the stressful side, my travel experience back to africa was great.  on time, no issues with baggage, KLM airlines always delivers a great experience, i was met at the airport by my taxi driver friend salmini. it was good to be reunited with everyone, and to be recognized around town in my familiar hang outs – especially since without my african braided hair, i do look a bit different, and it had been over 3 months since i had been here. i have been back to several of the projects, but have some more to get to.  children of destiny and rudisha, of course!  i’ve been to see them!

it’s been a busy time, adjusting, meeting, laying out plans.  i can already see that the next 12 months are going to be incredibly fulfilling and busy – i won’t be lacking for things to do, for challenges.  in addition to my priority focus (which is foot2afrika and supporting our project organizations like the orphanage and women’s group) i have other objectives for the year – immersion into unique experiences, see more of tanzania, listening to whatever God has to say to me and acting upon it, and for sure – safari to the serengeti .  yes!  the seregenti is scheduled for JANUARY 2012!!!!!

to share the news that has already made my day, my week, and heck – probably will make my year is in regards to children of destiny.  i had approached a tulsa area contact requesting consideration for monthly support for the children of destiny orphanage; learned last week that they said yes, for a commitment to 12 months!  my minor role was the match maker – to share the story, make the request for support, introduce the individuals (one in BA, one in TZ) and let God broker the deal.  i cannot  share the details of who and the amount, but i can tell you that the timing was PERFECT and while i did not request a specific amount, it was also PERFECT.  another local company generously supported them with a special contribution as well.  the orphanage has a few construction projects that we will be assisting them with – a kitchen and dining area, so that’s the next thing we are working toward.

so on the day i learned the news …i walked back from town, ipod jamming in my ear, sweat running down my back and my face –  and i was literally doing a happy dance in the road while there was a happy dance going on in my heart.  asante sana to all those that have and continue to support me and/or the projects that i work with here.

of course more stories to come, it’s early yet.  and i will be taking pix and vids but connecting my new camera to this particular netbook – well, let’s just say it’s one of the challenges.  hakuna matata, hamna shida, eventually it will all be workable.  in the meantime, i’m working on my africa chill. 🙂

i’m off to town, got some things to take care of, and the rain has paused for the time being.

nakupenda, and badaye!

OH – this is what i was listening to on my ipod while walking back from town after receiving the good news about the support for children of destiny.  enjoy.  hallelujah, indeed.