toward the ledge:

changing the world thru loving and serving others. without agenda


shine a light through an open door….

i hope you enjoy this video that clearly puts into music and video what most of us and certainly i have experienced here in africa.  i have truly found love here – in the nature, in the children, in the people, in the generosity of spirits, smiles and courage.

Yellow diamonds in the light And we’re standing side by side
As your shadow crosses mine What it takes to come alive
It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny But I’ve gotta let it go
We found love in a hopeless place
Shine a light through an open door Love and life I will divide
Turn away cause I need you more Feel the heartbeat in my mind…..

i am merely one person here trying to follow my heart and what i believe God has intended for me to do.  truthfully – it’s not always simple, clear or easy.  but my heart speaks strongly to me that i am here for a reason.  i have met many people, learned so many lessons, changed my perspective on issues, explored deep within, and clarified what i believe my purpose here is.  i suspect that in the coming time, i will meet more people, learn more lessons, and change my perspective more…but isn’t that life, and how we continue to learn, to evolve, to become the people we were meant to be? to fulfill a purpose that we were born with?

TWO YEARS. sometimes i find it unbelievable! that i have been ‘back’ in tanzania two years (on october 1).  it still seems to me like just ‘yesterday’ i stepped off the plane.  it has been a roller coaster of a ride in some ways….i came here in march 2011 taking a leap of faith that God wanted me to be doing His work here, and along the way He would work on me too.  that led to a commitment of one year of service to a local NGO, and when that ended, it led to me realizing that the work was not yet done, although to be honest I didn’t quite know what the work would entail.  and while there have been a few (very few) weak moments in which i said to myself, maybe i should just go back to the States, i immediately was filled with a knowing that it wasn’t yet (if ever) time for that.  i can’t explain it to you very well, but while i truly would love to see my family, and friends to visit and do some speaking for the causes – i have no desire at all to return to the western way of living.  i seem to have found a tolerance beyond most people (surprising even myself) to deal with lack of conveniences, wants, etc.  perhaps i would actually enjoy a proper shower, and a change of menu.  perhaps i would dream of a day in which i could just pop into town and get things done in a short efficient time.  however, as someone very close to me recently said – maybe tanzania is now your america. indeed.

TWO AREAS OF FOCUS. well, because i cannot save the world, Africa, or even this country all by myself (although i dream of it), i realize that i can only help a few.  so. my focus in the coming year(s) will be on two areas – education and agriculture – both sustainable programs that i believe that will help families find their way out of the cycle of poverty.  it is overwhelming, the needs here.  and in light of my experience so far, the research i’ve done, and what my heart speaks to me – i know that helping to empower people to support themselves is the key.  handing out money, while necessary time to time, for short term expenses isn’t sustainable.  how, HOW, can we educate, inform, and provide means so that children are better prepared for their future. so that mama or grandmother can do some small business or grow a small farm, so that she can feed her family and add on a room to her house.  so that young man can learn skills and how to properly run his business so that he can support his wife and children in the future.

1.  education of children and youth, including vocational skills, provides pathways out of poverty and brings opportunities for children to support their families and change things in their village as they grow up.  i also hope to find ways to help these children be showered with love, self-confidence, self-awareness and to understand that despite their current lifestyles, they are beautiful and they can do anything that they choose.

2.  agriculture provides food and earning capacity for families.  lack of capital, along with lack of water prevents many people from even growing their own vegetables but i have seen that this is a key asset for the country and i am devoted to finding ways to help people in this area.

TWO ORGANIZATIONS.   there are so many organizations – and individuals – that need someone like me….or you.  but i cannot support them all. so,  i will focus my resource and fund raising efforts on two NGOs that share the same values and principles as i do.  plus there will be accountability and transparency, something i find rather challenging to find in the developing world – for a variety of reasons.

CHANGE IS COMING….AGAIN:  i have lived in the same general area for the entire two years.  1 year in the hostel while serving with the volunteer organization.  and now nearly a year living in a rental house on my own which is just minutes from the hostel.  moshi is far from being a fancy city but it is more urban, and i am close to town, to places to eat, to shopping, albeit limited.  i have running water (most of the time), electricity (again most of the time) a comfortable bed, and shower (sometimes cold water sometimes warm).  i have fairly easy access to internet although that too falls into the ‘most of the time’ category.  but change is coming.

soon- in the coming weeks,  i will relocate to another part of Tanzania, living on the grounds of a school, in partnership with the ngo that i have been serving under since January.  focusing on the areas mentioned above …..all the ‘normal’ things that are key issues in every village.  i will be living in an area which has no electricity (but generator power at night).  not so nearby a town with ‘options’.  no running water (yet but that is being worked on).   a big change from my current living lifestyle which to be honest i have come to appreciate and enjoy while sometimes feeling a bit guilty that i live in such better conditions that those that i serve.  but i think that now is the time that i immerse myself into African life at a different level.  and i embrace it fully.

coming next….more about the new location,  raising awareness and funds, and all other good and interesting things.  and it is my prayer that indeed i find ways to shine my light through the open doors.

with love.  i miss you all.  and for those that have been chatting about coming to spend some time here with me – WOO HOO.  i am ready for your visit!



WAO! WAO? an update on what’s next…..

well, for sure i’ve been absent from my blogging for a long while now.  it isn’t that i haven’t been busy or going about business as usual, but for me, writing comes upon inspiration.  or not, as the case has been.  the past months i have been searching my heart, researching and reading books and preparing myself for ‘next’ – and to be honest i wasn’t entirely certain what ‘next’ was going to be, EXCEPT that it would involve projects of sustainable development.

for the past 8-9 months, i have been volunteering for an organization that does village development – things you might expect: water, nutrition, education, health and entrepreneurial opportunity – which is standard for most every village you would visit in africa (or probably any developing country).  my work for them has involved reaching out to other villages and projects to share ideas, to cross connect people and to be a resource in various parts of tanzania.  to research resources available.  to gain a deeper understanding of activities such as micro-financing and agriculture.  to be sure, i have been illuminated, inspired, moved, expanded.  some mindsets have been adjusted.  some new ideas have been flourishing.

by october 1, i have been in this country for 2 years continuously and have been involved with various NGOs – women’s groups, education, orphanages, environmental. if I had gazillions of dollars at my disposal I would take care of as many of those important needs as I can.  albeit i have become more aware that ‘charity and relief’ measures are not the answer and in fact can cause issues without proper evaluation.  no matter what, sustainable projects as well as relief requires many resources, including money.  and sustainable projects require much more time, not a few weeks or even months.  we have to start measuring by years.

i have come to the altar of recognition of my own limitations.  i have come to understand, reluctantly, that i cannot fix all the problems, i cannot have all the solutions, nor can i dole out money to all of the people who need it.  i realize even more now that this journey is a walk side by side with tanzanians who understand and know the problems because they live them, and have lived them for years and generations.  it is a journey in which TOGETHER we discuss priorities and discuss possible solutions.  it is a partnership and collaboration.

i have been forced to focus and prioritize.  literally, daily i have requests for my money, for my time, for my attention and i am often overwhelmed (i hate to say no, i want to help everyone, i don’t want to feel taken advantage of or be lied to, etc).  and finally based upon several things, i have decided to focus my future here to learning more in depth and supporting sustainable development work in villages, so that individuals – children, parents, grandparents – have the opportunity to share their voice and TOGETHER we all make changes that can progress a community as opposed to one-time donations of sorts.

stay tuned for future updates on ….what’s next…..

WAO!  that is kiswahili for they.  it is also used in similar ways that we say WOW!   and it stands for We. Are. One.

in the meantime, while you are waiting for ….what’s next….enjoy some photos taken over the past several months…..

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leap of faith=learning to trust, living in the moment, giving up control.

703724_10200089329698919_1476002362_ook God. i am Yours. you have sent me.   
to my next door neighbor and now to the corners of the earth.
may i love as you love, and listen to every whisper of your spirit.
because i know the voice of the One who has called me to… GO…
now calls me to be to STAY, LISTEN and CONTINUE THE WORK.

one year and a month or so after returning to tanzania – i know and YOU know that i’m on the edge, at the ledge again.  leaping into another bit of unknown.  an update – at this point, i have located, rented and moved into a new home on my own – leaving the ‘known’ and comfort of the NGO/hostel that has been home.  adjusting (again) to live alone, cooking, and life without the structure of the organization. figuring out what i need in this new home, making new connections, researching ideas, pondering,  wrapping up final transitions with foot2afrika.  well certainly,my f2a family – the people, former volunteers, staff, the projects – they will always be family to me.  however the official part of my work there has come to an end and now….what is next?

BE COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNKNOWN….i don’t really know exactly what is next.  just that i am to be doing something different.  i have a few nudgings or ideas, but am waiting for the ‘reveal’.  AND honestly THAT IS REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE.  are you with me?  we are inclined to need to know what’s next, to have goals, to be prepared.  but here i am. in tanzania, in moshi specifically, because i was sent.  i am walking through doors that open.  i am waiting for words to be said.  all i know at this point….is that i am where i am supposed to be.  and that i will know….when the time is right for me to know…what i am to do next.  for now.  i am (trying to be) content to be in the moment.  to be excited about the fact that i don’t know what’s next instead of being frustrated about not knowing.

BE STILL AND KNOW….in the meantime.  i have this distinct feeling that this is by design.  that i am being led moment by moment.   to be quiet.  to be still again.  and realize that i will know when the time is right.  what i have been feeling – is the need to be more hands on and connected to people in villages, to be part of sustainable development so that individuals and families can dream, hope and provide for themselves.   i feel strongly that writing – stories or ? – may be part of this next chapter (no pun intended).  i feel tingles/buzzes about working with people with HIV (women in particular) but on the other hand, the individuals that are placed in my path recently are young men trying to support their families – smart, hard working men that have dreams but no opportunities.  i think – what is the reason for these stories coming my way?  in fact –  i woke up recently with the STRONG awareness that i should tell the story of one of these smart young guys trying to feed his wife and 3 young daughters –  to help raise awareness of his situation, and perhaps find a way to help him through the story  – but due to many other interferences it hasn’t happened.  soon, i hope.  many of you have been encouraging me to write.  i’m open.  but i am still not certain just what to write and how.  is this a start?  hmmmm.  we will know soon won’t we?

TRUST, YOU ARE BEING CARED FOR….another part of this journey is about the faith of trusting.   certainly i have spent (too much) time ‘worrying’ this past year about finances.  most of you know…i raised some funds, sold my stuff etc before coming here a year ago.   always in the back of my mind…..was this blah blah blah in my head about “HOW AM I GONNA MAKE IT?” and always there would be a little voice that would say….“don’t worry, you will be taken care of.  we are working things out for you”.   that would calm my mind.  for a while. and then i would be back at the worry game.   and in fact, during the house finding process  as i reviewed my finances, i realized that to pay the 6 months rent in advance (which is standard requirement) i would have nothing left to live on.  i had just sent out a fund raising email and had some response but at this point of the process, the funds were not yet arriving.  a  moment of panic was setting in  – WHAT DID I THINK I WAS DOING?  HOW WAS I GOING TO LIVE HERE?  i was kinda freaking out, having a melt down moment.  and trust me,  renting a house here is not extravagant (around $150/month furnished in this case, an amount that several of my tanzanian friends pay, which is a LOT to their standards but to ours….not much).   i had to swallow some pride, email my BF and my dad, and specifically ask for help RIGHT THEN.  out of my comfort zone totally.  i was crying the whole time i had to do it, it’s humbling truly to find yourself so reliant upon others, the grace of God and everything outside yourself.   it was a bit of a watershed moment (again no pun intended) as i had to recognize and release any sense of control that i apparently thought i had.  as well as some pride.  and yes. it occurred to me that perhaps i must need to experience this as i am often being asked for help. even tho i am so aware that the points of spectrum are much different (my no-money is very different from their no-money), and sometimes i react (more internally than externally) in a way that i’m ashamed of.  so perhaps i have some lessons here to learn, of perspective, to soften my heart.  sometimes it feels like the mzungu is always expected to have money to give.  or that others may ‘use’ us to ‘get money.  but in actuality – perhaps their need simply places them in the vulnerable position to ask.  well,  i’m totally undone again, just thinking about it, so there must be something pinging me here….”better pay attention debora”.

YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL….oh my.  i have been reminded how much i am not in control and that God is very much in control. in my humanness, even though i knew better, i continued my angst about how i would make it financially – torn between giving up all control and how much effort i should make myself to raise money.  i made an organized fund raising effort, and several of those graciously and generously responded although i was far from the budgeted needs.   then –  the fact is that several people  (many of which i haven’t seen in many years)  began contacting me and offering to send funds to help without any request from me.   just as i was completing negotiations on the house,  one person sent me a full month’s salary (!!!!!!!! omg! this person just mentioned she believed in my spirit and heart and wanted to help, never mentioned an amount and i didn’t ask.  until it hit my account i had no idea!).  another individual sent a message that she and her husband came up with a certain monthly amount of support that was incredibly generous and unexpected- was it okay she asked?  i just sat there, honestly,  and cried.  over and over –  i have been humbled, reminded that i am cared for and indeed, where i am supposed to be.  reminded that i am not in control and frankly that it’s a good thing i’m not.  i’d just muck it up in all likelihood. yeah, am reminded that just maybe He does know what He’s doing 🙂

THE VOICES SAY?…and guess what?  here’s what the voice(s) say after these moments of grace and generosity… yeah, a kind of  a told you so! “well, we did tell you that we are taking care of you.  please trust. relax.”

well, the voices led me here (spoke to me of afrika, and confirmed each time i came to the right conclusions or made the right decisions).  they have continued to guide me and encourage me.  to me? they are my spirit and angel guides, the voice of God.   He communicates to me in a variety of ways –  through others,  through messages in my emails and even on facebook.  but for sure – there are times (thankfully) in which i ‘hear’ Him directly.

WORK IN PROGRESS… for sure. i have known from the beginning of my journey to tanzania that God had things for me to do here…but that there was also work to be done on me.  i am a continuing work in progress.  it is my desire that i make a difference in the lives of people, in this community.  and that i somehow inspire, motivate, encourage or otherwise raise others up in their own lives to know that they are loved, to know that they ARE love.  my mission is simple and without doctrine, rules or agendas:  love.   may i love as you love…

…..please bless my path and illumine my mind, i surrender to You the day ahead.
please bless every person and situation i will encounter.
make me who You would have me be, that i might do as You would have me do.
please enter my heart….renew my soul….and free my spirit…..
marianne williamson

am happy that you are in my life.  thanks for the encouragement, prayers, support and ‘atta girls’.  thanks for following my journey on facebook and this blog, and for letting me know when you receive something from my experience.

love you.


reflections on an african year….

how did it get so late so soon? it’s night before it’s afternoon. december is here before it’s june. my goodness how the time has flewn. how did it get so late so soon?
~dr.seuss ~

sept 29, 7:45 pm marked the 1 year anniversary of my re-entry to tanzania.  i remember wondering how i would manage living here for 1 years; yet the 12 months have passed so quickly that it feels almost like yesterday that i stepped off the plane.  for sure, this chapter of my journey has been incredible.  i am, however, reminded that journeys rarely proceed in a  progressively straight forward path. but they are winding, a bit rocky in patches. sometimes it is a gorgeous sunny day with a light breeze.  sometimes you have to back track to keep on the path. and sometimes it’s dark ahead so that you can only see what is directly ahead of you with your flash light.  my journey here in africa is exactly like that.   it is however my journey and i’m totally confident i am on the right path.  it just doesn’t make it simple nor smooth at all times.

looking back on the year – some random musings and reflections on my year, in no particular order or priority.

  • i have met and worked with nearly 100 volunteers from malaysia, united kingdom, australia, south africa, sweden, norway, usa, ireland, germany, spain, canada. they have inspired me, made me laugh, become my friends, taught me new things, and joined me in making a difference through foot2afrika.
  • i have observed (in the lives of the many volunteers i have met) the life changing impact that volunteering in africa makes.  it ranges from minimal to life changing  as some make relationship, career, and personal changes as a result of their time here.  others are busy planning their return trips, some to stay longer term.
  • through my frustration of not being able to give of my own depleting resources, God has used me to be a connector/bridge (and believe me, He has made it clear to me my role several times when i was lamenting haha) to connect those who have to those who have not. while dollars is what speaks the loudest often (in terms of survival) most definitely the currency of love,  the heart, and time given also matters.  in connecting, i am blessed each day.
  • i have learned a new language. although i still suck at it and i’m still a long way from being fluent but each day i can speak a bit more and understand a bit more.  i have learned to celebrate the small victories of learning a new phrase or that i can converse just a bit more in daily life.
  • i love this land, and the people.  during one of my meditative/zen moments  during serengeti safari was that ‘i am home’.  i cannot explain that to any point, just that i ‘heard’ that and felt it in my heart.  and still feel totally at peace here.  that doesn’t mean it’s perfect and that i don’t have ‘moments’.  but it is part of ‘knowing’ that i am where i should be for now.
  • i haven’t had a ‘bath’ in a year, and in fact haven’t had what i call a proper shower (in terms of temperature and water pressure) either.  sometimes it’s out of a bucket or bottle.  sometimes it is cold.  but honestly, although i might appreciate a nice long strong warm shower….it has no great importance to me at this time, when i consider that many of the people i work with do not have running water, and drink or use unsafe water.
  • i have accepted situations where toilet paper is not available (but a bucket of water next to the hole in the floor is).  but it (t.p.) is still the preferred method.  🙂  haha.  things that we take for granted and deem as critical and important….are really not.
  • based upon my first trip’s results in weight loss, i had a vision (fantasy apparently ) that by the end of a year here, i would be at size 0,or at least size 6.  well, i have lost weight, i’m much healthier, and in better condition but still have a ways to go.  the ‘evil’  stinkin’ camera doesn’t ‘show’ the changes that my loose clothing seem to indicate.  and why is it that i still care about this?
  • it has been a year since i’ve driven a car.   i have perched on the back of a piki piki (motorbike) more in the past few months than in my whole life (and i love it).  and yes i understand the risks, and no i don’t have a helmet, and yes i say a prayer and call for travel angels each and every time.  otherwise, i walk  mostly, or use public transportation, sitting cheek to cheek, marveling at how many people they can cram into one vehicle, shifting to avoid bruises from the metal parts of the seats, sharing body odor in close quarters for 300 tsh (about 20 cents).
  • i never tolerated being dirty and sweaty back  ‘home’.  here i am rarely NOT dirty and sweaty.  and i’m just perfectly fine with that.  in fact, i have learned to appreciate  that i live in a free sauna.  just without redwood and eucalyptus.  and one must remain fully clothed.  okay so there are nuances of differences, but think of the toxins that are being flushed out the sweat glands!
  • i haven’t watched TV in a year and i have no longings for it.  however, reading the fb posts about the new season of modern family made me a bit jealous for that.  i miss some good laughs over the humor in that show.  otherwise, nah, don’t need it!
  • i have survived two different dental appointments, which was one of my ‘fears’ initially -having dental problems here.  well, as usual we worry about things unnecessary.  it wasn’t fun to have a broken tooth (former root canal) but in the process, with the help of friends, we have discovered some excellent (and affordable) dentists.
  • it seems that i am  more likely to be happy with less ‘stuff’, with less security, but with more purposeful living.  and it seems that people here are more generous and giving, even though they live in poverty.  we have always heard money doesn’t buy happiness and having lived on two sides of the coin (although neither was extreme wealth or poverty) i can say that it is true for me, and seems to be true for the majority.
  • i have learned to be more patient, to let go of anal retentive ways, that it doesn’t matter if things do (or don’t) happen on time , that people and situations are more important than the details that surround them. my heart continues to be opened, i continue to work to be out of ‘my head’ more and listen/be present from my heart center more.  as much as i know to do this, it still isn’t that easy.  old habits die hard, as they say.
  • there is more ‘same-ness’ in people around the world, regardless of our race, culture, income level, etc than there is ‘diversity’.  we have just been fed too much of the diversity line and have allowed ourselves to believe it.  everywhere, there  are families that wish to provide love, hope, and education to their children.  there are men and women who simply wish for opportunity to work and make an income.  there are people of all ages that wish access to affordable health care.  there are spiritual individuals who wish to worship  God in freedom.  there are intelligent children, women and men who wish for true integrity, wisdom, and leadership in their countries.  they brush their teeth, smile, laugh, wash their hair, put on their clothing, transport to work, laugh at jokes, cry at loss, rage at inequities.  just as we do.  i am reminded daily how true the concept of one village, how connected we all truly are. we are not isolated, truly we are not.  none of us are better than the others simply by merit of where we were born.

well, so what is next?   i believe God has more work for me to do here in tanzania and what i ‘hear’ this time is that i need to shift into a deeper level of work.  (i have enjoyed my time with f2a, working with so many organizations and people from around the world.  but i think it’s time to ‘get out of the office’ and ‘into the village’ so to speak.  that’s what i feel that the next part of the journey will be). and i also believe that there is more work to be done on me.   perhaps that makes some sense to you?  i hope so.

exactly what?  well, i don’t have all the answers.  it’s being revealed to me slowly (more lessons in trust and patience) but i have no doubt…..this – africa.  tanzania.  is my path.  i am where i am supposed to be. i just “know” that i am right where i should be.  as much as i miss my friends and family at home, i “know” that returning to life as it once was is not for me.  at least not at this moment in time.

and YES!  it IS uncomfortable not having the details or the answers of the next steps.  well, this morning, interestingly i found this article on fb (as most of you know, God often delivers messages that i need to hear via emails, fb, etc) – it was titled “when you don’t have the answers” and some of the writer’s comments include:

“this state- of wanting answers but not having them – of not knowing if your partner is right for you or if you should stay at your job – is where we need to become more comfortable. we need to hang out in these zones of incredible uncertainty without escaping, though every part of us wants to. there were no more mysteries to be solved, just a journey to continue. And continuing is most necessary when it’s hard. a lack of clarity cannot stop us from living, driving to work, cooking noodles, checking email, calling our mothers.  when we want answers, what we’re really looking for is the strength to live with questions. it’s a feeling of security we’re after, reassurance that we’ve made good choices and we’ll be okay. that’s much easier to take care of than demanding hard answers from life.”  (click here  if you want to read this article from fear.less magazine).

indeed.  and so back to my point.  while i feel certain that i’m here in africa for a reason, and i don’t have all the answers to my questions, i am breathing deeply to accept that in these moments i will try to be more settled in the ‘transition’ and be comforted with my choices that are sound and that i WILL be okay.  and that perhaps i don’t know all the details TODAY but eventually i will have more answers.  (um. but i know by then i will also have more questions, requiring more answers.)  and so.  it goes.

and for those that consider me a missionary – i suppose it’s all in the definition.  for me?  i am simply trying to serve where God calls me. i listen the best i can.  to use my talents, my resources, my heart to give, to uplift, to raise up, to feed, to clothe, to empower.  that’s my mission.   my only agenda is love.  one day stands out in my mind.  a woman (i have been a bridge to her group) said to me “deb, we see Jesus in you”.  and in that moment, i was not only humbled but any sacrifice or loss….was all worth it.  totally.  questions are stilled in such a moment.  believe me.  that is my calling.

oh! i hope you will enjoy this slideshow of a few random photos of the past year. it has been an amazing time.  and there’s more to come, this ain’t over yet.  i am truly blessed.

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and as always.  you know i love you.  and thank you for your love, encouragement, support, prayers, and atta girls.  for those of you back home in the USA, yes, i miss you too and i would love to see you and have our times together.

the journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place…barbara deangelis

let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. let your soul take you where you long to be…close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before…erich fromm

true religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess…louis nizer


the story of john ken….

here in africa, we fall in love with the country, the people we work along side of, those that we serve,  the community. literally, most every single solitary person that comes here loves tanzania.  and of course! we fall in love with the children – their eyes, their smiles, their beauty, their unconditional love, their strength of spirit despite what life has dealt to them.  yep.  we love them all….

but oh! then there are those that just reach out and really grab your attention.  their stories, their presence, their spirit.  this blog is devoted to john ken.  he has faced more in his young life than any of us could imagine.  but he looks forward.  he has dreams.  vision.    he is articulate, driven, creative and clever.

16 years old, he has been at msamaria center for street children for about one year or less.  so this all happened in his life not too long ago. one of our volunteers, faith (uk), started learning  a bit about his story and reported in her own blog.  then encouraged john to write his story.  so here it is –  straight from his own mouth and pen.  of course swahili is his native language so he has written this in english, his 2nd language.  typically, children here do not learn english until secondary school.

Title: What is it to achieve richness

My name is John and I once lived with parents. My father was an hotelian and my mother worked for womens rights. My father’s name was Mr. Kenneth and my mother was Mrs Matilda Kenneth. We lived at Nairobi in Kenya. We had a happy life thus I made very many dreams of my life. My heart was filled with an described joy since I had all my needs at my parent’s paws. My grandparent had all passed away. Our relatives broke all relation with my family due to fight against grandparent’s wealth. They all flew from Nairobi to other places far away from our family. It was a lonely family since I did not see my relatives especially my cousins. I was then learning at Thawabu Primary School grade 5. When I was in grade 6 my father retired from work which made life in Nairobi to be very hard. We were now depending on my mother for everything.

My mother had to overwork in order to get more money to ease our needs. Life became more difficult especially for my education. We had to shift from Nairobi and settled ourselves at Holidi; a border between Kenya and Tanzania. Due to overwork,  my mother became sick. She did not go to work for two months which made her lose her job. My dreams started to fade out. There was nobody to help us. We were living near Maasai settlement who never knew national language It was really tough for us. I had to drop out from school and engage myself in doing little labour in order to get money. My mother was very sick that my father had to stay at home to take care of her. It was really sad for us when mother started having a persevering cough. We ignored the state and saw that it is not serious. We did not understand that never judge a book by its cover. It was a moth now when her state became more worse.  We were about to take her to the hospital when she started coughing out blood She said that it was too late. She asked me to go and fetch water for her. Without wasting time, I immediately ran for the water. I can hurriedly knowing that I am going to save her life. Two steps before entering the house, I heard someone weeping. I dropped the glass and sat down. Someone could knew what was happening for the expression that was on my face. Tears of pain rolled down my shabby chicks. I pinched myself assuring that it wasn’t a dream. My father came out if the house. His eyes were red and watery. I knew he wanted to tell me something for he was struggling to open his mouth. He opened his mouth and said to me ‘Your mother has…..g…g…gone! I was shocked beyond measures. My heart almost skipped a bit. I remained rooted on the ground. My eyes became wildly opened. ‘ I think I didn’t heard your correctly, what d..did ..y.o.u…i..said” I asked trice not believing my ears. Slowly and slowly I closed my eyes and finally went into the world of darkness.

Opening and closing my eyes, my father was at his mental skill trying to take my back to consciousness. He was having his t-shirt out and up and down he went still. I could not believe what my father had told me earlier before. We buried her without the help of anybody because we had lose our relatives and the neighbours who were was a difficult to inform with them. My heart was like a broken piece of wood in the desert. I was lonely. I lived with my father. We all went to the street together in search of food and clothing. This went for four months. It was really tiresome but there was nothing I could do about it. My father really worked hard. He did not care whether it was raining or not; whether it was windy, cloudy, sunny or not. Due to his don’t care he was infected by pneumonia.  We went for his medical attention but found out it was really expensive. I has to take him back at home. I went alone at the streets and carry luggages and the money I get medicine for the right sort.

It continued for two weeks and the pneumonia had fully developed and they started swallowing the immune system of my father. He became very sick and even holding and lifting a spoon was too difficult for him. He had no strength even of raising his hand up. It was like I was holding his heart on my hand. I had to do everything in order to make him living. By bad luck, he too turned against the world and waved for it . It was too late for my help. My father had passed away. I was like traumatised I did not know what was going on. My heart was full of bitter pain It was like sharp thorns trying to penetrate deep in my brain.  I came to recognise that he was dead after three days. This was due to the food and medicine brought to him. I look at the body thrice try not to believe that he was dead. I dug outside not so deep and buried my father. I was now alone in the world; I had no family, no relatives, no friends. I did not know where to start or end. I did not know where to go or where to stay. My heart was full of sorrows. I continued to do my labour and the few money I get; I buy food and go back to the same house to sleep.

One day I was going to some labour, there was a heavy rainfall known as el-nino. It was some few metres before reaching the home when i heard the BAM! of the iron sheet. I stood still and tried to locate where the BAM was coming from. Oh! No, it was our house! My mouth was widely open and my eye couldn’t shut like that of an owl. My legs became as light as a lylon paper bag. I ran as my feeble feet could carry me and as fast as a deer. On reaching the house was finishing the down part. It was over! I went back to the street. My eyes were watery and red in colour. Tears rolled down my shabby chicks. I sat there think of what to do next. I thought of killing myself and aimed to do it, but I saw it was silly think to do.

I looked at Mount Kilimanjaro and said to myself, there is where my help is coming from. Though it was far but aimed to reaching there. On the next day I woke duo early before dawn and started my journey. I walked for miles and miles. From far I saw something glowing like a gold. I ran until there wishing to  pick even a piece of gold. Only to find out it was a gate. It was Tsavo National Park’s gate. I went in through the gate on with my journey. On the park I met wild animals such as elephants. I used skills in order to guide myself. It took me four days to reach Njia Panda in Tanzania.

Njia Panda is a junction connecting the road to Dar-es- salam and Moshi. I took the road on the right hand side of me; the road to Dar- es-salam and followed it. I walked and walked. On my way especially when I was hungry I used to eat unripe mangoes. I was walking with a knife which I took from home. I reached at a place know as Mwanga. I met some children there and asked them if Dar-es- salam is just near if I walked there by foot. On my plans they all started laughing at me. Once of them said even if I could have gone by bus it is still far. I sat down and try to lose hope. I watched as the sun setting at the western horizon glowing like a piece of gold. I went until Chanjale try to look for somewhere to sleep. I saw an unfinished building and saw it was good place to go and sleep. I went there and sleep. On my dreams, I dreamed that there was a snake and the snake was almost going to bite me. I woke up and really there was a snake. Using my knife, I chopped his head off. I got myself off there and went to find another place to sleep. Early in the morning I went back to Mwanga and try to think what to do.  I stayed idle until 12:00noon not knowing what was I supposed to do in order to get help. Finally I thought of something good to do. I went to stole some clean clothes and changes. I made myself clean and went to traffic police who where nearby. I told them I was coming from Chanjale from my aunt. That my aunt had given me thirty thousand as my ticket to go to Moshi to my father. I again said that I was coming to Mavanga and I loosed the money and that I don’t have any means to go to Moshi. They understood me and boarded me a bus. I was taken to Moshi  and I was dropped there. The first thing to think of was going to the cathedral. I asked the taxi men where cathedral was located. They directed me and without wasting time I went there; I greeted them and asked for help.  I told them what had actually happened before reaching here. They asked me to go and talk to the priest first. I went and told the priest. Not believing my ears and eyes the priest chased me out of office telling me I was a conman. I got out of his office heart broken. I went back to those guys and told them about the priest. Luckily they talked to one woman who really felt my pains. She made a call to orphanage and talked to Mama. Soon she came to me and told me it was time to go home. I was taken at Msamaria Centre for Street Children and met Mama known as Mama Machuwa. I told her what had happened and have out evidence of what I was eating on the way and the knife. I knew she really felt it for she shed tears as I was talking about what happened. She let me stay at the orphanage and from that day I was happy that I got somebody to help me.

wow.  can you imagine?  losing both your parents in such a short time, having to bury them yourself.  then your house falls in.  no family to turn to.  i can not imagine that happening to me, much less my child.

not only is he a source of strength but john is also a creative spirit. 

he participated in an art project with volunteer alison (usa) in february and is currently part of the photography project with volunteer laura (usa).  recently he brought me  a handful of his art; alison left behind paper and resources so that the children could continue expressing themselves through art and sell their work, to raise funds for msamaria with a little bit for themselves.  he was very excited because he knows that i truly believe in him and his potential.  oh, well.  i think he also knows that i will help him sell his art.   i thought this would be a perfect way to share his story and his art, and perhaps some of you will be led to help by purchasing art and photography…

in this slideshow, you will see john’s current art work as well as a postcard (suitable for framing) of john’s entry (the bird) in the may student photography competition.   $6.00 each

  • artwork: 50% to the artist, john, 50% to msamaria.  there are 7  4×6 paintings.
  • postcard photography: 50% of profits go to msamaria, 50% to the photography project.  note:  there are additional postcards and notecards (by the fab volunteer / photographer laura poortenga) also for sale.  let me know if you’d like more information on the other photographs

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payments to paypal:, please include ‘john ken’ and what you are purchasing, and of course your address for mailing.  the prices include postage by the way.

so today, be thankful for what you have.  that your children will never have to face such trauma.  but be thankful there are lovely young people in this world like john ken, who have faced hard times and still have a positive spirit and believe in their future.  he is truly a gem, we all love him and want to see good things happen for him.

visit f2a’s fb page for more photos and information about what we do

be love, you are loved.


two bananas at a time….

when i came to afrika, i ‘knew’ that in addition to my personal mission – i also had this feeling that there was also going to be ‘work’  done on me.  i didn’t necessarily know the what, how, when or why.  but i intuitively knew that i had some things that i was going to have to deal with, learn from, advance into.   so,  my daily prayer or mantra is not only how can i be of service or a blessing to someone, but also what is it i need to learn or change about myself.

so.  this blog is about one of those ‘work on self’ things.

one of the things i had been noticing for some time was my discomfort when i passed by…a street beggar, here in moshi, most seem to have physical or mental disabilities.  are they faking the situation (we’ve all seen or heard of it happening). why are they there?  should i give them a few shillings?  if i speak to them, will they always expect me to?  even the locals seem to avoid them!  i was a bit skeptical, maybe cynical but still. uncomfortable.  totally.  i would pass them by and then feel….badly.  REALLY.

i’m not alone, i’m sure, in asking the question…..what is the right thing to do in regards to the street beggars?  we are conditioned and encouraged to avoid and ignore them.  DON’T GIVE THEM MONEY, we are told.  not only in the western world, but here in afrika as well.  i want to walk by quickly while they rattle their cups, plead with their eyes, hold out their hands.  i don’t want to look them in the eye.  i don’t want to give them money – they might buy alcohol, drugs!  maybe they have a family who is mis-using their situation to get money.  and there is the language barrier as well – so i cannot even talk to them about what their story is.

daily in town, i would see men and women on the street, who for various reasons have resorted to a lifestyle of begging.  no legs.  blind. missing an arm.  deformities of the back.  every time i walked past them (quickly of course), my spirit would work on me, causing me to become more aware…and more uncomfortable with my discomfort.   i asked questions of the locals trying to find some answers, some insight – always leading back to don’t give money, and rarely was there specific into on an individual).  after months of this i finally came to a conclusion that regardless of what the common rules are or what ‘they’ say to do – on whether to give money, food, etc – we  have a responsibility to our own heart, spirit and conscience ultimately. to listen, to follow.

one day, after walking (repeatedly over the months) by one particular street beggar  – i felt my spirit nudge me to bring him some food (ya know what i mean?).  ooookay.  i decided i should do just that.  a block or so away, i found a street mama that sold roast banana so i bought two (ndizi mbili), walked back to him and gave them to him with a few words of swahili – jambo, kaka.  karibu chakula ( loosely : hello brother, you are welcome to this food).  since then any time i’m in this particular part of town, i take him some ndizi.  i dunno.  he could be a great actor, pretending.  he might make a good income at this (although i’ve never seen anyone give him money).  a few ndizi doesn’t cost me much money.  a few extra steps costs nothing, as does a chance to share a bit of kindness.  and overcoming a hurdle (for me) and stilling the voice that previously chattered at me when i passed by quickly is priceless, as they say.   haha, one day i bought a whole bunch of bananas and just gave them out to people along the way as i felt led to.  sometimes it’s just the little things!  maybe soon i’ll add someone else to my ndizi delivery!

i don’t fool myself by thinking this is a big thing.  it’s two bananas every once in a while.  this is not a survival meal for him!  i am not able to help him move out of his situation since i don’t have a way to really know the story.  all i am able to do is offer up some kind words, a bit of food.

but for now…..i think it’s one , just one, of the ways that afrika is working on me, to help make me a more open person, to see the world and people from a different lens, to heal issues that i wasn’t even aware of having, to shine just a bit brighter so that i can make the world around me a better place.   i’m quite aware that those bananas might not even be just for him….i think they might be for me too.

one day at a time.  slowly slowly.  one person, two bananas at a time.


sending you love!  enjoy life, be love.  as always, i appreciate your love and support, more than you know!

PS:  if you missed the last couple of fb photo albums….

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women of makanya village: habiba and ester

before i introduce you to the first two stories,  i feel led to share this with you.  i recently read that wisdom was the choice of recognizing that pain and suffering is part of the human experience.  and that wisdom will allow us to melt into others, awakening our compassion.  i don’t know what your thoughts are, but this resonated with me rather strongly because of my experience here in africa.   i am conscious of how fortunate i am to have been born in this lifetime in a land of prosperity, freedom, and opportunity.  but i could have been born into poverty, been faced with survival decisions, no opportunities.  and my life would have been oh so much different.  there is no way that i can walk in the shoes of those that i meet here, no way can i imagine what they have been through.   most of us consider jesus as divinity.  and he didn’t simply come to teach about love and compassion.  he WAS love and compassion.  i try to keep that in mind as i serve here.  not to embrace ideologies, religiousities or rhetoric doctrines, but to do my best to emulate that goal to BE love and compassion. to lay aside judgements, walls, and fears.  to give what i can –  whether that is my attention, my time, my money, my talent, my heart. my love.  and that. simply.  is my mission.

meet ester and habiba. i was inspired by these two women.  i love their hearts and their spirit to make something good happen out of their situation. there is no ‘why me’ attitude.  in light of, in spite of their own challenges, they are demonstrating love and compassion to others.

ESTER is 40 years old, and never married, but has one child. as with many families in the village, members of her extended family live with her.  she is a tall, big woman with a big smile and hearty laugh.  in 2002, she started having health issues and symptoms that turned out to be indicators for HIV but it was 2005 before she was tested and diagnosed.  like most women, she had a few boyfriends when she was younger, but she really doesn’t know who she got the virus from.  ‘before’ HIV, she had a small business stand where she sold vegetables that she grew and/or gathered for sale but now she is unable to work, so struggles economically.  habiba helps her with food.

a few years after diagnosis, ester and habiba decided that they needed to start an open dialogue about HIV in the village, with a priority to help the children born with HIV.  they started KIWAMMA, a grass roots organization that advocates, educates and supports those in the village with HIV.  when i asked her what she would really love to see KIWAMMA do in 2012, it was about the kids.  currently they try to help 30 children get medical treatment and nutrition, even though they themselves struggle financially and for food themselves.  although there are probably hundreds of children affected in the village, they would like to increase that number to 50 in 2012.

HABIBA was born in 1958, also never married and has two children, and members of extended family living with her. she was diagnosed in 2004, after being very sick.  like in most cases, it took quite a while, many doctor visits and tests before it was discovered that she was ‘positive’.  for the most part, she has remained healthy by taking medications and eating as properly as she can.  eating properly, by the way, is a huge challenge for most of them.  most cannot afford to.  food sources not always readily available.  sometimes it means a bus trip to either same or moshi (30 minutes or 2 hours respectively).  however, recently she got very sick, becoming a matter of great concern for those that love her and rely upon her leadership, her grace, her spirit. the medications themselves can cause many side effects, including numbness, nausea/vomiting and others.  but she approaches that like she does everything.  you do what you must, and moves through it.  she is what we might call an amazon, very tall, big boned woman.  but her equally big heart is filled with a power that you cannot resist, and she is a source of support and spirit in this village, for those that have a disease that causes others to fear, to react, to retreat.

in fact, she said that by being open to the community about being HIV+, she and the others in the group actually now have a freedom that they didn’t have before – a freedom from the secret.  they can ask openly for assistance from government agencies, they can talk about the issues, and educate others. it also helps to diminish the stigma and to a degree, the gossip as no one is talking about if she is positive or not.  she is open about it!

she supports herself, and even helps those around her through hard work – she sells chipsi (we know them as fries) at a local stand,  grows onions and sells those, and also has a bit of a side business digging gypsum out of the ground to sell to transporters of gypsum.  honestly, i can’t imagine that all of that together brings her much income.  but in the spirit of her generosity, she shares what she has with other women and children that are HIV+.  and btw, the black and white image at the beginning of my previous blog – that is habiba!  there was also an immediate connection with her, her energy was something i gravitated to from the beginning.

as a co-founder of KIWAMMA, her heart lies in finding ways for the children to go to school as  well as the kid’s club that they formed to bring the kids without HIV together with those that do have it.  to provide age appropriate education for health issues, including malaria and HIV, to help them see that they can play together, be friends and it’s all okay.  to break down walls and stigmas.

especially after my visit to makanya, but because of what i live and learn here in afrika, i ask for the grace of wisdom to guide me on my path, so that i may serve God and humanity with the actions of my life.  and to walk in the acts of love and compassion. and at the same time, i say thanks to God for blessing me with the time in this land, working along side of others who demonstrate their own compassion and open hearts inspiring me.  people like emmason.  sadock johnson.  margaret.  cecy. ester and habiba.  i love you and am grateful for having you in my life.

if you haven’t already seen other photos from the trip to makanya village, here’s a link to the album.

and as always for those of you at home,  you are loved.  be love for those around you.  and you have my wishes for joy. peace. bliss. health. contentment. and laughter in your life.