The computer power went off on Thursday evening so this is two days of blogging:
“Today” written by Mark
It was hard to believe as we set of for our locations this morning that just a week ago we were gathering at Heathrow Airport to start our journey.
Today, Thursday – saw one team in Nyibuko and the other in Uyole and then on to Nsalaga – a remote community about 15 minutes on from Uyole and in the foothills of the mountains that rise up towards Tukuyu.
Today I was in Nyibuko – it was great to return and see the progress with the construction of the church building – I saw the foundations laid 3 years ago and just this week they have celebrated the first sections of roof being put in place – about 20% now complete. On a hot, sunny day this offered a welcome shady place for interviewing and the team were quickly into their stride.
Each day since we arrived I have been taking photographs of the children to provide as part of the sponsorship packs as they go out over the next few months. Portrait photography is a challenge in Mbeya – ever changing light conditions and the sun directly overhead in the middle of the day offering little or no shade. One of the privileges of taking the photos is that I get to meet every child at the location that I am at. Every child is different – some very smiley, some who will smile with a bit of encouragement – and others who clearly don’t have much to smile about and won’t. It can be hard work being out in the hot sun all day, but great fun nonetheless – and simply lovely to spend time with each child and see the joy on their faces (mostly) as they take a quick look at their picture on the camera screen. It’s never easy to take a picture of a child who is not well or tearful – but it does provide an opportunity for me to pray for the child before they head off to their home.
Matthew Jackson has been taking pictures with the other team and today they headed off to Uyole where they were greeted with crowds of children as they arrived. The children assembled in the church and a choir of about 20 blessed them with a beautiful Swahili praise song.
A busy first part of the day with over 100 children interviewed – including some new children added to the scheme for the first time. Then, just after 3pm, a bumpy, off-road drive to Nsalaga where a further 30 children were interviewed. Thankfully the rain held off just long enough for the interviews to be completed and the photographs taken.
The whole team assembled back at the Karibuni Centre in the evening where the daily task of scanning and sorting the interview forms, backing up photos and reviewing the day’s activities is now in full swing.
Some great news received today is that 7 Grassroots sponsored children have been successful in gaining places at University starting later this month. This is no mean feat as the young people need to have top grades in their exams and undergo a rigorous selection process.
Those who get places at university have to reapply for sponsorship and all 7 will continue to be supported by Grassroots as they seek to further their education and work towards a variety of careers from teaching to medicine.
To learn more about the child sponsorship in Tanzania (from £3.50 per month go here: https://www.grassroots.org.uk/projects/tanzania
“Today” written by Mark
Today was a short day, but a hot one. Part of the team went to Mabatini, which is in Mbeya’s red light district, and the rest went to Mwanjelwa which is just the other side of the market.
One thing you find as an interviewer is that you are more affected by the sadder stories than the happy ones. These are the ones that stand out. Asking around the team this evening for stories of the children they’d interviewed, showed the truth of this:
- Nikki interviewed a 12 or 13 year old girl named Gertrude who was HIV positive, partially deaf and both of whose parents were dead. Until recently she was cared for by her grandmother, but now she’s passed away as well, and her older brother is looking after her.
- Anneta interviewed a young girl named Deraphina, who was brought for interview by her older sister. The form showed that last time they were interviewed, there were four sisters. When she asked about them she found that 2 had died last year. They were 8 and 9 years old.
- Matt B interviewed a 5 or 6 year old boy whose father had absconded, and whose mother died earlier this year. He was struggling at school, and evidently having a hard time coping with the loss of his mother. He is now cared for by his grandmother who also looks after three other children.
- I interviewed a 14 year old boy who wanted to be a famous footballer. When I asked him if he wanted to play for Tanzania, or maybe Man United (probably the most internationally famous football club in the world … in my opinion), he thought for a few moments and decided on Tanzania. My interpreter noticed some sores on his mother’s lips and asked if she was HIV positive. She admitted that she was, and that her son hadn’t been tested. She agreed to bring him to see the Grassroots doctor.
- So many of the children are cared for by relations here. In some cases parents have died. In others they have abandoned their children. In others they have needed to move away from the area to find work. Some of the stories of the people who then take care of the children are quite heart-warming.
- Fiona interviewed a 12 year old girl named Winifreda, both of whose parents are dead. She lives with an uncle and aunt who make enough of a living selling nuts, tomatoes and avocadoes to support twelve children.
- Another one spoke of a grandmother who was looking after ten children, only one of whom was on the Grassroots programme. I can think of a dozen interviews I’ve had this week where a grandparent has been looking after six or more children with no regular income.
Both teams finished by about half past one, and came together at the Airport feeding program. The children there were a delight, bouncing and joyful and altogether quite overwhelming.
Despite the many sad stories, the continued exuberance and gratitude of the Tanzanians around us is a constant boost. One of the questions on this year’s form asks what the children or their carers would like to say to their sponsors. In a great many cases the answer is a simple thank you, but there are also those who say they are praying for their sponsors, who say God bless you (Mungu akubariki) and may God pay you back more than you give.
The needs are immense here, but so are the rewards. The people are that grateful, it’s impossible [express with simple words just how much they appreciate the support they are receiving through Grassroots and the children’s sponsors.
to learn more about the child sponsorship in Tanzania (from £3.50 per month go here: https://www.grassroots.org.uk/projects/tanzania
On a slightly lighter note, Ashley spotted a young lad yesterday with a tee shirt that had a picture of a steam engine on it, and inevitably the words choo choo written above the picture. In Swahili, the word choo means toilet, which had us wondering what the locals must have thought of the t-shirt.