Join Hands for Africa is back in Kenya: An Update

Exactly a week ago, Alan and I arrived in Kenya for a one-and-a-half month visit to get a good look at the state of our previous projects and to plan many more for the future. In 2014/2015 we had successfully finished several projects for the school compound we were living in. As expected, things have changed quite a bit in the two years following our departure. The school blossomed, so much so that its population of students and teachers has doubled! This, of course brought with it several needs that had to be accomodated for:

  • The library is now partly a dormitory for all the new students that have enrolled.
  • The cow shed has been transformed into a teachers quarters for the new employees.
  • An office and boardroom have been constructed and a full-time secretary employed to ease the workload off of the Head of School.
  • New toilets and showers have been constructed to accomodate the 200+ extra students and teachers.
  • Around 5 dairy cows now supply milk daily which eases the financial strain as well as ensuring a nutricious diet for everyone involved.

    In two years, our little organisation has grown as well. This time we are expecting a group of volunteers from Malta, Ireland and Poland to come join us in Lolgorien to facilitate in any way possible since the main purpose of our visit this year is the construction of a dormitory for the female students, who up to now have been sleeping in a make-shift hall. Way back in November 2014 we had set up an account for the specific purpose of building this very dormitory. The target of Ksh2,000,000 was impossible to reach in the two months we spent in Lolgorien, but now, two years later, construction has finally started. The foundation is already in place and by the time the volunteers arrive the dormitory could already be taking shape. 

    The foundation.

    Supplies, such as cement, have already been purchased.

    We are now eagerly waiting for the volunteers to arrive. In the meantime, we are looking at future projects in a different location whose needs far outweigh those in Lolgorien.. but that’s another story for anither day.

    Tuko pamoja! Stay tuned,

    Androo & Alan

    #Ask4More: We need YOUR help! [PROJECT UPDATE]

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    Two weeks ago, we excitedly launched our first Zambian project, a women empowerment program, called #Ask4More tailor-made to fit into the Grade 12 curriculum seamlessly. Next week, we have a scheduled meeting with representatives from the department of Women in Governance to see if we can participate in a joint venture together too. Needless to say, we are very happy to see our project flourish so quickly!

    Although today, we are looking for your help to make #Ak4More even better.

    As already mentioned in our previous blog post, the 9-week program includes:
    – A 41-page instructor booklet, detailing every part of the program, ensuring coherent progress throughout;
    Weekly activities focusing on empowering the girls through various methods, such as entrusting them with administrative roles, etc.;
    Team-building assignments;
    Awareness of other powerful women whose endeavours changed the world as we know it;
    Talks by Zambian women who managed to forge a career even though they didn’t have an easy upbringing;
    Work placements during the holidays;
    – University orientation visits, where students are given a taste of what awaits them if only they aim a little higher.

    As an organisation, we are aiming to fund at least two University educations for the best performers in class starting from the next scholastic year, 2015/2016. A typical University education in Zambia costs approximately €750-€1000 and we are confident that, through fund raisers back home, we WILL be able to fulfil our targets.

    Yet together, we can do much more! There are usually about 40 students per class, which means that our eventual targets will be to get all 40 of them into undergraduate courses at the local universities every year. Starting from today, you can donate directly towards this cause using the following information:

    BANK NAME: Lombard Bank Malta p.l.c.
    BANK IDENTIFIER CODE (BIC): LBMAMTMT
    BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER: 0117263463803
    IBAN (for international transfers): MT41LBMA05000000000117263463803
    BANK ACCOUNT NAME: Mr Alan Casha & Mr Andrew Camilleri – #ASK4MORE

    Moreover, it would be immensely appreciated if this article could be shared on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, using the hashtags #JoinHandsForAfrica and #Ask4More. The more exposure it get, the more the chances are of overreaching our targets. So, what are you waiting for? Spread the word!

    For more information, please do not hesitate to send us an email on: info@joinhandsforafrica.com or donations@joinhandsforafrica.com.

    Thank you all! Stay tuned.

    Androo & Alan

    #Ask4More: A Women Empowerment Program [PROJECT LAUNCH]

    After almost 4 weeks in Zambia, Join Hands For Africa is proud to announce our longterm project – #Ask4More: A Women Empowerment Program.

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    As the title suggest, we are aiming to inspire the girls of City of Hope, who come from such difficult backgrounds, that they can achieve so much! Africa, as a continent, still suffers from severe gender discrimination and Zambia is no different. Women are expected to take care of the house and rear children. It is such an accepted way of living that most girls do not aim any higher than that. Even those lucky enough to finish their secondary education sometimes only expect themselves to get married soon after they leave school, ending all prospects of further education or even a career.

    A United Nations University document proclaims that: “Women’s participation in national educational systems is again biased due to the sociocultural and economic environments. There is also a lack of genuine political will to ensure that girls are given equal access to education in Africa. More than two-thirds of Africa’s illiterates are women. Women are regarded as inferior to men and are not expected to aspire as high as men, especially in what are considered as ‘male’ fields (engineering, computing, architecture, medicine, etc.). It is largely assumed that educating women would make them too independent; in other words, they would not do what they are expected to do – look after the house, bring up children, and cater to their husband’s needs.”

    In fairness, the government has been trying to eliminate gender discrimination for quite a while through different legislatures, such as promising harsh prison sentences to men who commit domestic violence. Yet, such laws fail to see the big picture. Women who do not work, who have no qualifications to find a well paying job, cannot afford to report their abusive husband because if he does get convicted, there is a big chance that her and her children will end up begging on the streets.

    #Ask4More is, in essence, a 9-week program spread over a whole scholastic year for the Grade 12s, the last grade of secondary school.

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    It includes:
    – A 41-page instructor booklet, detailing every part of the program, ensuring coherent progress throughout;
    – Weekly activities focusing on empowering the girls through various methods, such as entrusting them with administrative roles, etc.;
    – Team-building assignments;
    – Awareness of other powerful women whose endeavours changed the world as we know it;
    Talks by Zambian women who managed to forge a career even though they didn’t have an easy upbringing;
    Work placements during the holidays;
    University orientation visits, where students are given a taste of what awaits them if only they aim a little higher.

    As an organisation, Join Hands For Africa shall be funding the instructors’ wages, ensuring that the program be taken seriously, as well as paying for at least two or three students’ tertiary education, depending on how much we collect from fund raisers back home.

    Fingers crossed, we are hoping to be eligible for a grant from the Zambian government of ZMK30 million (~€3,500) with which we would be able to fund up to 4 different students’ university education.

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    Much and more still needs to be done but needless to say, we are extremely excited by our program. The change will be slow but gradual and we are positive it will be of great value to many who participate.

    NB: In the coming weeks, just after Easter, we plan to announce a bank account where one can donate money specifically for this program, ensuring that more girls shall be given the opportunity of a much brighter future.

    For more information, please do not hesitate to send us an email on: info@joinhandsforafrica.com or donations@joinhandsforafrica.com.

    Stay tuned!

    Androo & Alan

    [PHOTOS] #JoinHandsForAfrica in Zambia – The Story So Far

    Updates have been few and far between but we have not been idle, whatsoever! Yet, before we announce our major project in Zambia we thought we’d share some photos of our stay.

    We are currently residing at City of Hope in Lusaka, a private compound of enormous size that features everything from sleeping apartments for the orphans, houses for visitors, guests or volunteers, a primary and secondary school, a playgound, a carpenter as well as fields full of crops and several animals like pigs, ducks, goats and chickens. To be fair, one can easily see why they call it City of Hope.

    Look out for our project announcement tonight!

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    Expect a lot of blog-related activity in the coming weeks post-Easter. Stay tuned!

    Androo & Alan

    A Quick Tease

    We have SO MUCH to share with you, but for now, we’re going to tease you all with just one photo. Far more ambitious projects than what we have done so far coming up. Lots of work, but exciting times. Can you guess what it is?

    

    Hmm….

    For more information, please visit our Facebook page. We would really appreciate if you spread the word. Remember, without you all none of this would have been possible. Stay tuned!

    Androo, Alan

    #JoinHandsForAfrica in Tanzania: What Have We Been Up To?

    I would like to start off by apologising for our negligence towards this blog and towards all of you that have been constantly visiting hoping to find something new. To compensate, here is a photo summary of all the work we were able to do in this humble city of Dar Es Salaam.

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    Our work has been mostly focused around the children’s institute, run by the sisters of Mother Theresa in the Mburahati district of Tanzania’s capital city. A relatively small compound split into 4 sections: the children’s ward, the adult ward, a seperate area for children with special needs, and the sisters’s own quarters.

    It is mostly populated by orphans whose parents either abandoned them at the sisters’ doorsteps or – in one very gruesome case – found in the midst of a rubbish dump, the child’s face half eaten by maggots.

    The others are children and adults that have found comfort with the sisters, when they couldn’t find it elsewhere.

    The institute runs solely on public donations. Everything from water to mosquito netting is provided by the generous hearts of the surrounding community. Helpers work for less than €10 a week and they work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week!

    None of the following would have been possible without your constant support and contributions, that are detailed ahead, and we are forever grateful for all!

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    By far our most satisfying work has been when we were working directly with the little ones. They welcomed us with open arms; literally, because the moment they saw us they came running to us, arms outstretched, hoping for at least a warm hug.

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    Neema, the girl in the middle, who’s cruel beginnings I mentioned earlier, has a surprisingly outgoing attitude. Witnesses claim that, when found, maggots had not only chewed the left side of her face, but had also started feasting on her left eye. Luckily she was rescued before the damage turned fatal.

    Luckily, the institute provides them all with food, shelter and genuine care.

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    The bulk of our time was spent with the homely children in the special needs ward. At first, we were quite green as to how we could actually help, but the workers quickly eased us in. We fed them, took them for walks, engaged them in several educational games to keep them company. It is very pleasing to notice how well cared for they really are. They all have a very good relationship with they carers and their smile is always present.

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    Through #JoinHandsForAfrica (which you can read all about HERE), for a total sum of TSH 1,110,000 (~€540), we were able to reconstruct metal roofing for a small playground they have in their backyard. Moreover, we were able to buy them a whiteboard and some educational puzzles for TSH 120,000 (~€60).

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    Taking photographs of the children in this ward was against institute policy, except for special occasions. When we asked as to why there is such a rule, the workers informed us that it stops the visitors from turning the place into a zoo and so the kids never feel as if they are just for show. Therefore we only have but a handful to show you.

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    The compound we are staying at also boasts a nursery school and, although we didn’t spend any time there, we thought of improving their learning experience as well. We learned that their colourful textbooks have accompanying cartoons that they can watch off YouTube; therefore we decided to donate a TV worth TSH 459,000 (~€220) fully loaded with these videos and more. We even threw in Disney’s The Lion King for good measure!

    They seemed very happy with our gift..

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    Our most humbling experience bar none was when we visited one particular family, living barely 500 meters away from our compound.

    Bernard, a father of two teenage girls, has been living alone for over 10 years. His wife abandoned him and the children when the oldest was just 6 years old, when she refused to move house to take care of Bernard’s disabled brother. Needless to say, they have have had a tough couple of years. The father buys and sells toys for a living making enough money to eat and pay the rent every month. The children mostly take care of themselves, and the oldest, Maria, has even made it to her final year in secondary school!

    At first, we wanted to help them by sponsoring their further education but we learned that the sisters were already taking care of that. After several discussions with family friends, we decided to help Bernard directly by investing a sum of TSH 700,000 (~€350) in his business through a custodian who’s going to help him expand his business to something more financially rewarding, giving him the ability to save up for a rainy day.

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    We were also able to provide the family with a new set of beds and mattresses, a bunkbed for the daughters, and a double bed for Bernard, for TSH 500,000 (~€250). We couldn’t actually communicate, since the father doesn’t speak English, but we could easily see how grateful he was.

    Another longterm project by #JoinHandsForAfrica!

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    Continuing from where we left off in Kenya, we were able to sponsor three teenagers’s education for TSH 2,125,000 (~€1035). One of them, Eriki (below right), comes from a very poor background, brought upon by the early death of his father. His mother (below left), is one of the workers at the institute. Although the wage is meagre, the sisters give them rice, flour and other basic foods to balance it out.

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    A couple of weeks ago we even attended an inter-religious school celebration, where a Muslim and a Christian school met and had a form of sports day for their children. As with all other African outdoor activities, it quickly turned into a dance off! Neither sun nor dust seemed to bother them in any way.

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    Our cause prospered in Tanzania thanks to the constant contributions from all the humble hearts of Malta and Gozo. If you want to see how YOU can make a change please visit our Facebook page here – #JoinHandsForAfrica.

    We will not be updating the blog again until we arrive in Zambia next week but we will keep in touch through Facebook, so make sure to like our official page.

    On Thursday, we leave for a 35 hour trip from Dar Es Salaam to Lusaka, Zambia where we are expected at the City of Hope.

    Stay tuned!

    Androo, Alan

    [VIDEO] Dar Es Salaam: The City of Opposites

    Beautiful, but ugly. Clean, yet dirty. Safe, and dangerous. Rich, yet extremely poor. Dar Es Salaam is all of these and much more. Some of it’s idyllic white sandy beaches can be stunning, while others can be covered in rubbish. Mbalamwezi beach, a 2km stretch of land, even has sewage pouring out directly on the sand, canalling into the Indian ocean!

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    Yet, right next to Mbalamwezi, there’s Coco beach, a gorgeous place naturally decorated with palm trees, white sands, and rocky corals. Dar Es Salaam’s relentless heat makes places like these a very welcome sight, and one we’ll visit more often.

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    Unfortunately, the most obvious contrast is the disparity between the rich and the poor. Some areas would not look out of place in Vienna or Paris (!), yet, venture into the side streets, and there’s where you’ll find the other side of the coin. People living on the streets, living off little make-shift food stands selling whatever their meagre crop provides – some sell peanuts, some sell sugar canes, others specialise in mango or bananas. Rubbish is everywhere since Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital city, does not have a city wide, rubbish collection system. Children and animals alike sleep, play and eat on this waste, and no one bats an eyelid. The poor are resigned to their fate while the rich are adamantly looking over such a damning statistic.

    Regardless, the people are a happy bunch. Last week, we made friends with a man called Juma Inne, who happens to be a Bajaj driver. These little contraptions are three wheeled, covered motorbikes with a three seater at the back. Needless to say, we have been using it since to go wherever we want for a very reasonable price. So, enjoy the video we put together of one of our rides in the Bajaj:

    With all its faults, Dar Es Salaam is a beautiful and unique city. It has some obviously glaring issues to tackle but it is charming nonetheless. We’ve been here for a little over two weeks and it seems to be developing into a completely different adventure from the one we had in Kenya!

    Stay tuned.

    Androo & Alan