#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

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[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

A Sour Farewell: We’re Off To Tanzania

Happy New Year 2015!

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Today is our last day in Lolgorien. Already. Tomorrow, we start our 3 day journey towards Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. We leave early in the morning to Nairobi, hoping to arrive there late that evening so that on Monday we can board the 14 hour ‘express’ bus to Tanzania’s capital.

Needless to say, it’s been an amazing experience here in Kenya! We’ve met so many people, and made so many friends that it is honestly a sour goodbye.

Our library project is almost finished. Unfortunately we won’t be present for its completion, although we do plan to return for a few days to see it in full flow before we go back home to Malta in August. All that’s left is a final paint-job and the installation of shelves and desks. The books have all been bought, ceiling installed and electricity properly wired. We decided to baptise it the Calypso Library!

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Join Hands For Africa, all due to the unwavering generosity shown to us by our countrymen, has had a very fruitful beginning:
– A lot of clothes have already been donated (and donned!);
Three children have had their education sponsored for one whole year – a total of €660.

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– €1500 has been collected specifically for cattle, therefore the school is officially free of all dairy expenses!
– €1200 for books.
– More than €1800 for material and labour for the Calypso Library.
– Therefore, a total of more than €5000 has been collected for the community of Lolgorien.. and this is just the beginning! THANK YOU everyone!

We are also eternally grateful towards all the people of this community. They have welcomed us with open arms (and lots of food) and we owe all our comfort and wellbeing to these people. Their excitement, ululations and genuine solidarity shall never be forgotten. Plus, we have been blessed with the sweetest and most caring Mama of them all, Mama Rosalina. She cooked our food – the best we’ve been served in Kenya – washed our clothes and kept everything ticking without ever forgetting her smile. She will be truly missed!

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We came to call this compound home, and I’m sure we’ll have another kind of homesickness to deal with once we leave. Yet it feels like it is time to move on and we hope our future in Tanzania and beyond is as rich as our time in Kenya.

Stay tuned, we’re on the move!

Androo & Alan

It’s been a month already…

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Cannot believe that it has already been a month since we left our little island paradise to ply our trade in Africa. It has been a wonderful experience, even though sometimes quite overwhelming.

To commemorate, here are some highlights from our journey so far:

– Spending almost an hour at the Passport Control station in Istanbul (connecting flight) because the officer in charge was suspicious of Androo’s documents.

– Landing in Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, and breathing the Kenyan air for the first time, constantly hoping we’ll find our luggage where it was supposed to be. This was particularly stressful. You know.. our lives depended heavily on the safe and unhindered arrival of our luggage.

– Travelling for 7 hours just to arrive at a checkpoint, Kilgoris, before heading to Lolgorien the following morning. This ride was our first true culture shock, so to speak. Upon leaving the very centre of Nairobi the standard of living plummets. You are struck with extremely poor settlements, dirt roads and a complete degradation of surroundings.

– All the children at our residence, in Lolgorien, shouting “MUZUNGU, MUZUNGU – How aa’you?” when we first arrived. {Muzungu is Swahili for white man. We hear this phrase from the little ones everywhere we go. Their smile is always a pleasure to behold.}

– Eating, for the first time, at a private residence and accepting that, regardless of how full our stomach is, if we’re offered food, soda, water, or tea, we have to accept it. It would be extremely offensive not to.

“The people here don’t have any money; but what they have, they share.” – Fr. Thomas

– Tasting ‘African Cake’ – Ugali in Swahili – and realising that it is as close to cake as soil is.

– Launching our Library Project and seeing it taking shape day by day.

– Researching the culture and the compound in detail, finances and all, to better our impact with the Join Hands For Africa movement – and later launching it here and on Facebook.

Meeting the traditional Maasai and having lunch in one of their beautifully constructed huts.

Driving through the immensity that is the Maasai Mara and seeing the most amazing collection of wildlife we ever set eyes upon. An experience difficult to forget.

– Cooking a dish of spaghetti bolognese for the locals.

– Realising that bathing here is a luxury. Everyone depends on rainwater (those who can afford to buy water tanks) or water is collected from the river, 2km away from the town centre.

– Daily power cuts. Daily.

– Coffee is a rarity here. Chai is the cultural favourite. It was a bit difficult, going from 3-4 cups of coffee a day, to absolutely nothing overnight.

– Goats and cows everywhere. Every road is littered with livestock and we have to constantly slow down to give the farmers ample time to gather their herds towards the side of the road.

So, one month down, 8 and a half to go. If every month turns out similar to this one, we’re in for one heck of a ride. Hope this blog is giving you a taste of what we’re experiencing. 🙂

Stay tuned!

Androo & Alan

A Day With The Maasais: Circumcision, beast goats, and a 3 year old driver!

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Yesterday, we were lucky enough to spend most of the day with the traditional Maasais – the ones who refuse to adopt the modern (Western) way of living. Meaning that, regardless of their level of education, they prefer to live on their own land, close to the Mara, far away from civilisation, electricity (or even phone signal for that matter), in their beautifully constructed huts, living off their land and livestock.

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Stunning traditional Maasai clothing.

We had a small celebration of initiation for the 12 year old boys who had just undergone circumcision that, in Maasai tradition, serves as a rite of passage towards manhood.

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After the feast, came the food. Goat meat is a Kenyan staple, regardless of tribe, and we were served lots of it. One has to understand though that animals here are very well exercised, unlike ours, and so the meat is relatively hard to bite into. It is also very rude not to accept food when offered.. Needless to say, my teeth are still rattled, especially after the nyamachoma (roast meat) arrived. It is astonishing looking at the locals eating it as if they’re eating boiled vegetables. So, we put on a brave face, smiled (whenever someone was looking) and did our best to eat this beast of a goat.

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Food was followed by chai (tea), a quick message from the chief, and we were on our back. The trips here are always breathtaking, not only because of the scenery, but also because of the wildlife – of which there is plenty. Zebras are as common as cows and we even managed to see giraffes (!!) going along their daily routine on our way back to Lolgorien!

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Our ride was in very safe hands.. Adorable.

Stay tuned!

Androo & Alan