#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

Chaos, Humidity & Satisfaction – Our Tanzanian Story Begins

Habari from Tanzania!

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It has been quite a busy week, our most eventful yet. Just over a week ago we left our Kenyan home for Tanzania but it honestly feels like it’s been a month. Our journey to Tanzania started at 17:00, amongst the chaos of Nairobi. We had to take a taxi to a nearby bus station. From there we boarded one of the many intercity busses towards the centre of Nairobi where, halfway through, we got stuck in a massive traffic jam. Time was ticking so we had to get off the bus midway and ran, with more than 30kgs on our backs, to a nearby taxi stand. The jam still persisted so we had to hire motorbikes for taxis. Keep in mind the overwhelming amount of luggage we were carrying. Thankfully, we had very capable drivers, although Androo’s bike did break down. Twice. He had to run the last 500 meters..

We made it though, and just in time. Our bus was just about to leave for Tanzania when we boarded and proceeded to hog half the luggage space available.

According to Google Maps, by car, the trip should have taken us about 11 hours. We weren’t so lucky. The bus was somewhat old, slow and bursting with people and luggage. Frequent road blocks and stops at immigration control offices stretched our journey to 23 hours. Twenty three.

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We arrived at our destination at 16:00 the next day, sleeping most of the way. Yet, whereas Nairobi was a cool 22 degrees, Dar es Salaam is nothing but a sticky and humid 33 degree hell. We looked like we hadn’t showered in weeks, but we were too happy that we made it with all our luggage intact to notice.

We have managed to prepare a short video of our travels too. Please note that all footage was taken with a GoPro Hero3, sometimes in very uncomfortable situations, as well as with an HTC One. We used iMovie for iPad to edit it so, excuse the lack of fine tuning. Ideally, everything would have been shot with our DSLR, but it is not advisable to run around with a very visible camera in your hands, so our GoPro had to make do.

Thankfully the Tanzanians are very friendly people, most of them very eager to make sure we have a pleasant experience here. Befriending the locals is extremely easy, and although few know how to speak English, basic communication is possible.

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Our home for the next 8 weeks is situated in the heart of the Mburahati slum area in Dar es Salaam, where we will be working with the Sisters of Mother Theresa. You see, over-population and poverty do not go well together. Parents can barely afford to feed themselves, and so they end up dumping their own children at the door of the Sisters’ convent. Most of their patients are orphans, ranging from newborns to 80 year olds. To some extent, these people are lucky – they have a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in, regular food and a lot of people to take care of them. Much more than thousands of others just outside our wall.

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Our work shall mostly focus on the kids with special needs as well as with the nursery children. We won’t go into too much detail here because we want to dedicate a separate article for this. There is too much to say to blurt it all here.

All in all, Tanzania is proving to be very different from our Kenyan experience and a much bigger challenge. Our freedom has greatly diminished since Dar es Salaam can be very dangerous to white foreigners. Severe poverty breeds savagery, unfortunately. Moreover, the compound we’re staying in is much smaller than Lolgorien’s and bereft of any countryside, replaced with towering grey concrete. Needless to say, this is what we took our trip for, to challenge our comfort zones in every possible way.

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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