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

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    #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

    An Introduction

    The team.

    First of all, welcome to my humble blog.

    For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a 25 year old teacher from the little island paradise that is Gozo (look it up), situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, as part of the Maltese archipelago. 

    It’s been well over a year ago since I took one of the biggest decisions of my relatively short life, when I decided to put everything on hold for 9 and a half months to do voluntary work in some of the most impoverished countries in Africa, namely Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.

    Well, in two weeks, I’ll be on my way to Nairobi along with one of my closest allies, Alan. It’s been a tough and bumpy ride, sometimes even coming fairly close to quitting, yet we’re almost there. I’m positive that all the mishaps we encountered will serve as adequate preparation for what we’ll actually face once we’re there.

    This blog will be my photojournalistic virtual portal. As the title,  A Case For Truth, suggests I am hoping that I can give my readers a different idea of what Africa really is. The media has fed us one image of the beautiful continent  (famine, poverty, disease and death), yet I’m sure Africa and its people can offer so much more, and I will do my best to show it here. Although I know very little about photography and next to nothing about journalism I will do my best to capture the moment, in picture form and in writing.

    So, watch this space!