[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

[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

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 Case For Beauty: A Trip To The Maasai Mara

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Last Monday we took a little break from our mission to act as tourists and visit Kenya’s most popular location – the Maasai Mara. Needless to say, we were very excited and the prospect of having to wake up at 5:00am didn’t bother us one bit.

There are several entry points into the Mara so we chose the one closest to Lolgorien and arrived there at about 6:15am. Why so early? Certain animals, like the elusive Black Rhino, only emerge from the bush early on, so it had to be like that.

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It is an absolute sight to behold, arriving there with the sun still on the horizon glistening an amazing orange/yellow(-ish) hue on everything in sight. There are no gates or barriers restricting the animals from roaming about – they just don’t. The Mara is home to a huge number of wild beasts and no barrier is needed for them to stay there; it’s their home, simple as that.

A local ranger, armed with an assault rifle, accompanied us both for safety reasons and as a guide (we would have been hopelessly lost otherwise).

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As Westerners, we are constantly influenced by what the media tells us and, growing up watching my childhood-favourite Disney movie The Lion King, I was always under the impression that the lion was, in fact, the king of the jungle. This couldn’t be further from the truth! The lion is a lazy, oversized cat would couldn’t be remotely bothered by our presence because all it wanted to do was sleep.

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For the Africans, the buffalo is the King, and rightfully so! There was not one animal that made me feel more uneasy and threatened than the buffalo. It is a massive animal, for starters, and its horns and skull look stronger than a brick wall. Moreover, they (the herd) don’t like visitors and were constantly on the lookout, ready to ram into our truck had we stalled any longer next to them.

Other herbivores, like the zebras, giraffes and elephants couldn’t give a damn about our presence, continuing with their normal routine as if there weren’t these humans, packed in the noisy metal contraption on wheels, ogling them.

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Except for this elephant calf, who was very shy and was constantly trying to keep up with its mum and their herd. Too cute.

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We saw barely a fraction of what the Mara has to offer – that would have taken days – but we went back home that evening fully satisfied. This was no zoo experience. We where the ones in a metal cage, not the animals, and it was another kind of beauty altogether, as it should be.

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Notice the backseat rider.. 🙂

Stay tuned!

Androo & Alan

PLEASE NOTE: The Maasai Mara is half the actual reserve – the Kenyan half. The other part, called the Serengeti, is Tanzanian land. Lately, the Tanzanian government is proposing to kick 40,000 indigenous Maasais off their land in the Serengeti so that rich bastards can go there to hunt big cats. You see, the animals in the Mara and the Serengeti are one and the same. They spend some time in one place and they migrate to the other during dry seasons. Letting these egotistical and narcissistically minded people hunt these ever-decreasing species would be a crime against life, just because they can flex their financial muscle.

STOP this crime by signing the petition here.

PROJECT UPDATE: We’re almost there!

First of all, please excuse our lack of updates. We have been extremely busy with work on the library as well as with these tiny projects that pop up from time to time.

Needless to say, the library is well and truly taking shape. Construction-wise it is as good as ready. All the walls are smoothened, so is the floor. New windows and door have been constructed and put in place as well! All thats left is a ceiling (to cover the roof and its pillars, and excess wiring) shelves and lastly, giving the room some colour from all the greyness.

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How do you think we’re getting the shelves for the books? Buying them? Fat chance. Buy the timber and construct them ourselves? Close, but no.. We chose a tree from a nearby forest and chainsawed our way to timber, of course. The land was privately owned and we had to give a few shillings to its owner for the tree. This way we got the finest quality timber in Lolgorien for a fraction of the market price.

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It was a very educative experience. These men know their trade very well and did the job with the slightest of efforts.

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The land owner’s wife gave us tea and even brought lunch for all five of us – chicken stew and the local ugali. You see, in most of Africa, this custom of feeding the visitors, is fairly common. We never need to worry about packed lunch or any other amenities because we know they would be provided. Had we stayed until night, we would have been offered a bed as well – I will elaborate on this phenomenon in a separate post because I was truly astounded by the hospitality the Kenyans show to one another.

We have also bought €600 worth of textbooks for the last three years of primary school, the years when the students start doing formal examinations, with the rest arriving at a later date depending on the amount of funds we have left. You see, in Kenya, books are somewhat expensive compared to the standard of living. So much so, that government schools only offer an 8 : 1 students to books ratio (!) while private schools, like the one we’re helping, offer a 4 : 1 students to books ratio. With the library this school will be able to boast a 2 : 1 ratio or less! A massive difference from the norm and a much needed upgrade.

With our Join Hands For Africa movement (click HERE for more info) we will continue to improve the standard of living and infrastructure so that many children, like Samuel and William here, can get the proper education they deserve and a prospect of a much better life than the one they’re living today.

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Stay tuned!

Androo & Alan

LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT: The Join Hands For Africa Movement

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OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE: Join Hands For Africa

We are very excited to announce our second, and more ambitious, project yet – the Join Hands For Africa movement. After a week’s worth of deliberation, international calls, emails and teeth grinding, our next project came to fruition.

What is it?
Join Hands For Africa is our way of trying to leave a permanent mark on the places we’re visiting, starting with this little place we’re starting to call home; Lolgorien, Kenya.

How does it work?
This movement will only work with the help of everyone and anyone that can, and wants to, make a change. Any minor donation, sent to one of the Join Hands For Africa movement bank accounts of your choice will be transferred straight to where it is most needed. No middle man, no hidden fees. Each and every penny goes to those in need.

What are my options?
As of right now, after careful consideration and research, we have opened three different accounts, for three different purposes, under one name – Join Hands For Africa. All proceedings, until further notice, shall go straight into the bank account of the Lolgorien Parish Compound where we are currently residing.

For more information and better understanding of the compound and its infrastructure, please refer to our earlier blog posts.

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OPTION 1: Donate for Cattle

BANK NAME: Lombard Bank Malta p.l.c.
BANK IDENTIFIER CODE (BIC): LBMAMTMT
BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER: 01172634638
IBAN (for international transfers): MT13LBMA05000000000001172634638
BANK ACCOUNT NAME: Mr Alan Casha & Mr Andrew Camilleri – Join Hands for Africa – Re Cattle

As stated in our previous post, The Endless Struggle, the compound spends KSh100,000 per term on milk, sugar, oil etcetera, the majority of which goes to buy the milk. The best way to minimise costs is to buy dairy cattle. Amazingly enough, only two are needed to feed everyone! Each cow costs around KSh50,000 (~€450). Any more than two and the excess milk produced could be sold for profit that could be used to pay the person responsible to take care of the cattle and then some. A solid future investment.

Any donation is appreciated. The more cattle, the merrier!

OPTION 2: Infrastructural Updates

BANK NAME: Lombard Bank Malta p.l.c.
BANK IDENTIFIER CODE (BIC): LBMAMTMT
BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER: 0117263463802
IBAN (for international transfers): MT68LBMA05000000000117263463802
BANK ACCOUNT NAME: Mr Alan Casha & Mr Andrew Camilleri – Join Hands for Africa – Re Infrastructure Update

Although we have been able to update the infrastructure quite acutely with our first project, the library, there is a lot more that can be done; including a KSh2,000,000 (~€17,835) girls dormitory complete with toilets and showers equipped with separate water tanks. The girls are currently using the Church hall as a dormitory which is devoid of the basic needs. The architect has already drawn up a plan complete with the two million estimate as you can see in the picture below.

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The only problem, as always, has been funds. With YOUR help this can change. Any proceedings to this account will give them the necessary funds to start the whole process and maybe in the (near?) future the girls will have their own place they can properly feel comfortable in.

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OPTION 3: Sponsor A Child’s Education

BANK NAME: Lombard Bank Malta p.l.c.
BANK IDENTIFIER CODE (BIC): LBMAMTMT
BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER: 0117263463801
IBAN (for international transfers): MT95LBMA05000000000117263463801
BANK ACCOUNT NAME: Mr Alan Casha & Mr Andrew Camilleri – Join Hands for Africa – Re Child Education Sponsor

A child’s education in Kenya costs KSh24,000 ((~€215) per year. As explained in our previous blog post, only 75% of parents pay at this compound, the rest are compensated for various reasons. Yet, the number of families that can afford to send their child to school every year is slowly dwindling, and the institution cannot afford to compensate any more children.

Any proceedings towards this cause will help a child earn their education. In a world full of information, how cruel must it be for all of it to be completely unaccessible?

Christmas is coming, and Kenya’s scholastic year starts in January. €215 (the equivalent of two jackets from Zara, or 4 videogames) can literally educate a child for one whole year.

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NOTE: If you are interested in sponsoring a child’s education for the whole year – ie. donate the full €215 amount – please do send us an email with your name and date of transaction and we will send you the details of the child you chose to sponsor! Our email address is: androo.cam@gmail.com or alancasha91@hotmail.com.

It is important to note that Join Hands For Africa is not a movement that will fizzle out once we complete our mission in Africa but shall continue to help the various institutions we’d have visited along the way post-our return to Malta and, God willing, well into the future.

We would like to unashamedly ask for a share – whether on Facebook or by word of mouth – your actions can have wonderful reactions all the way to Kenya (for now..)!

Stay tuned and #JoinHandsForAfrica!

Androo & Alan