Lohai, Raymond and Karatu

I fear that, in the telling of this story about two incredibly special young men, I will fail to give their integrity, their gentleness, their incredible work ethic and discipline the credit due.  I fear I will fail to explain just how remarkable Lohai and Raymond truly are . . . but suffice it to say I will try!
Lohai had a birthday on the 26th of December . . . he turned 26.  He works here at Tumaini, in the first job of his life, not because he is lazy, for anyone who spends a day here will tell you that no one and I mean NO ONE works harder than Lohai, but because there are simply so few employment opportunities for a young, uneducated man in this country, but, I am getting ahead of myself.
Lohai is very quiet – shy – incredibly kind (too kind most of the time and many people push him around because of his gentleness).  Officially, he takes care of our chickens and the garden, but the reality is that he is the day to day foundation of this foundation, our “go to” guy and we are incredibly lucky to have him.  When someone is late arriving to work in the morning, he puts on the chai for the children – he finds the missing book bag, school shoe, uniform.  He picks up after the children, and sweeps our yard, every day.  He runs for our photocopies, takes Liadi to bed at night and remembers to dole out medication to our sick children.  He also manages our vegetable garden.  Everyone, everyday, calls for Lohai and waits for that response, “Nam”?  He never shouts at a child, is never cruel and in fact struggles garnering the respect he so very much deserves.
His father, unfortunately, is a drinker of the local brew, pembe which is toxic and in visiting with the families one could tell that, intellectually, Baba Lohai is no longer entirely “with it”.  Each of us, Katy, Cindy (who has been struggling gastronomically and with migraines), Amanda and myself wanted to make the 3 ½ hour drive in order to meet the families of the boys we all love so very much and once there, I shared with Lohai and Raymond’s parents just how proud of their sons they should be . . . how very much we value their contributions and how lucky we feel.  I didn’t know it at the time but you can see in the photos that Lohai became overwhelmed emotionally with our visit, or the accolades, I don’t know, but I can tell you that in a private discussion later he struggled again to explain to his father how the drinking simply had to stop.  Both families are desperately poor . . . working on a coffee plantation for just over $200.00 per year . . . PER YEAR!  It is an impossible situation for the families to escape . . .
Raymond, is the polar opposite of Lohai . . . social, vociferous, and academically, incredibly strong (he is our brightest student.) Raymond shines as a kind and gentle big brother – the ideal steward and teacher to the smaller children and is closest friend to Lohai.  He is not always here (boarding at Makumira Secondary School) but when he is, life is a bit more colorful, a bit more jovial and the children notice!  When meeting the families we all remarked on how much Raymond resembles his father . . . not only physically, but with shared social behaviors also!  They are both immediate to smile, have a gentle disposition and are sensitive to the needs of those around them.  Both sets of parents are the best of friends and Baba Raymond has kindly offered to help Baba Lohai with his shida (problem) of drinking.  During our interview and with the language barrier (Baba Raymond was apologizing for the drinking and promised that it would stop) I got the impression both fathers struggle with alcohol but am happy to share that no, only Lohai’s father has the problem.  After our private conversation about problems and the alcohol we reunited with the rest of the group, sang happy birthday to Lohai and shared two cakes, one orange and one chocolate . . . thank you Neema and Mama Mwajuma.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  We lost power last night and so I finish this tale in 2011!  Happy New Year to each of you and thank you for your well wishes!  We have a special thank you coming but I hope each of you knows just how very grateful we are for the love and support you have shown the children of Tumaini this past year . . . they are off on safari today, all of them, compliments of Soko Safaris here in Arusha and then prepare to return, or begin their new school years. . . things have been a whirlwind here, as I am certain they have with you, but will settle soon and our routine pace will slow a bit I hope . . . Cindy will begin to feel better and work will continue . . . but in the meantime . . . Asante, asante!  Be well!

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