It is 11:50 a.m. It’s warm, hot, actually (sorry to those of you in the barridi “cold”), and the sun is shining. All of our older students are at school and as I write this I can hear the children repeating their vocabulary words for Teacher Winner. The rote system of learning is not perhaps the best but it is the system used here and we must implement our changes pole, pole (slowly, slowly). Steve is working on his oven, Dr. Pat is next door auditing books with Grace and I can smell rice boiling.
Let me start with a thank you to Karen M. from Calgary AB for embracing Daniel with her loving offer of sponsorship and to new friends Emily and Bret Okeefe who not only have reached out to us with sponsorship support, but are taking steps to help us acquire charitable status in Australia, AND, thank you Christina who has recently asked if she can help us obtain the same in Germany! Our gratitude goes out to Dan C. for your generous donation to Tumaini as well Jennifer D., John M. and past Tumaini volunteer Rachel T and of course I cannot forget our ongoing supporters! Thank you all, so very much! Without support from all of you we will not be sustainable and I thank you SO very much for caring for THESE children. There are so many other places you could put your money so Asante Sana for choosing to help us!
Young Mary returned to school on Monday after visiting the Dream clinic to have her liver checked. She cried, thinking she wouldn’t see her new friend Dr. Pat again, but we’re bringing her home Friday afternoon for the weekend to monitor her and so she will say goodbye to her (and Cindy and Kal and Baba Steve) then. She is still struggling with a dangerously low CD4 and a viral load which is much too high, but she has no pain from her new dawa (medicine) and a visiting doctor from the clinic told me yesterday that the second line ARV’s should benefit her in a stronger fashion and so we wait and we pray.
We met with Athuman and his bibi (grandmother) yesterday. (I sent him home to think about his future for awhile after he refused to even attempt his monthly examinations at school and after striking the teacher.) We needed some time to figure out how we can best help him. Athuman is a “dark” child. He can be very sweet and funny at times and is incredibly bright and his English is quite good, but, Athuman rages. If something doesn’t go his way, if he doesn’t get something he wants, OR, if he is asked to do something he doesn’t want to do, he begins to cry, wail actually, positioning himself strategically in an attempt to draw the most attention. He will drop to the floor, shrieking, writhing about, and when I remove him from the other children, usually carrying him to his bed, he leaps up, opens his door and cries louder to ensure that we know he is angry/frustrated/hurt. Unfortunately the frequency of his outbursts, here, at school, on outings, and their violence, will not allow him to remain at Tumaini and influence the other children in such a dangerous fashion, but, sending him home, to a Bibi who is out until dark is not much of an alternative and we do love him very much.
Bibi shared with us that, at some point before his father’s death from AIDS (and his mother’s murder last year), Athuman was taken to live with his father and new stepmother. As is painfully customary in this and many other parts of the world, step parents are not often welcoming of a child not their own. I see it all the time here, even with some of our staff, and marvel, repeatedly (as a stepmother yes, but more as a human being) at how an adult can be so incredibly cruel to a child in need, especially in light of that child having lost his/her mother or father.
Athuman’s step mother took boiling chai (tea) and poured it on his forearms as a form of torture. He still has the scars. She then hurt him in a fashion that now causes him to soil himself without his knowledge. He simply cannot feel what is going on “down there” sometimes. He was brought home to his mother and then, as most of you know, she was murdered last year. I had befriended Mama Athuman and had already brought him and brother Harriri to Tumaini House to help ease the pressures on her as a desperately poor mother, struggling to feed the six children which remained at home. As a result of her death, Tumaini now supports six of her children, Deo, Anna, Gaspar, Athuman, Harriri and Liadi, our youngest. There simply was no one else.
In any event, Bibi explained that it was after Athuman returned home to his mother that his rages began. I feel terrible for him, and it is terribly difficult for me to do sometimes, but I must ALWAYS put what is best for the family, as a whole, first, and his outbursts and uncontrollability simply cannot become a benchmark for the behavior of our children.
In discussion with Dr. Pat, myself, Bibi, and Grace as translator, and with Athuman desiring to return to Tumaini House and to Young Roses School, we had to extract a promise that he will try his very best to control his raging and that, when he feels his temper rising, to come for assistance in processing it. Dr. Pat suggested a screaming pillow. She also advised us that unless Athuman helps us help him, we simply will not be able to cope and agrees that we MUST put the family unit first. We then headed to school to apologize and to ask that he be readmitted. Please pray for us.
Dr. Pat, Jenna, Emily and other Latifittes beware!!! You would not believe how rapidly our little Latifa is building her English vocabulary!!! Virtually every day there is a slew of new words spilling from her almost four year old mouth, AND, we have TWO birthdays coming up soon!!! Latifa will turn four on March 6th, following Liadi who turns three on the 1st! Other March birthdays include Zawadi (Joseph) who turns seven on the 16th and Gerehad will be six on the 25th AND I am delinquent in wishing fellow Tumaini Director Lisa Engelhardt-Robinson a very happy 50th birthday this past week . . . I’m hoping it was wonderful!!
Homework is always a highlight of the day when we get a chance to monitor progress, assess struggles or catch and correct bad attitudes and I’d like to share a breakthrough with Christina which brought all of us joy. Katy and Cindy had been working to help Christina understand the number before, “kabla”, another number. Ie. 4 is kabla or before, 5. Our children are counting but some, only forward, and so struggle with number position which they will need in order to do subtraction. Christina simply could not process which number goes in front of or before another. Well, we got it!!! We chose a number, then added to it placing the appropriate number(s) baada, or after the subject number. Then we began counting backward, pausing while Christina processed changing direction and counting backward instead of forward and Eureka!! She got it!! I have taken to raising my arms in the air while singing out, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” (think “Hallelujah”) followed by an, “Asante Mungu”! Thank you Lord!! It makes the children laugh, shares the celebration of a success with everyone else (because I don’t do it quietly) and encourages more effort from others!! We’ve even begun sending the school bus off in the morning while the driver pulls away shaking his head and the Tumaini children join me in, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!, Asante Mungu”!!
To our past volunteers thank you for all of the love and encouragement and support (financial and otherwise, you give Tumaini) and please do send me your favorite Tumaini photo (including you!) so that we can construct our volunteer page AND our board in the dining room!
Things are good at Tumaini House. Most shidas (problems) are under control and we work at resolving the rest. The children, for the most part, are healthy. Baba Steve’s super, long heating, fuel efficient oven is nearing completion. We begin our second year here and welcome incoming volunteers and future visitors. I will return mid April, and truly couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, doing any other work. To friends and family, I miss and love you very much and look forward to catching up in person once I’m home. I thank you all, so very much for your continued encouragement, love and support and especially, for believing in these very special little people whose lives we are changing in so many, many, beautiful ways . . . Asante!!!