For Mama Debbie and Baba Paul,

Antony Salvatory Assenga, age twelve (we estimate but are uncertain and have requested baptism papers which will verify his birth date). Oddo, my partner, was first made aware of Antony’s situation by a fellow parishioner who had visited Antony’s village near Moshi (about one hour east of Tumaini House) and crossed paths with he and his grandmother. Oddo’s friend told him of the boy’s plight and condition and Oddo wrote to me in Canada explaining that, although we had agreed not to take any more children until all of ours are sponsored this particular little boy was in desperate need of whatever help we could provide and shared that he would go out to make a home visit and inspection. We see a lot of sadness on these home visits and Antony’s was no exception.

Oddo reported back that Antony’s father became sick and died of HIV in 2005 and his mother in 2008. Antony was initially sent to live with his Aunt in Dar es Salaam but she too, died in 2010 at which point Antony was returned to his Bibi and the home where we would meet him.

Born able to hear, Antony has suffered, for reasons unknown as yet, almost entire hearing loss.   He is completely deaf in one ear (left) and partially deaf in the other and had been unable to receive the medical attention he needed.  Nor could he attend school because there simply was no money. Debbie, Paul and family, you have changed this little boy’s entire life.

I was in the U.S. speaking at my sister’s church in Ohio, the Springboro United Church and the Sunday school teacher, (Debbie) called me in to ask some questions about Tumaini and share some of my experiences with her teen class. She was moved to help us and after a discussion with her family sent me an email enquiring about sponsorship support for a child. Oddo had updated me on Antony’s situation by this time and I included him with two other children still requiring assistance and Debbie chose Antony.

By the time I first met this little boy last month, (he walked up to greet me at Mass – someone must have explained who I was) Antony had been sent to a specialist, assessed and begun treatment. An infestation of chiggers (the same little darling mite whose eggs I had brought home burrowed in my foot) acquired by having slept with the family goats for security had cleared up and his ears were no longer seeping much. Hearing that Debbie and Paul had taken on sponsorship support of Antony Oddo proceeded to locate a special school, near Moshi, which teaches both the hearing impaired and hearing and should Antony continue to improve (he told me his hearing is a bit better in his good ear) he will be moved into regular school.

(It is 8:28 p.m. . and the children’s movie just ended and, not wanting to go bed, several of them “dropped by”, knocked on my door for “ugs”, “hugs”. Esther, Stephano, Angela and Glory, Margaret and Martha all encouraged Liadi to rap on my door insisting upon ugs before bed. What could I do? It was ugs all around!!)

Canadian volunteers Charlene, Rebecca, Meg and Diane see first hand the living conditions of the poor . . .

I visited Antony’s home with volunteers from Canada (Diane, Becky, Charlene and Meg) and believe the photos speak for themselves. He slept just feet from where his father is buried, and just inches from the family goats. Although bananas are plentiful and goat`s milk available, little else is accessible by his Bibi who does her best to raise her dead son’s child. After our visit we brought Antony to Tumaini House for a few days (he’s been staying with a friend of the family in Usa while undergoing treatment) to get to know us a bit better and for us to prepare him for school.

Antony is a very dear little man. Precocious and flirty, he is always tickling or tricking one of us . . . Completely overwhelmed by what is here at Tumaini House after leaving his village, Antony was curious and investigated every inch of everything/where he could put his hands on. Every day I discovered that my refrigerator had been turned off . . . Unable to ride a bike, he would push one of ours around the outside of the house and Charlene‘s Mom’s homemade flannel pyjamas were an enormous hit with him!

Antony is respectful and courteous and very friendly, free with hugs and gentle. He is so different from so many of the children I have met that I asked from whom he learnt his gentleness. His Bibi told me his Aunt, her daughter had taught him, but a neighbor explained that it too, was Bibi . . . he has had good instructors.

Asante Sana to Mama Debbie and Baba Paul for embarking on giving this little man a future . . . Karibu Tumaini, welcome . . . come and meet him! Oddo and I will visit his school this month and see how he is settling in and we’ll send you more photos but for Antony and his Bibi thank you so much for loving him . . . be well!