Jan 22nd – Feb 5th (Happy Birthday Dad) from Mama under the Net . . .

We are well for the most part . . . it is HOT! And no rain . . . the children are WONDERFUL and so big and doing incredibly well!! Our climbers summited successfully, all but one who was brought down with pulmonary edema. The other three stood on the top of Africa . . . thank you to all the supporters who have helped them reach some enormous goals . . . physically and (for us at Tumaini) financially. Your kindness and generosity are so very much appreciated.

Mr. Jake Burnett, Headmaster at Glenlyon Norfolk School  (GNS) in Victoria, BC Canada, has returned to Canada after two weeks and we hope to build an ongoing relationship with GNS in the future. Thank you to staff and students who gifted our children with “zawadis” “gifts” for each Tumaini child and let us look to Skype together again soon.

Rashid came to us just one year ago, fighting AIDS (CD4 186) and speaking no English. He is a walking, talking English dictionary now and after our visit to his AIDS clinic we discovered that his CD4 has skyrocketed to 905. You or I, without HIV might have that CD4 count. Every child has grown since my departure in May but Rashid and Neema present the most dramatic changes. Little Neema is well and still does not require ARV’s and Glory is stable, if not better, although she requires a ton of medication and struggles with rashes virtually all the time. Mary will attend her clinic on February 15 and we’ll update you then.

We’ve grown by two more children (Karoli and Nazema) but before that . . . ATHUMAN is home! After a year of struggling, threatening and negotiating, we finally have our boy back and he sits upstairs at his Class II desk, getting reacquainted with his brothers and sisters . . . oh, and he brought us Nazema, the youngest in the family and so the entire family (except for an adult brother who lives in Dar) is with us here at Tumaini. Deo, Anna, Gaspar, Athuman, Harriri, Liadi and now Nazema who was immediately sponsored by our own Mama Korosho and we are so very grateful for that! Asante!!

Speaking of Harriri (and Daniel, Martha, Eliza and Christina) who performed so well on their end of year first grade exams that we challenged the second year ending exam for Amani Primary, the sixth best primary school in Tanzania and they passed! They are now seated in Class III at Amani with Gerehad, Jenny and Esther. Kudos goes out to Teacher Winner & our students for their hard work!

And further thanks to Dave Egles and friends and HES Solar for allowing us to be the ONLY house in the neighbourhood with lights after a cut out of power . . . how lucky are we?? It is not too difficult to see who has the only solar power installation in the neighbourhood . . .

Nelson was home for a visit, unfortunately with typhoid from bad water at his school and headed back last week to contract malaria AND the flu which most of us here are suffering with. He is lying low but had begun to rally after he got dawa (medicine) to kill the parasite, and by the by, he is fifth in his class at Minaki Secondary School near Dar Es Salaam, a school very respected for their strength in maths and sciences. My friend Mama Mchome, who is the District Education Officer here exclaimed when I told her Nelson’s position, that a student that strong at Minaki school is most likely one of the strongest math/science students in the country . . .

And speaking of illness, we’ve got ourselves the MUMPS! Priska blew up like a balloon and we’re watching Liadi and Christina and most of us are fighting a terrible sore throat (I am hoping it is not strep). There are about six or seven of us with it now. And Liadi just lost his first tooth! He is a bit of a scaredy cat with most things and that included pulling a tooth. The two bottom adult teeth are through the skin already and so he has six teeth (4 baby and two adult) where he should have just two. He was eating a mango and came running into my office to tell me it was loose and I sat him down and did my dental floss thing with him, explaining that, if it hurt we would stop and try again another time. He gave me the green light and I got the floss around the tooth and he grimaced and POP it was out! I held the string up in front of him and as he realized he was looking at his tooth, began to jump up down shouting, “I didn’t cry! I didn’t cry!”

Enormous thanks to Maya and Ella (and Mom and Dad), co-sponsors for Anna and Martha and to Mama Lotte and Dada Christina, sponsors for Esther for allowing us a wonderful pool party! Much fun was had by all and I’ll include photos in my next blog, but please know how grateful we are!!!

An ongoing concern of mine has been about how most of our older children struggle academically because of their English, or lack thereof . . . unfortunately, after a certain age, it becomes increasingly difficult to transition from Kiswahili to English, even though secondary school is taught here in English. Students with weak foundations in academics who find themselves thrust into an English environment struggle and often fail to “catch on” to the language, falling even farther behind in their studies. We’ve witnessed this in many of the children we provide outreach assistance to, who come from terrible schools and as well as some of our own Tumani Children: Mary, Anna, particularly Gaspar, Nelson and most recently with Kelvin all who came to us with virtually no English foundation whatsoever. We’ve tried various programs in the past – extra study, trade schools, repetition of school grades and putting children back a class or even two and have had limited success.

With generous funding from the Grand Erie District Retired Teacher’s Organization in Canada, sponsor support, and the hard work of our volunteers, we’ve outfitted not only a second but a THIRD classroom, acquired two computers, and have hired the second of three teachers which will allow us not only our graduated Class II with Teacher Winner, but a new Class I (which is currently being TAUGHT by Grand Erie retired teacher Kathy Hoey, through the end of February), AND our own “catch up” class for those older children struggling in English which then impedes their secondary school studies. We are ecstatic! Often these children stall at the senior primary/early secondary school levels because of language issues and with the support of the RTO of Grand Erie District university graduated (a rarity in education here still) teacher, Mr. Richard Mrema is hard at work with our teen children, new texts and computer assistance, improving English which in turn dramatically affects their learning potential. Thank you Grand Erie RTO, thank you new sponsors Tine and Emily and Isabelle and thank you volunteers Jenny, Leneke and Valentine for building and beautifying our classrooms!

It has taken me two weeks to get this to you and for that I am sorry, but these have been busy weeks: two emergency trips to town for textbooks and a replacement school sweater without which our children will be (physically) punished; two nights down and out with a nasty flu, three evenings ago, a lonnggg talk with of one our children who chose to “lift” said school sweater from another child which may sound trite but for the implications of having a child at Tumaini who STILL has no respect for integrity or honesty; caring for Harriri whom we thought had broken his pinky finger in play, (thank God it is only a jam); two nights ago welcoming Mary (Kelvin’s sister) home from university and assisting her in provisioning her home after months away; last night, a lonnngg talk with Marko, one of our older boys who has run away from Moshi Technical School, a fine and established school here in northern Tanzania announcing that although he is grateful for the help we have provided him, he desires not to continue his studies but to “start his life” (his words). What life can a fifteen year old boy with seventh grade education in a country with a 70% unemployment rate “start”?

We experience the “ups and downs” of any family . . . extrapolated a bit perhaps because of our numbers, but a family still. We struggle and we argue and cuddle and study and love . . . and we do everything with your prayers and support. Thank you SO very much for that . . . your hearts sit here with us at Tumaini . . . thank you so very much for that!