March 5th from Mama…

First off, my heartfelt thanks to so very many of you for embracing my daughter Amanda’s medical emergency in the U.S. For so many prayers and well wishes sent to her, thank you. I am so very grateful to report that they have discovered her medical problems isolated and treated the infection in her lungs and her father will take her home to Canada this evening (East Africa time).  It is a horribly frightening experience to go through with one’s child and Amanda’s father and mother (and Amanda also) were bolstered with your well wishes, as was I. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We have not been without our own crises here at Tumaini but for that too I am happy to share we’ve had no new cases of mumps, no more malaria and only Said and Kelvin are sick with the flu at this moment . . . but, as is the case with such a large family, this will change quickly. (As a matter of fact it just has . . . Wema Chikira, one of the children we outreach to and Karoli’s sister just showed up and rests in my bed with either mafua (the flu) or malaria).

Nelson came home with typhoid and returned to school only to catch malaria. He has recovered. Latifa and Esther have been resized for their leg braces (Latifa for a club foot and Esther for support for a drop foot). Did you know that a person with malaria usually responds within hours of receiving medication?

The temperatures are unusually high for this part of Tanzania, more in line with Dar Es Salaam which is nine hours south of here by car. It is sticky and humid and we’ve not had nearly enough rain. The boys worked together yesterday (and will complete tomorrow) the Chikira (the family of children Jackson, Glory, Ayubu, Wema and Karol we outreach to) maize harvest and to describe it as a “modest” yield is an understatement. Baba Raymond (Raymond’s father) also had a crop failure with his maize and I fear for future prices as maize is a staple food in this country (ugali, makande) and prices have skyrocketed since I began this work in 2009. Then I was able to purchase a bag of maize for as little as 23,000 SH. Today we pay 90,000 SH. I worry.

Liadi enjoyed his fifth birthday and for those of you who know this little man, he is so very much NO LONGER a BABY . . . his younger sister Nazema is now with us at Tumaini and although she may pass him soon in physical growth, he tries very hard to be the big brother. Liadi came to us as a baby of just two years and had quite a “tabia” or attitude of crying or pouting whenever he didn’t get his way. He is working hard, as are some of our other children to improve their attitudes and “make better choices”.

And, did you know that Raymond (home for a two week visit from his first year of studies in Public Administration at the University of Dodoma) went yesterday to visit his family (his father continues to struggle with throat cancer) and is one of only two people in his entire village attending university? No one else received either the grades or found the financial opportunity to go . . .

To Tine and Kate and Izzy who worked so hard to help the boys (and Anna) prepare for entrance exams to their respective schools, Bruno comes home weekends and is quite happy at Edmund Rice Secondary School. Joseph and Abdi just came home with marks on their first month exams averaging 92% and 96% respectively. We are ecstatic! Ayubu is living here with us while he studies and we wait to hear about Anna but expect that she is doing well.

Marko has dropped out of school . . . one of Oddo’s longest supported students, and one of the first “24” of Tumaini’s children when we began, has decided that secondary school is not for him and we are devastated. Marko comes from a desperately poor family up Mount Meru and Oddo found him on the street and has worked for years to find support for his education. Ranger Safaris has generously paid his school fees for many years and we began supplementing his support here in order to give him what he needs to study. He entered Form I, first level of secondary school and ran away in less than two weeks. He came to us here (Oddo and I) for guidance and we persuaded him (we thought) to return for the balance of this year and if unhappy still, we would find another school for him as long as he performed and provided us with a strong report card. It is especially sad because he was accepted in Moshi Technical School which is very well respected. We cannot imagine what he will do with his life now for “home” is not a long term option for him.

With February exams coming in I’d like to share that our Amani students (5 of whom skipped Class II and went directly to Class III) are performing outstandingly. Harriri will be #1 this month but all of our children are in the 80’s and 90’s for most classes with only a few high sixties and seventies. Kelvin is coming along and catching up on his Kiswahili, Civics, African History and gaining confidence in his English and Math and Francis shines academically as always. We will visit the Haradali children tonight (Ema, Lazaro, Eva, Angela, Margaret, Mwanhamisi but expect to find outstanding performance from most of them also. Ema, Lazaro, Angela and Margaret are especially serious about their studies.

 Our Tumaini students in Class II shine with A’s and B’s and only Athuman struggles to catch up, which he will now that he is returned to English school. He has readjusted very comfortably and I don’t see his anger surfacing as frequently and he truly tries to be a big brother to not only his own siblings (Harriri, Liadi and Nazema) but to all the younger children. He appears happy for the most part and we have no more bedwetting issues.

Class I consists of a number of new students (Zaibu, Neema, Noella, Rebecca, Francis, Nazema, Lucia and Baraka) as well as Liadi and Tony and I’d like to thank Kathy Hoey again who volunteered here with us, teaching our first graders for January and February. She has left us to go on safari and we wish her safari njema.

First there was a church burnt and then most recently a priest murdered in Zanzibar . . . the country shudders at the thought of escalated tensions but the writing appears to be on the wall . . . (Stephano just dropped in for a hug and a cuddle . . . he makes my day).

Unfortunately Reward is experiencing difficulty again with his kitwa (head). He was diagnosed just over a year ago with a parasite in his brain caused by eating tainted pork. We had two CT scans completed and was treated with three courses of very strong medication and his symptoms (dizziness and severe headaches) subsided, but recently the pain has returned, almost daily. He explains that for some days (when he is not studying but relaxing) there is little or no pain at all (he came home for two weeks and only had pain one day when he was under stress). When he studies though, he believes he triggers something in the part of the brain where the parasite is located, the trigger irritates the parasite and he suffers.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t share (without using names) how a certain older child taught a certain younger child how to fufu (I’ll leave it to you to figure that out). Well. I have one child here who fancies himself to be my body guard . . . and he takes his job VERY seriously . . . the other day, the fufu teacher was in my room (Jake it’s the BIG fufer and not the little one you’re thinking of), and my body guard came in and said, “hey – – – – I have a zawadi (gift) for you!” He ran forward, leapt into the air and with a twist of his posterior delivered said “zawadi” to its recipient who gawked in absolute shock, as my body guard responded, “you fufu to mama and now I fufu to you”. Boys . . .

It is our hope and prayer that each of you knows how very grateful we are for your continued love and support and that as you prepare for Easter you will remember we pray for you. Thank you again for your prayers for my daughter Amanda . . . be well!!