Donations: The Final Tally
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
Here is a final tally of what all of the amazingly kind-hearted donations went towards…
(Displayed in TZ Schillings, converted below.)
2 New Chalkboards: 23,500
Toys (trucks, blocks, cars, bubbles): 59,800
Transportation total when bringing toys/supplies to school: 15,000
Driving Tip: 1,000
Lollipops for brave kids: 9,500
FOOD TO LAST 6 MONTHS
Tips to porters: 5,000
Transportation with food: 12,000
Food for families: 16,000
Rent for new school grounds for 5 months: 600,000
Sponsor donations for transportation to new school: 469,283
TOTAL: 2,773,383 shillings = $1,625 USD
+ $3,395 for initially fundraised money for program costs/airfare = $5,020 USD
GIVE YOURSELVES A ROUND OF APPLAUSE, YOU’VE MADE A WORLD OF CHANGE IN THESE CHILDRENS’ LIVES!
Happiness Stems from the Heart
Well, here I am…so many miles away from Arusha; an incredible place that i’ve called home for the past few months and fell in love with since the day we met.
Yes, I will miss little things like glass bottles of sodas and Shaggy‘s unrelenting fame. And I’ll even miss the Tanzanian quirks that drove me absolutely mad…like unpaved roads, an all rice diet, having “Mzungu!” shouted at me from all angles, thinking I am tan only to find out it’s a layer of dirt and even getting from point A-B in a smelly, overcrowded van…
But, I can’t help but truly wonder about the bigger picture. From all that I’ve seen and experienced in the past few months… what have I learned and how will I change?
I witnessed poverty that simply shouldn’t exist in the world. Yes, we all know these extremes are out there but, it’s not until you immerse yourself within them that you truly believe and understand the depths of their complex and ugly folds.
For the first time in my life, I seriously struggled with the dark and frustrating feeling of helplessness. I met remarkable people who deserved everything yet, had no means to get even one thing. I saw their struggle through their mud shacks. I saw their perseverance through their 12 hour work days and tired eyes. I saw their hunger through their children eating from garbage piles on the streets.
I shook hands with those who wouldn’t eat for days on end and when they finally did, they would eat raw because they couldn’t afford charcoal for a fire. I learned of the distressing lengths that people will go to feed their children, their brothers, their sisters, themselves…sometimes even sacrificing their own morality to do so. In the slums of Tanzania, food and water’s scarcity runs deep. Although i’ve gained a clearer understanding of what it is to be grateful, I have also gained a feeling of guilt that will live inside of me forever. I can attempt to not take for granted the resources so readily available for me but, I don’t think I will ever appreciate them the way that a thirsty child would. But, what is guilt but an awareness of what’s unfair? Awareness is a gift and I am so blessed to receive it.
And the lessons from the children. Oh, the children. They taught me more than I‘ll ever be able to trace or comprehend. So effortlessly, they taught me how beautifully resilient a human being can be - how to smile big and laugh hard; even when you have so very little. With their tiny hands in mine, they showed me that happiness doesn’t stem from riches, it blooms from the heart. Although my efforts may have only improved their lives for a short while, they’ve impacted me forever.
I learned that you can’t change the world but, you can make it a better place.
9 kids sponsored :)
I just want to take a minute to thank everyone who has ever supported my efforts here in Arusha. My time here has been absolutely phenomenal but, it’s been even more incredible to GIVE these kids what they deserve. Among other things, I’ve been able to grant them a teacher for their classroom, lunch food for their bellies, school supplies to put their lessons into practice, and shelter for 5 months for their schools’ future!
It’s all been made possible because of my amazing, thoughtful supporters.
Over the past few months, I’ve become friends with a “famous” African dance group that goes by the name of Contagious. They’ve traveled all over; competing in competitions and putting on shows for those who want to be entertained. I say famous because they can be and because they won 3rd in the continent dance competitoin…the continent! THINK America’s Next Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance….on steroids. These boys really know how to break dance. So, when my good friend Jen suggested for them to go to our schools and teach dancing one night, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before! With the idea set in motion, we set up for two of the dancers to come to Sakoine1 and teach dance to my school, Tuamkeni, and Katie’s school, Glorious.
Today was the day and it was absolutely amazing. It’s so easy for volunteers to raise money or offer necessities like food, water, shelter, books, etc. But, it’s clear that the kids end up missing out on the FUN…the meaty part of being a child during “childhood.” It was incredible to see my kids really let loose and enjoy themselves…to really be treated to something they deserve and from what I’ve seen around the playground, LOVE.
Kelvin and Joseph were absolute gentleman and so good with kids. They must be quite young but, they were really impressive with their ability to make the kids feel comfortable in an environment like dancing that requires you to be so. When I watched my kids dancing with their instructors for the day, I immediately knew what it was like to be a stage mom! I was cheering on my favorites and acting out moves in the background - it was really embarrassing, haha.
Overall, amazing day, my face hurt from smiling so much!
My friend Missy is a teacher at Sylvia Rosenauer elementary school and as you’ll see, an amazing one at that!
Recently, she helped her students create a music video to create awareness and raise money to build a school…in Arusha, Tanzania! I’ve heard of Shepards school while living here and I know they do wonderful things for underprivileged kids.
Watch this video and see how beautiful it is when kids are helping kids across the globe - to help them get the education that they deserve!
If you’d like to help these childrens’ cause or learn more about it, visit their Lalalove page here:
Check out my Twenty for Five page if you’d like to grant one of my students the gift of education. For just $20, you can give them access to transportation to their new school…for 5 months! Go ahead and be a hero.
Rented! & Future Sponsor Opportunity :)
The kids officially have a school for 5 more months!
It was brought to my attention about a month ago that the landlord had given Tuamkeni until the end of December to leave the premises. The Bebe and teacher Thomas informed me of this and asked for me to keep my ear to the ground for any spaces for rent. They obviously don’t have real estate listings here but, I was asking anyone and everyone I knew about it - to no avail.
But, good news finally came. Just yesterday, I was informed that they found a potential space very close to the future school that is being built with the help of a past volunteer (mentioned in a past post). With this news, I was elated. This means I had an opportunity to use the rest of the donation money for the livelihood of the school itself - I don’t know if there’s anything more sustainable than that.
We checked out the space today and it was amazing! There are 4 rooms that have real walls, two real toilets and the most massive area for the kids to play. I was able to negotiate the rent per month down 100,000 Tsch and agreed on a 5 month contract for 600,000tsch - that’s only about $352! I am SO excited to help in this way - thanks to everyone!!! There may even be enough space to house some of the children who have terrible living conditions…However, I am getting ahead of myself.
The only problem is transportation - which was my worry for the future school as well. The area that the school will be is in Kisongo. For the kids to get there, they will need to take a dala-dala there and back. Although it is only cents per day, it adds up quickly for a 5 month time-span. As we know, many of the children can’t even afford clean water so, I am worried sick about the prospect of them losing the chance to go to school because they can’t afford transportation.
With that said, I’m personally donating, as well as using the rest of the money to go towards transportation but, that will not be enough! My director seems to think it will be OK but, I would like to go home knowing that my kids are still getting the education they deserve.
Calling anyone with a desire to help! A mere $20 donation and you can sponsor a child’s transportation for 5 months! That’s round trip fare; 5 days a week - 4 weeks a month! I will be creating a separate link and page so that anyone who is interested in helping can choose a specific child to sponsor!
Regardless of what the outcome is for transportation, we’ll have to be positive - motivated by the fact that the kiddies now have a school from January-May!!!
WARNING: THIS MAY BE TOO GRAPHIC FOR CHILDREN. I apologize in advance for getting too detailed but, the world needs to know what type of brutality took place as we turned our heads.
Most everyone that we came in contact with had a story about their experience during the Genocide that happened just 15 years ago. We felt it was only right to pay our respects to the victims by visiting various memorial sites in and outside of Kigali.
The first one we went to was in a church called Nyamata. Along with the second site, Ntarama, it was in the Bugesara district of Rwanda.
The reason so many memorial sites reside in churches is because it is where many victims met their death. These people had such a strong belief in their faith that they couldn’t imagine anyone committing ungodly acts in their house of god. With that belief, they sought refuge in their respective churches. It’s so sad to know that the one last, beautiful thing they had to hold onto, their faith, was shattered before them.
Both churches were quite small but had comprehensive stories that were hard to swallow. In each, you were greeted by thousands of pieces of clothing littering the short-standing pews. These are the clothes of the dead…they were/are originally used for families to identify their relatives/friends among the 50,000 people who were killed inside the first one and the 5,000 who were killed in the second.
Additional to the clothing, they had ID cards and other possessions littered throughout. The ID cards were very similar to those during the holocaust, the owner had a check mark next to Tootsie, Hutu, or Twa - to identify his “race”. The site of all of these items were overwhelming but, the bullet and grenade holes that still exist were even more sobering.
They also had human skeletal remains. Skulls, hands, arms…everything. The fact that the amount displayed, even in the respective crypts, was only a small percent of those that died, really put everything into a devastating perspective.
Aside from the overall ambush, they relayed specific ways that the innocent victims were killed. The ways were barbaric, brutal, and inhumane. This was where the gasps and shock materialized for all of us….especially when they informed us of how the Hutu’s killed the Tootsie children. They would pick them up by their feet and slam them against brick walls. At Ntarama, a large bloodstain still painted the wall of the nursery. They also described the ways in which the Hutu’s would make family members rape their own sisters, mothers, or daughters - only to both be killed afterwards…it was just too much.
The most heartbreaking story came from our guide at Ntarama. Although not as graphic as the previous histories, it was so very striking because it was his own. Gaspard was 19 years old when Hutus appeared at his house and shot his father dead right in front of him. The father had made the blacklist and was one of the first victims of the coming Genocide. A family of 12 brothers and sisters, Gaspard and one of his younger brothers fled for the hills while his Mother stayed at the house with the rest of the children, paralyzed with fear. In the coming days, he watched his brother get sliced by a Machetti across the head and as Gaspard himself ran from raining bullets, he wasn’t able to stop and help, in fear for his own life.
He lived in a swamp for 2 weeks - hearing gunshots and seeing murders in the near distance. He said that the hillsides were littered with dead bodies of neighbors, friends, and family. When he retreated to another hill, he found his brother there - who somehow survived the blow to his head. After the war was seemingly over, he found the rest of his family killed inside his childhood home.
He told this story to us with such bravery. We all were in tears and he kept on apologizing for making us cry…we felt like fools because we were just listening and he had actually lived it. The story has a “happy” ending, if there could be a such thing from such tragic events. Gaspards brother is now studying for his PHD in Capetown, and he himself is currently after his Masters, with his dissertation on Genocide. He wants the world to learn about what happened in 1994 and the years before, he wants future generations to never make the same mistake again. Gaspard married his wife, also a survivor with her own tragic story, and they built a house on top of his childhood home. He smiled at this and said “success is the best revenge.”
He is, by far, one of the most inspirational people i’ve ever met in my life.
Country of a Thousand Hills & Stories
Rwanda was an absolutely incredible country. I experienced some of the most emotional highs and lows in such a short visit. As usual, I will try to highlight my journey below!
Our accommodations for most of our stay in Kigali…The Step Town Motel. It was so reasonable and for some reason, they gave us what we ended up calling The Princess Room because it was the only one with a balcony overlooking the beautiful city below! The staff was so hospitable and friendly - if you ever find yourself in this city, I strongly advise you to stay here!
Although you can’t clearly see from these photos, the city is drastically different from any other African city I’ve been to. Since they’ve rebuilt recently, after the 1994 Genocide completely demolished everything, the new installments throughout the country are modern, clean, and sustainable. It was so refreshing to step into a city where there was actual trash cans on the street! It’s also remarkable how much they have flourished since there horrendous civil war, which I’ll touch on below…its bittersweet for them.
We rode through the countryside and passed the most beautiful of scenery I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The greenest of greens, and then…volcanoes! We drove up a mountaintop to get many shots in front of this massive one…it was absolutely awe-inspiring.
As for the Gorilla trekking experience - I have been left speechless. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Worth every last penny that the Rwandan government sucked out of my wallet :). Everyone who arrived at the Gorilla center were separated into groups.
We were put in one with 4 others (2 couples who had done the same thing the day before!) and were assigned the Sobinyha Gorilla family. At first we felt a little cheated when we heard it was only a family of 11 BUT, then we realized we were about to see the biggest Gorilla, Guhanda, in the world!! We trekked for a bit, up hills and through the forest…after about 30 minutes, we were there - you could tell by a large tree violently shaking in front of us - and the HUGE gorilla baby hanging from it.
They were all hanging around, moving about, and we got to get about 5 feet away from them! They are so habituated to humans that they didn’t even mind us snapping away…staring at their human-like behavior. Do you know that they have over 95% of the same genes as us? Crazy. :)
Today, we did a round of 6 “home visits”. The purpose is more of a learning experience for the volunteers but, we brought rice, beans, and toys for the families to equal out the benefits. Bebe suggested we visited the children who are the “worse off…” However, the area that all of the children are from is far from good.
Our visits were as follows:
Dyana, who is HIV positive although her Mama and Grandparents hide this fact. Her house ended up being the nicest one - she had more than just a 2 room “shed” that most others had.
Then, we came upon Ayuni and Michaels house…they both were absent that day and when we arrived, Ayuni was hard at work sifting through beans and peas…at age 4. She is the tiniest little thing too. Their house is a 1 room “apartment” where they share bathrooms with about 40+ other people. The Bebe was overwhelmingly inviting yet, it’s hard to tell whats a show since her grandkids are two of the tiniest in class…
Next up was Stephen. He is one of the smartest kids I know - so quiet yet, so curious! I was really interested to see where he lived. His “apartment” had two rooms which was really nice to see but, he also had 2 sisters and 2 brothers. The small bedroom has to fit 4+ people on 2 twin beds in a room that leaves no more room aside from them! It seems that they all take care of each other because there was no clear guardian in sight.
Then, there was Anastanzia. She is the cutest little nugget you’ll ever play “down by the banks” with. She is so tiny yet, so brilliant - and so silly! I was dying to meet her sister ever since we gave her food and told her not to show anyone but, she asked if she could share it with her older sister…I also was interested to see how her quarters were set up since it’s word that, at times, her mama locks her at home all day, doesn’t feed her, and doesn’t come back till much later on :(. Naturally, the mama was not present when we arrived. Her house was most definitely the least clean but, her sister was the most inviting. There were two separate rooms, 1 with a queenish bed for her whole family….There was a boy laying in it at the time and I asked if it was her Kaka, her brother, but, they said no - just a neighborhood friend! :)
Then, there was Sabatina, who lived the very farthest from the school. It made me wonder what time she leaves in the morning and how intense of a walk it is for a 5 year old alone…Her guardians werent home either but, her 3 brothers were. They had a 1 room apartment with a large bed and small couch. Her two brothers were super nice and you could tell they cared about Sabatina deeply…I just wish she had an adult to look after her :(!!
So, what’s my overall thoughts about this experience? I think that it’s absolutely crazy that i’ve grown such a hardness for this. These children are living in 1 and 2 room mud shacks or “hostel”-driven living quarters with no running water and they’re coming home at age 3, 4, 5 with no adult to look after them…they all share a bed with 4+ others, and they are working harder than I worked to find a cool seashell at the beach when I was their age.
But, I guess I came in with ridiculously low expectations and mentally prepared myself for everything. The good news is that the families have rice and beans to cook for a day or two…the children have new toys that will make them happy if only for just a little bit…they all have brothers and sisters that look after them with bonds stronger than I’ve ever seen….they may sleep in a bed with 5 people but, at least they have a mattress…
I <3 them, I wish I could scoop them up and put them in a 5 star hotel forever…I wouldn’t even care if they became brats or forgot their past…i wish i could spoil them forever! haha.
I'm 24, I quit my job, and I'm going to Africa! Follow me as I experience a lifelong dream of volunteering in Africa. I may not have too much to offer but, I hope to translate my life in Arusha, Tanzania and more importantly, give a voice to the children of Tuamkemi orphanage
I can't even begin to express my gratitude towards all of the kind-hearted people who have made this volunteer trip possible! Hopefully, I can keep my supporters and all those who are interested up to date while in Tanzania and provide a glimpse of the people whose lives they've benefited!