Friday, April 22, 2011

Ghana Mission

Ghana Mission March 11 to April 1, 2011
Library and Learning Center, Kumasi, Ghana
My 5th and last African mission visit.

I arrived in Accra, Ghana airport from Abuja, Nigeria. I was met at the airport with the smiles of Sr. Laurene, and Sr. Irene. Cindy a lovely Ghanaian young woman who assists the sisters with housekeeping and cooking joined in my welcome, too. We stayed overnight in Accra. The next day we journeyed by car (hired driver) about a 4 hour drive to the Cape Coast of Ghana. It was a “mini vacation” for two days before going to Kumasi. It was a real treat for all of us to relax along the Cape Coast area on the Atlantic Ocean. We walked the lovely sandy beaches and enjoyed this special part of the world. Our cottage was facing the ocean so we heard the sounds of the ocean day and night. This area of Ghana reminds me of Costa Rica. Very tropical with lots of trees and plants.

I did a tour of the Elmina It was very hard to see the rooms where slaves were kept before being put on ships. The Cape Coast is known for its very sweet and juicy pineapples. We bought some from a fruit stand to take back with us to Kumasi. Kumasi was about a 5 hour bus ride from the Cape Coast.
Kumasi will be my home with the sisters for the remainder of my stay in Africa. It is my 5thand last mission that I visited in Africa. The sisters live in an apartment on the 2nd floor. The land lady has done little maintenance on the building but the sisters make do. It has a nice patio and lots of windows. There is no hot water, so you take cool showers. The weather in Ghana is hot and humid, typical of a tropical climate. There is no air conditioning but we do have fans. Unfortunately the electricity is not reliable but better than the electric service in Nigeria. The sisters walk or use a shared taxi service. They are about 20 minute walk/cab ride away from the Library.
Ghana is a much cleaner country than Nigeria. There is trash and litter but not near as much as in Nigeria. In Kumasi their is garbage pick up service available by private companies. It was good to see a few but at least some garbage cans put out on the curb for pick up. Most trash in Africa is just burned where ever any one once to have a burn pile.
Sr. Laurene and Sr. Irene head up the Library and Literacy mission in Kumasi. Sr. Laurene and I have a long Sisters of Charity, BVM history. Sr. Laurene was assigned to Mt. Carmel Academy in Wichita for her first year of teaching in 1959 when I was a freshman boarding student there. We lived in the same dormitory. We did not remember each other, but our ties with Mt. Carmel Academy brought us together after 52 years. I feel privileged to have been educated by the BVM’s. The Sisters of Charity, BVM are well known for being outstanding educators. And their legacy continues in Kumasi at the library and learning center. The library is an outstanding project. It was a “dream” of Sr. Laurene’s to build a library. Sr. Laurene and Sr. Irene had a make shift library and literacy center working out of a room at the Diocesan Spiritual Retreat Center and a classroom part time at St. Hubert’s Seminary and Secondary School. It was a makeshift “mobile” library. They saw the need for a library and learning center. The Sisters of Charity, BVM Congregation gave their blessings to building a library. It was a two year project. The Diocese of Kumasi donated the land to build the library. They worked with a local architect and general contractor to put their dream into reality. With the wonderful BVM donors’ funding the project, the library was opened on January 15, 2011; the official name is Archbishop Mensah Learning Center. To get this project from an idea into a building in such a short time is really a mini miracle when you see how slow construction projects take in Africa. The library is on the Diocesan Campus next to St. Hubert’s Seminary and Secondary School in a wooded area. It is a beautifully designed one level stucco building painted in cream and green colors setting it off from the typical white or brown buildings. When I went to the library on my first day I thought as we were walking and walking and walking, “where in the world” are we going? It is approximately ¾ mile from the main street. It is “off the beaten path” but it doesn‘t prevent the children from finding the library.
They have registered over 900 children as library users since they opened in January. The children are required to have a form filled out and signed by their parents and a teacher before a library card is issued. Each card holder is given a library number as their identification system then cross filed with their name. This is the first time that most of the children have ever been to a library. And to think they can actually check out two books at a time, take the books home with them and then return them is a whole new experience. What we take for granted in the USA is a luxury in Ghana. It was so much fun to ask them what their library number was and each one could immediately tell me without any hesitation. The smiles on the children’s faces were priceless.
Most of the primary and secondary students do not have what we would considerto be text books. They have exercise books which are notebooks. The teacher writes on the blackboard and the students copy the information in their notebook and that becomes their “book”. Wow, they come to the library and they see, touch, read and check out “real books”.The children start coming about 2:00 - 3:00 pm after school has adjourned. Some of St. Hubert’s secondary students come in the morning to use the library as a quiet place to study and read books. All the children walk to the library (most parents would not have a car) with back packs. Every child has a back pack to keep their exercise books and pencils in them. They don’t keep any of their personal things at the schools. They put everything in their backpacks. I never saw any lockers or personal desks in a “home room” where they can leave their pencils, notebooks etc.
The library also has books for adults. Presently very few adults use the library but the future plans are to get more adults involved in the library; hopefully start a book club where they can meet at the library. The future plans of the library and learning center is to have a computer room with a computer, TV with DVD for educational materials, like National Geographic DVD’s and some fun DVD’s for the little kids and movies. Most of these students do not have a computer or availability of a TV in their home. This will be a complete new learning experience for them.
Just to watch the students open up picture books and see their happy faces is amazing. Having colorful children’s books in English is like a gift from heaven. Can you imagine seeing pictures of words you have been taught but have never seen what it looks like? For instance seeing a picture of a whale, tulips, fire engine for the first time. All the children are required to learn English. The subjects are taught in English however, most revert back to their local dialect which is Twi, when they talk to each other. Some of the schools will have big signs posted on the grounds, Speak English. There is a big emphasis to have the students be fluent in English. All the library books are in English.
I had the opportunity to do “story times” with a small group of students. A donor sent the library large picture books that could be used by a teacher to read and discuss a story with a group of children sitting on the floor. I took the children outside in an area that we could sit and read together. They really enjoyed the opportunity to read to me. I then would ask them questions about the story to see what level of comprehension they had about the story. Many of the children’s parents would not have the English skills to read with their children. To have adult or older students sit with them and listen to them read is so important and can make the difference in getting past the rote learning.
Sr. Laurene does individual tutoring for adults in English and Math. Some of the adults have not attended primary school so they have to start by learning the ABC’s. All the tutoring students are working, a seamstress, a young man who works at an appliance center, a woman who sells produce; another is a carpenter and many more. All these adults have a desire to learn English and Math skills to improve themselves. Some come as early as 7:30 am before they go to work.
I went to the library most everyday, helped repair books, straighten out shelves. relocate books, sort books, check in books, restock books and visit/read with the children. The most favorite part of the library day was seeing the joy and smiles on children checking out books and reading books.

I had an opportunity to do a market day with Cindy. We went to the downtown area of Kumasi where there is a huge open market area, like a flea market. Everything imaginable to man is there, live chickens, dead rats, fruits, vegetables, fish, largest snails I‘ve ever seen, butcher chopping up legs of cows, clothes, kiosks of all types of household wares… It is very crowded with narrow dirt paths to walk with lots of people buying and selling. I had to walk fast to keep Cindy in sight; thank heaven she wore a bright scarf on her head that I could see easily. I had a fear I might loose her and be lost in this maze. It was a “wild” shopping trip. Cindy bought most of the fresh vegetables and fruit that we needed for several days. Another day Cindy took me to a small business of an entrepreneurial woman who started a small bread bakery, a mushroom “farm” (a building) where she grows delicious mushrooms plus she also packages water to sell. The locals buy small plastic bags of filtered water. I’d say about 2 cups of water in the bag. Unfortunately what is happening is that the bags are thrown on the ground and becomes litter. You very seldom will see a trash can. Presently they do not have a recycle program. It was great to see how one person in such small working spaces could develop money making businesses.

Cindy taught me how to make a local dish called It is cooked plantains and cassava mashed with a giant wooden mortar and pestle. I took part in pounding/mashing the mixture the consistency of mash potatoes that are real smooth and sticky. You take a portion size like a large dumpling of the fufu put it into a bowl then pour over it a groundnut stew made with chicken and peanut butter. I had never eaten fufu or groundnut stew before. It was tasty and interesting. Cindy is an excellent cook. I taught her how to make a mushroom quiche and a honey mustard chicken dish. We had fun cooking together. Sr. Laurene is tutoring Cindy in English and Math. She did not have an opportunity to attend primary school. She speaks English very well and is very sharp. And a very joyful person.
Sr. Laurene invited me to accompany her to a near by primary school called The Martyrs. Many of their students use the library. They have 1500 students grades K-8th. It is spotless. The students are well behaved, teachers organized and the students do have some textbooks. The classrooms were bright and cheerful. It is a private school so the parents are responsible to pay tuition fees which would be about $600 US dollars for the school year. This would be a considerable amount of money. I met the principal who is a dynamic Ghanaian nun. It was amazing to see her leadership skills at work. I can see why the parents will scrape together the fees any way they can to send their children to the Martyrs school. They will all have a good chance in being admitted to a good secondary school.

Sr. Laurene and Sr. Irene are true missionaries and educators.
Thank you Sr. Laurene and Sr. Irene for sharing your home with me and the unforgettable experience of being in Ghana. Thank you for introducing me to Father Michael, Father Mathias, Abby, Olivia, Eric, Amos, Julie, Juliana, Agnes, Alta, May belle, Cindy, Samuel, Stephen, Christian, Theresa and many other lovely Ghanaians. And THANK YOU FOR YOUR VISION OF THE LIBRARY AND LEARNING CENTER AND MAKING IT A REALITY.
I am in awe of their dedication. The thousands of children, youth and adults who will use the library will have new “worlds” open up for them. This new learning experience would never have been possible without the library.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hope For the Village Child, Kaduna, Nigeria

Hope For the Village Child, Kaduna, Nigeria
March 2 – 11, 2011
I arrived in Abuja the capital city of Nigeria on March 2nd from Nairobi, Kenya via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  It was a distance of more than 2,000 miles.  Two staff members, Prosper and Ruth from the Hope for the Village Child (HFVC) met me at the airport.  It was about a 2 hour drive from Abuja to Kaduna where the HFVC headquarters are located.    I noticed along the side of the highway lots of women selling at little stands an interesting vegetable that I thought was a gigantic potato, but it was what they call yams.  The yams are white inside and taste somewhat like a potato.  It is a staple food for Nigerians.  They cook it and eat it plain, slice and deep fry and mash it also.  It is a very starchy.  We stopped and I took a picture of some of the women with their yams.  I showed them the picture in my camera and they were happy to see themselves.
When I arrived at Sr. Rita’s home in Kaduna -she had two sisters visiting from the USA.  Sr. Gemma and Sr. Roberta.  Sr. Gemma is from the Garden City, Kansas area and is presently in Ohio at the Dominican Sisters head offices.
My  days with Sr. Rita and the HFVC staff was another heartwarming experience to see the donors’ dollars going to help so many children, women and families.  Sr. Rita has been in Nigeria more than 30 years in a variety of ministries.  She has devoted the past 12 years nonstop to HFVC programs.  She is the director of HFVC which has donors from the USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands and other countries.  The HFVC has many worthwhile projects including the following:
Rural health; in particular child immunization,  prenatal care and health education, i.e. aids prevention, malaria
Water wells for remote villages, over 100 wells have been dug since 1999
Women small businesses, micorfinacning, some examples are sewing clothing items, making jewelry, batek cloth, milling rice, storing  grain and more
Eye clinic for examination and fitting of glasses
Rickets disease, prevention and surgery to correct the deformed limbs
Building rural primary schools and furnishing books for rural schools.

The following day after my arrival, Sr. Gemma and I went with Abigail one of HFVC nurses, an assistant and driver to one of the remote villages to operate a  “clinic day” of immunizations for small children.  The roads to the villages are dirt rutted roads.  No road repair or grading is done on the rural roads, ever.  Once they are built the government forgets about them.    The HFVC has an old Toyota Land Cruiser that we bounce around in to the clinic.  The villagers do not have cars, unless it might be the village chief.   Some use a motorcycle or bike and the others walk.
When we arrive at the clinic building, women are already waiting with their babies tied to their backs.  The typical way African women carry their babies and toddlers is tied on their back.  The babies do not wear diapers.  Each mother has a health record for each child of immunizations etc. She brings it with her so the nurse can document what care was given.  HFVC also keeps a health record on each child.  The mother is required to pay a small amount for the immunization shots.  Babies are weighted, shots given and sometimes medicines such as antibiotic or vitamins.  It depends on what the nurse feels is needed for the child.   Sr. Gemma has a nursing background so she assisted the nurse.  I helped weigh a few babies and dispensed some medicines.  You could tell that the mothers were so grateful to have the nurse come.
This village also had a primary school built by donors of HFVC.  I visited several of the classes.  The school is a very basic rectangle building with large black board in the front, no electricity, water or outdoor toilets.  The children go till about 12:30 pm. No afternoon classes.   I asked why and the only answer I got was the children needed to go home to eat.   The schools don’t meet the standards of the developed countries in any respect.  However, I saw many eager children ready to learn.   Progress is being made I tell myself,  just a few years ago  there was not a school here and children received no education.   Before a school is built in the village, the chief of the village and the villagers have to agree to participate in the building of the school.  The donors of HFVC furnish the financial support but the villages furnish the labor and some of the materials.  After the school is built the government takes it over and it becomes a government school.  They furnish the teachers to the school and that is about all they do.   If any maintenance is done to the school it will be done by the villagers not the government.
I did two more clinic days.  All were important visits for the prevention of childhood diseases like polio, measles, chicken pox etc.  Another bonus is the nurse is able to see how the baby is developing and talk with the mother about the health of the baby.  If the baby is seriously ill the mother is told to take the baby to the local government hospital in Kaduna.  The government hospitals have long lines of people waiting for care so you have to get there early in the morning to hopefully be seen that day.  
Sr. Rita meets with the village chiefs periodically to keep in touch with what the HFVC is doing in the villages and what progress is being made.  One day we stopped by to meet with one of the village chiefs about an upcoming meeting/workshop on ecology issues.  One of the struggles the area is facing is the cutting down of trees for firewood.  Men will go into areas and randomly cut down trees like poachers would do with wild animals.  In Nigeria as well as other countries in Africa their land laws are different than ours in the USA.  People can graze cattle on land that is not cultivated whether you own it or not.    Occasionally you will see some fences but most often the land is open range.  The tree cutters treat the trees the same way.  Unfortunately the land is becoming barren, erosion of the soil and loss of valuable trees.  When we went to the remote villages you see small trucks heading to the larger towns loaded down with wood that had been cut in the “bush” country that they will sell.   When you see the cut wood you know more trees have been cut and none replanted.  Another day we went with Sr. Rita to meet with a District Head Chief at a village.  He did speak English but was more comfortable speaking the the local language of Hausa.  One of HFVC staff who spoke Hausa fluently was the spokes person for HFVC.  The District Chief invited other men leaders to come to the meeting.  There is a certain protocol followed.    No women except Sr. Rita, Sr. Gemma, Sr. Roberta and me were present.  It reminded me how the chief of the village wields a lot of power with decision making for the villagers. He is looked up to as the “go to person” for advice and approval.  To understand Africa one must understand the tribal culture first.  At the end of the meeting we took pictures with the District Chief.    I witnessed how essential it is to walk softly and get the village chief on board to have projects succeed.  The District Chief expressed appreciation for everything that the HFVC was doing in the villages.  The HFVC is very careful about making sure the villagers/chief participate in getting the projects up and running.    On one of the clinic visits I saw that the little clinic building was painted white inside, I asked how that got done.  They said the villagers built the mud brick building than painted it too.  It was a simple building but clean and neat.   In another village a local Baptist church allowed HFVC to have the monthly clinic in the church, since they didn’t have a building.  Each village where they have  a clinic, they have a village volunteer (health assistant) who monitors the village children and talks with the mothers about health concerns.  He/she is  sort of a health educator too.  HFVC provides  training for this person.
Sr. Rita asked if I would like to go see a water well being dug.  I said, “sure I would”.    I met Emmanuel the HFVC staff person who heads up this project about 6:30 am.    He has been involved since 1999 with over 100 wells being dug.  They write a contract in the local language Hausa that outlines the responsibilities of the villagers and HFVC.    The financial cost for the HFVC for a hand dug well including the hand pump is about $1,2000.   Emmanuel ” witches” for the well and has about at 90% success rate.   I ride with him in an old Toyota pickup filled with gravel to take to the well site.  Two other HFVC helpers go along too, one fellow is the cement finisher for the well wall concrete forms .  These three men work in unison with the village men and women, it reminded me somewhat of the Amish putting up a “barn”.  When we arrived at the site, women were carrying water on their heads in big pans and plastic cans and dumping into a barrel near the well site.  The water would be used to mix the sand, gravel and cement to make concrete walls for the well.    The dimensions outlining the size of the well had been made the day before and some concrete forms had been made too.  The village men took turns digging.  Some hauled sand in a wheel barrel and others hauled the gravel.  They made a circle where sand, gravel and cement were mixed together than water added.  They mixed this by hand.  The concrete would be used for the forms for the walls of the well.  Emmanuel told me that the concrete walls would go about ¾ of the way up in the well so the well would not collapse.  I estimated the diameter of the well to be about 4 feet.  The chief of the village was there and spoke with me.  He also shared with me the need for a primary school in the village.  Presently the children walk several miles to go to primary school.  I told him I would share his concern with the person at HFVC who would come out and speak with him and access the situation.  The area was really desolate, very hot and lots of plastic bag debris.  There were several new stucco homes in the village, however, most were mud brick 2 room homes.  No electricity, no water.   The area was experiencing very dry weather, the corn or maize as they call it looked burnt.  They were waiting for the rainy season.    I was so impressed with the organization and efficiency of the water well project.  I can imagine the blessing that so many families will receive with clean drinking water. 

Another day I travel with the person from HFVC, Faith , who monitors the schools in the remote areas that were built by HFVC donors or that books were donated to the schools. She is responsible for about 30 schools.   Today we will visit two different villages.  One where books have been donated to see if they are being used.  Most of all primary education is done by writing on the blackboard by the teacher and the students copying into a notebook (exercise book) if they have one.  The teachers are not use to using any kind of text books or story books to teach the children.  The first  primary school we visited had books donated by HFVC but were not being used often.  While Faith spoke with the teachers I visited with the children.  The children are taught classes in English but of course they don’t speak it at home so their English verbal skills are minimal.  This is a very poor rural area.  There were no  school desks or benches in the one classroom, another classroom had some benches with desks.  I only saw 2 classrooms being used.  The children sat barefoot on the floor.  Most did not have a notebook or pencil to write with.  No doubt most of their parents never attended a primary school.  I took some pictures of the children and showed them the photo on my camera and they were excited about that.  They also said the ABCs for me.  I gave them a big applause.  It was difficult to leave the children.  I saw myself in them when I was a little child, eager to learn.  How lucky I was to have the Dominican Sisters teach me from grades 1-8.  And yes, we had text books and a small library of books in the front book cases of our school rooms.  Faith told me after we left the school that she gave the teachers until the following week to come up with a plan on how they were going to use the books or she would take the books and give them to a school that would use them properly.  Faith said she has done workshops with teachers on how to use books in a classroom.  However, teachers come and go at the government schools.  Since the villages are so remote it is hard to get high quality teachers to ride motorcycles out to teach at these schools.  It is much easier just to teach in the larger cities like Kaduna.
The next school we visit is much larger about 6-8 classrooms.  The teachers there have inquired about getting books from HFVC.  Faith meets with them and they seem very upbeat and enthusiastic about getting books.  I could see a big difference from this village much larger and more progressive than the previous village.  Again I was encouraged that the donors’ dollars for HFVC is spent wisely and monitored.
Another staff person at HFVC heads up working with the village women in getting small businesses started.  The hope of course is that someday they will be self  sustainable without HFVC help.  The most profitable business so far has been a storage building for grain, mostly rice and corn.  The corn and rice are stored in large bags with the owners’  name on it in a building that the varmints can’t get to. When the price of the commodity is higher in price than they sell it; previously they would sell the grain when they harvested it and of course the price would be low, because the market was over supplied. 
One of the problems is always the marketing of the products like beaded jewelry, knitted items, soap etc.  Presently they have market days in the nearby towns that they try to sell their products at.  I bought several necklaces and earrings.  HFVC helped the villagers get started with a small business with micorfinacning.  Each women has to contribute a small sum of money for the groups’ account then loans are made from that money.  The women are the ones who do the majority of the work.  I’m really not sure what the men do.  
Another important project is rickets disease. - I had the opportunity to see two children who had surgery for the disease.  What a difference in their ability to walk with straight leg as well as more self confidence.  Rickets have affected many children in several villages.  A group of German researchers are trying to find the cause of the outbreak.  They have eliminated the water as a source and are now doing more soil samples.  While I was there 3 people from Germany were visiting at the HFVC about the project.  The cost of surgery to correct the deformed limbs  (usually legs but sometimes an arm, too) is only about $500 US.  Sr. Rita said they have about 70 or more surgeries to do.  A local surgeon in Kaduna is having great results with the surgery.  A mini miracle for sure.
I also had an opportunity to see about 50 people come to the eye clinic which is held about once a month.  An optometrist with his large eye case filled with lots of lenses for testing your eye sight comes on a motorcycle. He doesn’t have one of the fancy machines that our eye physicians use.  This would be the first time these people ever had their eyes tested.  When they get glasses, you should see the smiles on their faces.  They can actually see well.
The country of Nigeria has many struggles.   The country seems to be broken.   They have the south and north divisions as well as Muslim and Christian differences.  The government spends lots of money in the capital city of Abuja on building fancy big houses, government buildings and roadways but does little for the other areas in Nigeria.  Motorcycles are all over the streets in Kaduna.  It appears almost lawless.  Sr. Rita says it is not safe to drive at night.  A business man, banker in Kaduna that  I met said the government taxes , paperwork etc is so extensive that manufacturers who might come to Nigeria to set up a business are deterred from doing so.  He said the cost of electricity would be about 40% of a manufactures expenses.  And of course you can’t depend that the electricity will be on during the day or night with any regularity.    I didn’t see one manufacturing business.  The big business  is the refinery on the outskirts of Kaduna.   The government schools are poorly staffed.  The private schools are better but struggle too.   Jobs are few.  Nigeria like many of the other African countries has lots of natural resources including oil.  But the problem always stems back to the government and its misuse of funds and lack of leadership to give the citizens an opportunity to get jobs and be self sufficient.  Without a manufacturing base, I don’t see how they will progress.  I’m struck by so many people living in poverty.  It is a harsh existence.  Lots of pollution in the air and a dusty haze.  Everything in the home is convered with dust, floors, curtains, furniture, etc.  You would have to dust several times a day to have a really clean environment.  People just get used to it.
I leave the Hope for the Village Child mission and Sr. Rita with thoughts of what great strides they have made to assist the rural people. Your donor dollars are wisely spent.  I thank Sr. Rita and the HFVC staff for allowing me to shadow them and learn and witness so much.  They are truly earth angels.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Christian Foundation For Children and Aging, Kenya, Africa

Sunday, Feb. 20 to Tuesday, March 1st, 2011   Kenya,

What a wonderful Mission awareness week.  I wish you could have traveled
with me;  I know in spirit many of you were there.  I arrived at the
Nairobi airport about 9 pm on Sunday, Feb. 20th and the CFCA staff was there
to greet me and others arriving from the states.  They held up a big sign
saying, CFCA with big smiles, and a warm welcome in deed.  We had a total of
17 who were sponsors of children from the states of (North Carolina,
California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maine, Colorado, Kansas, Indiana,
Illinois, and New Jersey) who were my traveling companions for the week.  Our
ages ranged from 82 years young to about 30 years old.  A lovely diverse
group, the best traveling companions’ one could ever want.  Stacy who was
part of our group was a representative from the CFCA office headquarters in
Kansas City, Kansas.  The local Kenya CFCA staff took care of us with
graciousness and kindness.

Some of the sponsors arrived earlier in the week to
or came that afternoon.  We didn’t check in to our lodging at the Rosa
Mystica Spiritual Center until about midnight.  We were all tired and especially the folks from the states who had jet lag.  All the sponsors met each other the next morning along with the CFCA Kenya staff. 

During morning orientation, Peter who heads up the CFCA Kenya staff gave us
an over view of the projects CFCA is involved in and introduced us to some
of the staff from the different departments.  Amos, the youth coordinator, led
us in several songs and we got a flavor of the beautiful African music and
dancing too.
A highlight of the day was the meeting of our sponsored children.  My sponsored
child is Jaysie and she will be 12 years old next month.  I have been sponsoring her
for about 2 years.  Her mother, Judy accompanied her.  It was a great
meeting of sponsors with children and their families.  Several of the
sponsor’s children were older teens; they have been sponsoring them for as
long as 10 years.  One young man is now in Nairobi University doing very
After lunch we went outside and got to know each other better.  Jaysie is a
shy young girl but very bright and speaks and writes English well as does
her mother, Judy.    All the sponsors brought small gifts to give to their
sponsored child.   I also had a gift for Jaysie’s mother.  
There was a shopping center in walking distance that had an ice cream
parlor, plus lots of stores.  In the afternoon we walked over to the
shopping center with two social workers from CFCA who monitor Jaysie’s
progress, and Jaysie and her mother.  I treated them to ice cream and we
called it a” girls day out  shopping..”  Jaysie has two younger sisters and
one younger brother.  There was a department type store in the shopping
center so I asked the social worker if I could buy a small gift for Jaysie’s
siblings,  she said that would be fine.  I had Jaysie pick out a small gift for
each of them to take home
We walked back to Rosa Mystica and said good bye for the day.  Jaysie and
her mother, Judy had about 2 hours to go by local bus home, changing buses 3
times.  We would meet them the next day at the Nairobi Arboretum for a
morning of games and a picnic.    Jaysie’s mother said they didn’t get to
bed until after midnight because the children were so excited about their
gifts and wanted to play with them.   Judy, Jaysie’s mother was wearing my
gift of a light weight crocheted sweater, scarf and sandals.    Jaysie
brought me a gift of a locally made purse and bracelet.  How thoughtful and
generous of them.
We had a fun morning of “kid’s games” but all the adults participated too,
including a three legged race, jump rope and singing and dancing.   The
arboretum morning was a great way to mix together and enjoy our time
together.   We also had short talks from some older sponsored children who
were in university telling the younger ones and the sponsors how CFCA
sponsorship helped them.  It was very touching to see the potential being
  I took Jaysie over to one of the young women who is in university
and introduced her to Jaysie.  I said, “Jaysie this will be you in the
.”  Her mother told me that some of the monthly sponsorship
donations I send through CFCA are being used to send Jaysie to a private
school because many of the public schools have 75 to a 100 students in a
classroom and the teachers are not well trained..  She was so thankful for
Jaysie’s sponsorship.  I was overwhelmed thinking my small donation each
month is providing this family with so much hope and a brighter future.  Jaysie’s,
mother brought pictures of the entire family with her to show me, including
her husband, Robert the children’s father.A very nice family.

We said our final good byes!!!  They asked me if I would return to visit
them.  I said, “I will leave it up to the Lord.”  I told them I sponsored a
young boy in Guatemala and plan to visit him the year he graduates from high
school which will be around 2013.   If God is willing I might be able to return
to see Jaysie go off to University.  We had tears in our eyes of joy.  I
thought of them as they left to get on the bus to return to their home,
wondering if I might get to see them again.   With Skype maybe that can be
arranged in the future, presently CFCA does not offer that to the sponsors. 
Our communication is done through written letters and pictures about once a
quarter.  I found out how important the letters and pictures are to the
sponsored children and aged, so I will be more conscientious in the future
with writing promptly

In the afternoon we toured the small CFCA headquarters in Nairobi.  They
showed us how they keep each child’s record, finances etc.  Presently a lot
is done by hand but they plan to convert a great deal of the record keeping
to computer in the future.   The social workers have anywhere from 200 to
275 sponsored children or aged as their clients.  To keep track of each of
these sponsorships is an amazing task.  I felt very comfortable when I left
the CFCA offices that money wasn’t being spent foolishly on lavish offices
or furniture.  Very modest in deed.      

After dinner we all packed and repacked for our next CFCA visits which would
be for 6 days in outlying areas.   Our little gray bus and our capable
driver, Richard and CFCA staff, Stephen, Amos, and Regina from Nairobi would
be traveling with us.  We had become a CFCA family.  They had to load our
luggage on the top of the bus.  So it mean’t lifting it up and taking it
down several times in the next 6 days.  The guys were great in handling it
On, Wednesday, Feb. 23rd we headed out of Nairobi for about 3 hours on some
paved roads but also some that were under construction.  Our driver, Richard
had a lot of work ahead of him with motorcycles, bicycles, big buses and
trucks on the road, plus pedestrians walking on the shoulder of the road..
The Nairobi weather was very nice, warm and sunny but cooler at night.  However,
as we journeyed to Nakuru the heat began plus lots of dusty roads.   We got
to Nakuru about noon and just dropped off our luggage and went to the
restroom.  Our next stop was to have lunch with some of the sponsored CFCA
community of ladies.  These ladies may or may not have a child or aged that
is sponsored by CFCA but they are helped in some way by an extended family
member who might be sponsored.  Also CFCA is working with Mother’s/Women’s
groups to aid them in micro financing to start small businesses; such as
raising chickens to sell eggs.
After we left our hotel in Nakuru we headed out on small dusty rutted roads
like cow paths in the country, the little gray bus was having a hard time
trying to go over all the bumps, ditches etc.  What you really needed was an
army jeep or caterpillar.  We didn’t really know what to expect.  We thought
we were just going to meet some nice ladies and have lunch.    After about
an hour or so bumping around on the bus a little tired and hungry here we
see a group of ladies on a hill singing and dancing welcoming us.  It is a
scene that I will never forget.  Out in no man’s land these wonderful ladies
dressed in beautiful African dresses in the bright sun waiting for us with
open arms.  They had prepared a homemade luncheon for us.  Lots of wonderful
local dishes including mutton, fermented milk, rice, beans, ugali, chicken,
salad, fruits and more.  I tried a little of everything.  They brought
pillows for us to sit on under trees for shade.  How they got all this food
in big pots carried up to this spot I don’t know.  But I am sure it was all
hand carried for miles by these ladies.    After we went through the buffet
line then the ladies ate.  I walked around and tried to shake every ladies
hand and thank them for the wonderful food and hospitality.  We took
pictures together with them.  I thought of my mother and her lady friends
from the farming community of Willowdale, Kansas.   How much sacrifice and
hard work they would do for others.

After lunch we visited one of the sponsored children’s home in the country
and saw the chickens that were part of the micro financing business.  The chickens were
really healthy looking and kept in clean quarters.  The mud brick home was 2
rooms, living room and another room for bedroom.  I’m sure some people sleep
in the living room too.  Much of the cooking is done outside on charcoal
fires.  Of course there is no electricity or running water.  I do remember
seeing a hand water pump which was wonderful to see.  At least they have
clean water.  Most often a water pump is shared by many families.     *It
was a day to never be forgotten.** * We said good bye to these lovely
ladies.  On the way back we had to get out of the bus so it could maneuver
up a hill, our weight was too much for it.
When we got back to the hotel in Nakuru someone cleaned the hall floors and
steps which were like linoleum and they put oil on them to make it shine.   
Well it was like a skating rink, it is only by God’s graces that one of us
didn’t fall.   I proceeded down to the bar and had a cold local beer, Tusker
lager.  It was very tasty.  We had dinner at the hotel and went to bed
early.  We were leaving tomorrow morning at 5:45 am for Lake Nakuru National
Park for an animal safari.  We saw rhinos, baboons, gazelles, African
buffalo, storks, flamingos and more.  We all enjoyed the safari and headed
back about 10 am for a late breakfast then bags to the bus to be loaded for
our journey to Kisumu which is about a 3-4 hour drive.    We stopped half
way on the journey in Kericho at the Kericho Tea Hotel which is located on a
tea plantation for a late lunch.  You could see that this at one time was a
grand place but no maintenance had been done for years.  The same situation
in Kenya as in Tanzania, maintenance of buildings, roads, grounds, plumbing,
and electricity is not done.
We arrived at our next place to stay in Nakura, Santa Anna’s Center.  Here I
shared a room with Karen from New Jersey.  She was a great room mate.    Santa
Anna’s was in need of a new cleaning crew.    No AC of course, but we did
have a wall fan that we put on plus used our mosquito nets.  The first night
we took cool showers, but they managed to fix the hot water and we had warm
showers the following days.
On Friday, February 25th we meet the and Bondo (Bon) project office
staff and sponsored families.  Lucy heads up this project with the able help
of Lawrence and other staff.     As our bus pulls up to an area a band of
young men are welcoming us.  They are dressed in professional band uniforms
but lack the normal band instruments that our USA students would have.  But
it didn’t matter, they had a drum some cymbals and plastic made to do
instruments, and performed for us with skill.  Some of the band members were
sponsored children.   If anyone has contacts with school band/students who
might be buying new instruments and would like to donate their instruments
this would be a great place to do it.  I think of all the musical
instruments that are sitting in people’s garages, basements or closets not
being used.
The day was spent in celebration of our arrival to their area.  We had lunch
prepared by the women’s groups, reading of poetry by children, singing by
children lots of dancing by everyone including all of us.  We had a large
tent so that kept us from getting sun burnt.  The ladies made us all “straw
hats”.  How nice of them.  There were about 300 people in attendance.  Lynn
and Terri of our group who are both choir members in their respective
parishes each sang a hymn as a thank you.  They did us proud.  It was also
very special to meet some of the aged who are sponsored by CFCA.   I talked
to many of the children that are sponsored and spent some time visiting with
two bright young ladies who are in high school.  One of them is on a tennis
team and is able to travel to different areas of Africa playing tennis.  I
asked her how she got on the team; this is not with the school she goes to. 
This is sponsored by a private group.  She said she tried out for the team
and was chosen.  I thought what a wonderful way for her to be able to expand
her knowledge and meet people in different places.  So often the young
people in Africa never get out of their immediate area unless they go to a
University or are fortunate enough to go to a boarding school. Most of their
parents do not own cars and cannot afford for them to travel.

It was a great day!!!  Thanks Kisumu CFCA.
The next day we traveled in our bus to another remote area called Bondo town
about 2 hours over dusty road construction roads.  We had to shut and close
the bus windows constantly.  It became a joke.  Lawrence from the Bon
project would shout “close the windows” when we were coming upon dirt roads
with flying dust, then when we would past the area he would shout, “open the
windows”.  He knew every little detail about the roads including upcoming
speed bumps.   We stopped on the way to visit Kit-Mikayi archaeological
site:  This rock formation dates back to pre-Christian times.  Most of us
climbed to the top of the formation.  After that we made several home visits
to sponsored children families.  All the homes very modest with mud floors,
clean and no electricity, running water etc.   Seeing some of the families’
homes is a big eye opener for most of us.  We also visited the Bon project
offices.  Again very modest.

It is hard to believe but it is Sunday, Feb. 27th.  After Mass we head for
about one hour to Ahero town to another CFCA project called Nyando.  This
area has sugar cane farming as a major source of income for the region.  Many
people are subsistence farmers.    We meet several sponsored families in our
home visits and also meet an aged who is sponsored by CFCA in her home.   We
meet about 25 women who are in the mother’s/women’s groups.  I walked with
one of the women and she told me that the group recently bought a big
outdoor tent to rent for income and they want to buy plastic chairs also to
rent.  They each have to give 100 Kenyan shillings a month to the group as
part of their micro financing project.  That would be about $1.20 in USA
dollars.  We also saw a goat project that the women are involved in of
selling goat milk.  I held hands with these wonderful women, wishing them
God’s blessings.  They felt like sisters to me.  Very welcoming, generous
ladies who work hard to provide for their families.  Many of children in
this area have experienced HIV deaths of both parents.  So they have
guardians, older sisters/brothers and grandparents who take care of the
smaller children.   The women give us a basket of gifts, mangos and honey
from their bee project.  The aged lady who is a CFCA sponsored gave 2 clay
pots for cooking and a gourd to our members.  What a generous gesture.
We had a full day and will head back to Nairobi tomorrow morning.   Back to
repacking the bags.

Monday, Feb. 28th is a day of travel back to the Rosa Mystica Center in
Nairobi and a clean room with hot water.  Yippy!!!It is about a 6-8 hour
ride.  We will stop at the hotel Kunste that had the slippery floors for
lunch which is about midway.  Some of the group bought really nice in
expensive gift items in the gift shop there.  So I thought I might browse
for a few things.  I found some inexpensive jewelry.  One of our group,
Lydia who grew up in Kenyan but now lives in California was a great
bargainer.  So before anyone made a substantial purchase they would get
Lydia to do the negotiations.  Also Regina from the CFCA office in Nairobi
helped with the purchases.  Many of our group bought beautiful baskets and
sisal purses.  Very artistic and colorful.   Lots of beautiful carved wooden
After dinner we had a final reflection time together and a trip review.

Tuesday, March 1st is our final day in Nairobi.  After breakfast the group
heads out to the Mathare Valley subproject for CFCA.  It is about a mile
away from Nairobi downtown.  The area has about 800,000 people living in the
second largest slum in Nairobi.   Lynn from Florida sponsors a child who
lives in this area.  I elected to stay back and work on my pictures to
download for my St. Joseph Girls Hostel mission.  Unfortunately after about
2 hours I had to give up on the project.  Using land line to download about
90 photos and emailing them is a challenge. Many Kenyans live behind walled
structures with security guards around the clock.
We had lunch at the Center then most of us headed out to the Giraffe Center
in a very exclusive area of Nairobi.   Beautiful trees and landscaping.   It
would be like a country club area in the USA.  You can see that Nairobi is
very cosmopolitan town with the real wealthy and then the very poor.  I’m
sure there is a middle class too.  I was told the land is very expensive in
Nairobi and the cost of living very high.
At the Giraffe center we got to feed the giraffes and learn more about the
three types of Giraffes in Kenya.  It was a nice outing.
Kenya is a beautiful country.  It appears to have a higher standard of
living than Tanzania.  The agricultural areas are more cultivated.  I saw
more tractors in Kenya than I saw in Tanzania.  Kenya is suffering from lack
of water at the present time. They grow lots of roses for exporting to
Europe.    English and Swahili are the national languages.  However, in the
more remote areas you will find them speaking first in their “tribal
language”.  So many Kenyans speak three languages, Swahili, English and
their tribal language. 
We had an early dinner about 6 pm at the center then boarded the bus, bags
on top of the bus for the Nairobi Airport.  Most of the group was heading
backing to the USA on flights leaving about 11pm.  My flight to Abuja,
Nigeria didn’t leave until 3:30 am but I went with the group because it was
too far for them to take me later.   After I checked in about 10 pm I met up
with Lynn and John from California and Terri from Colorado.  We had a beer
and wine together before their flights took off about midnight.  John and
Lynn were going through Dubai and changing planes and Terri was going to
Sweden on business then back to Colorado later in the week.
It was definitely a memorable 10 days.  I would recommend anyone who wants
to see how your donation dollars are spent with CFCA to take a mission
awareness week.
Thanks CFCA staff for a job well done. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Greetings from Kaduna Nigeria

Hello to all.

I am just sending a short blog because of the limited internet connection I have.  I am behind in posting to my blog and I apologize for that....the access to computers to download pictures and post is very limited.  I tried desperately in Nairobi, Kenya; but after 2 hours of work I had to give up.  I am trying now to download photos from St. Joseph Hostel in Songea, Tanzania. I am at a cyber office but the electricity went out so now they are using a generator to keep us connected.

Briefly my week in Kenya with the the awareness mission week of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging was such an eye opener.  I left Kenya with a new perspective of what one person can do to help someone.  I met my sponsored child, Jaysie and her mother.  It was heart warming to know so little of a donation can go so far to bring a brighter future to a child, aged and their families.

I am having a wonderful stay with Sr. Rita in Kaduna, Nigeria.  I arrived on Wednesday late afternoon.  A special addition was having Sr. Jemma (from western Kansas) and Sr. Roberta (from Ohio) who are in Ohio at the Dominican "headquartes" visiting Nigeria.  They will be leaving for the USA later today.  Sr. Rita and her staff are doing marvelous work here.  I will write a blog later with details on the CFCA Mission Awareness Week in Kenya  and my present week at the  Hope for the Village Child mission.

I will journey to Ghana later in the week.  Hopefully I can do some blog posting this week.

I appreciate those of you for blogging and emailing me.  It is good to hear from you.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

St. Joseph Hostel Songea, Tanzania


It was hard to leave Manyoni. The sisters, students and teachers made me feel like I was part of their family. But leave, I must on Thursday, Feb. 10th early in the morning for a car drive to Dodomo about 1 ½ hours on a good paved highway. I will take a bus to another town named Morogro about 5 hour bus ride and stay overnight in Morogro at the Adorers retreat/conference center. Sr. Rosemary picked me up by cab, it was about a 15 minute ride. We had a little lunch together than I took a short nap before we walked to a near by Carmelite priests’ chapel for holy hour. Some sisters who I had met in Merlini Center in Dar also arrived in the afternoon. It was good to see familiar faces and meet more wonderful Adorers.

I spied a small hot water heater in the bathroom in my room. I thought wow what a treat, a hot shower tonight. Well, not to be so…after dinner the electricity and water went out. Sr. Rosemary left a pail of water at my door so at least I could wash up a little. That is the way it is in Africa…so you just accept and go on. Morogro has a beautiful mountain range in the distance and tends to be cooler than Dar es Salaam or Manyoni. Sr. Rosemary told me we should leave by 6:30 am for the bus station. The bus started in Dar es Salaam at 6:00 am and the first stop would be Morogro. The bus ride would be about 10 hours long. The Sisters purchased a bus ticket for me in Dar to make sure I would have a seat. Sometimes the bus is completely filled when it arrives in Morogro. I got a ticket with a seat assignment.
When I boarded the bus another lady had my seat and would not give it up. A lady in a full burka, you could only see her eyes invited me to sit next to her, which I did. She spoke some English so we had a nice visit on our journey to Songea. She told me about some of the Islam customs and she read for a while out of her Koran. Friday is the Islam’s day of observance.

The bus was very old and looked liked something from the 50’s, no air conditioning and dirty, but the scenery was wonderful. It was mountainous as we rode through a national park. I saw a mother elephant with her baby taking shade under a tree. The terrain was a combination of Tennessee, Kentucky, parts of Florida and the mountains in Pennsylvania. Most of the area is all small plots of farms, with lots of pineapple, pears, mangos, tobacco, rice, corn, and other vegetables. I saw 3 tractors on the entire journey. All the fields are cultivated by a hand hoe. Water is very scarce. I keep looking for water pumps as we go through small farm villages, but I don’t see any. Just women and children carrying pails of water from dirty rivers. The roads on this journey are in need of repair. It is a two lane road with lots of hills, winding roads and very narrow. Buses and trucks know no speed restrictions…they go as fast as they can. The only thing that slows them down are very big speed bumps in the small villages. It is like riding a roller coaster at 6 Flags park, but much more dangerous.

Tanzania appears to have a wealth of farm land to be cultivated. I don’t understand the ownership system with land and why more of it isn’t cultivated. Of course you need machinery to cultivate large plots of land. The farmer just gets enough from his land to feed his family and purchase a little extra food. There is no way to get ahead the way the farming is done now. I did see a few large plots of land, one was with pineapple but I did not see a sign indicating Dole, like you see in Costa Rica. I could never get an answer from anyone about the farming system.

The farm houses along the bus ride are typical of what I have seen before. Mud brick homes, very small, cut out holes for windows, no electricity, no running water, and dirt all around. No lawns or flowers around the homes, a very dismal sight. I saw children of all ages in uniforms going to school, both private and public, so maybe this is where the hope lies for Tanzania. I have been told that the public education system for primary and secondary is really pretty poor.  For days some teachers don’t show up for classes and the headmaster does little.

I arrived in Songea at 8pm on Friday.  Sr. Jackie was at the bus stop to meet me with a cab. Songea is like the old wild west, fairly wide downtown streets mostly dirt with little shops along the way, no sidewalks. Everyone is selling a little bit of everything from food to pots and pans, to auto parts, and of course all the fresh foods, including meat hanging with flies around it.  For the next week my home is with Sr. Jackie, (American, Ohio) Sr. Malathi (India) and Sr. Nilza (Brazil) all of the St. Joseph Congregation.

The St. Joseph Hostel is for girls mostly high school age. They live at the hostel and walk to school in Songea. Some go to private and some go to public school. Most of the girls are from the surrounding Songea area. At the present there are 46 girls. The hostel is built to accommodate up to 60.  Twenty six of the girls have sponsorship from some friends of the St. Joseph sisters in Italy. These are girls who have done well in primary school but don’t have the fees for school, parents are very poor. Some live in houses with dirt floors. The hostel is God sent. The girls get 3 meals a day, a very nice new building, with bedrooms (4 to a bedroom) modern toilets, and showers. Plus classrooms to do home work and also for remedial classes. Most of the girls had to be taught how to use the bathroom fixtures. Flushing a toilet was new to them.

Sr. Jackie and Sr. Nilza have most of the daily responsibility of the girls. Sr. Malathi teaches in a local primary school. It is called the St. Jospeh Primary School but does not have any connections to the St. Joseph Hostel. Sr. Jackie and Sr. Nilza teach English and other courses to the girls in the evening and on weekends. They want the girls to get the best grades possible so they can continue with their education. They also bring in part time teachers for math and science. On my last night at the hostel, I went to say goodbye to the girls. In the dining room a girl who is doing very well in chemistry and would be equivalent to a junior in high school was teaching a class for the younger students. The students had their hands up asking questions and very attentive. It brought tears to my eyes, to see such dedication in a dimly lighted room, with only a black board and chalk and notebooks to copy the information, no text books, no audio visuals. The hostel uses solar, but on rainy days no sun, so very dim at night.

The sisters live across the street from the hostel, a matron comes about 6 pm each night and stays to about 6:30 am. The girls leave for school starting at 6:30 am. They walk from 30 minutes to an hour to school. At night the matron is not there, Sr. Jackie or Sr. Nilza stays at the hostel. The Sisters house is an older building with few modern conveniences to speak of …they have no running hot water. If you want hot water, you heat it. Cool showers are the name of the day. All wash is done by hand and hung on the clothes lines.

The sisters are wonderful!!!! They are really missionaries in the true sense of the word. I know the girls are too young to appreciate the sacrifices that the sisters make for them…but when they are adults they will look back to this experience and I’m sure will be grateful. My two aunts, Sr. Emma and Sr. Lillian who were St. Joseph Sisters would be so proud of the Sisters and what they are doing for these girls and parents.
I spent some time with the girls just visiting and also studying with them. I taught a geography lesson by explaining where I came from in the USA and my route to Africa and where I was going after I left Tanzania. Sr. Jackie had just purchased a world atlas.  I had them find all the places I have traveled. They thought that was quite fun. They were anxious to point out different countries and cities on the map.

On Saturday evening they did a special dance and music for me, with drums. It was really fun.
I asked Sr. Jackie what I could do for a special treat for the girls. We decided on buying sodas and popcorn in a big bag that is popped fresh in town. The girls were so happy and very thankful of my little gift to them.
I went with Sr. Malathi to the grade school on Monday and visited her classes and taught a little geography too. We went by "picky picky", that is a motorcycle. I rode on one and Sr. Malathi rode with another driver. The roads are treacherous and no stop lights in Songea. But we made it safe and sound. Thanks to St. Joseph.

The girls are given a variety of responsibilities including, doing their own laundry by hand, ironing, cleaning rooms, bathrooms, classrooms, gardening, and grounds keeping. Plus dining room responsibilities. It is great training for them to become ladies who can manage a household of their own.

I made dinner for the sisters one evening and invited two priests near by and another Brazilian businessman who sponsors one of the girls and is always ready to lend a helping hand to the sisters. We had a nice evening together. I learned how to saute chicken with a wood fire in the stove.

The sisters are up early and don’t usually retire until about 11 pm. They know the girls well and really act as their parents. Can you imagine having 46 girls in your house?

The hostel is in need of some things to help the girls learn English better and other subjects. As well as recreational equipment such as maybe a bad minton set etc.  I will make a list of needs with Sr. Jackie’s help and share it when I get back home.

My stay at the St. Joseph Hostel was wonderful. I gained a better perspective of what special people there are in the world like Sr. Jackie, Sr. Malathi and Sr. Nilza. God Bless them and the work they do daily for the girls and their parents.

I left Songea at 6 am on Friday for the 14 hour journey back to Dar Es Salaam. It was a more modern bus but a very wild ride. A man even had a box of live chickens on the bus. We only made one restroom stop and that was for 10 minutes. The other break was on the side of the road, but I declined to get off. I didn’t drink much water. The sisters sent me with hard boiled egg. homemade bread and cake that Sr. Nilza made, yummy.

After I arrived at the big bus station in Dar Es Salaam, I noticed 6 goats being taken off another bus from the storage area beneath the bus. How did those goats survive in heat and diesel fuel?  The Adorers sisters from the Merlini Center picked me up and I stayed with them Friday and Saturday night.
They brought me to the airport this morning (Sunday) for a flight to Nairobi at 11 am but the flight had problems so my flight is now going tonight about 8:30 pm. I will be joining the other people from the USA in Nairobi for a mission awareness week with the Christian Foundation of Children and Aging.

I will download pictures of the Mission of St. Joseph Hostel in Songea later when I can use the computer for a longer period of time.

My experience so far has been so educational and I am so grateful for the fact that I was born in America. The people of Tanzania have been wonderful to me. I now leave Tanzania for Kenya.

Blessings to all of you,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Greetings from Manyoni, Tanzania

I traveled to Manyoni  from Dodoma the headquarters in Tanzania for the Adorers last Thursday, Feb. 3rd.  I went by car with one of the sisters and their driver.  It took about 1 ½ hrs on a well paved two lane highway. 

There are approximately 15 sisters at Manyoni in Singida region of Tanzania.  The sisters work in different ministries like catechetical, parish work, nursery school, teaching in schools and health services. 

Amani Teachers - Happy Teachers make Happy Students
I am staying with the sisters at the Amani Girls Secondary School (Amani means Peace in Swahili).  There are about 8 sisters here.  Some teach in the girl’s school several do health care work.  The sisters have a sister’s home on the property, plus garden and also a separate building for aspirants who are in studies to possibly become a sister.
The girl’s school is a boarding school for approximately 260 girls from within about 150 miles of Manyoni.  Some come further away.  The girls live in dormitories some large with 50 bunk beds in one room others maybe 20-25 bunk beds. They are very modest rooms.  For 50 girls their might be only 3 toilets which would include a shower, sink and toilet in one room.  There are no closets.  Each girl has a small suitcase, towel and blanket for their things they keep on their bed.  Extra clothes are kept in a store room in a metal type suitcase.  The girls wear a brown pleated skirt, white blouse and cardigan sweater.  Black shoes and white socks.  When school is over they change into a T-Shirt and a different skirt sometimes.  No slacks are worn.   The toilets are what you call Asian style with a hole in the floor.  Not a sit down toilet.  Often when we think of boarding schools we think of luxury.  This is not luxury but adequate for the girls.  Most of these girls do not come from wealthy parents.  But parents who want to see that their daughters get an education.  The fees for one complete year (two semesters) from January to December 1st are 1 million Tanzania shillings that include board and room, uniform and books.  Some of the parents can’t pay the entire fees so the sisters try to get donors to help sponsor the girls.
There are 14 teachers including 4 sisters and the rest lay teachers.  They teach the typical things we do in secondary school, math, physics, chemistry, history, geography etc.  The classes are taught in English (British accent) so I have a difficult time sometimes in understanding them and they me.  But we manage. 

Most of the instruction by the teachers is done with blackboard/whiteboard.  They do not have one audio visual equipment…no projectors, DVD’s etc.  The computer teacher has computers about 30-40 none of them have internet access.  He does not have power point to give them instructions on Word, Excel etc.  He has to go from student to student or uses a whiteboard.  Very difficult as you can imagine.

All the teachers are in need of a lap top that they can use with power point and project on the walls for instruction.  Of course they need the ability to show DVD’s that are pertinent to their subject.  For instance, I was invited by one of the History teachers to speak on World I.  The students had never seen a film on World War I.  Hard to imagine.

I also taught English in Form 1 and Form 4 class.  I discussed where I was from and how our typical USA high school student might be like, differences and similarities.  

There is only one internet connection for the entire school in the principal’s office.  It is a land line. 

The Adorers came to Manyoni in 1969 and started providing education to the children without selection.  They first established a home craft school for girls who lived in the little town of Manyoni and the villages in the surrounding area of Manyoni.  Later they established the secondary school according to the needs of the time.  The secondary school is a 4 years, Form I through Form 4.  In Tanzania the high school is a 6 year program.  So when the girls finish here at Amani then they will go back to their homes and hopefully most of them will pursue 2 more years so they can go on to college.

The Adorers are in the planning stage of seeking to build a school near by where they have some land for a school that would include Form 1 through Form 6 then the girls would be ready to pursue college if they passed the national exam.   The school here is not large enough to house more girls for Form 5 and 6.  The school here would continue but would have more vocational courses.  Presently they offer tailoring as a vocational course.  I spent one morning with the students in tailoring teaching English.  We had a great time.  The girls have a very good sense of humor.  They can read English quite well but speaking it…they are very shy.  Of course the problem is like any foreign language you have to speak it to become fluent.  The problem as I see it is that they speak in their mother tongue Swahili when they talk to each other so only converse in class with the teacher in English..  That is also a problem with the teachers; they revert back to talking to each other in Swahili.  The reason English is encouraged in fact required is that if they want to go on to college they will have to be proficient in English.  All classes are taught in English.

The class day begins at 8:00 am and ends at 3:10 pm.  The girls have one delapated outdoor basket ball court that needs resurfacing badly.  They have a volley ball field which they like playing very much.  Their PE courses are really don’t exist as we have them in the USA.  I know the girls like physical activity.  Hopefully in the future they could have more PE like tennis and softball.  The weather is conducive to playing sports outside all year.  They do not have a track or stadium.

I could go on and on but will just a few additional points:

Library very very limited only a few books, no audio visuals, no librarian, books locked up and students must go to secretary to check out or use a book…
Laboratory for biology etc…very very very limited most teaching by theory because they don’t have materials for experiments
Teachers need laptop with power point for instruction desperately
Teachers need better access to internet for their research and lesson planning
Students need a language lab in the library for developing better English skills (ear phones with computer etc)
Library needs a TV with educational DVD’s for all subject areas taught
Library needs lots of books relevant to the subjects taught as well as novels etc.
The students have one TV in the dining room which acts as their common room. Their is no recreation area.  They are allowed about 1 or 2 hours of viewing on Saturday.  A large screen with a projector for showing DVD’s and some TV programs would be a special treat.

The students are not allowed to have cell phones, radios, mp 3 players etc.

The dormitories need some very needed renovation and maintenance. The school buildings have deteriorated due to long period of use without adequate repair.  This seems to be a problem in maintenance.  Electric and plumbing repair is badly needed.  One of the problems is that there are no local craftsman in this area who can do electric and plumbing.  You must remember that many of the rural homes do not have electricity or running water.  They carry water for miles to their home in plastic large jugs.

The school is fortunate to have good running water.

The pictures are an array of photos in no certain order.  But all from the Manyoni area.

On Sunday, Sr. Lucina and I went with one of the Precious Blood priests, Fr. Geofray from the local parish about 6 blocks from the school to two outlying little villages.  The priests 3 of them minister to the parish here in Manyoni and 23 outlying (stations).  They might get to each (station) once a month.  The people in the village are so grateful to have the priest come to say Mass and be with them in prayer.  It was a wonderful experience going over dirt roads in the priest old Toyota pickup some roads are like cow paths.  We left at 8:30 am and returned to the sister’s home about 2:30 pm.  The villages were about 5-15 miles away.  I only saw one other car on the road during our travels to the villages.  Most people walk and some have bicycles and just a few motor scooters.  Neither of the two villages have a water pump.  People must walk miles and miles to a dirty river to get water.  I saw two women carrying 5-10 gallon jugs on their head.  I asked father what they are carrying, he shouted out to the women and they said water.  I thought it might be grain of some type.  I said a prayer for those women.  How strong and courageous are these women.  Another women walked by caring a little baby on her back covered with a shawl.  Father spoke with her in Swahili and then interpreted the conversation to m e.  She had come about 8 miles trying to get help for her baby who was vomiting.  She came to this little village because there is a maternity center there.  However, it was Sunday and the nurse was not in the center.  So she went to look for the nurse in the village.  I never saw the women again.  My hope was that she was able to find help for the baby.  It seems impossible at times that life is so difficult for some.

The Adorers have next door a Day Hospital would be like an outpatient clinic. They do deliveries as well as take care of out patient type of illnesses.  There is a public hospital several blocks away.  However, I’ve told it is not a very good hospital.  Unfortunately the Day hospital does not have x-ray but does have a lab.  A doctor comes and goes.  At the time I don’t believe they have a full time doctor.  One of the sisters, Sr. Delfina who is a midwife goes to the Day Hospital each day.  When I was at the hospital on Saturday she was attending to two patients adult women with malaria who was getting IV’s.  She would be there for 3 days and a small child about 1 year old possibly with malaria.  Sr. Delfina is Italian and has been here for many years.  She speaks fluent Swahili but little English.

The sisters take turns cooking each day for themselves.  They make very tasty food all fresh.  No recipe books, just simple dishes.  Typically rice, potatoes, red beans, a Chinese leaf vegetable that is similar tasting to our spinach, sweet potatoes that taste some what like ours but are white in color, bananas, mangoes, pineapple, porridge, stiffen porridge millet hot cereal, cumbers, okra, onions, garlic.  They usually only use salt for seasoning.
They usually only have meat on Sunday and Monday.

I ask them if I could make a dinner for them and they said yes.  So yesterday with the help of Sr. Lucy and Sr. Basilisa, I made Chicken Vesuvius, fresh carrots, potatoes with the chicken baked, salad of fresh green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers (they do not use dressing) so I made some with oil, vinegar, salt and oregano.  Then for dessert fresh pineapple with fruit smoothie and fresh coconut and cheese.  The sisters enjoyed the dinner and it was fun to prepare it with the sisters.

The sisters begin their day with prayer at 6:00 am then Mass and don’t eat their dinner meal till about 7:30 pm.  On weekends they might take a siesta in the heat of the day but during the week they are all busy with their projects.

Tomorrow I leave Manyoni for my journey to the next mission in Songea, Tanzania.  It will take me 2 days to get to Songea.  A bus ride about 14 hours.  I will be visiting with the St. Joseph Hostel for Girls.  A small school of about 60 girls from rural area that live at the school.

I’ve enjoyed my stay with these lovely sisters, teachers and students.  Everyone welcomes you with a kind smile and a handshake. 

I’m sorry that the post have been infrequent but computer is limited as well as the electricity almost goes off daily sometimes for 5 hours.  Tanzania is experiencing very dry weather with a reduction of water generator electricity.

If any of you reading this blog have extra laptop for power point use please keep Amani Girls Secondary School in mind.  I can give you more specifics on a needs list when I get back to the USA in April. 

Blessings to all,