As I mentioned in last week's blog post, one of Fred's new projects is to work in local villages to advocate for equal treatment for people with albinism (PWA). As I mentioned a few months ago when our family went to serve at a camp for kids with albinism, the life of PWA in Tanzania is very hard. Along with the physical ramifications of albinism--sensitivity to the sun, susceptibility to skin cancer, eye problems--there are many psychological and emotional attacks as well. Albinism is not well understood here, so families often reject children who are born with albinism or neighbors threaten them with violence. They are mistreated in their communities and live in fear of the black market for the body parts of the "ghosts."
Fred is starting the "Watu Kama Sisi" or "People Like Us" program in Mwanza, funded by Mennonite Central Committee, to reduce violence against PWA. One of his first items of business was to meet with the local chapter leadership for the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS). After one meeting, he came away feeling that he had met kindred spirits. The leaders of TAS have suffered much in their lives, including being taken advantage of by potential donors who use their photos to raise money, but never come back to help the community. In spite of all this, they shared openly with Fred and helped him make connections to begin his work in areas most affected by violence and misunderstanding toward PWA.
June 13th is International Albinism Day, and Tanzania is having a huge event this year featuring the extremely popular new president, John Magufuli. The event is in Dar es Salaam, on the exact opposite side of the country from us. The leaders of the Mwanza chapter of Tanzania Albinism Society would love to go represent their community and join hands with their brothers and sisters from around the country. Fred gets to go with his team because they have a grant funding their travel, but they feel a bit like frauds--newcomers flying across the country to learn and network--while their new friends are trying to raise funds to take the 20-hour bus ride to Dar. It's really a risk to their personal health and safety, but they feel it is so important. They are reaching out to local friends to help them collect $800 for their transport, food and accommodations for five days. Would you consider helping them as well?
I know we just asked you all for help to buy our car, but we have to ask you yet again for help. It's only two and half weeks until they need to leave for the event, so please don't wait if you feel moved to give. (By the way, airfare would be about $150 per person instead of $50 for bus fare, so if we can help them reach $1,100 the group can fly, which would be much more comfortable and safe for them.)
The best and fastest way to get money to these deserving friends is through our Paypal account. Just click HERE. Everything that we raise will supplement the local fundraising and help them advocate even more for their community.
23 May 2016
19 May 2016
It seems appropriate to resume blogging today, the EIGHTH ANNIVERSARY of starting this blog!! Here's a link to the very first blog post. Now read on for a sadly overdue update.
1. We built a house.
A family in Oregon paid for a new house for a widow with small children. She is one of the clients who we visited back on Christmas Day. In February, Fred organized several women in the community to volunteer making mud and a few construction professionals came in to do the specialty work. After the house was finished, two friends bought Benta a bed and mattress and new kitchen things. The family is so much more secure and happy than they were six months ago!
2. Mama Maisha expanded to 3 new villages.
The village of Lwanda (our community leader meeting is pictured here...I had no house help that day, so the kids had to come with me!) say they never receive help from outsiders and they are so excited to work with us. The village of Nyahera is familiar to me because our friend Stephen and many of the poor clients we get to serve live in this village.
We can't believe this kid is growing up so fast. He got a remote-controlled car, which he was very excited about. He's dealing with the drama of feeling all the feelings, but not sure how to process that. He's strong-willed and very loyal. His favorite people are the young men who drive motorcycles and taxis.
4. We had visitors from Mama Maisha US.
In March we were joined by our co-founder, Dr. Jeff, and one of his colleagues, Dr. Marina, and they helped us with training of our Maternal Health Advocates. After a great few days with our existing and new MHAs, we spent the next week visiting each of our villages.
In Nyahera we had a men's community meeting to talk about their questions about contraception. In Kyangasaga over 150 women showed up to hear about maternal health. One-third of those women were pregnant and received a birth kit as a gift for registering with our new MHAs. In Nyambogo we visited some TBAs, demonstrated the implant form of birth control, and took photos with these infant twins, named Barry and Leisha, who were born prematurely and got supplementary milk support through us. We also served as an ambulance from this remote village for a young woman who had been tossed by a bull and was suffering a concussion. In Lwanda we trained Traditional Birth Attendants and drove through a ravine to visit the closest health facility. It was in Lwanda when I gritted my teeth, crossed my fingers, and gunned it through a puddle as wide as the road. My teammates dubbed me Han Solo and our hired car the "Millennium Falcon." In Roche we doubled up on motorbikes to make it down the cow paths to another community meeting where I gave advice about how men could get their wives to have more sex, among other things.
We were so happy to have Innocent home during April! The kids had a lot of fun playing together, and he was a big help with the little kids. Fred was traveling a lot during April, so having another pair of slightly-bigger hands to help out was great. He started at a new school (again) back in January, and he has adjusted so quickly! He was selected to be the "Class Senator" which is kind of like the class prefect, and he's number two in his class as well.
6. We celebrated 5 years of marriage.
We got away for about 30 hours to Musoma to celebrate at a small hotel on the lake. It's been a wonderful five years, and I'm so grateful to be sharing this adventure with Fred.
A small church in Medical Lake, Washington, raised money to provide some food for needy families. In April, our whole family got to be part of the first distribution of that food. We met widows and widowers and representatives from child-headed households and paralyzed patients. Each family got maize and beans, salt and oil. After a few more months we will arrange another distribution.
Thank you, Makarios Fellowship!
8. We bought a car!
Actually, I should say that we were given a car. In less than six weeks, we raised $10,000 to purchase a 24-year-old Toyota LandCruiser in good condition. Many friends gave toward this amazing gift, and we are so grateful. It is already making our life so much easier, and we are eager to use it for village visits for Mama Maisha and for our other clients.
9. We moved to Mwanza.
At the end of April we finished packing up five years of life in Shirati and moved to Mwanza, Tanzania. It's a city right on Lake Victoria, about five hours south of Shirati.
Fred has taken a job doing program development with the African Inland Church of Tanzania, Mwanza Diocese. He's busy launching new programs, many of them based on relationships he developed with people we worked with in Shirati. It's great to see so many people appreciating my husband's work ethic, creative ideas for improving people's lives, and his strict truthfulness regarding finances and outcomes. He's getting into working with people with albinism, doing more training for trauma healing, and helping implement a program to provide income generation for people in rural communities.
We're living in a church guest house while we wait for our church house to be ready (probably about six months), and the kids are loving their new house, especially since they get to hang out with their friends, Kaleb and Micah, so much more. I have been networking with other organizations which are doing similar work to Mama Maisha and preparing for the upcoming Lahash East Africa Conference, which will be here in Mwanza.
Check back next week to read about a few things that are upcoming!