Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Help Spread the Word About our House for Rent

Our house in Columbia is up for rent again.

Would you or someone you know be interested in renting it? It's listed here with Columbia Property Management. 

Please help us spread the word so we can stay stress-free in Tanzania and keep doing the work that we've started!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas from Zambia

I've been putting some shots up on Facebook, but for those not on there, here are a few shots from the past few days' Christmas trip to Zambia. 

The train ride from Dar Es Salaam to Lusaka was long and tiring, but we saw nice scenery and met some cool internationals. 

We were so surprised at how developed the country is. Check out this mall with a band playing Christmas music!

We made it to Livingstone and saw The Falls on Christmas Day. We were totally awed!

Yesterday, Boxing Day, we had a nice morning river safari, fully equipped with an early AM beer. Why not, it's vacation?

Last night we met up with our Danish train friends for a delicious Indian meal. 

And today we took an early early HOT HOT hike and saw this white rhino up close. Worth the early wake up and blazing heat. 

Tomorrow we head back up to the capital city of Lusaka and will probably just chill and take in another movie or 2 before we fly home to TZ on Monday. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas (a bit early)

We head out to Zambia tomorrow for a Christmas vacation, so I'm taking this moment to wish you and yours a very Merry and blessed Christmas.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter MKLM Newsletter

If you read this blog, you probably know more than what's in our Maryknoll Lay Missioners newsletter. But, in case you want to download it and stuff it in your holiday cards to send to your friends and family, you can download it here. Thanks and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Parents Meeting and First 2 Sessions of Lulu

I'm excited to say that the Lulu Mabatini program is officially launched and operational. A few weeks ago we held a meeting for parents/guardians/husbands of our participants. This kind of meeting is crucial because girls have very little say in their homes and take on the brunt of household responsibility. We wanted their caregivers to understand the goals of the program and to give their support. Otherwise, they might forbid the girls to attend or make it very difficult because they have too much work to do.

The parents, guardians and spouses of Lulu participants
Natalie speaking to the parents about Lulu.

I was really happy with the turnout and participation. Most people said that they were excited about the opportunity for their girls to learn and to better themselves and that they appreciated the work we were doing. That means they will free up some time for the girls to come!

Last Saturday we had our first session for the participants themselves. Right before starting time, the skies opened up and the rain poured down in buckets.

Despite the torrential rain, we had about 20 girls to the first meeting.
What do you expect from the rainy season?

I knew the rain would effect our numbers but more than that, I was worried because a lot of the girls come from the hills and I hoped that they weren't stuck somewhere cold and wet. However, we had 19 show up and many of them actually came early and beat the rain. (Coming early!? That's an anomaly here where everything runs late.)

Our first meeting of Lulu Mabatini
The participants introducing themselves in pairs.

Yesterday we had our second meeting and we had 25 participants. The girls were a little shy at first, but they're slowly warming up and hopefully are enjoying themselves.

The girls drawing their lives.
In an attempt to inspire some creativity, the girls had to draw/color a picture of their house and environment. Many of them were uncomfortable with coloring because they said it's for kids. But for those who did, they really loosened up and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Another cool development over the past week is that we now have a youth facilitator. Her name is Sikudhani* and she was a participant in one of the groups in another part of Mwanza and has been trained as a peer leader. She is a strong, smart, poised young woman and will be a great addition to our group!
Our youth facilitator, Sikudhani
Sikudhani is in her early 20's and is raising 2 children.

I can't wait to see how things unfold in the coming weeks as we really get into the meat of our subjects. Over the next few sessions we will talk about planning for your life, communication skills, and saving money.

*In Swahili Sikudhani means I didn't think. There are a lot of names like that here, like Shida, which means problem, or Mashaka, which means doubts. To me that's such an injustice to your child to give them a name that announces your regret at having conceived them. To be fair, though, everyone so far that I've met with a name like this doesn't seem to mind it. Still, it's something I can't get used to.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Decorations are up

It took all of a few minutes, but our decorations are up.

The stockings were hung on the wall with care
The stockings were hung by Bubu with care.

Not a very good picture, but the cutest, littlest tree in the world is up!
Our itty, bitty tree. I kinda love it more than a big one.

I always wish I had kids to decorate with because it just seems like it would be more fun. Well, my wish was granted this year because a neighborhood kid, Abduli, stopped by.

We had a visitor stop by while I was decorating.
Abduli approves of the publicity.

To be more accurate, he goes to school where David teaches and they were on their way home and couldn't get the truck past this:

The stream outside our house is too flooded to pass on foot or in car.
That water was going pretty fast. David and Abduli live just on the other side of that stream (in separate locations, in case that's not clear). And the woman in the picture in red lives on this side just across from our gate.

It's not snow, but we got a pretty good hailstorm for about 1/2 an hour while I was decorating the tree and listening to holiday music.

Holiday hail! Does it count as snow?
That's ice. Does that count?

So David and Abduli hung out for about 1/2 hour till the water went down. David was kind enough to help Chris with some computer issues and Abduli was kind enough to chase around the cat around and give me "feedback"* on the decorations.

Abduli goes to Haruma School for kids with disabilities, where our fellow MKLMer works.
He liked the hat best.

From Tanzania, we're all wishing everyone a blessed Advent and a happy holiday season. Hope all your holiday wishes come true.

*I put feedback in quotes because Abduli isn't quite verbal. Though we've seen a lot of improvement since he started school, he's still fairly limited. Although he didn't technically say anything much about the tree, he did enjoy saying "cat" and "him/her" a lot. To his credit, Tanzanians don't do a lot of  holiday decorations, plus Abduli's Muslim, so he probably doesn't have a lot of Christmas decorations in his house.** All of this contributed to him not really having any idea what was happening. But still, we had fun.

**Just because Abduli's Muslim doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't celebrate various holidays in non-religious ways. A Muslim woman I worked with last year said she put up a tree and celebrated  Christian holidays as well as Eids because people in the neighborhood were all mixed and she didn't want her family to feel like anyone was different. I like that sense of unity.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

New Birth

One of my facilitators and I did 3 more home visits today for Lulu project. We've been pretty slow about getting them done and, considering we start our bi-weekly meetings this Saturday, I guess my goal of seeing everyone before then won't happen. Oh well, things happen in their own time so I know it'll all get done eventually.

I love visiting people's houses, though. It's a great opportunity to really understand the way of living here. And Tanzanians see guests as a blessing, so people are always really nice and welcoming when I stop by, even if just for a minute. I admit that I'm not very good at doing that unless prompted, so it's good for me to be pushed a little into doing it.

One of the participants that we visited today, a 20 year old girl, just had a baby this week. I knew that she was pregnant but I didn't put two and two together that that's whose house we were going to until we got there. We were brought into their living room/bedroom and told to have a seat. There was a bed on one end of the small room and a chair on the other. It wasn't until I sat down on the chair next to the bed that I realized someone was sleeping in it! I was a little surprised, but not completely because I know that space is limited in a lot of homes and people want visitors even when someone is sick. So I've been in similar situations before, but it's still a surprise to see someone moving around before my eyes have adjusted to the dark room. After we exchanged greetings with the family we realized that the "sick person" in the bed was actually the Lulu participant and laying next to her swaddled in a bunch of fabric was her teeny, tiny little daughter.

The new mother eventually sat up and participated in conversation with us and I was able to take this picture of her and her baby.

A Lulu participant and her infant daughterdaughter

I don't yet know very much about this girls' story but I understand that the baby's father will most likely not be in the picture to contribute financially to raising the little one. Unfortunately, that's the story of so many women here. The good news is that much like in many other parts of the world, families in Tanzania are large and everyone helps out, so she lives in a home with her extended family who have created what looks to me to be a loving home for her and her baby. Unfortunately, the family income is quite low (the guardian sells rice in town) and with little schooling, girls like this one will have a hard time getting ahead for her and her daughter.

Lulu project will teach this girl and other participants about how to care for themselves and their children's health. Information about clean food, water and sanitation; diseases; bacterias; etc. will help them to stay healthy. Small business skills such as how to plan a business that covers their expenses, how to research the market to get profitable ideas, and how to budget and save money will help her to take care of her family's needs and hopefully help them to achieve a stable life. Finally, life skills such as self esteem, cooperation, healthy relationships and family planning will help her to navigate the difficult world that she and her daughter live in so that she knows that she is of value and is making a valuable contribution to society.

Since today is Giving Tuesday*, please consider making a donation to our work through Maryknoll Lay Missioners or to the organization as a whole, which places missioners in Africa, Asia and Latin America to work alongside the worlds' poor and needy.

In the meantime, I can't wait to hold this young woman's baby girl again next Saturday, because I have no doubt she'll bring her along to our first meeting!

*Or, you can consider donating any time of the year. I'm not limiting this to just today. ;)

Monday, December 02, 2013

Getting Excited

I just got back from a visit to a currently-established Lulu group meeting. There are 3 other groups meeting around the Mwanza area, so one of my facilitators and I went to check it out. The topic for the day was puberty and adolescences. Boy-oh-boy! Girls around the world are all the same. Giggling and talking about things that embarrass each other. It was awesome. I can't wait for our group to start! Our first session is this Saturday. Can't wait!