January 24, 2008

Donations welcome

Chrissy's well researched articles brought immediately to mind many many stories that I could tell about KIWAKKUKI.  I cannot wait until the web site is fully activated and anyone can find the site to see the wonderful work that this organization comprised primarily of women accomplishes each and ever year.  But, the web page will not tell you about the day to day stories, and they are the ones that make your heart weep or your heart soar.

So I will tell one story that was heart soaring.  One of our great volunteers to KIWAKKUKI is named Sarah.  She stepped into the world of Moshi from Yale University with absolutely no concept of what she would do when she arrived.  "Volunteering for AIDS in Africa" is the buzz word that I now understand is on nearly every college and graduate school application, so just to say this is not to be very unique.  Fortunately, we have had some very unique volunteers, and Sarah is one of them.

Sarah spent 3 months with KIWAKKUKI, basically starting the process of putting a web site that Chrissy has finally completed and just needs to get the final details to post, she also developed an avid following of KIWAKKUKI employees and volunteers who were desperate to learn English so that their skills would be more marketable to help KIWAKKUKI (writing, editing, reading grants, and learning to speak to visitors in English so that they could understand the KIWAKKUKI mission and work in a more accurate way).  I remember seeing little groups clustered not far from the latrine of young people reading phrases, newspapers, and quizzing Sarah back on her knowledge of Kiswahili, the National Language.  Sarah was a natural with this group and they loved her.

When Sarah left KIWAKKUKI and Moshi, we all wished her well, and thought, "Well, she was certainly a nice volunter."  But Sarah went home, talked to her family, her friends, and relatives, and they decided that they wanted to help.  Sarah's mother is a teacher and she and her students collected materials that the children's groups could use.  Sarah's uncle collected things that he thought all children should have!  And Sarah's family agreed to sponsor several children in school.

We were impatient I must say.  The boxes were mailed in April and still had not arrived by the end of September.  But then, the post office notified us that there were some boxes waiting for us, and beloved Ellie, our tea maker and just about everything else, went down to the post office and hauled everything back.  Chrissy and I set to work identifying everything and putting them together in clusters.  Some things were missing (oops TRA needs their cut) but most things were there.  Some were funny--stuff little kids love, some were vastly needed for school and just about everything else.  It was fantastic.

I went to Lui's office (head of orphan department) and reported what Sarah had provided.  WOW!  what luck, there were to be orphan support groups in all the districts for the next month.  What started like an avalanche of materials for children for the next year, turned out to be devoutly divided for these children's groups so that each child would get something.  In one fell swoop, huge boxes of donations were delivered to Moshi Municipality, Moshi Rural, Mwanga, Same, Machame, Hai, and Saa Hii.  Never enough, never enough.  But, what made my heart soar were the stories that came back from these club meetings.

"Wow" some mzungus (European  --also American--Canadian etc) cared about us and sent these boxes on ships?  Wow, how did they find these pens, the papers.  These were the type of words that were used.  And though the boxes went quickly, they did not go without great love and care.

So Sarah, whenever you think of your time in Moshi, know that the children of Kilimanjaro are thinking of you.  And for anyone else out there-even if it seems "trite" now to volunteer in Africa, there are sustainable programs out there, and they are started by Africans, maintained by Africans, and supported by the community.  You can reach out and you can give.
Patricia Bartlett, LCSW, volunteer and Community Advisory Board Liaison for the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center's Collaborative Research efforts with KIWAKKUKI, KCMC and Duke University.