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Brenda and The One Person Project in East Africa

Our One Person Team is travelling to Africa on our sixth self-funded trip.
Each year a different group of people embark on this amazing, life-changing journey with me. This year, we will all contribute to this blog. I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures.

Diary Entries

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Location: Muhanga, Rwanda

Thursday, February 28

Today we gathered all of our books and school supplies and headed off to visit the kids at Amizero Academy. This funding for the building of the two-classroom school came from one of Costa’s friends in Edmonton, Alberta. The school is a project of Terimbere Rwanda Organization or TRO, (formally known as GO Rwanda.) This organization is one that we’ve supported as a secondary project. The first crate we sent was to Muhanga and was distributed by the members here to the hospital, schools and vulnerable families they support.

The 44 kids here at the academy are all three to six years old and are just frigging adorable!!!!! Ten of the kids are paying to attend and the other 34 come from vulnerable families and are being sponsored. We had a little party with the kids, blew up balloons, had snacks and had a whole lot of fun playing together. This school is by far, the best one, in so many ways, that we’ve seen in either country in the past month. Way to Costa and your team!!!

After visiting the school we went to see the site of the new pig coop. The TRO HIV Co-op will be raising pigs as a sustainable way to support their families. They have built the covered pens on a site that is owned by TRO and are trying to bring it up to code with the regulations of the Rwanda government. When things are ready, they’ll move the pigs that are being taken care of by various coop families, to the site. As funding permits, they plan on raising other animals like rabbits and chickens and also bees at this site. Last year, we donated $300 to help purchase some animals and this year we gave them $500 more. This amount was from donations given from friends to donate for projects on the ground on this trip as well as some other One Person money sp THANKYOU!!

After checking out some local crafts, we went back to get ready for a visit to Costa’s sister, Seraphine and her husband Peter’s. I first had to go and pay a visit to Mama Costa and the family so Denise and I hopped on a couple piki-piki’s and headed over with gifts for all. It was great to see everyone again but the visit was definitely too short!!

When we went to Peter and Seraphine’s later, we enjoyed a great buffet, cooked by Seraphine, and the company of a group of our friends. It was a wonderful evening and I was once again reminded how lucky I am to be welcome in so many homes while on these trips.

After saying goodnight to Seraphine and Peter, we all walked back to our rooms together and said another sad goodbye to more of our friends. In the morning, we would be heading into the city to catch a plane for our long journey home. It's been another incredible journey and I can't wait to come back!!

Look on here again for summaries of the trip by various members of the group. We’ll all be suffering from Jetlag so it might take a few days to get things posted.) Thanks for sharing this experience with us and maybe consider making this an experience of your own some day!!!!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Location: Kahama to Muhanga, Rwanda

Wednesday, February 27th,

Today when we made our journey from Kahama, TZ back to Rwanda all I could think about was this is great blog-material. I’m sure all of you who've come on this trip can relate to this!

The day started early, we had Joseph and our cab driver, Josepheti coming to pick us up at 5:15 am. We thought we would make two trips with one cab since the bus stop is so close. The boys arrived a little late but we still thought we had lots of time.

I went in the first car with Pene and Joseph. As soon as we climbed out of the car and into the mayhem of the bus station, some random guy came and up and told me that we had the wrong bus to Kigali. I don’t know how he thought he knew, but being the only mzungus in town, I guess everyone knows our business. The cab driver had left to get Anna and LeAnne and I was getting worried because, even though everyone here operates on "Africa time", the buses usually leave as scheduled.
Joseph and crowd of guys were arguing about which bus was the right bus and then they finally decided on one that we would be using.

We stood outside with our luggage waiting for them to open the undercarriage when Joseph said “Sister, we have to put all of the luggage on the bus.” It turns out that all the storage under the bus was being used to transport sacks of produce. Joseph man-handled our bags up into the bus and down the narrow isle to the back seats with us helping as best we could. The bags were full of books for Costa’s school in Rwanda so were very heavy!! It was a ridiculous situation. The bus already looked full and were trying to get these over-loaded bags past people without decapitating them.

The other girls still weren’t on the bus but Pene thought she saw the cab go by us in the parking lot. There were a few dozen buses and they would have no idea which one was ours. I ventured out into the crowd and searched but couldn’t find them. It was time for the bus to go. Eventually Joseph located them, brought them in and we struggled to fit their luggage in also. Between us we had 7 suitcases and six backpacks. You could barely move in the bus and there was other sacks of stuff stored in the alley way.

An argument erupted when the bus staff came back and demanded 30,000 TSH for our luggage. We pointed out that the only reason it was taking up seats is because they had sold the whole undercarriage space and weren’t able to put the luggage where it was supposed to go. We lost the argument, squeezed into our seats and got on our way. It was sad saying good bye to Kahama and all of our good friends, especially Joseph!

The ride was slow and uneventful until we go to a fork in the road and the bus pulled over. We waited to see what was going to happen next and realized what was happening next was we were being told to get off the bus with all of our luggage. It turns out the bus was going to Burundi and we weren’t. We were assured that someone would be along to pick us up so we girls and few others stood on the side of the deserted road surrounded by our luggage. Soon a couple of white miniature station wagons pulled up. We were shocked to find out they were there to pick us up. We don’t know how they work these miracles over here, but they manage to fit us four girls,a driver and our 11 pieces of very heavy luggage in that little car. It was hilariousL

After driving for a short while, the driver pulled over in a little town, got out and came back with a bottle of gas which he poured into the gas tank. He then left us baking in the car and stood with a group of men, talking very loudly. We don’t know what the problem was and finally started to call out to him that we were hot. He eventually got back in and began driving.

Eventually we got to the first part of the border crossing and once again were asked to get out and take our luggage. The driver drove away and we headed over to the customs office. We were directed down the hill and began the long, hot walk to the Rwandan border, each of us pulling two suitcases each and carrying heavy packs.

After spending awhile getting visas etc. we were directed to take our bags and hike over to the next office on the Rwandan side, which is another jaunt. The whole time you’re walking, you’re weaving in and out of a huge line of semis, all waiting to be processed through customs. It’s just crazy!

We eventually found some buses and got into another argument with the drivers about our luggage. It was a waste of time because it wasn’t even the right bus so we had to argue all over again a few minutes later. We lost the battle and had to pay another 12,000 RWF for our luggage for the Rwandan part of the trip. The crooks at the Kahama bus depot verbally told us we had paid for our luggage to go to Kigali but only put Rusumo (the border crossing) on the ticket. (We should have checked!)

We had to wait for the bus to fill before it left and the only thing that saved us from perishing in the hot sun at this point was the cold beer they sold across the road. We downed one each while we were waiting and felt like things were OK again.

The first bus was called Luuxery (spelled with two uu’s) which was a laugh and this one was called Express. Express was the last thing this bus was, and our last 150 kms ended up taking four hours as we stopped at every village between the TZ border and Kigali.

We were dreading the craziness at the main bus station in Kigali and were relieved when our driver took pity on us and made an effort to get his vehicle as close as possible to the bus company we needed to use to go to Muhanga. Only one more leg to go!!!

We arrived an hour later, hot and tired but so happy to be greeted by our Rwandan friends/family Bienvenu, Peter and Denise!!! We hadn’t eaten anything except granola bars, ground nuts and some dried fruit during our 12 ½ hour journey so were happy it was beer o’clock when we arrived!!!! We visited with our frinds and had some good food!

Tomorrow, we’ll be off to Costa’s school to drop off all of the books and school supplies we dragged with us and then we’ll go visit the pig coop we’re supporting and give them another donation.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

Tuesday, February 26th

Today was our last day in Kahama and we still had so much to do! The day started with trying to find a way to take all of the Faraja items out to the orphan’s group in Isegehe. Joseph, as always, came by to help and we headed out to the area near the hospital where a lot of the ‘cabbies’ hang out. We made a deal with Josepheti, a cab driver that I’d been using a few days ago. We went to the container and crammed more items into the three large bins from The Summerland Montessori School and managed to get them and some boxes into into the open trunk and back seat of the cab.

When we pulled into the compound of the orphans group Scholastica and Mary were both there and did the “Price is Right” dance for us. (I’m sure you can picture that Sheena!) It was unfortunate that most of the kids were in school but we didn’t have a lot of choice about the timing. They loved the album and made little squeals with every page turn. After a brief photo shoot, we were on our way.

I decided since we were already paying for a cab, we may as well keep getting things done, so we headed back into town and grabbed all of the rest of the stuff from our room that needed to go back into the container. Then, from the container we picked up the rest of the Muvumu Orphanage stuff.

The kids were there when we arrived and eagerly helped us carry all of the barrels and boxes in. Lucia, the woman who lives with the kids was home and someone quickly ran to get one other ladies who is on the orphanage committee. We distributed books, blankets, clothes, school supplies and kitchen items to an excited bunch of kids and did another quick photo shoot before heading on our way.

I had a meeting to go to with a few of the education group so was dropped off at the TRC while Joseph and LeAnne went to get four bus tickets for the next day. Pene and Anne were due back from their safari today and would be travelling back to Rwanda with us.

At the meeting we discussed the fact that the books we’re sending aren’t getting distributed throughout the district fast enough. We talked about how we can make things work better for all of us and then walked over to the containers so I could show them where all of the teacher resource materials and library books were sorted to.

We arrived a bit late for the meeting with the Amani families and found out that Flora was still sick and now Anna’s grandfather had died so neither of the women were there.Luckily for us the nurse matron, Grace came to help as well as another Flora who works in the CTC area.

The Amani room was filled with over 150 boxes and barrels so first we had to do some quick sorting. It was awkward and hot in such a small place. The crowd outside was growing and we could quickly see that the original plan the ‘mzungus’ had about how to distribute was not going to work. We couldn’t just give out school bags and t-shirts to the Amani kids when so many of the siblings were there. The parents that had come all the way back for a second time were expecting something also. We ended up giving the Canada t-shirts to everyone along with a toy for each of the children. Honestly, I was in the back sorting while a lot of the stuff was handed out so I can’t remember now if the back packs went out at that time. Anyway, everyone was thrilled. The kids loved all of my son’s trucks and cars that he sent!

The ladies & I decided that it would be best to hand out the bins that were destined for specific kids to them when there wasn’t such a crowd. Believe me that would not have gone over well!!! The other family bins will go to those most vulnerable as determined by Flora and Anna. Everything else was sorted into categories like toys, household items, clothes, etc. and would also be distributed over time. The ladies assured me that all the appropriate pictures would be taken on the camera we gave them last year and the memory card mailed to you Melinda!!!!

I had another meeting with Dr. Andrew to go to and the education guys sat in on that. We talked about the items left in the container and who would be responsible for what. We also went over ideas about how we could make the next container experience even better!

It was way past beer o’clock so I headed back to meet up with the girls. We still had a lot of packing and organizing to do. We gave away some more things and then met up with everyone over dinner to say goodbye. We all felt like we weren’t ready to go yet although we do miss everyone back home.

Our alarms were set for 4:40 am so we headed to our rooms! I ened up staying up half of the night blogging and trying to upload pictues on this slow internet. I didn't know when I'd get a chance to get on here again!!

Off to Rwanda tomorrow to deliver books to Costa's school, visit the pig co-op and see our Rwandan family!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

Monday, February 25,

In the morning, LeAnne and I, and about 11 barrels were picked up at Pineridge by the lorry. We went down to the container and loaded up all of the tools for the woodworking shop in Ilowmelo village and also grabbed everything we wanted to drop at the Busende primary school.

In twelve hours, on roads that looked like goat trails at times we visited 11 schools in 11 remote villages and handed out soccer and netball uniforms (26 sets) and soccer balls. The uniforms were donated by Laura Carlton from Ironman Canada so THANK YOU. The kids were over-the-moon excited!!!!

Much of the time we were riding in the back of a lorry. It was like we were in a parade; riding through village after village or past people pushing bikes with vegetable-filled sacks ties on, heading to the market. Everyone would stop, take a double-look at us, and then wave excitedly with a big smile on their face. Little kids would run towards the truck yelling “mzungu!” We did the queen-wave all day long except when we were being tossed around the back of the truck while our driving was trying to navigate the never-ending ruts and large rocks in the road.

At every school we went to we were met by yelling, waving children. Thanks to cell phones, most of the time the kids knew we were coming. We would be asked to sign the guest book and then we would make our presentation. Sometimes when the roads were in such bad shape and we were unable to drive in to the school, we would honk and the kids would come racing out to the road. The guest books would be brought out there, we would sign it and do our presentation there.

At some schools the kids went crazy, yelling and waving and a teacher would come by brandishing a big stick at them. At others, the kids were very disciplined and would be standing in rows, singing or drumming. We found out that a good soccer ball is about $50 USD here in TZ which is about the same as a lot of people make in a month. That would explain the mass hysteria and why many schools don’t even have one soccer ball!!!

Our last stop of the day was Ilomelo where we were handing out tools and a generator to a wood-working group that I know in another remote village. They did some awesome traditional singing and dancing for us and served us a meal. The whole village gathered around to watch us eat!!!!! (That was weird.) I only made a couple of kids cry this time. The only other time they ever saw a "mzungu" was the last time I visited. Actually most of the kids we met today had never met one.

We decided that it would be best to sit in the front for the long journey home. Especially after the men we were with started hurrying us along when we were eating, telling us that there was a problem with bandits on that road at night. It took us 2 ½ hours of night-driving on bumpy roads to get back to Kahama. Every once in a while, after we would go over an especially big bump, we would think about the two guys in the back of the lorry and be glad it wasn’t us!!!!

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Recent Messages

From Christopher Francis
Hi TOPP group! Iam very glad for your assistances.keep it up and enjoy your work.
From Denise
Wow - our 2012 journey seems really tame compared to this!
From Denise
Great to see how each trip strengthens the bonds between our two communities, and we fine-tune our programs - sounds like the busiest trip ever! Well done to everyone involved.
From Dee
I'm am inspired by everything all of you are doing!
You might be able to talk me into going in 2014 or 2015 Brenda!
Reading your blog and seeing the pictures makes me want to experience the childrens' happy smiles of hope and happiness.
Response: It would be GREAT if you came Dee!!!!
From Rena
Dearest Brenda and Co. Bless you all for your work you have amazes me to see the country you cover and all the good work you are doing...Thank you so much are truely an inspiration to us...hope to see you this year on your safe return. " God Bless You"
From Charryll
These pictures are terrific! Thank you for sharing them so quickly! SO many beautiful smiles.
From himself
The photo journals do supplement the written blogs quite nicely. Good work!
From Peter
You are all to be complimented on patience, adaptability and perseverance, as curve-ball situations seem to arise fairly frequently to challenge hopeful plans. I look forward to photos which compliment the dramatic descriptions!
wow. Epic events in sequence.
From Denise
Fabulous pictures and updates. YIKES - re. the old container!
From melinda
I am so excited to read about your adventures. Please say hello to the amani children and to Flora and the Muvuma Orphanage people and to Emmanuel from me. I can hardly wait to see the photos. And for monday too. What an exciting day. What an incredible day that banquet must have been for everyone. And to see the crate come in. Exciting. Very very exciting.
From Heike
Getting caught up on your posts this morning. What delightful writers you all are!!! Makes me feel like I"m right there with you. :-) So glad to hear that the container has finally arrived, and you will be able to complete that portion of your mission, Brenda! Big hugs and hellos to all of you and all our Tanzanian friends! Also, safe return journeys to Kigali, with more hugs and hellos there. Looking forward to my next trip already! :-) H.
From Jenel
Hi Brenda,
Everyone is doing well here! No complaints from anyone and your clients are looking forward to hearing about your experiences! Have fun!
Response: Thanks Jenel...Glad you're looking after things. You know me...I always worry about them!
From Charryll
Thank you for your diary entries and pictures! Seeing the photos of our kids just fills my heart with sunshine.
Response: Hi Charryll...if you want to send $ I can access my bank account at the credit union from here. (that was a couldn't before!) It wouldn't be a good idea to spend that amount on just your family though.
From Dee
Great pics and blogs. You are all doing such wonderful and caring work!
From Denise
Pene - I so appreciated being able to read about a typical day in Labour and Delivery, it will be an eye-opener for many I'm sure. And I love that you mention that it's a two-way experience - we really do learn from each other.
From Denise
Great to see the posters in the Amani room! It will be so exciting when the container arrives - but a lot of work!!
From Val
Hi everyone! Sounds like you're having another amazing time.. Have fun and thank you for all you are doing for the people of Kahama..
From KarenJ
What a heart-wrenching, amazing day!
Bless you.
From KarenJ
Sounds like fun! Enjoy everything. Seeing Kahama green and not dusty would be wonderful. I'm glad you made it there semi-safely. :) I'm looking forward to pictures!
From Dee
Glad to hear everyone made it safe and sound.
Thanks for blogging Brenda, who are a terrific writer!
We are so happy that you have arrived safely and sounds like the crate problems are solved. It is so nice to hear that there is lots of green out there and not so much dust.
lyn and nick
From Si Sieben
glad you arrived safe and I enjoyed the update and early morning excitement about flying suitcases. stay well and I will follow your blog entries. Si
From Denise W
Great to see what's been happening! Having done that bus ride with you I can so visualise Anna's mishaps!

Looking forward to reading about everyone's experiences!