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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012

Location: Tanzania


Today we got to go and see the handicapped kids at a school and then in the afternoon we went to see the Fahaja Orphanage. Brenda, Mary, and I got picked up and then we went out to a school, the name of which I cannot remember. It was a longer drive than I was anticipating and once again it felt like we were risking our lives driving anywhere. We were on a very straight dirt road, but every 50 to 100 meters there were big bumps that went over pipes that go under the road, so it felt like being on a roller coaster. Also, the right of way in this country definitely goes: cars, motorcycles, bikes/carts, and then pedestrians, so pedestrians better watch out. And no one slows down, the car just honks to say, “better get out of the way!” and the scariest thing is how when two vehicles are approaching, neither one slows down and they wait until the last possible moment to move just enough to skim by each other!
Anyways, we survived the drive and arrived at the school. The handicapped kids are in a tiny little room in a building kind of away from the main school building. There were four of the children there today. We brought them some foam puzzle mats, soccer balls, hula hoops, books, and pencils. There are more supplies for handicapped children, but they were left with the head of education to distribute. It was so nice to be able to do something so simple that made such an immediate difference you could see. We walked into a small room with benches and a chalk board and the few toys Brenda gave last year in the corner, and when our supplies were put in, it looked so much more cheerful and useful!
The teachers who were with us seemed almost more excited about the toys than the children! They wanted to know everything you could do with a hula hoop and tried them all. None of us were very good hula-ers, but one of the teachers did an awesome job skipping with the hula hoop. I was so terrified that one of those men all nicely dressed up was going to trip and hurt themselves on the concrete floor! On our way we got a picture of the kids with the soccer balls. We started off with two kids holding a ball and then more and more kids were running into the picture and Mary had to keep backing up and there were tons of kids in the picture by the end!
The next item on our agenda was visiting the Faraja Orphanage, which my school sponsors. In previous years we have sent money to buy them meat goats and pay school fees, and we sent them supplies in the crate sent last year. Since I was meeting them in person, families from the school put together bags for each of the orphans and I brought some donated money and the money from our recycling program to help them. I have been carrying all of the stuff with me all this time, and I was excited to finally be able to deliver it.
Of course, getting there was not quick and easy. The ride we thought we arranged didn’t work out due to an uninsured vehicle and despite numerous calls to a variety of people, we were stuck for a little bit as to how to get out there. Eventually Joseph found us a taxi driver willing to take us out there (it is in a village outside of Kahama) and we set off, with our 32 gift bags loaded up in the trunk of the cab. We had been unable to make direct contact with the orphanage yet, so first we went to the World Vision office, where someone else jumped into the cab to direct us to the orphanage. Through channels we are still not certain of, Scholastica (who runs the orphanage with the help of other ladies in the community) had heard we were coming and was waiting for us.
When we arrived, we were very warmly welcomed, with lots of hugging and hand shaking and hand holding and hugging and laughing and more hand shaking and cries of “Welcome!” Once Brenda explained that I was the teacher from the book we sent them last year, I was re-welcomed and there was even more hugging and hand-shaking and an elderly woman was kicked out of her chair so I could sit there! There were orphanage kids and random neighbour kids there and some of them were really breaking my heart! All of the people I have met so far here are very clean and tidy (which I find hard what with all of the dust and lack of water pressure!), but quite a few of these kids were dirty, with torn clothing, and bellies protruding from malnutrition. One little guy, a year old or so, ate a handful of dirt.
I only had stuff for the Orphanage kids, so Brenda and Joseph went to get food for everyone from the store. Mary and I stayed and, with Scholastica’s son Isack translating, made conversation with the Faraja ladies. They were very surprised that Mary was only 17, comparing her to a girl there who was 17 and asking, “Why do you look so much bigger than her? What are you eating over there?!” When Brenda and Joseph came back, we fed all of the children some bananas and biscuits.
After that I handed out the gift bags and took pictures of all of the children. It was awesome! I brought pictures of the kids from my school to go with each bag and showed them to the children as they received their bags, explaining that that child sent the bag for them. It was chaotic and busy, but really great! Afterwards, we took more pictures and they all sang some songs for us. Then I discreetly gave Scholastica the money I had brought and after a lot more hugging and hand shaking and thank-you’s, we were off. I would have loved to have stayed longer, but our taxi driver was only willing to wait so long, so away we went!
We finished the day off with a lovely dinner at a restaurant down the road. While the service was not quicker than our hotel, like Brenda said it was, it was nice to have a change! After numerous attempts at ordering vegetable spring rolls in Rwanda that did not pan out (having items on menus that are not actually available are more common over here than not so I end up eating a lot of fruit plates!) I finally got two delicious, spicy, vegetable spring rolls!

I had an interesting chat with Joseph’s friend Emanuel about the problems with education in Rwanda. He had a lot to say, and he is the first person to have mentioned family planning (or the lack thereof) as a contributing factor. They have very large class sizes (due to very large family sizes) and he was saying that it is not uncommon for a student to make it to the end of grade 7 and be unable to even write their name. Talking to the teachers in our workshop, I know that their classes range from forty-something to as many as 126! One of the teachers there asked what I was going to do to fix all the problems with Education here, and clearly fixing all of the problems will be no quick and simple thing!

After supper, we walked back to our hotel with Joseph and Emanuel and then headed into our rooms to get ready for tomorrow. I am sure it will be another busy day for everyone!