Eighth visit to Tanzania

Dear Book Box Supporters,

Our eighth visit to Tanzania was brimming with challenges. Both Anne and I had vowed to report to you all so often this year, that you would all have calluses on your delete finger! What happened? Ebola? The disease was at least 5,000 miles away. No, it was simply the country’s internet server. It works quite well in the big cities of Arusha and Dar es Salaam but at 6,000 feet in the remote Mufindi Highlands, it seems only tea and maize thrive!

However… Loveness, Princess, Johana, Evin, Kevin, Millen, Eliza, Matthew, Shamira and Zawda compel the telling.

They all live together in the ‘baby house’ of the Children’s Village. Ages 5 to 14 months, these little mites have lost their parents, mainly to HIV/Aids. The NGO, with your continued help, has been able to lower the ratio of babies to caregiver. We have learned that “repeated short term attachments (with volunteers)can leave young children with feelings of abandonment that impede their social development .” So there are more house mothers hired from the village who provide seamless loving care. There are 17 million children orphaned by HIV/Aids in Africa. It is vital that the little ones in ‘our’ care grow “with a sense of belonging, opportunity and loving support”. I am happy to report the children are chubby and well fed. With no North American sippy cups available, they learn quickly to manage an adult cup.

Kanga cloth diapers covered by the inevitable black garbage bag scraps prevent leaks. Tiny tuques cover little heads. Some wobble and toddle about, others investigate toys, some climb into the laps of their most familiar Mama. Those that can’t walk are wrapped and supported upright in a pail, in position to watch as ‘Mama’ does chores. Singing, gurgles, investigation and toothless grins abound!

Mama Gideon, whom you met by email last year, has Tanzanian help now.

Familiar village culture is preserved. Foreign, revolving door, volunteers are in a supporting role only. Using charity funding to pay overhead support is SO important. While the construction of a building or an office seems concrete evidence of care, the subtle effect of keeping little ones healthy, secure, and content contributes to the child’s life as a whole. Geoff Knight, one of the NGO managers, shared research that stated the most devastating thing that can happen to a child under 5 is to lose his or her mother. Of course, intuitively we all know this, but meeting these little people both restores hope and pierces the heart. Just ask Loveness or Zawda or…

Ruth & Anne