Karibu Tena

Dear Family and Friends,

Where ever we go we are greeted with “karibu tena” (welcome again). Tanzanians and Canadians share a similar level of politeness. It is wonderful to be back! On arrival at midnight we were immediately enveloped in Dar es Salaam’s oppressive humidity. Our driver speeding at 100 km. and running all the red lights took advantage of the sleeping city, deserted streets and got us to our hotel in record time! Ruth and I toasted our arrival with a cold tall Kilimanjaro beer.

From our window at sunrise a fleet of freighters were hugging the horizon, small sailboats (dhows) with half moon shaped sails passed by and fishermen with large nets were seeking their daily catch. We met Sauda Sebastian, a bright lovely young women we are sponsoring at the University of Dar es Salaam. Sauda was Igoda Library’s first teacher librarian but when she received a scholarship to university she rightly jumped at the opportunity. She accompanied us on our quest to visit several book publishing companies. We managed two. Our slow progress was to due to either hole-in-the-wall places or remote circuitous locations. Our seasoned perseverance paid off as we made valuable connections and purchased much needed books.

Although I am fascinated by the coastal Swhahili heritage, palm fringed coastline and intriguing chaos of Dar es Salaam it was a relief to fly to Mufindi where the climate is Canadian friendly. As we were entering Mufindi airspace the weather drastically changed – a deluge of pounding rain shook the small plane making our landing on Ngwazi’s grassy field questionable. Mufindi’s patchwork quilt scenery had disappeared from sight. Thankfully our Thunder Bay Canadian pilot found a hole in the clouds. Geoff Fox, the NGO’s originator, was waiting for us and didn’t seem to be disconcerted by our heavy luggage bearing gifts and supplies and boxes of books.

This year we are staying at the volunteer accommodation - Protea Point with its stunning view and nearness to the Children’s Village (orphanage) and Igoda village. Upendo, Protea’s cook, gave us a warm Mufindi welcome. It’s not surprising her name means 'love' in Kiswahili. I think her delightful 2 year old wondered who these strange wazees (old people) were! He has warmed to our foreign ways and now initiates dances and songs with us. There is a resident dog and cat which hopefully means the rats have found a more friendly environment to reside.

Our first night there was a timid knock on our door. To our delight we discovered 40 children from the orphanage (across the road and a long down a pathway) had come to say “karibu tena” (welcome again) to Mama Annie and Mama Rootie. A heartwarming delightful surprise! The oldest orphans, some carrying babies on their backs, were leading the younger ones – much like a scene from the Pied Piper! Our living room crammed with shy smiling faces! Ruth and I quickly retrieved the beautiful wooden building toys made and donated by her friend Eric Jalu. These colourful toys quickly transformed the atmosphere as children became totally engrossed in creating structures, each unique and beautiful. For these two teachers the scene was pure magic. There is a Kiswahili saying, “Zawadi ni tunda la moyo” (A gift is a fruit from the heart). Eric Jalu’s generous gift provided a delightful experience for the children and us.

Our donors and interested family and friends would be so impressed with the progress the Foxes NGO has accomplished. With the guiding light provided by Geoff and Vicky Fox and Geoff and Jenny Knight and their team of Tanzanians significant changes are occurring to improve the quality of people’s lives. Yesterday we visited a struggling family. We were welcomed to their crumbling thatched mud home by a mother with TB who is HIV positive, a malnourished toddler and a bibi (grandmother) who is looking after this female lead household. On the mud floor we sat on low wooden stools across from a smoking fire. In the corner guinea pigs huddled. One was tonight’s dinner. Through Jenny’s home visits she discovered the condition of this family and obtained the necessary medicine to help the mother and food to improve the family’s nutrition. Just before leaving the grandmother ran out to their shamba (small garden) and picked a container of small peaches for us – an overwhelming act of generosity. Much of daily Mufindi life is shaped by the challenge to make ends meet. Giving her gift of peaches gave this bibi as much joy as it did for us to receive it.

Thinking of you,