Saturday, June 30, 2012

A trip to school

Today we drove Mama Rehema, little Nema and four of our students to “visiting day” at two of the local schools.  We stopped at the Montessori School first, just outside Lushoto on the way down toward Mombo.  There we dropped off Julitha and Rafikiel, who were going to visit Zawadi and Asha, students who were previously at Irente Children’s Home.  
We drove on to Usambara Primary School, a boarding school several miles below Lushoto.  At Usambara we visited Joseph, Rehema, and Anna, also former children from Irente Home.  With Tom and I were Mama Rehema and Neema, our next door neighbors, along with students Asha and Fadhila.  We started out in the headmaster’s office where each child’s grades were shown to us.  Asha carefully noted each subject, grade and any comments in order to report back to Mama Mdemu.  Someone went to find the students we were visiting.  By mistake, they brought in Zulfa Juma, not Rehema Juma.  (Juma is the last name usually given to abandoned children)  Zulfa continued with us on our visit and shared the food we brought with us.
When Anna and Joseph had joined us, we went for a tour of the campus.  The dormitories for the girls were close by.  The rooms were neat and clean, with each girl responsible for making her bed and maintaining her area.  Outside the door was a line two rows deep of flip flops which are worn inside the dorm and to the showers.  We asked Rehema how she would know which were hers and she showed them to us easily.  
The boys dormitories were a bit of a climb up a steep hill.  These again were neat and clean.  Joseph showed us where he slept.  We met the house mother as well as two other women who were washing the boys clothes.  
After seeing the dorms, we walked to the classroom buildings and talked with one of the teachers.  School here is held Monday through Saturday, with tests given every Saturday.  The class rooms we saw were a good size with many desks and chairs.  Boarding schools are preferred over the public schools, if possible, due to class size.  Many families send their children to boarding school if they can afford the fees.
This visit was special for us since we are Anna’s sponsors for school.  Anna is a beautiful little six year old.  Her parents are dead and she stays during school breaks with her grandmother out in the villages somewhere.  She spent her early years at Irente Children’s Home.  Her grandmother expressed her thanks and God’s blessings on us when she found out that we would pay Anna’s tuition.  Of course, this is a long term commitment.  Anna is only in first grade and has, we hope, many years of school ahead of her.  It is a commitment we are happy to make.
The fee for a child for a full year of school, including room and board is about $700 US.  This is an amount that we could spend at home without even knowing where it went... a weekend away, some meals out with friends, or purchasing this or that which we really don’t need.  Mama Mdemu is always looking for sponsors to help former ICH children have the opportunity for an education and a better future.  ( If anyone is interested, just contact us and we can furnish the details of how to sponsor a child).
After Usambara School, we returned to the Montessori School to pick up Julitha and Rafikiel.  They had also received reports on Zawadi and Asha.  Montessori is a Catholic school for girls.  It was easy to see the difference between the schools.  Montessori looks very expensive.  The grounds of the school were crowded with families picnicing on the lawns with their students.  The nuns made their rounds through the families, speaking with mothers and fathers about their children.  We said good-bye to Zawadi and Asha and walked back to the pick-up truck for our ride back to Irente.
We thank God for these institutions and the education that is available to those who can afford it.    

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Joyous Announcement

On Monday, June 18th, our housekeeper Veronica came to work as usual.  She did our laundry, swept out the house and cooked dinner.  Between 1:30 and 2 pm, she came to me to say, "Tutaonana kesho", "See you tomorrow".  Then she walked 30 minutes up the mountain to her small house which she and her husband made from sticks and mud.

Her friend Margaret met her there and Veronica said she thought they should go to the hospital.  Margaret checked and told her that the baby was coming now!  Veronica's new baby boy was born at home.  Then she and Margaret walked further up the mountain to the nearest road and got a ride to the hospital.  At around 6 pm, she call us on the phone and said, "Bibi, we have a baby boy!"

The next morning, Tom and I drove to the hospital to see her and the baby.  We arrived at around 10:30 am, but Veronica had already been discharged.  After some errands in Lushoto, we drove home and walked up to her house to visit.

Veronica was at home in bed with her little son surrounded by many caring women including her mother and her friend Margaret.  She introduced us to her son who is named Fadhili, but she told us, "Ataitwa Thomas", "He will be called Thomas".  What a great honor.  He is a beautiful boy and weighed 4 kilo at birth, which is around 8 pounds.

Please keep Veronica, her husband and sons Ismaili and Fadhili "Thomas" in your prayers.  We thank God for the safe delivery of this beautiful new baby.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


On Monday morning, May 21st, Mama Mdemu traveled down to the shamba near Mombo to work there and see how the crops were doing.  While there, she received a phone call letting her know that her youngest child had died very suddenly in Dodoma.  Her daughter, Rehema was 33 years old and four months pregnant.  She had prepared breakfast for her three year old son and her niece who attends college there.  While dressing to go to her office, she dropped to the floor.  The cause of death at this point is still unknown and may never be known.
Mama Mdemu and her daughter spoke to each other almost daily.  The night before her death,they talked about Rehema going back to school for her Master’s degree after the new baby got a bit older.  How quickly our lives can change.  In the blink of an eye, everything is different.  Our hearts are broken for Mama Mdemu and her family.  We cannot imagine the loss of a child.
The change in atmosphere at the home was palpable.  Everyone continued their job, but voices were hushed and the mood was somber.  The grief was felt and shared.
In the afternoon, Tom drove Mama Mrishu, two of the students, and I to Mama Mdemu’s house in Lushoto.  Many cars were parked along the road near her house, several from the diocese.  Folding chairs were set up in a small grove of trees inside the gate.  These were occupied by many men.  A woman escorted us to the house.  We left our shoes outside with so many other pairs and went inside.  
The furniture of Mama Mdemu’s living room were moved along the walls of the room.  On the floor on the far side of the room, two mattresses were on the floor.  The sofas and chairs were filled with women, some young, but mostly older.  They were dressed in kangas and their heads were covered.  Mama Mdemu sat on one of the mattresses with several women consoling her.  It was a moving scene of love and compassion.  
We shook hands with each of the women around the room as we worked our way to Mama Mdemu.  When we reached her, people moved aside so we could kneel by next to her and offer our condolences.  I was then directed to a seat in the room and Tom was ushered outside with the men.  
In the living room, the number of women varied from 15 to 26.  Occasionally, someone began to sing and the others joined in.  It was peaceful and comforting to hear these beautiful women sing the hymns they all know by heart, melody and harmony blending together.  When some women left, I went and sat with Mama, holding her hand as we spoke quietly.  She asked if I had talked to our daughter Maureen recently.  I explained that we Skype with her every Sunday night, but because of her job and the time difference we cannot speak daily.  
On Tuesday evening, we traveled to Mama Mdemu’s home again, this time with more of the students and workers at the home.  The scene there was about the same.  The students from the home each paid their respects to Mama and then sang some hymns.  
Outside, several women were preparing food to feed the guests.  Again, the men were gathered outside and the women inside.  This watch would be kept until the time of the burial.  
Rehema’s body would be transported from Dodoma, but the burial was to be north of Moshi, not in Lushoto.  Transportation was arranged for Mama Mdemu and her family by the diocese.  
The amazing thing was that when I said “pole sana” (I am so sorry) to many of the women there, the response of several of them was, “All we can say is Thank God”.  What a faith-full response to give in such a time of tragedy.
Please keep Mama Mdemu and her family in your prayers.