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The Founding Mothers...

USA | Saturday, 21 September 2013 | Views [315] | Comments [2]

Meet the parents!

Meet the parents!

 

 

I lay in bed waiting until the last minute before I have to get up. The roosters woke me up long ago, along with the smell of burning. Always the smell of burning. Everyone burns their trash here and I feel like that smell has permeated my skin.

Today is our first parent/teacher meeting. We sent letters home with the kids and asked if the parents could meet us at 10am on Saturday. Frank and I figured that would mean 11am in Tanzanian time, but when I got a text from him saying “they are here, early, just waiting for you” I had to scramble! Very uncharacteristic of anyone to be early here. This is a good sign. A very good sign. They want to be involved. They want to know us. They want to participate in their children’s future. Very exciting.

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I arrive via taxi and Frank and the teachers, along with Chupa and Siagi and another random dog that seemed to want to know what the hussle and bussle was all about, were all waiting outside the gates for me. It was still before 10 and somehow I felt like I was late. Frank briefed me that everyone minus one parent was in the school, and he asked if I could say something. I hadn’t really planned for that and immediately got a bit nervous. What could I say, as an outsider, that would make them feel comfortable and welcome and encouraged and empowered? I’m so much better at observing than speaking off the cuff, but I told Frank I could at least introduce myself. He joked that I had to do it all in Swahili. Very funny. I put my trust in his translation abilities.

I walked in to the room to see that Frank had pulled in the desk from the office and somewhere he’d found two extra chairs. Five women sat in the children’s desks and the two teachers, Frank and I sat in front, facing them. Three women were draped in the bright traditional fabrics of Tanzania and the other two were younger, more modern dressing moms. All sat waiting patiently. Frank started speaking, introducing himself although they already knew him and then introduced me. He translated when he could and mostly I read body language and energy. The teacher spoke, Frank spoke some more, there was a bit of back and forth with the mothers and then Frank asked if I could say something.  I stood, welcomed them. I said that I was proud to be a part of this project, that I’m honored that they’ve allowed their children to attend and that they’ve entrusted us with them. I said I was proud of Frank and what he’s accomplished and that I’ve seen the teachers with the children and that they are amazing.  Frank translated for me and I received nods and “asante sana” as I sat down, heart thumping. At one point when I had started, and for some reason when using the word “proud”, I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes started to swell in the realization of what was taking place. I felt the culmination of all the work we’ve done in the last year an a half well up wrapping itself in the word “proud”. I recovered quickly though, not letting my emotions get the better of me. I’m not sure how that would have gone over. Maybe I should have just let it happen. I believe they felt my sincerity though.

I encouraged them to speak and asked if they had questions. That is when the grandmother of Method started to speak and even though I didn’t know what she was saying, a flood of emotion and connection and gratitude filled the room. She had covered her face with her shawl for much of the meeting prior to this, stifling tears, and now she let it out, wanting us to know her story. That she had been praying for someone to help her. Praying to God that someone would see her challenges and provide some assistance with her grandson who had been abondoned and left for her to care for. She didn’t have money to put him through school and could barely feed and clothe him. She wanted us to know how touched and grateful she is that we are giving her hope for Method’s future. It takes so much burden from her, knowing that we are caring for him at this age and that we want to see him succeed in life. Frank didn’t translate for me until I asked him after, but I felt it. Then the other mothers chimed in with similar stories of sorrow and challenges, each saying they’ve already seen improvements with their children.  Isaack, the boy who joined us only two days ago and rarely speaks in class, has been going home telling his mother “the teacher wants us to do this homework” and then he pulls out his book from the KCP backpack with his name on it. She says he’s already improved in two days time.  That hit me hard. The other mothers shared the same… that the kids are more lively, have more fun. Are more interactive and playful. They are being kids! Things just got really real. It’s one thing to be with the kids every day, but to get feedback from their parents is a whole other bag of goodies. I felt so honored to be sitting in front of them, hearing their stories. This completely solidified for me the work we’ve started here. Imagine when the room is packed with single parents or grandparents, or aunts and uncles left to take care for abandoned kids. Imagine how powerful that will be!

At the end, Frank asked if I could share what it’s like in the US. Some struggles we might face. At first, I wasn’t sure what to say, but then I went back to my roots and told my story of how I grew up on government food and hand-me down clothes. How my mother would make our clothes for us, and new clothes for me were when my sister would grow out of hers and I would get them. I said how many families in the US struggle too and only a small percentage are truly rich. But that as a child I didn’t know we were lacking, that we were living below poverty level. And that I see that of the children here too. Kids are kids here or there. That if we love them and let them know we are invested in them, they will never feel that they are lacking. I spoke of the gratitude I have for my parents...that they instilled in me the belief that I could be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t know limitations. I only knew that if I wanted to do something, my parent’s would encourage and support me. And that alone made me dream and believe anything was possible. And that is what I wanted to bring to the kids here. I told them how important it is to not put limitations on the children. To let them dream and encourage them to study and be curious and question things. Frank interpreted for me every few sentences as the words flew out of my mouth...and it felt as if the nodding and agreement got bigger and bigger and I realized that we really were not only helping the kids but their caretakers. We were also giving them hope! I can’t even begin to describe the feeling in that room. I am so proud of my team, of the four of us.

We told the parents that they are now the ambassadors for the school and to bring others to us with the same stories. That we would do everything we could to help. I explained that I am not rich, but that I work really hard to share our vision with others in order to get financial support and sponsors...people who also believe in our project and are willing to donate. Frank told them how we do all different types of things like running marathons and selling artwork in order to fund the project. And we encouraged them to think of things they might be able to do where we could support them with a portion of the income coming back to the project. The women chimed in talking about a women’s empowerment group they’ve formed where they chip in a set amount and then buy and sell basic needs within the group to raise money for a business idea...but that they haven’t figured out what that business is yet. I really want to tap into that and get them involved with our school and yet help them at the same time! That’s what I’ve wanted all along.

I told Frank I’d like to give them a tour of the grounds so we went outside and I became the tour guide, showing them where we will put the playground, pointing out the garden we’ve started and where we want our chicken coupe. I told Frank to get on the tire swing to show them how it’s done (as I pushed him) and there was laughter from the women as I encourged them to try it out. No one braved it this time, but I think someone might jump on at the next meeting. :)

After the women exchanged numbers, chatted and took pictures with us, Frank and I hung out for awhile just basking in the glow of what just happened. We were all smiles and felt so encouraged by what had just happened. The challenges of the past two weeks faded away and a new beginning popped up through the rubble like a beautiful phoenix. A New Tomorrow Nursery & Day Care. We’ve only just begun. I feel like we just had a monumental meeting with the Founding Fathers. Or in this case, the mothers, grandmothers and aunts.

Comments

1

Tears just flowed as you shared your heart with these Mom's. I am so proud of the solid woman you have become and the heart that you have for a better tomorrow for these kids. Thank you for listening to what God has planted in your heart to do. Let's see where this all takes you.

  Mom Sep 27, 2013 12:03 AM

2

Wow, how powerful!!! I am all tears too. This is so amazing and just feels so worth it - all the struggle and challenge! What an awesome experience and I'm so 'proud' to have a tiny role in transforming the lives of these families!!

  Lexie Sep 27, 2013 2:00 AM

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