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last day with the kids :(

USA | Saturday, 19 May 2012 | Views [531]

the teaching never stops for Neema

the teaching never stops for Neema

Exhausted, sick, and sad...I watched Neema lead the kids through some songs for us. I took some photos and more video. As she was leading them through a goodbye song, she stopped and burst into tears. Sobbing tears. Which of course made me cry and a few of the older children cried. Amazing what a connection you can make in two weeks. She calls me "dada" (sister) and says she will miss me so much. It was very touching.

She invited me and Sam to her place for lunch. I was delirious from no sleep (totally worth it though) and my clothes smelled of pee from holding her pee soaked daughter, but we made our way to her home. There are so many areas of Moshi (or the outskirts) that I haven't seen. I'm glad I got the opportunity to experience this as I doubt many tourists make it out there. 

I don't even really have the words to describe her living conditions. She lives in a curtained off portion of a cement home. I'm not sure how many other people live in that small building. Hers was on the end, so she had a small window. The room was smaller than any studio apartment I've lived in. It was just big enough for a table, a small couch and two chairs. Behind the couch was a twin mattress and behind the curtain was a bunk bed I think was shared with the other tenants. There were stacks of things covered with fabric and I saw this is where they kept the pots and dishes. She cooked the pasta on a small kerosine cooker and her helper must have cooked the main dish outside. I noticed that most of the cooking here was done outside, even in our volunteer house. The kitchen had a stove but it looked completely unused and instead they referred to the kitchen as the brick hut outside that housed the pot and firewood. Neema's home didn't have any sort of kitchen or bathroom though. I didn't ask about the bathroom but assumed it was communal and outside. I've certainly done my fair share of squatting into a ceramic hole these past two weeks.

Neema explained in her broken English that her helper was a 17 year girl of some friend or family member that had little education and no place to go. She was a beautiful, shy and quiet girl. Neema's daughter Glory and her sister's daughter Irene also lived with her. All four of them live in that tiny room. I didn't see where any of their clothes were, but Neema always looks put together in her brightly colored dresses. It seemed the only toy was a baby doll another volunteer had given Glory and the stuffing had all come out and her arms were falling off. That didn't seem to matter to the girls as they took turns holding it on their laps.

The lunch was actually really good, albeit simple. It was spaghetti pasta with oil and salt and a rice dish with beef and potatoes. I'm glad I brought my bottle of water because I don't think there was anything to drink other than unfiltered water and you know we westerners can't drink that. She was so proud to have us in her home and she showed us the back alley where she had set up a chalk board and small space to teach some of the children and adults after school. She said teaching at night takes her mind off of things. Her life is teaching. This woman is so strong and so giving. She said she prays all the time to be able to feed the children at the school, to stay healthy, and to maybe one day get her diploma and have her own school building and home. She said she had a small home but couldn't afford the $30 per month rent. I just....I can't even begin to wrap my brain around that.

After lunch, we took a taxi into town to go to the atm. I needed to pull out the cash to give her for sponsoring the children. Collectively, we were able to pay for the education of 12 children. I was hoping we could help two or three, but we can pay for 12!!! I could only pull out 400,000 tsh at a time so it took awhile to get to the 1,425,000 tsh for all 12 kids. It looked like a massive amount of money. Using 1000s instead of dollars made me feel like I was playing with monopoly money. Thankfully, I didn't have any trouble pulling that out in one day. Back at the school it was all business, counting out the money and writing receipts, filling out the sponsorship paperwork. I decided to sponsor two children through secondary school- Irene and Glory. These are the two girls living with Neema, her daughter and niece. She didn't even offer up Glory as someone needing sponsoring at first until I asked. I knew she couldn't pay for her own daughter to attend school, so while it was ok right now being she's 3 years old, what would happen when it comes time for primary school? Glory is such a bright girl at 3 years old- she knows most of the answers and has such personality. I want to give her the best chance at a good life. After discussing this with Neema, I chose to put both of them through English medium schools. It's a private school that teaches all subjects in English and then has one Swahili class (rather than all Swahili with one English class). Both will start in July. Irene I chose, not because she lives with Neema, but because I've been watching her all week. She's quiet, smart and seems to take care of all the younger ones. She doesn't speak much English, but she understands more than I think. At times, I would say outloud to myself "where is my red pen" and I'll turn around and she will be holding it up for me. She will take half year of English medium nursery and then she will have to take a test to be able to attend the primary school. She's a bright girl. She'll pass.

I can hardly imagine what it will be like 10 years from now as they write letters to me about their progress. I met a young girl on the walk home the other day the attends the English med school and she was so polite and well spoken. I envision that for Glory and Neema and I'm so grateful I have the means to completely alter the direction of their little lives. It's almost too much to absorb. I've sponsored kids before through organizations, where I'll get a letter translated for me about their family and what they do when not in school...but it's not the same. I didn't know them. They didn't know me. I was just someone that paid $20 a month for school. Now that I know $20 going directly to these kids instead of through an organization is A LOT of money, I'm really excited. I'm just so grateful for this opportunity.

Speaking to Neema about need is like opening Pandora's box. There are so many children- a nursery or orphanage on every other corner it seems- that it's a bit overwhelming. Earlier in the week she received a phone call that her younger brother had been accepted to a local university but that he couldn't go because of money. I asked how much it costs for university and she said she would get the details from her brother. Well, her brother wanted to come meet me. I said I couldn't make any promises but I would like to see if there was anything I could do. He's waiting for us Friday as we come back from lunch. He's all dressed up to meet me and is so polite. He speaks very little English but I asked if he could write a letter for me to bring back home with me, stating why he wanted to go to school and what his dreams were. We had to go through a few revisions and it's still pretty choppy, but I'll scan it in when I'm at work. He wants to be a veterinarian- a doctor to the cows and goats. University is only for two years and with boarding and everything, it looks like it will be 1,000,000 tsh per year. With the exchange rate, that's about $625 USD. That's pocket change to many people I know so I'll do my best to get the word out. It's a time crunch though as school needs to be paid before he would start on June 25th. I better get crackin.

Friday night we went out again to celebrate (or at least honor) my last evening in Tanzania. It was a mellow night of some drinks and dancing at an outside bar called Glacier. It's so crazy to me that everyone can dress up and look 1st world when they then go home to 3rd world accommodations. I certainly have mixed feelings about coming home. I'm tired, I have a pretty bad cold, and I need a good shower...but the connections I've made here make me contemplate a return in the future.  We will see.

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