The challenge is getting what is in my head into words that are both comprehendible and reflective of the crazy wonderful world that I am slowly yet again adjusting to - if that is even completely possible. Where to start… I am now officially solo in my adventure as the three amigos have departed (Emily, Sasha and Nicole) followed by feeling like my right arm had been severed in the form of Amy leaving me which finally made this new reality hit home...
The three weeks with the girls was incredible and they made a big impact on everyone they met, often I can really recognise it is more about how you make a person feel, than just what you can give to them in a practical sense. Having more people to love the children especially at the orphanage is a true blessing as those children soak up all the love we have to give. The street boys also proudly reel off the names of the girls and ask me what they are doing.
Starting with a 5am town walk early on in the trip the girls got to see how the street children really survive- it can only be described as surviving as not having shelter, safety or constant access to food or clean water is inhumane. The girls used donated funds to purchase shoes from the local market for the street children and we successfully crowd controlled /basically became bouncers in a clothing handout of donated clothes from home.
Then meeting our young adults in the ‘project re-enablement’ included (but was definitely not limited to) teaching Emanuel to play ‘I went to the shop and bought’, choosing and designing a cake to take to James and Robert in rehab to celebrate a year sober and making room for Deo in the car as he chose to travel around with us most days! The young boys who have adopted the nickname ‘Kijenge boys’ (because of where they live) were treated to a swimming and pizza day. The evening before the swimming trip we were disappointed when the big supermarket sold everything but armbands, but thank goodness we were able to save our pennies because those boys are like fishes and backflipped, dived and raced underwater all day!
The children at the orphanage equally loved their pool day although Jacksoni had the first official tantrum I have ever seen when told he needed to share his armbands which involved him sitting on the pool side arms crossed giving Amy and Emily a very serious look. We have been playing a lot of games of Chinese whispers with them which they absolutely love and is comical on all sides both for ‘teachers’ and children.
It was also Bright-Sun’s first birthday, Bright is the baby of seventeen year old Magdalena who fell pregnant at school and due to government law is not allowed to return to education but is being employed as a ‘mama’ at the orphanage. Bright apparently wanted a tracksuit for his first birthday so that is what we sourced at the market along with a big blue birthday hat, a huge lion birthday cake and lots of mangoes to share with everyone. The children absolutely adore Bright and they were joyful to share the special day with him.
The list of what the girls got up to is endless but they also enjoyed visits to other projects that we work alongside to support our Hope and Soul families, a cultural tour and safari and distributed their generous donations from home on supporting multiple areas of our projects.
On their last morning we went to visit one of our wonderful mama’s in the family support part of our programme who had returned home from hospital following invasive surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. The girls were really moved by how courageous Jakki was in coping with severe post op symptoms, I know how wonderful she is but her ability to bless others even at her weakest amazes me. A few days later Amy was my wonderful nurse assistant/ hand holder while I removed Jakki’s sutures, Amy sat cross legged on the bed holding a phone torch for light while I attempted to keep some sort of ‘sterile field’.
Back track a little to when I visited Jakki in hospital and the reality of a government hospital here is mind blowing. I arrived at ‘lunch time visiting’ there are only three set hours in the day when visitors are allowed and these are adhered to with a large guarded gate. I arrived five minutes prior to gate opening and quickly identified Jakki was in the ward furthest away from the entrance (probably not far off a walk around QA) she was in what we would liken to a ‘six bed bay’ at home but there are no separation curtains, the beds are static beds with patients bringing their own sheets and blankets. The first thing Jakki asked for was water, patient families are expected to provide water and food. The second thing she asked for was some pain relief, I observed her abdominal wound, sutured tightly but only simply covered by her own cloth.
The patients are given a list of medication and once acquired are responsible for self medicating. To get pain relief I had to ask the nurse for the list of medication advised by the doctor, then leave the ward and return to the entrance to register an account in her name, then go to the hospital pharmacy for the pharmacist to write down how much each medication would cost, then proceed to a booth to pay the money, then return to the pharmacy to collect the medication with a receipt and then return to the ward with the medication. CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THIS WAS THE PROCESS AT HOME, goodness me, chaos, and there is no orderly queue at each of these points- I have learnt to put all my English manners aside and push my way through. Needless to say I was only leaving the pharmacy to run back up to the ward at the time visiting was finishing and although Jakki was extremely thankful I felt like I should have been paid for the hours nursing work and had no actual 'visiting' time!
In the past I would always struggle returning to what I viewed as an abundance within the NHS, I know it may be failing but actually the resources that we have, care that we can provide at the point of contact and the fact that it is completely FREE is something we should never take for granted. The nurse looking after Jakki presented me with a ‘bill’ for her three day stay which literally detailed each intervention and the cost, everything from the operation, the IVABX and IV fluid to insertion of a catheter, again I will say CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THIS WAS THE PROCESS AT HOME. Some would argue this is better but that is for another day, I am grateful for our NHS and always have been and I hope this small example demonstrates how so many other human beings in our world are living.
For those of you who are maybe a little confused by all of the above information and the abundance of posts on my Facebook and Instagram and our charity social media let me quickly explain in a nutshell what I am doing here and what it’s all about.
Hope and Soul is a UK registered charity that I registered after falling in love with the people of Tanzania and recognising a huge need that I believed could be transformed, one child at a time. Our belief has always been that we do not see the problem but view the potential and as most of our provision is given to street children I say this to myself on a daily basis, because (to keep it in a nutshell) these are children and young people that come from backgrounds that mean they are forced to live on the street consequently when we meet them the ‘problem’ is normally not a small one.
We also support an orphanage run by a Tanzanian lady- Women’s Christian Orphanage Care which is the first orphanage I visited in 2013 and I have watched the children grow and develop into amazing little lives that I hope we can continue to support until they have finished higher education. We also have a number of at risk families that we support in order to prevent family breakdown and separation.
This is the nutshell, HOWEVER on a daily basis we meet people who need medical care which I give from my backpack at the roadside or we make a hospital trip, give out pennies for hot meals to children who we can not yet fully support, buy shoes and clothing for children sleeping in material sacks at night for warmth, give out sweets and toys to children in the communities around our supported families, home visits, school meetings, small business start up's and the list goes on..
You may have gathered there is nothing small about our work, the daily need is overwhelming but I also believe in a God that is bigger than any problem. I am here because I feel led to continue this work full time and somehow God continues to view the potential in me even as I fail on a daily basis. If I am forgiven and renewed daily then how can I not help those little ones who simply have outstretched hands asking for love and grace.
I love my children here and they call me Mama or Auntie, they do not look for me to be the perfect mama but one that simply shows up and doesn't give up. I have seen the strength of so many women here despite hardship beyond comprehension refuse to stop loving and caring for their children with everything they have and those are the women I will continue to use as role models in this crazy uncertain world.
My street boys have dusty dirty feet, like wearing worn out clothes, don't always wash, often forget a please and thank you, fight and can not read and write but I believe they deserve an opportunity to become the best they can possibly be and they have been given to me for a purpose and a plan much bigger than I can ever understand.
Daily I am overwhelmed, I take one step forward and one back continuously with the boys, I am exhausted and yet my heart is so full at the same time, I have lost the consistency, assurance and stability of life in the UK and I never have fully clean feet (personal struggle)! But the contentment comes, when Seliman kisses me on the cheek and says ‘thank you mama’, when Emanuel proudly tries on his new clothes for guide school, when Hans proudly remembers the english translation of a Swahili word, when I see Bright take his first steps, when a little school girl simply wants to hold my hand walking home, when the boys receive their badges for one year clean and sober, when the girls in the orphanage squeal with delight at painting my nails, when I see Lilly is safely in the arms of her mama and now forever with her little brother. That is when I know that this mess my heart feels is for more than I can ever try to comprehend, in this mess God is with me- the one who knows the purpose and the plan, I am but a vessel to outpour the abundance of blessing.