November started with all things Christmas as my family very kindly organised and hosted our annual Christmas fundraiser on November 4th in the UK. Sadly the weather was not on our side and I was told it rained heavily for most of the day. If you were one of the attendees despite the ‘stay at home’ weather then we thank you so very much and hope that you enjoyed the tea, cake and company. Our target for the day was to fundraise for three business start ups for three of our mamas and we met the target with thanks to the very generous donations given on the day. These small business start ups are a step towards mamas becoming independent from our ongoing support and finding a sustainable way to provide for their families. What an incredible achievement to now have funding for three families.
On November 5th I had an unexpected and amazing encounter with a young missionary named Daniel. Daniel is based here in Arusha for six months with an organisation called YWAM, his first time out of America with a real heart for long term missions in Tanzania. He attended the church which I go to on this Sunday through a contact he had been given from a friend of a friend. The mutual contact who is a very good friend of mine asked if I would meet with him and Daniel for breakfast after church (our church starts at 7:30am) and we met for Chapati and tea at the local petrol station. Daniel had stood up in church and introduced himself as someone who felt God had told him to go to Tanzania and when I asked him to explain where that confirmation came from he told me the following… He had grown up with a love for Tanzania after hearing a missionary speak about a trip to Tanzania and a number of other countries in Africa, he said he would base his school projects on Tanzania when possible and for some reason it always stayed in his heart. Then in 2018 he had a dream and saw written on the bottom of his foot the words ‘Hope and Soul’, he had told his friend about the dream and when they googled the words they found the UK registered charity Hope and Soul based in Tanzania and Daniel knew that it was confirmation that he should travel to the country when possible. Sitting in that petrol station I can honestly say that he had no idea who I was, I had no idea who he was and the mutual friend had no knowledge of this testimony and after asking multiple times if this was real and not a joke and Daniel staring at me blankly and a little confused I told him that the organisation is mine and to my knowledge there is not another organisation in Tanzania with that name. If you Google ‘Hope and Soul’ you will find our website and this whole morning will remain with me forever. If you are a believer then of course you will understand ‘God did’ and have a comprehension of the huge encouragement I received from this encounter. God gave Daniel that dream and he knew that five years later we would unexpectedly be meeting over a chapati to confirm testimonies of a calling over both our lives and how we have only ever been directed by God.
November had its challenges as we sought advice from social welfare concerning a child protection situation and the outcome resulted in a young child going into care. As an organisation we often find ourselves in the middle of these challenges, often we can work as a bridge to relieve poverty, provide life sustaining support that keeps family units together. However there are occasions when even with support we will make sure that safeguarding is at the forefront of what we do and that never under our supervision will a child remain in danger. The outcome of removal is never easy for anyone and our hearts ache for the trauma witnessed by such young hearts. We pray that those who are placed into care, foster homes or with extended family will one day have an understanding of why.
After finishing most of our Christmas shopping in October, this month turned to focusing on school preparations. I am undecided if I agree with the new school year starting in January here in Tanzania. In terms of ‘new year, new school’ it seems to make sense but the organisation and preparation of Christmas and School combined is exhausting! However if you start uniform shopping in November here then the shops are wonderfully quiet. It is sadly not a case of getting all the needs in one shop but we have to visit no less than three different parts of town for fabric, clothing, shoes and school bags. The sellers also like to increase their prices in January for the mad one week rush before schools open on January 8th so we are yet again winning getting this sorted in November and December. Little D and M were two of the first for shopping and when little M found a pair of Spiderman welly boots in the second hand market we had a task to find little D something with Spiderman on it too but thankfully found some little trainers! I often wonder about the previous life the second hand shoes we buy had before they are worn by our children.
November and December is also a month when most churches celebrate ‘first holy communion’ and ‘confirmation celebration’ and this year we have two of our young girls taking part in this celebration that come with a year long preparation and studies. That means shopping for beautiful little dresses and their very first pair of ‘high heels’, sign me up! A lovely shopping day was had on the 11th with our two girls.
On the 15th of November a dream of mine came true as I got to work as a dala dala conductor. A dala dala is a form of public transport here in Tanzania, they are converted mini vans that run around town in different areas as a bus service but are known for cramming a many people inside the vehicle as possible. Each vehicle is privately owned and so the amount of passengers carried on each run determines how much money the driver and conductor go home with at the end of the day and so its almost a competitive sport. I have wanted to be a conductor for a few years now but if you have ever seen or experienced a dala dala you will know how crazy it is to think of someone like me doing it. The job of the conductor is to open and close the sliding door and collect passengers, drop passengers at their stop and collect the fare. About six months ago I made friends with a driver and he said he would teach me how to do it and when I get a free hour I go and ride in the dala dala as part of my ‘work experience’. Then suddenly on the 15th November, thinking I was on another work experience run the conductor had disappeared and the bus was full and the driver told me it was time! The passengers found it hilarious and I was absolutely living my dream, I collected all the money correctly, dropped and picked everyone safely and we competed four runs at the busiest time of the day and everyone wanted to get on our dala dala! Another day to remember!
On the 17th of November my brother Zac arrived for a two week trip. Keeping in mind its now ten years since my first trip to Tanzania I couldn’t believe he was actually coming until I welcomed him up with a huge hug at the airport. The November rains were getting continually worse and I feared that the incredible beauty that is Tanzania would be hidden under rainy days. However this place never fails to leave a print of visitors hearts and that is exactly what it did for Zac. With only two weeks and his aim of getting video footage to help us with social media content we had a very busy schedule. Lots of home visits to meet children he has had to listen to me talk about for years and of course as he is taller than me no one believed that I am the older sister! I had various messages of marriage offers for him to consider from friends and it was so lovely to have his humour, kindness and thoughtfulness around for the time we had.
There are two main football teams in Tanzanias local league - Simba and Young Africans (Yanga), as a football fan I gave Zac the choice of buying a Tshirt of either team with a slight encouragement towards Yanga who have recently had some incredible wins. The day he wore his Yanga Tshirt in town was hilarious for me as I could understand what everyone was saying and it felt as if I was walking around with one of the players, Zac was so highly praised! He returns home a true Yanga fan. Zac experienced so much and when I reflect back I can only smile at the madness, joy, love and unexpected blessings we had. He pushed my car out of the mud on the 25th and then this young boy came with half a bucket of water for him to wash his feet as he had stripped off his shoes and socks. He sat through a three and a half hour church service guessing when to stand and when to sit (entertaining). He taught our children new games which made us all cry with laughter. He captured photos and footage that I am sure will help us to show the life changing work that is going on here thanks to our incredible supporters. We went on an amazing one day safari to Tarangire National park and had the closest encounter with a herd of elephants and so many other animals and from start to finish the trip worked out perfectly and I am so thankful.
This update brings us to the 1st of December when Zac flew back to London and on my side the start of my final nineteen days of work on the ground here in Arusha. I made a challenging decision at the start of November that means I will fly to London at the end of December and stay in the UK for a couple of months to focus on fundraising. I have been working incredibly hard to try and prepare for leaving but my heart is something that is hard to prepare. The UK will always be home but Tanzania is also home and equally not feeling completely at home in either place is a richness that I know I am blessed to know. It makes leaving extremely challenging not in a practical sense as we have our incredible Jenipha who works just as hard as I do for our children and families but in knowing that I leave behind so many little (and big) hearts that I know and love. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I prepare for this much longer trip away from Arusha and our efforts to increase funding and sponsorship that is needed for the charity. If you have a business, school, church, workplace or group that would like to hear more about our projects and our amazing families then I would love to hear from you as I will be planning as many speaking and sharing opportunities as possible for the first three months of 2024. For now I continue with my 5:30am starts and plans and preparations until evening every day until I get on that plane and the wrestle with my heart begins.
Thank you with all my heart,
Lots of love from Hope xxxx