October started with a lively ‘visiting day’ to our local boarding school where we currently have eleven boarders. I found a half used bag of bright yellow balloons at home that the children enjoyed for their visiting day treat along with biscuits and juice as standard. We had enough to share with lots of other friends which meant everyone got to enjoy, until they popped of course!
The first Monday of the month saw our big market shop for Cherish Daycare, our partnership between Hope and Soul and this locally established daycare continues to provide quality care services for the little ones attending. It is now over six months of our support and the difference is clearly reflected in the progress of the children both in learning but also general health and happiness. We are incredibly proud of our staff who care for three children with special needs amongst the total twenty seven children. One of our gorgeous girls little Miss T has non-verbal autism, a disability which is very rarely understood in this country. There is a common belief that children with disabilities are cursed and families will often subject children to spiritual rituals to try and remove bad spirits. Children can also be hidden away at home in order to prevent shame on the family and even those who love their children dearly have no government support or training. There are a number of great organisations working on removing the stigma, providing help and resources to children with special needs which is something we always encourage families to access. I am so honoured when Miss T will show that she recognises me and sit for cuddles. Her sensory joy is anything string-like and so if my hair is down it is very likely to get pulled so that she can keep for later! Her progress in all seriousness is incredible, she will now sit in class with the others, nap at nap time without needing to use the cot, she recognises all staff members and Hope and Soul team members and her health and wellness is improved greatly. This is the kind of impact we want to see the charity making in the community and the Cherish Daycare partnership has been an incredible start to looking at how we can improve outcomes on a larger scale.
October has also seen the start of the ‘short rains’ normally lasting a little into December but a lighter type of rain compared to those of March/April. However this year we have been given a sever weather warning and the rains have been incredibly heavy from the start of October. Rain is not such a problem with our work, but the mud that it creates is a challenge. Finishing moderately clean after a morning in the rain especially in any kind of market is a big achievement! We see school children sacrificing rain coats and sweaters to wrap up their school books from the rain whilst others carry bits of plastic just to cover their books. Some have rain boots and dance about in the puddles and others end up taking of their shoes completely as they have minimal support on a sunny day let alone when tackling the mud.
Joint birthday party for Rehema and Victoria at the orphanage on October 6th, these two are not blood relatives but have grown up together and are the very bestest of friends and love to share everything together. There was a power cut that evening so instead of getting to watch a movie on the projector we put the few little battery powered lights on that we had and held a dance party. On October 7th I drove to Moshi (the city next to Arusha) to visit Halima who is one of our boarding school students. I drove the just under two hour journey with her Mother, Father and younger sister who had never even been to Moshi before. Halima had also never seen her school or even been to Moshi before the day that she arrived and stayed for four months before having her first visiting day, another reminder of the resilience of children here.
I shared this photo of Little A and his baba (father) on social media but it really is a reflection of all that we aim to do. Empowering parents to care for their children in the best way possible. Baba A had called me to say he was sick and having trouble breathing and so I met him at the local hospital where he had been given a list of medications to buy. This is how medical care works here, if you have insurance or if you need to pay with cash all of that process is done prior to getting any care. I bought the intravenous antibiotics needed from the pharmacy a little way down the road and we returned to the doctor. Little A was blissfully unaware that he was about to have a needle put in his hand but soon we would all know about it as his wailing could be heard far and wide. ‘Bed side manner’ is basically non existent here and thats putting it kindly, the less said the better, but after the doctor scolded me for asking politely for a five minute break for Little A to calm down I had to stand outside. Another five minutes later father and son emerged and both had tears streaming down their faces. Little A was being pacified with a lollipop but what struck me is the pain that his father had shared in that moment. This is a father who without Hope and Soul support would not be able to care for his son. Our financial support builds a stepping stone for a loving and kind hearted father to do exactly what he should, get up each morning and do his very best for his son.
On the 12th October I got my hair braided ready for a weekend of graduation ceremonies! It takes about four hours if you are fortunate enough to have three to four girls plaiting at the same time and costs under £20. Friday the 13th I had two graduation ceremonies for two secondary schools on opposite sides of town. Both ‘started’ at 8am but by 11am the first one had only just started, then after reaching the second one at 2pm flustered that I was late I found everyone half asleep by the speech from the guest of honour and had arrived in time for the certificate and award giving. One of our graduates is Miss F who at only seventeen years old went through a very traumatic premature birth to a less than 1kg baby girl earlier this year who then after failure of care in the government hospital sadly passed away. Hope and Soul has been running alongside this young lady since our first day of meeting her and her baby this year and her courage and determination is what has kept her in a good place. Miss F is academically very talented and has dreams of becoming a lawyer, I am very sure she is capable of achieving all of her dreams and more. Graduation not only marked an incredible academic achievement but also one of recognising her resilience to overcome a life changing situation and step towards a very bright future.
October 14th was graduation day for three children from Women’s Christian Orphanage that Hope and Soul has supported officially from 2017 but as far back as 2013. Seeing E, V and L finishing Primary School was another incredible privilege and with our wonderful Maria by my side who works so hard caring for the children we enjoyed the day albeit in thirty degree heat in a tent with an as per usual very long day.
On the 17th we had the very fun task of buying all the supplies for a new family, with thanks to a number of very generous donations. The family of six (one mama and five children) and a new born baby to the eldest daughter without literally anything in their small mud built room were overwhelmed with the donation of a bed, two mattresses, food stock, nappies, soap, bed sheets and blankets, baby clothes, basins, buckets, cooking pots and more. We completely transformed the room in under fifteen minutes. Little baby girl slept through the entire process with her drawn on eyebrows which if anyone does not know is a tradition here followed normally by those with Islamic faith to ward off ‘the evil eye’ and is believed to protect the baby from anyone who may wish to cause him or her harm.
October also means we start to mention the word Christmas and as I have learnt from three years of Christmas celebrations here there is no joy in ‘last minute’ shopping and so we like to start (and finish) all our shopping way before December 1st! This year things are a little bit different for us as a charity as we do not have a surplus of spare funds for Christmas clothes shopping so I have treasured the few trips I have made to town and loved watching the children light up trying on their new clothes and shoes. I was also able to carry over from the UK a large amount of donated shoes and clothes which are great substitutes to not being able to go shopping as our Hope and Soul supporters give us such a range of quality items. On the 22nd of October I took Emanuela to the bus stop at 5am to catch her bus to Mwanza where she will be studying at a well known University. I still can not believe that we have a University student in Hope and Soul but she is leading the way in an incredibly high standard and we wish her all the best in her studies.
Jenipha and I worked on Saturday the 21st to collect some photo content for the Hope and Soul Christmas fundraiser held in the UK and I got this wonderful picture of Mama V and her five children. Often here in the day to day work it can feel hard to recognise progress but when looking at photos like this it really helps to see how much a family can change for the better with our support and it makes all the hard days very worth it. The family featured in our Christmas fundraiser aiming to provide a small business start up for Mama V. She will still need ongoing support as a single mother with five small children but this will be an incredible step towards her providing a sustainable income for her family.
The 24th October will be a date that stays in my memory forever as it was the day that Goodluck passed away. Goodluck who was just eighteen years old had been part of Hope and Soul from August 2019 until February of this year when he very sadly made the decision to walk away from his education opportunity. He had very good school results but when people say ‘company corrupts’ this really was the breaking of a wonderful young man. The day was also extremely traumatic for all of us involved and although I will not share details here I have lost a lot of sleep reliving the events of the day and also the last time we sat and spoke in September just a few weeks before. I am still processing feelings and I know that despite the situation my boys feel as if they have lost a brother and we mourn him for the wonderful boy we knew he was. The funeral was held on the 27th October and again a day of very mixed feelings to see family mourn a child they had not taken any responsibility for over the past years but I can only count myself as blessed to have known and loved him and seen his smile transform as part of the Hope and Soul family. RIP Goodluck 01.07.2005 - 24.10.2023.
I dried my eyes and after leaving the burial site drove to the orphanage for another two birthday celebrations our Maria and Ansila. Again with no power in the city we had to forgo another movie night. The power has been cutting for incredibly long periods of time since September, we can almost guarantee a cut for at least eight hours every single day. It makes life interesting to say the least and it is something that I have definitely learnt to live with. Bucket showers are not as bad as you think and the game of ‘trying not to open the fridge’ or trying to remember which light switches were on before going to sleep knowing the power will most likely come back on around 1am are entertaining!
On the 29th of October I had a wonderful home visit to our Mama N and her two girls. Big N is sitting her first Secondary national exams in November and little N is really not fussed with anything to do with school and would still much rather be at home playing! These sisters are chalk and cheese but incredibly sweet together. Mama N has recently returned from an extended stay in Dar Es Salaam where she had a big urogenital surgery. Again another family that are now living a completely different life with Hope and Soul support and I do not say this to blow our own trumpet but for you as our generous sponsors to know how life changing your donations are. Next year we have plans to open a local cafe for Mama N as she makes the very best chapati but currently sells them from a basket alongside tea from a thermos and wonders the streets looking for customers. Step by step this trio are making great progress towards a really bright future together and we are so proud of them and so honoured to be part of their lives.
I recently had a conversation with a friend here who is also from the UK and I said that everything here just seems to ‘feel’ so much more than life in the UK. The highs of this work are incredible highs and fill my soul for days but the lows are also incredibly low and more often than not carry a lot of trauma. I would not change what I do for the world, I am so honoured to live out the calling that God placed on my life and I know that no matter what the changing circumstances are that surround us here in Tanzania we are committing all of our purposes and plans to a God that is unchanging.
Thank you with all my heart, Lots of love from Hope xxxx