24 March 2014

what we do on the weekend in tanzania.

I don't know why this post didn't come sooner...

Unless you're a brand new reader of our blog (welcome!), you know that Ashley and I are currently students studying Kiswahili at the Makoko Language School in Musoma, Tanzania.

Ashley already elaborated on what our language school routine looks like. But God gave us weekends for a reason - you know, to do other stuff that you really enjoy. This post is about how we use that time - hooray!

Basically, every weekend we spend time at three different organizations (Lisa's Pride, Community Alive, Jipe Moyo) focused on improving the lives of children living in difficult circumstances. Also, we often visit the home of a local Tanzanian for a meal. Keep on reading for the specifics!

Lisa's Pride
Started by a Maryknoll Sister (Marion) and co-run by a fellow long-time Maryknoll Lay Missioner (Liz), Lisa's Pride is a group for children living with HIV/AIDS that meets every other Saturday afternoon for three hours at Marion's home. Ashley and I have visited these beautifully special children every chance possible since we first arrived in Musoma.

What do we do with them? Mostly, we play games. Why? To remind them that they are kids and life is fun and they are loved. We play pseudo-board games. We play anything possible with a soccer ball and a bucket. We jump rope. We make and throw water balloons.

Of course, it's not just about games. Thanks to Marion and her generous supporters, we are able to give them needed nutrition: vitamins, honey, soy, eggs, biscuits...and lollipops. Their health and weight are monitored, and when needed, Marion and Liz facilitate visits to the local medical clinic. Lisa's Pride also serves as a support group for the parents of these children.

These children are very special and we will miss them once we finish language school and move to Mwanza, a city about a three-hour drive from our language school here in Musoma.

Community Alive
Community Alive is an organization founded by two Maryknoll Sisters (Mary Reese and Rosalie) but today is entirely run by Tanzanians. Community Alive offers education, health, food and psycho-social support to AIDS orphans and children living with AIDS here in Musoma, Tanzania. The children meet every Saturday morning at the creative learning center for group counseling, games, exercise and a meal. Also, Community Alive conducts home and school visits to monitor the wellbeing of the children.

Photo Credit: Madaraka Nyerere

So how are we involved? Well, again, we basically play and converse with the children (great Kiswahili practice!). Also, we have sat in on a few group counseling sessions and were shockingly asked to help facilitate dialogue. Yeah, about that....

Oh, and we have had some of the most delicious tea at these Saturday gatherings! Now I don't want to call this tea "fatty" because that would be the perfect description, so I'll just say it is calorie-rich - something these children need for sure.

Jipe Moyo
Currently under the management of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (hmmm...I'm sensing a trend...religious sisters sure do a lot, huh?), Jipe Moyo is an organization that works with vulnerable children. Who are these vulnerable children? First, street children - kids that live and sleep on the street and no longer have contact with their families. Second, victims of child labor. Third, abused children - those who suffer from physical, sexual and other abuse.

Photo Credit: Jipe Moyo

Jipe Moyo aims to empower these vulnerable children through counseling, training/education and awareness. The sisters and social workers of Jipe Moyo work to give hope to these children and remind them of their worth and that they are loved. Ultimately, the goal is to successfully integrate these children into society and re-unite them with their families.

Life on the street is rough for these kids. Again, our time spent with them is focused on allowing them to just be kids. We play games. We talk and joke about random stuff in Kiswahili. We make it fun.

These children live full-time at the Jipe Moyo Centre, but we visit on the weekends in the late afternoon. Jipe Moyo is doing incredible work with incredibly vulnerable members of society.

Being Guests in the Home of a Tanzanian
Last but certainly not least, Ashley and I have had the privilege of being guests many times over in the home of a Tanzanian. We have already posted quite a bit about the incredible hospitality of Tanzanians. And yes, we take advantage of this at every possible opportunity.

Ashley and I absolutely love being able to interact with local Tanzanians on their turf - sitting directly in the context in which they live their life. No matter the circumstance of their reality, everyone has treated us with humble generosity. Our experience has been that Tanzanians truly give without counting the cost.

We have visited the homes of and eaten meals with our language school teachers and kitchen staff, friends of friends, and neighbors. Each experience has blown us away, beginning with our first meal in the home of a Tanzanian.

Clearly our learning extends far beyond the reach of the language school classroom. Thank God.

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