March 2011 update from our trip

A child was kneeling in the dust on the dirt floor of the school next to Adonai Children’s Home. With head bowed her gesture was saying “thank you” for the small gift from HARAMBEE she’d chosen. Every child did the same. I asked who taught them to do this. Our host Aloysious Luswata said “It’s a sign of respect.” OK. “It dates from colonial times.” Not OK. Clearly a symbol of subjection and subservience, it made me very uncomfortable. Anthropologically correct or not, I showed an alternative and we all happily switched to a “high five” ‘til day’s end.

Adonai Children’s Home in Kampala, Uganda, was a high point of this journey. About 300 children attend the school; 150 have no parents. They are all cared for by Aloysious & his wife, who live in a modest home with their children, without electricity or running water. While there we christened 3 donated high-yield dairy goats, delivered pen pal letters & photos from Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship, & had lots of fun visiting with the children and taking their photos. Each child got to choose a small gift, & their choices were surprising & touching: a toothbrush or ruler instead of a toy; a pair of used donated shoes over a pack of cookies. A big bar of soap. Still, balls were popular & kids are kids—very happy!

This is life in a resource-poor area. This is life where there are major disconnects between simple village life—often short and hard--and 21st century high tech with goods that are visible but not achievable. Aloysious has no car. The only sanitation is pit latrines. We’d endured a long & dusty ride from western Kenya to get to Adonai, prolonged because the bus’ headlights gave out after dark & we needed a motorcycle escort to a service station and a mechanic. Instead of arriving in Kampala at 6 pm, we pulled in at 11. Would I do it this way again? No. Was it worth it? Decidedly, yes. And 2 goats have kidded—now 5, for the price of 3. More nutritious goat milk for children!
We still were on a big “high” from watching 4 sponsored clients from Upendo Village receive their beekeeping certificates at Baraka Agricultural College in Molo. And from our introduction to Sarah Obama, grandmother of our President. I wonder if this would rate a White House dinner invitation.

We had another adventure naming & distributing more high-yield dairy goats in Naivasha at Upendo Village. We took short video clips & will send them to the donors, those wonderful people responsible for Otis, Mary, Buster, Sweeney, Maggie, Jomajo, Sunshine, & others. We also saw baby goats (from mothers: Sophia, Ole, Sally) given to Upendo Village as promised, showing that HARAMBEE’s values of resource-sharing & community-building are thriving. And of course showing you how your gifts keep on giving. More than 100 donated high-yield HARAMBEE dairy goats are building health & community in Africa.

Because of your own global vision of sharing & community-building, HARAMBEE is now supporting 5 students in medical training through our GROW A DOC program. We met with all 5 and their comments (links on our website) are heartwarming. They are doing well in their studies, ready to fulfill their promise to work in underserved areas after graduation, but all have ambitions to pursue training beyond a Clinical Officer diploma. We hope to expand our program & target young women, who still fight serious pressures in their desire to excel. Our students are an integral part of the AMEN program, coordinating efforts of several Kenyan medical schools with Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. They’ll participate in web conferencing & service projects with U.S. students in underserved areas where HARAMBEE is already working. John McNulty & I were fortunate to meet with Nairobi USAID Director Lynn Adrian & CDC Associate Director Dave Bader to discuss funding possibilities for this project. Please do consider a donation, with a great gift card.

Purchasing crafts from our co-op groups is an important (and challenging) part of every service trip. This year we have lovely new jewelry, religious items, & badge holders. We also have aprons and skirts fashioned from kangas, African wraps. When Everlyne Shangalla (Women’s Power Group, Kibera) delivered skirts she brought a sweet little girl with her, Shirley. I hadn’t known Everlyne had a child so young. Big smile from Everlyne: “She’s mine, but not my birth daughter. Before Shirley’s birth, her mother was sick with TB and needed care, so I helped her. I stayed with her for 6 months. When she was well she disappeared, leaving Shirley with me. I’m the only mom she’s ever known, and I love her.” Shirley’s birth mother was 15 years old.

Touched by this story? So am I. I’ve heard dozens like it in the years working in Africa. People help children. If they don’t who will? Like Mama Moses, who rescued a newborn baby from a trash heap. He’s now 5 & proudly printed his name for me. Mama Moses (Susan Njeri) crochets plastic totes & makes paper bead necklaces & items from banana leaves. She sells them to feed Moses. I hope you’ll want to buy some. He’s still a happy, well-adjusted kid.
We have a new board member: Dorcas Kerubo, who lives in Nairobi with her husband John Amisi & their family. It’s important to have a resident HARAMBEE presence in Africa & Dorcas will play an important role in our development. Welcome, Dorcas!

I Always Leave Africa With Intense And Disparate Feelings: Great Pride That We’ve Been Able To Make A Difference In Lives. Humility That I Am An Instrument. Inadequacy In The Face Of Overwhelming Needs. And Joy As I Witness Our African Friends Surmount Great Hurdles. Is Your Life Tough? Maybe You’ll Find Inspiration In The Photo Below—Bunk Beds Delivered To Adonai By Motorcycle. This Shot Was Taken At The Top Of A Hill After The Bike Had Climbed It. Go Figure. Wow. (Photo To Be Posted.)
In Africa I’ve experienced life at the edge. For me it’s become the center. Thank you for joining me there.

With love and gratitude,