Friday, 29 July 2011

While the kids are away....

With the house empty of 27 extra people, what does one take themselves to do? Seems like the most effective use of my time could be used to confront the endless streams of thoughts that have been passing through my head over the past few weeks. 
I’m Lindsey... Swahili teacher extraordinare, resident “fun” co-ordinator, evening activities guru, extra body at the work site, answerer to the strangest of questions, money exchanger, daughter and sister to a few on the trip and most recently I’ve found myself to be the person with a few big decisions to make regarding my future. I never would’ve thought that a group of high school students would be the the people who would inspire me to immerse myself within what I’m most passionate about and never look back. 
A year ago today, I was over half way through my nearly four month stay in Tanzania. I was jack of all trades at Camp Moses; volunteer co-ordinator, bread delivery person and budget creator. Most of all, however, I was somewhat of a sponge. I absorbed everything and relayed it through my blog; an attempt to convince my parents that they had made the right decision in agreeing to let their 17 year old daughter spend four months alone in Tanzania. I guess this might’ve been one of several catalysts for the trip the group is on today. How I weaseled my way into it, I have no idea. 
My biggest worry in accompanying this group was how I would overcome my jealousy of them sharing in on those extremely intimate and for me, life altering, experiences I had last year. It’s one thing to share them through words and another thing completely to physically show a group of (to me) somewhat strangers, where my memories were created. In the end, turns out I had nothing to be worried about.
The passion, hutzpah, emotion and dedication that these young people bring forward would be enlightening to anyone. I realized through this that maybe what I’m most passionate about isn’t having these experiences for myself, but helping to give incredible and out of the ordinary opportunities to people like myself who just want to see the world a better place, experience its challenges first hand and try and understand why things are the way they are. Everyday I smile a little more when a different student expresses a new view of the world, however small, or even has the guts to observe out loud what is different about life here and why it is just different and not better or worse. With every bucket of sand carried, or swing-set sanded, I know these kids are all coming closer to unearthing their own unique concept of what this trip means to them. 
My role here has been to act as somewhat of a liaison between VolunteerAbroad the group of students. I’ve planned most of our outings, ironed out a lot of unexpected details and learned how to bargain the price of a daladala for a group of 30! I’ve rented out movie theatres because the showing wasn’t to the groups liking and planned for a restaurant to show ‘The Lion King’ just for us. I’ve worked from breakfast to bedtime everyday since I arrived the second week of July, and not once have I wished I was doing something else.
If I could work abroad, with people like the ones in this group, for the rest of my life then I would have my dream job. For now, I will cherish every moment I have left on this trip and will continue to to give my all to them... watching, learning and becoming inspired every step of the way.

Lindsey Richardson

Just another day?

Today is the last day of work before we begin our safari and as I sit here in the dark waiting for the 6:00am bells to ring, I cherish the quiet that fills the house for just a few more minutes.  I know that soon our group of 27 will be stirring and voices, quietly at first, then increasing to volumes known only by parents of teenagers will begin as will another day here in Tanzania.
We are over the half way point in our journey together and I can honestly say that any job that allows me the privilege of working with young people this amazing is a gift.  They get to the job site at 8:30 and whether we have a 50 minute walk to work because of the dalla alla strike or are piled in for the 10 minute ride to work, they are singing, pranking or animatedly chatting about what the day will bring.  Collectively our muscles are all sore, we have tired backs , aching arms and topsy-turvy tummies but that has not deterred the amazing spirit that pervades our work.  Instead of sources of complaint, we are proud of our new muscles and the aches disappear completely when we see the children at the orphanage.
Our water breaks are spent quenching our thirst and refuelling our spirit.  It seems to take only one child from the orphanage to do that.  Whether Joseph, Esther, Judah, Bryson or any of the other 16 children make an appearance for  a hug, to share a cookie or have a quick play our resolve is deepened and our full hearts head back to the daunting tasks of mixing endless amounts of cement, digging what feels like miles of trenches or bucketing mountains of sand.
These amazing students will relate the tales of their adventures in their blogs, but i am compelled to share of the unbelievable teamwork that these young people have shown. In the most adverse conditions most of them will face in a lifetime, they are resilient. They support each other when a little homesickness sets in, massage sore muscels they didn't realize they had and care for one another when sickness sets in. Power here is sketchy, we now have no running water and the food not always to their liking, yet some are already planning on coming back. We celebrate the small things and the difference we are making... for we truly are making a difference... in our own lives as well as the lives of those we are here to help.
Breakfast is served, we are having crepes and as you can imagine, when eating with 22 teenagers, she who gets to the table last often gets crumbs! And so another day of our amazing adventure begins...

Sandra Richardson

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ground Level

Although digging meter deep trenches for three full work days was pleasing, and not as monotonous as it sounds, I think all of us were glad to have a change! As of two days ago, we began mixing cement.  Here this is done by hand on the ground.  We layer sand, gravel and cement, make a big well in the middle and mix it like a massive cake!  It is back breaking work in the Tanzanian heat, but we managed.  We filled in our beloved, sweat drenched trenches with our home made cement. The cement makers would fill the buckets then pass the filled buckets along a chain of workers until the bucket reached the “fundies” (construction workers.) In two days, we have finished a wall starting at the bottom of the trenches continuing for 8 levels of bricks.  Tomorrow we prepare the floor so we can continue our build above ground!
Today, Pam picked for of us (Acacia, Kenya, Anne and myself) to help bathe and dress the children at the orphanage. After the kids ate lunch, we assisted them in brushing their teeth with their new tooth brushes. I helped Bryson brush his teeth, but as soon as be started biting the brussels off his brush I decided enough was enough. He wasn’t especially impressed when I took his toothbrush away.
Tonight we went to a restaurant here in Arusha called Khan’s. Khan’s is a mechanical shop by day, and a restaurant by night. It is a rather interesting thing they’ve got going on to say the least. They roll the shutters on the garage down at 4 and roll out the grills to cook lots of meat with interesting flavours...we had goat, chicken and beef last night.  We can now say we have eaten at a place recommended in Lonely Planet!  On our way to the restaurant, our Dalla Dalla driver got us lost, so he had to pull over a few times so we could ask for directions from a few locals. It is always an adventure when we pile our group into one of the local rides!
When we got home we had a brief meeting about what we should be packing for our safari....WHICH IS IN 1 DAY! Mrs. Grant also let us know that Mel, Gabby, Taighe, Thomas, and I, will be going to camp Joshua tomorrow to spend a couple hours with the kids; reading, talking, playing games etc...From there we will go to a fabric store, a t-shirt store, and then luckily back to our last day of work until after the safari.
I have been having the most incredible time here and I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we are to have such an awesome group and how glad I am that everyone is getting along! It has been going by far too quickly in my opinion and I am already planning my next trip back!
Kayla Burton

Monday, 25 July 2011


Pole Sana (so sorry) but due to the adventurous and jam packed life style we have become adapted to, it appears that I, Kenya, have seriously lacked on my blog duties! So here it goes....over the course of about a week, we have released the tension of the traffic madness, forgotten the importance of clean clothes and hot showers, and begun to see the realties of poverty as well as the power of a little love. Our day started with a frustrating amount of digging, and we soon found a name for our short tempered symptoms....TRENCH FEVER. We were all the verge of mental break downs, however it took little to remind us of our motivation. All we needed was one kid, maybe Bryson, or Josef, or maybe another child who was too shy to reveal their name just yet, to poke their head around a cement wall to keep us digging. And then there was of course the song remixing, “Everyday I’m Shovelin’”, “All I do is DIG DIG DIG NO MATTER WHAT”, the list goes on. But as we left camp Moses that evening, we knew we had finished a job well done, and the trenches were alas, completed. In a frenzy of Daladala tunes, we headed back to Basecamp to prepare for our evening festivities. Lindsay, our resident “fun” coordinator, had arranged for us to go to “Via Via” a popular restaurant and dance party haven, to watch their first annual Dance Competition. Amongst extravagant costumes, incredible live music and dance moves that seemed almost surreal, our pack of Mzungus sat front seat enjoying a buffet of Tanzanian food and basking in the awe of the amazing performers. As the competition came to an end, and the groups that would not be continuing on discovered their fate, not a single head was bowed in disappointment. No actually, it was quite the opposite. Instead the entirety of Via Via, dancers, tourists, locals, erupted in dance. At first our group was shy, worried about stepping into the madness, but then the DJ announced over the loud speaker, “BASECAMP VOLUNTEERS, SINGLE RONNIE SAYS YOU CAN DANCE TOO!”  That was that, deal done we were joining in. I was even pulled into the middle of the circle in attempt to do anything that didn't make me look like a total goof. (although when one of the male dancers decided to join me in the circle I figured it was my cue to head out) It was an unreal experience, one that at first we weren't quite ready for. But as we adjusted we became a part of it, and when the music cut out no one hesitated to clap their hand and sing “Everybody Dance Now!” to be a part of it for just a little while longer. And thats just the thing, as a group, as a whole, as a team, we have adapted to our situations. We have been thrown far out of our time zones, even farther out of our comfort zones, and found the basic comfort in the bare necessitates. 
Lindsay taught us a new saying today, T.I.A.....This is Africa. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Camels, snakes and eyes wide open

A day off work, but not a day off the adventure… Today we were able to sleep in a little later as it was our one day off; we definitely took advantage of every moment of the day!  As usual, we piled into two 'daladalas' that stayed with us throughout the day and headed out as one very energized group.  

Our first stop was the exchange bureau/bank so the 'mzungas' could get some much needed Tanzania shillings to spend.  Some ATM's work better than others, some don't work at all.  If all else fails, just try again and you'll likely have success; persistence pays off.  Just the trip to the ATM can be quite interesting because our 'daladalas' were immediately approached by locals trying to sell us batiks.  Everyone's bartering and ignoring skills are vastly improving so we managed to make a few good deals before even getting to the market!

From there it was off to Shanga River House.  Shanga is a jewellery making organization that was started in 2006.  The founder, Saskia Rechtseiner, wanted to start a business making jewellery using marbles that her son's played with.  She hired a local woman to work for her, and realized that the woman couldn't speak.  It soon became apparent that individuals with special needs were either hidden by their families because of the shame, or they were left on the streets to beg.  Needless to say, Saskia was deeply moved by this realization and shifted the focus of her business from making money for herself, to finding an opportunity to help a very needy segment of society.  Today, Shanga River House is a thriving, non-profit organization that employs some 30-40 workers.  The majority of the workers are deaf, mute or physically disabled.  All the workers are productive members of this amazing organization that produces a variety of high quality jewellery and purses.  They use recycled glass to make the beads thereby attempting to help with the need to recycle.  When we arrived at Shanga we were given a brief lesson in signing so we could communicate with the employees.  We had a tour of the operation, and then had an opportunity to make a few purchases.  No doubt many of you at home will be receiving lovely gifts from Shanga!  If you'd like to check out their wares, go to; you can purchase their products on line.  The motto at Shanga is 'Kindness is a gift that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.'  That left a lasting impression with our group.

Once again it was time to pile into the 'daladalas', this time for a thirty minute ride through the countryside.  As one would imagine, the terrain is fairly flat and dry, with a few hills in the distance.  It does bare some resemblance to the desert areas of Oliver/Osoyoos with wide open spaces spotted with a few shrubs and the odd acacia tree.  However, we did see several Masai 'bomas' which are gatherings of a few mud huts surrounded by protective fences made from acacia trees.  Acacia trees have strong, sharp thorns several inches long that keep out predators.  The Masai people are still allowed to live on the land because they do no damage to the land.  A 'boma' is an area where on warrior will live with his wife/wives, children and livestock.  Each wife will have a separate hut.  The acacia fence will encircle all the huts into one small community.  The Masai still successfully live off the land without running water or electricity.

Our journey took us to the Snake Park where we saw crocodiles, alligators, tortoises, a variety of birds, and, of course, SNAKES!  These weren't just any snakes.  These were some of the most deadly cobras, vipers and pythons known to mankind.  And, just for added effect, they fed the snakes while we were there.  Much to our surprise, the snakes were fed very young chicks.  Once the snakes honed in, the chicks were gone quite quickly and painlessly.  On an equally exhilarating note, the kids were able to hold a snake and/or baby alligator if they so chose.  Several were brave enough and took full advantage, others got their thrills just looking on; I was among the latter group!  The snake park also had a walk through a replica museum of a Masai village complete with both men and women circumcision ceremonies.  We were guided through by a Masai warrior who himself had gone through the ceremony to enter manhood.  Although the practice is currently banned by the government, many Masai men and women still go through with it because it is such a significant part of their culture.  As we walked through the museum, one of the chaperones commented that it is amazing to walk through an exhibit that is a current way of life, not a lifestyle from hundreds of years ago.  In fact,  one of our English speaking program guides, Moses, is a Masai warrior.  You could have heard a pin drop the night he told the kids about his culture as we sat around a camp fire.  It is quite an honour to work with someone who can move so effectively back and forth between two very different cultures.  He is fluent in English, Swahili and Masai, and moves fluidly between the three languages, eagerly teaching us useful expressions and sharing his knowledge.  

No day off would be complete without a trip to the Masai Market; that was our last stop of the day before dinner.  Being Sunday afternoon there were several other bus loads of tourists already there.  This was a good thing because it meant that we wouldn't be quite so aggressively 'welcomed' into the individual stalls for a 'free look'.  It was a bad thing because the merchants started their bartering at a higher price than usual.  Fortunately, this was the second time around for us and we were feeling more confident in our ability to get a good 'best price'.  At least all the kids were able to.  I, on the other hand, despite my newfound confidence, didn't seem to be able to get the same deals at the end of the day.  The entire experience made for great dinner conversation and showing of the latest round of gifts and souvenirs that were purchased.  I'm not quite sure if Canadian customs is ready to deal with the barrage of knives, shields, scarfs and sandals that will be brought into the country shortly; time will tell.

As usual, our day wrapped up over an evening meal for 30; this time, courtesy of Mr. Bidlake.  We enjoyed a lovely variety of pizzas and calzones at a local Italian restaurant before we headed back to Base Camp.  

Tomorrow morning we start a little earlier, with refreshed muscles, eager minds, and a determination like no other to get the job done.  Week two, here we come!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Tatoos of Tomorrow

Tattoos of Tomorrow

Tattoos, the theme of this morning. Some get them for love, some for fun and others for motivation. After our stomachs were filled with scrambled eggs we squished into the Daladalas. Everybody was hyped to start another long day of work. My creative juices were flowing and i decided i was going to give out motivational tattoos. I was gathered with all girls in the back of the vehicle and i had my pen and started righting words on the back of there wrists (our form of a tattoo.). The motivational words went from "Faith" to "Fly" They were all metaphoric. When we arrived at Camp Moses we started bringing the words into reality. 

Kenya's tattoo said "Determined." That single word defines everyones work ethic today at the job site. There was dust flying, shovels digging, picks picking and sweat drops forming on the heads of the workers. We almost finished the digging  for the foundation today. The trenches all have to be a meter deep which may not sound like much, but trust me it is deep. We had work songs singing and everyone was covered from head to toe in dirt. 

As everyone may not know i recently had a meniscus repair and then got a staph infection. This means that i am not allowed to do much manual labor. I love doing carpentry so i made it my job to build new seats on the swings. I finished them and started to dig; however, everyone got me to stop because they know i can not control myself. I got put on sawing rebar. I think my right arm in now noticeable larger than my left. It may not be a dirty job, but it needed to be done. 

Our lunch was an eye opener. We were each given a fruit leather to share with one of the kids. They were sitting eating their lunches. This experience gave me a sense of joy to see that something that costs 50 cents back home can bring so much joy to a child. These children are some of the most intelligent kids i have ever seen. One child took my moms camera and started to take pictures. He could use the zoom lens and go back to see the pictures. Everyone has a personality and everyone is intelligent.
After lunch I went into town with Lindsey. We went to the big store and got food, went to the ATM, the pharmacy, and then hopped back on the Daladala. It was awesome to see the other part of town and having Lindsey who is almost a local to show it to me. It is weird to be known as the tall white guy walking down the street. When we returned to camp everyone was working like crazy. The work day was slowly winding down. We cleaned up and went back home. Tonight we leaned how to make Mandazi. It is pretty much fried dough. It was a very tasty treat. 

After a long day of work we will meat up on the balcony talk, relax, rest and get a good night rest. The tattoos may have faded, but our determination has not. 

Off To Work We Go

Yesterday we got our first glimpse of what's going to lie in store for us at the orphanage, the amount of work that is going to be done, and above all, the need for our efforts there. I will be the first one to admit this, I don't think I have ever worked that hard a day in my life. Picking, shovelling, clearing debris. The fundis helping us, the local workers, were machines, if I was able to work to a fraction of how those guys worked today, I will be proud of the effort I put forth out there today. 

Our day started with the classic piling 28 of us into 2 dala-dalas after breakfast, and heading down to Camp Moses. Once we arrived, we were off to work basically straight-away. Some of the discoveries made while we were all clearing away all of the rubble were … interesting to say in the very least. The garbage, oh my goodness, as deep as 2 or 3 feet deep we're finding wrappers, candles, even sandals of all things! On the east side of our dig site, it was literally a garbage pit. One massive, aromatic garbage pit. Vern and Lisa were champs digging at that thing for the entire day, as far as I know, as well as a number of the girls. I know that's a job I would not have wanted to do. Aside from all of the lovely smells and the sun poking out, these weren't the only factors while we were working. We had another kind of distraction making an appearance from time to time, Joseph. That boy is one of the biggest showmen I have seen, and easily one of the cutest and most charismatic little kids at that. Just wandering over to the mzungus wanting an animal cracker from Sandra or coming for some laughs and smiles, the social butterfly, I'm not sure why, but he somewhat reminds me of myself when I was his age, the kid who wore a green tuxedo and played Jingle Bells on the grand piano at a high end restaurant, all for the sake of being the centre of attention and making other laugh.

Without a doubt, us, as a group, are going to bring home numbers of stories to share with out friends and family, and we each have our own after our first day work, and we are here for 3 weeks. I'm sitting here, writing, beyond sore, feeling extremely proud of the work I did today, and everybody else should today. We really pulled together as a team today, and, no question, are going to do a kick ass job at building this school house, and I'm looking forward to these next 3 weeks unfold.

I miss you tons Mum, Dad, and Liam, and love you lots, and I am looking forward so much to seeing you guys again.

-Thomas Bridson

Thursday, 21 July 2011

livin the lion king

The stories we had heard about the children at the orphanage had touched all but it was't until i saw the faces that made me realize that this is reality. Walking into a classroom of beautiful children knowing that each young child had a horrible reason for being there brought tears to my eyes, but knowing we were there to help and make it the littlest bit easier for them made those tears into a heartwarming and inspiring feeling. Growing up in a society where we have everything then seeing these children growing up without a family, money or anything else but still being able to smile and be the happiest children ever encourages me to do better and have a better perspective on everything in life. If only everyone could be like these children- grateful for what they do have and not upset about what they don't have.  I walked in and the first thing i saw was a little boy sitting in a seat beside me, his name was Bryson. He has troubles communicating and seeing because he was neglected for too long. Although he couldn't talk to me and had no eye contact with me, his smile and reaction to human touch was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. He took excitement to a whole other level and that itself was a reward for traveling across the globe to help.
          I can already feel this group of students becoming closer than we thought would ever happen. Not that we have a choice, fitting 23 of us in a doladola doesn't exactly give you your personal space. The scare of rolling backwards down an extremely steep driveway while being in a doladola and the driver not understanding what we were yelling " stop!! "  brought some intense laughter, but personally i didn't find it funny because i thought i was about to loose my life but weird enough i was only comfortable because i had this wonderful group of people around me. Everyday will bring it's challenges here in Tanzania but with no doubt, this group has each others backs.

-Madison Galloway :)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Finding the "You" in Ugali

My biggest fear coming here, above the language barriers, potential illnesses and being eaten alive by mosquitos, was the food. I am an admittedly picky eater and ever since I was little have flat out refused to eat many things. I told myself that when I was here I would just “suck it up”, I really didn’t want anyone to find anything I did disrespectful. The first day of eating was manageable. Pasta with sauce and meat for lunch, rice with sauce and meat for dinner, and toast with peanut butter and exotic jams (red plum and pineapple) the next morning for breakfast. But my stomach dropped the second we got back from town and Kenya announced “It’s Ugali time”. My first reaction: I can’t do this. Kenya’s supportive words of “It’ll be fine” do very little to relax me as I walk over to this cake like looking object sitting on the dinner table. I cut myself a slab ‘o dat, made myself a cup of tea and nervously sat down. The girls at my table had already started attacking their pieces, digging at it with there hands and dragging it through the sauce. I hesitantly ripped my self off a small piece, smothered it in sauce and put it in my mouth. To my surprise and the surprise of anyone who knows my eating habits, I actually enjoyed it. The horror stories I have been told were all wildly exaggerated. With Ugali under my belt I was ready for whatever else Tanzania would throw my way. I ate my dinner of a beans, chickpeas and corn combination like a champ and have never been more proud of my taste buds. I have concurred my biggest fear and am now completely prepared to one hundred percent focus on my reasons for coming over here: to make a difference in the lives of the kids at the orphanage. I am so excited to go and visit them today and to finally start working on the school room tomorrow.

-Natalie Webb

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

All In a Day of Travel.

Whether you slept or watched movies, everyone is drained. Many of us haven’t traveled that long before, through that many different time zones, but we made it safe and sound.This is what we have been waiting for for the better part of a year, through the fundraisers, lunchtime meetings and group activities, we finally get the reward. 
After the trip with my family last year, when my mom told us that she was going to bring a group of students this summer, I was all for it. After being changed by the kids at Camp Moses and had a blast with the kids at Camp Joshua, I knew I had to come back. I knew there were going to be differences, whether positive or negative, from the first trip to this one.

As the year progressed, back at home we received both positive and negative news from Tanzania. From one of my sisters friends passing away from malaria, to having Esther getting surgery to fix her legs we were constantly being updated by news here. But with every news update they had for us, we had one for Mama Wambura. We had different updates about fundraisers and our trip, all of which excited her and the kids to our arrival. As the days grew closer, the kids at Camp Moses were counting down, keeping track of how long until the “Mzungus” arrived.

Sitting here at Basecamp, it hasn’t really set in that I’m back. It hasn’t set in that I’m a matter of a few blocks from the kids I haven’t stopped thinking about for a year. It hasn’t set in that I get to share this experience with 22 of my classmates. But I’m ready for it to set in, and for the best 3 weeks of our lives to start.

-Layne Richardson
Hakuna Matata

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Hakuna Matata and To Do Lists

The lockers are empty, report cards are printed and the hallways are eerily quiet yet with only 11 days to go until our epic adventure, there is still much work to be done.   The days leading up to the end of every school year are spent honouring retirees, saying goodbye to graduates and making plans for the next school year; coupled with all of the usual activities,  this year our school faced a number of tragic events in the last two months of school including the shocking death of a Pen High student on the last day of classes. Through it all, the 22 students travelling to Tanzania needed to stay focussed on what they had committed to almost a year ago.  With fundraising still to be done, meetings to attend and final preparations to take on, the Tanzania bound students did not disappoint.
I am constantly struck by the amazing nature of the young people I am travelling with and the impact they have had on our community and will have on our host community.  They have collected toothbrushes, soccer jerseys and school supplies.  They have been immunized, culturized and travel wised.  Jambo, asante sana and karibu are part of their Swahili vocabulary, yet I wonder if they are truly prepared for what is about to unfold.  I have many questions percolating through my head that wake me at 3:00am...How will the construction work unfold?  Will the kids stay healthy?  How will their world view change as a result of the trip?  How will they ever say goodbye to the beautiful children we are going there to help?  Will this trip be the amazing experience for them I hope it will be?  Am I out of my mind?!!
As daylight breaks these big questions fade and the 'must do' list comes into sharper focus...malaria pills, ducarol, money, first aid kit, parent questions and packing.  It is the attention to these details that will ensure those bigger 3:00am questions will be answered in a very positive way.  So I take a big breath, look at the calendar and attack the list for today.  Hakuna Matata!