Time to eat! .... and play a little still.
When I moved to Tanzania 3 years ago, I knew that I wanted to become involved in the local community, and do some service activities in addition to my professional life. In my first year here, I needed to adjust to the new workplace, community, and lifestyle, so adding too many extras on top of that wasn't really feasible. When my second year began, I was determined to stay true to my goal. First I joined the Dar Animal Haven. They rescue stray dogs and cats from the streets and find them foster or permanent homes. We also began a volunteer dog training course on Friday afternoons, where we helped foster families and new owners learn some basic commands and control techniques. This group has afforded me friendships with a very diverse and intelligent group of women. We had some amazing opportunities to work with the Tanzanian Police Force, and see their police dogs in action. We have also become quite close with eachother, and with each other's dogs. Some of these women were the ones that stepped in to care for Kibo, and saved her life, while I was climbing Kili. I am so blessed to have met these women
I'd adopt him if I could.
and been a part of this group.
Even with my work for the Animal Haven, I still wanted to find something more "local" to become involved in. Just as I had this feeling, my good friends here, Cody and Nora, decided that they were going to adopt a Tanzanian baby. As they began frequenting a local orphanage to find their perfect match, I joined them, and immediately fell in love. Eventually Cody and Nora were approved for fostering and brought their little baby girl home. Even so, I continued my frequent pilgrammages out to the Mother Theresa Mission of Charity, children's home.
For 19 months now, I've gone at least once a week, usually twice, to see the children at the orphanage. I set up a school program that runs after school wherein we take Grade 4 and 5 students from my school to go and visit the children at the orphanage for an hour to an hour and a half. Our main goal is to give the children love and attention. It has been amazing seeing how well our International School students do as the time goes on with the orphanage. They know the children's names, what
Me and my Boys
These two call me mama.
they like to play, how to treat them, etc. It's an experience that both sides look forward to every week, and when we leave on Mondays at 3pm, all of the children at the orphanage say "byeeee! see you Monday!"
So, this past Monday, it broke my heart to say "no, I won't be there." Of course, the children don't understand, but their nannies do. I came back for one last play and good bye on Saturday afternoon. It was so great because the children were all in really good moods! Everyone was smiling, dancing around, showing their wonderful character traits- and once the Dadas (nannies) all realized that it was truly my last visit before leaving Tanzania (which I communicated in my ever-strengthening Swahili!) they let me take some photos of my darling children.
I've been doing a lot of reflecting, with my move coming up, and the orphanage is definitely a part of Tanzania that will always stick with me, and will be the hardest to leave behind. If I had just gone a handful of times and never bothered to learn the names of the children, it wouldn't be so difficult. But, I go as
often as possible, I know the children in 2 of the 3 age group rooms by name, and several of them have taken to calling me "Mama." Rip. My. Heart. Out. They no longer cry when I leave, because they know that I'll be back soon. So when I gave out bear hugs this past Saturday, and said my goodbyes, there were no tears from the children. Only from me.
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