Once Upon an Orphanage

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Africa » Tanzania » East » Dar es Salaam
June 1st 2010
Published: June 6th 2010
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Saa Chakula!Saa Chakula!Saa Chakula!

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 BoysMe and my BoysMe 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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


Marijn and StanleyMarijn and Stanley
Marijn and Stanley

He likes to throw the kids around right after they've eaten- somehow they haven't thrown up yet.
Loaina and AmveyLoaina and Amvey
Loaina and Amvey

They're scared of white people, so we don't really have photos of cuddles with them!

Someone gave a bunch of lollipops to the orphanage- so they ate them while we were there and got the stickiness ALL over us!
Isa and the glassesIsa and the glasses
Isa and the glasses

He loved wearing Eva's sunglasses.

6th June 2010

I thought your post about leaving the children was really beautiful, and I admire what you've been doing there. My blog is looking for travel reviews, social commentaries, etc, to share. If there's anything that fellow travelers can do to help out in that area, either with the animals or the children, we'd be happy to post some info about it. If you have the time, check out the blog at dirty-hippies.blogspot.com, or email us at dirtyhippiesblog@gmail.com. Good luck with your endeavors! Heather :)
6th June 2010

Oooo, you're leaving Tz? Killer eh? I will SO miss this blog!!! xo
7th June 2010

What treasures!
How sweet it is! Hopefully you can stay connected with this group of people and the children. Also, Alex that was a wonderful thing to do and it made you and them so much richer. I KNOW you 'll go back there again one day and hopefully reconnect . More when I see you (soon)! Have a safe trip home! Love from us all here in Costa Rica. T Ien XX
12th June 2010

I too will miss your blog! It was part of my weekly online reading. Best of luck in your next chapter of life!
14th July 2011

Hi! I'm really interested in going to Dar es salaam working at an orphanage as a volunteer so I was wondering if you could tell me what orphanage you were visiting and if you know any other orphanages around that area. I would be really happy if you would reply. feel free to write it in an e-mail if you like. /Emma

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