My sister in law, Linda Hanson and I ventured out to Tanzania to do a site visit at Mainsprings, JBFC in Mwanza just off Lake Victoria in early November. I like to go to the projects our donors support and give a first-hand report. Here it is!
Mainsprings-JBFC- works to give vulnerable girls holistic care, including safety, shelter, medical care and excellence in education…all the things necessary for a bright future. They also help alleviate extreme rural poverty in Tanzania. 200 Orphanages has been partnering with JBFC for almost nine years. We recently had donors fund a tractor and greenhouse, and since I haven’t ever visited the site, this year was the year.
I was surprised when Linda agreed to go. She’s not the travel-to-the-hinterlands kind of gal… but it was placed on her heart and she replied with an almost immediate “YES”. She amazed me at every turn on long uncomfortable flights, unfamiliar foods and unrelenting lizards.
We prepared for months and Linda organized a craft project we could do with the school kids all around gratitude. How perfect, being Thanksgiving would soon be upon us back home. She had the kids write what they are thankful for and it seems there is a lot of gratitude with these little ones for rice, sun and rain. Mainly because the words are easy to spell and happen to be written on the chalkboard. The greater challenge for us was translating the question “What are you thankful for?” It loses something in the Swahili translation, but we persevered and the kids came away with some really nice gratitude pumpkins. Even the teachers and staff kept them front and center in their rooms.
Each day of our trip was meaningful. We especially loved our reading buddies. We enjoyed daily prayer organized and implemented by the girls. We were inspired seeing the Girls Government in action. Seth, the COO onsite manager, instigated the Girls Government about four years ago. Now, the girls manage all of their own affairs, including discipline encouraging respect and cooperation. We were told that even when a new sister is introduced to the home, the girls rally to her aid. They make sure her first days and weeks are bearable. They provide the love and care a family would until the new one settles in. The maturity, confidence and leadership skills the girls get to practice in this system is evident in their interactions and will no doubt serve them in years to come.
The trip warmed our hearts. Each day was filled with hugs from our new friends. We felt so welcome and loved. Linda and I spent time reading with our reading buddies, learning Swahili from our student teachers, touring the village with student leader Imma. We were treated to dinner in the village at the home of staff member Miriam. (Thank you Miriam and family) We can understand just a bit what it took to serve that lovely meal. To serve us, you had to butcher one of your chickens, use gathered wood to start a fire to cook the sauce, the rice and the chicken. And Miriam served us home made raised donuts… a wonderful treat common to Tanzania. To serve us, you had to use the water you or your family carried from the community well to make the dough for the donuts. We know you had to clean the dining room and make sure the solar lamp is charged to light up the room after dark. It’s no small task to serve a group dinner in a village in Tanzania, which made us savor the meal and the memory so much more.
At the resort next to the compound, we learned from Jackson, about growing up Maasai. Jackson is Papa’s Cafe’s manager and he works hard. He also cleans the Bungalows and ensures the guests are taken care of. Jackson even rescues lizards hiding under couch pillows for surprised guests. Linda and I even went on a safari and enjoyed God’s natural beauty all around us for a day. We had the farm tour with Edward, the onsite agronomist. He shared his expertise with such pride as he walked us around the garden and showed off his cucumbers and tomatoes in the greenhouse. The tractor we funded was used to spread manure and will soon be active again plowing ground for new crops. We were amazed that seemingly acres and acres of kale will be eaten by the kids at the school and the home. Some will be given to the village, but it is just enough! Edward is passionate about his farm and is up for the task if they need to grow more!
The only thing we both have to say about the trip is that God met us at every turn. He is bigger than our fears. Our faith was activated a few times and gratefully we didn’t die. (smile) Fortunately the Maasai who guard the complex kept us safe from the pirates we imagined were invading the shoreline one dark and stormy night. That didn’t happen, but our imaginations sure had us going! We do however acknowledge the angels keeping busy maneuvering the wayward wheel that became unhinged from our Safari vehicle, spinning off out of control into the darkness after a day on washboard roads from our Safari. Yikes. This did happen and we are grateful no one was hurt.
So, we continue to process our time with the girls, staff and managers. We have been stretched beyond ourselves and we have grown. We miss the girls after even the short time together, their lovely smiles, their sweet spirits penetrated our souls. We’ll be with them in prayer and do what we can from far away to help make their lives just a little bit brighter.
I am pleased that the partner we’ve worked with all these years is doing such a mighty work, keeping the girls safe, but preparing them so well for the brightest of futures. You are a part of this fine work and I am grateful to all our supporters and donors.
A Happy Holiday Season to you and yours!