Monday, 10 June 2019

Update from Heather Douglas

This is the update I received from Heather Douglas who worked alongside Doctor Lucy at the Medical Clinic that was held at Compass School.  What great work they have done!

"I really believe that the medical camp was a smashing success in the way that it gave each child a chance to speak and voice concerns, in the way that it reminded the teachers and children of Tumaini Afrika and it's vested interest in their well-being and in the way that it truly caught some serious health issues.
The first day we weren't sure how things were going to go and added to the stress of logistics, Lucy had an immense report that she was in the middle of revising for a recent medical relief trip to Somalia. Her bosses are big wigs from organizations including UNICEF and WHO but she handled it spectacularly and jumped into Compass wholeheartedly.
She's too humble to say all of this but she was an absolute warrior when it came to getting help for the kids and honoring them by doing due process on each and every complaint; from sore tummies to bean's stuck in ears (the bean, it turned out, had been removed by another doctor earlier and the student just wanted Lucy to take a look).
We took over the office from the head teacher, Mr. Kamae - I'm not sure if you got to meet or interact with him on your last trip but he is a wonderful man, aged 73 and has given up on retirement and teaches the Grade 7 class.
In his office we put stacks of pink and blue cards for keeping the records on on the main desk along with an otoscope, flashlight, box of tongue depressors and hand sanitzer. We had a scale on the floor and taped to the wall a measuring tape to assess their weight and height.
The office has a small couch and on this we spread out a yoga mat and covered it with a sheet. The desk to the side of the larger one was dedicated to bright stickers, a bag of sweets and a jug of clean drinking water.
We started the camp with perhaps the most challenging class: nursery and pre-school. The kids were squirmy and shy and required a lot of work from teacher Rachel to help translate and draw them out.
Teacher Rachel was another hero of the camp spending hours asking kids Dr. Lucy's questions in Swahili and deciphering their sometimes cryptic responses. She also had information on how they performed in class, their family background and who and where their parents were. When a medication was needed; she would call and visit the pharmacy and bring back what was needed.
At the end of the first day; I was drained. It seemed like the kids at Compass had endured more health issues in their first 5 or 6 years than I had in my entire life. Their tummies were mostly all distended, there were many complaints due most likely to dehydration and it was clear that some students probably had needed glasses for a while. What to think; the check-ups were just the beginning.
The second and third day were less difficult; we had a groove and as the students got older, their English improved and we were able to move much faster: I would invite a student in, ask them to remove their jumper and shoes, weigh them and measure their height and record the measurements. In the meantime Lucy would be checking over a different student, starting off by asking them if they had any pains or issues, then by looking at their eyes, nose and mouth. She would listen carefully to their heart and lungs with here stethoscope then she would have them lay down on the couch and she would feel their abdomen. A quick check over the skin for rashes or parasites and then she would write careful notes. Once the check up was complete I would get their shoes back on and give them a sticker and sweet and then repeat the process again.
By the third day we felt like we knew Rachel and teacher Thelda, the Grade 6 teacher, like family; and the children were no longer apprehensive of us; any fear that Lucy was there to give injections had vanished, and on breaks they would come streaming in to grab our hands, give hugs, hand drawn pictures and notes. We were deeply touched.
I still feel that this is just the beginning for many of these children but I also feel that there has been priceless love given through this camp and that you and the rest of Tumaini Afrika, by having enabled Dr. Lucy to do this work, have left a deep and lasting memory. They are seen, they are loved and their lives and health matter; the actions speak to this.
This is a novel but I wanted to paint a picture of the three days so that we could share in the good feels!
I know that Lucy has been in touch and I will leave the medical speak to her as it is over my head! She certainly has given much of herself and I hope very much that you and Tumaini will get to meet her on your trip in Feb.
All the best,

May Activities

Jambo all!
What a busy and exciting month May has been! We have been preparing for our As Big As An Elephant Garage Sale on June 8, and so many of you have been dropping items off! Thank you! If you still have items to donate, St. Andrew’s Church is open to receiving goods on June 6 and 7 from 9-5. The Garage Sale goes from 8:30 to 1:00 this coming Saturday. Hope to see you there!

Our newly designed booth at The Ole Warehouse is open on Saturdays from 10-4 at 69 Church St. The co-op has a number of new vendors, so come and check us all out!

As was mentioned in the last email, Heather Douglas is in Kenya and is contributing so much to assist Tumaini Afrika and the children at Compass School! Heather’s friend, Dr. Lucy Pamment, is a British national who has been doing work in Africa for over 20 years. Heather told her about Compass School children and wondered if she might spend a few days examining these kids and getting them the help they may need. After checking with Flora and our Tumaini group and getting anticipated costs for this venture, we agreed that this was so important and a great opportunity to help.  Other Tumaini supporters have offered funds as well.  So far the costs have been just over $1100 Canadian. Heather worked alongside Dr. Lucy as they examined and treated over 100 children! Lucy continues to follow up with some of the more serious issues. ( Gloria had a very high heart rate and laboured breathing) They got her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with Pneumonia and treated.
She also treated distended stomachs, dehydration issues, worms and other parasites. She has suggested that the cooks boil water each morning so that the students have clean water for lunch.  The kids and staff loved Lucy and she loved going there as well! For more information check out Heather’s update letter on our website’s blog. That will begin next week! A special heartfelt thank you to Dr. Lucy Pamment and Heather Douglas! We are so grateful to be able to assist in getting the Compass kids the medical assistance they needed. Now, hopefully, feeling better will increase their ability to learn at school and give them a better quality of life.  Lucy continues to monitor at the school.  She is so dedicated!

So, hope to see you at the Garage Sale and come visit our booth on Saturdays at the Ole Warehouse, too!

Again, we could not do the work we do to help children in Kenya without your support!
Asante Sana!
Holly for Tumaini Afrika

May 2019 Update

Jambo all!

Well we have had lots going on over the past few months! 
The first good news is that our sewing teacher, social worker and school contact for Compass School, Flora, just had a beautiful and healthy baby girl with her partner, Stephen! We wish them all the best!

TA supporter, Carol Colombo-McLean purchased Foldscopes (cardboard flat microscopes) for students in Kenya.  With the assistance of retired Science teachers, Patti Merelaid and Susie Chow, as well as Heather Douglas (Algoma U employee and niece to Lois Shaw who runs our tours to Kenya) Carol, 22 visiting Japanese students,  TA's Cheryl Mireault, Holly Wickett and Judi McLeish, and an AU instructor, the foldscopes were assembled and experimented with, in a Science lab at Algoma University. it is great to have this wonderful partnership with Algoma! The Japanese students added an origami as well as a note in English and Japanese to the kits, for the kids in Kenya! Heather Douglas is over in Kenya right now with some of the kits and the rest will be taken with our next travelling group in February!

While Heather has been in Kenya, she and Flora have spoken with the Member of County Assembly, Henry Kagiri, to see where he is on getting Compass School back to the way it was.  Henry promised to tackle the issues on getting back the semi-permanent classrooms, playground and pit latrines. We are hopeful that this will be done. Special thanks to Heather Douglas for checking into our projects for us!

Welcome to 2 new members to Tumaini Afrika! Sherri Johnson and Linda Mizzi are joining our ranks!

We are so happy to report that funds raised at the Kenyan dinner, and matched by JJ Hilsinger and the Water Tower Inn, have enabled the Mathare Community Outreach program to build two new much needed classrooms! Can't thank all of our supporters and especially JJ, enough  for their generosity and caring. Lots of happy kids and staff have benefitted!! Thanks to Diane Hilderley for coordinating things from this end!
So, our AS Big As An Elephant Garage Sale is coming up on June 8! See the attached poster for details! This is one of our biggest fundraisers, so if you have items to donate or can come to see what we have, we would appreciate it! Thank you to so many of you who have dropped off items already! Call lead Diane Hilderley at 705-759-3418 or respond to this email for more information.

We still have a booth in The Ole Warehouse at 69 Church St. behind the Bushplane Museum! We have changed locations within the room and have some new items for sale! Come see our sister group Sequel's items too, as their funds support refugees in Thailand. Micheline Findlay and her crew have done a great job with this not for profit business.

 As always, we couldn't do the things we do without the support of the community and others from afar!

Asante Sana!
Holly for Tumaini Afrika

Monday, 11 March 2019

March Update!


Compass School is back in session and funds were sent for food for a lunch program - for some children it may be their only meal of the day. We are awaiting news from Henry Kagiri, the Member of the County Assembly for Compass School, to let us know when some of the property taken from the school will be returned so that we can purchase some playground equipment for the children.
Mathare Community Outreach in the Mathare Slum, where we visited the last two trips, requested funds to help rebuild the girls' and boys' dormitories and washrooms in their orphanage.  After repairing broken windows as well, the children feel more comfortable and safe in this environment with our assistance. We also sent funds to repair and replace desks and chairs for their classrooms. For the future, we are looking at helping to rebuild two classrooms. Classrooms have been damaged and destroyed when flooding occurred in the rainy season.

Tumaini Afrika members listen to Kenyans as to what the needs are with our projects, and do not tell them what WE think they need. To that end we provide a hands up, not a hand out. We assist Kenyans in helping themselves, and since education and health are so important, ensuring that children can receive an education and have proper nutrition to be able to learn is most important.

Many Tumaini Afrika members and some supporters, as well, privately sponsor children by paying their tuition and school supplies to attend elementary and high school. We are hopeful of making a long term improvement in each one's lives and they are so grateful for the opportunity!

Well, we are very pleased to let you know that our big fundraiser, A Taste of Kenya, held recently at the Water Tower Inn Pavilion, was a huge success! We had a sell out crowd who all thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful food prepared by Chef Todd (assisted by Chris), as well as the delectable dessert auction and fabulous musical entertainment! Special thanks to organizer, Jeannine Jefferson, dessert auction lead, Micheline Findlay, all Tumaini Afrika members, wonderful dessert bakers and Tracy White and the Water Tower staff! Thanks to Gabi Doleske, who sewed all of the beautiful African table runners for this event! And, of course, special thank you for the great entertainment, to vocalists Francine Giroux, Micheline Findlay and Jeannine Jefferson, and guitarists Steve Burgess and Vicki Ekstrom! Thanks to the dinner crowd, we raised over $6000, including over $2400 on the dessert auction alone! Can't thank you enough! Proceeds from the event will help build a new classroom in the Mathare Community Centre, as well as assist the children at Compass School.   
Sheena also sold 17 more goats to bring our total to 100.  These goats will be given out to young girls in Narok and Mbeere by our good friend, Mary Thamari, and pictures will be forthcoming! Carey Groot designed Days For Girls gift cards so that for $15 a kit, girls can attend school every day. Gabi, DFG lead, sold 13 cards for kits that night as well!  Our community and supporters are amazing! 
JJ Hilsinger and the Water Tower continue to be fabulous supporters of our group and the children in Kenya, and for that, the Tumaini Troopers, as he calls us, are very grateful! Many people have suggested we do this again next year and Chef Todd says he can do a new Kenyan menu! Stay tuned!

If you haven't visited The Ole Warehouse (formerly the Vintage Co-op) yet, you are missing a different shopping experience! Tumaini Afrika and Sequel (funds raised go to educate refugees in Thailand) share a booth and many other vendors sell very unique items that you won't find anywhere else. The Ole Warehouse is open on Saturdays from 10-4, and is located at 69 Church St. behind the Bushplane Museum in the old MNR building. Would love to see you there!

Recently Tumaini Afrika members were invited by Algoma University President, Asima Vezina, to come and meet some staff and student leaders and see how we might partner and offer some mentoring opportunities. We look forward to seeing where this initiative leads!

As well, Jeannine Jefferson and Holly Wickett gave a presentation to residents at Collegiate Heights Retirement Residence a few weeks ago. Many were very interested in what we do and one attender will be sewing for Days For Girls.

Supporter Carol Colombo, has found some amazing cardboard microscope kits that are being used to help in science programs in third world countries! Heather Douglas is returning to Kenya in April and will take these kits to Compass School and others, as she will teach Science classes to students there!  Heather's mother took us on our first trip to Kenya, and Heather's Aunt Lois is our tour leader in Kenya!

Our As Big As An Elephant Garage Sale, will take place again this year at St. Andrew's United Church Hall on June 8. If you have items to donate they can be dropped off at the church from 9-5 on June 6 and 7, or call Diane at 705-759-3418 or Holly at 705-542-7966 if you want to donate ahead of time. Please come to see the fabulous items at the sale, too!

After the last newsletter, many of you came forward to help sponsor students to attend high school. Flora, our sewing teacher/social worker at Compass Elementary School, has been thrilled that 7 students who would never have been able to be educated, are now in school! Thank you to those private donors who have helped so much and to Flora for doing all the work getting the students enrolled.

Days For Girls Lead and Tumaini Afrika member, Gabi Doleske, recently travelled to Tanzania where she worked with women at a few colleges, teaching them how to begin making sanitary kits so that they may have an enterprise of their own.  She was well received!

We are still waiting to hear from the Member of County Assembly, Henry Kagiri, who, on our last visit, promised to help the students at Compass School.  There are currently 70 students in the school but their playground is being used to house construction equipment.  A few of their classrooms have been taken over too. We are hoping that Henry will make sure that the equipment gets moved and the land and building restored, so that the children have a place to play.  We are planning on buying some playground equipment when the land comes back to the School.

We are planning a return trip to Kenya, to check on our projects and see the wonderful children and adults we have met and continue to keep in touch with, next year - likely February/March 2020.  The last trip cost each traveller about $7000 for 3 weeks, and this fluctuates according to our dollar value.  Each member pays privately for their trip and this includes air fare, accommodation and most meals, and travel by van with a driver while there. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Holly Wickett or Jeannine Jefferson -705-945-1042, or respond to this email.

Once again, we could not do the work we do without your support! Thank you so so much, on behalf of the children who benefit in Kenya!

Holly for Tumaini Afrika

Sunday, 11 November 2018

End of Year Update

Compass School is now up to 72 students and Flora has a sewing class!  We are sending funds so that the children get a warm meal at school every day.  One of our generous supporters donated funds so that the school cook could have a new firewood stove to cook the meals on, as the old one was in bad shape. We look forward to hearing from the government official regarding assistance for these kids and the school. 

The County Girls Caucus held in August in an area in southern Kenya, dealt with 250-300 girls and boys, and families in the community.  Part of the focus was on ending child marriages, female genital mutilation, as well as the importance of education. Tumaini Afrika, the Zonta Club of SSM and another generous benefactor, all contributed to a successful caucus.

Heshima Children's Centre is a rehabilitation centre and school for children in the slum who have physical and mental challenges.  These children are hidden away in Kenya, so this centre is wonderful for the children as well as their mothers, who work together to make items to be sold at the on-site store, called Dignity Designs. Recently we sent funds so that they would be able to admit more children from a waiting list.

As you know, we distributed over 200 Days For Girls reusable feminine hygiene kits and educated both women and men on their use on our last trip.  Now these girls will not miss a week of school each month! TA donated funds to Days For Girls Sault Ste. Marie to help cover the costs of kits being sewn.

The Mathare Community Centre has asked for assistance with repairing and buying desks and chairs, for bedding for the beds we had sent funds for previously, more bed repairs and bathroom repairs.  Funds have been sent to help with the costs. They also requested about $10,000 Canadian to build new classrooms and offices.  We do not have those type of funds, but a friend of Tumaini Afrika, has graciously decided to give $5000 towards the building!!

We continue to have a booth at Vintage Co-op at the bottom of Church Street behind the Bushplane Museum in the old MNR building, on Saturdays from 10-4. We share our booth with Sequel, as this group raises funds for refugees from Myanmar who live in Thailand camps. There are lots of great items from Thailand, too! Come and do some Christmas shopping and see the unique gifts that all of the shops have!

Station Mall Craft and Bake Sale - November 22 from 9:30 to 6 - Tumaini Afrika will have 2 tables of crafts there!

Mill Market - TA will be there on Saturday December 15 from 10-2.

A TASTE OF KENYA - January 25th at the Water Tower Inn Pavilion. The chef will prepare a buffet of Kenyan foods and we will have an auction for special desserts to bid on for your table! As well, we will be selling goats and Days For Girls kits, to be purchased for Kenyan girls. $40 a ticket, available at the Station Mall Sale or Mill Market or from any of our members. Call Jeannine at 705-945-1042 for more info and tickets! Bar opens at 6 and dinner at 6:30.

We have three choices for great GIFTS this year, for the person who has everything they need. (I guess we all might)
  1. We have cards for the purchase of a goat for a girl in Kenya - goats provide milk, breed quickly and are easy to feed, are used as collateral for school fees and are eaten as they age.
  2. Many of our members are involved with Days For Girls SSM so we have gift cards for $15 which will cover the cost of a kit for a needy girl.
  3. Tumaini Afrika has cards as well, that indicate that a donation has been made on the recipient's behalf, to assist children in Kenya.

If you have any craft items that you would like to donate, please let us know by November 15th.  We hope to see you at our events!

Thank you for your continued interest in Tumaini Afrika and the kids in Kenya!

Holly for TA

Members of Tumaini Afrika - Diane Hilderley, Wendy Upton, Judi McLeish, Carey Groot, Mary Anne Gasparetto, Maria Burgess, Sheena Smith, Cheryl Mireault, Jan Poulin-Zurawinski, Holly Wickett, Sylvie Mackey, Jeannine Jefferson, Micheline Findlay, Gabi Doleske, Sheree Wilson and Marg Dodds.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Our Last Day at Compass

What an exciting and rewarding final visit we had at Compass School today. 

Since torrential rains shut down the coffee plantation we were supposed to visit Thursday, and many roads were closed, we fit in some last- minute personal shopping, and, far more exciting, we went shopping for Compass School, the heart of our mission here in Kenya. With Faraj as our advisor, we purchased about 70 litres of paint for classrooms, doors, and chalkboards, and all the necessary paint supplies. We also bought another set of gumboots, as we’d already donated the first set in hopes the early rainy season would recognize its error and go away - no luck there😏

But today made up for the dreariness of yesterday. We returned to Compass ready to work, and eager to meet the MCA, Henry Kagiri. Our kids and the staff greeted us with open arms.  The students immediately leapt to our assistance, sweeping out classrooms that had been inundated with mud due to the rains and nearby construction. They helped us scrub down walls and move desks, but the real excitement started with the painting. Those kids and some of their younger teachers stepped right up, arming themselves with paint rollers and putting real muscle into painting those rough, concrete walls. Over five hours, we managed to clean and paint three classrooms, and paint almost all of the chalkboards while sharing and singing with the kids.

In the middle of all of this, the MCA’s assistant, Paul, and his secretary, Evelyn, arrived almost on time but with the disappointing news that the governor had arrived unexpectedly and the MCA could not attend. We were relieved, however, to learn that Paul and Evelyn were fully authorized to act for their boss and a standing circle meeting with them, Lois, school board members, Flora, Mary Thamari, and Holly took place in the school yard. 

We are very grateful for Mary’s politically astute input and questioning and for Holly’s calm diplomacy.  In fact, while the rest of us have been running around doing all kinds of “fun” stuff, it has been Holly who has made the speeches, led discussions, delivered thank yous, generally demonstrated her mastery of the art of “schmoozing.” Unless you’ve taken on this role, it’s difficult to understand just how incredibly exhausting it is. We’re so grateful to Holly for the diplomacy and tact that makes her such a good leader and allows us to go about our business knowing the details are in good hands.

The meeting was very successful, and when Paul and Evelyn met with us and the Board members following the circle, we received assurances again that our concerns regarding the school grounds, fencing, and property would be addressed to our satisfaction. We were also told that a letter from the MCA would arrive via email by the end of the day. It did, and we are really pleased. See the copy of this letter attached. Wow! It’s just amazing what a small group of women who care about kids and have learned how to make valued connections and friends can accomplish.

Feeling elated after our meeting, we returned to our painting with the kids under the supervision of Faraj, who was wearing his Tumaini Afrika t-shirt because he is no longer “our driver” but our friend on the team. 

After cleaning up, we delivered the beautiful pillowcase dresses made by Cheryl Mireault to the girls and more toothbrushes to the boys. It was so hard to leave today. The kids wanted to know when we’d be back and were disappointed to learn we were going home to Canada - there were lots of teary but smiling goodbyes. 

Our final dinner and debrief was a joyous occasion, as we celebrated receipt of the MCA’s letter and opened our personal letters from students at Compass. We have pen pals! 

And to make our Afrika experience truly authentic, we were bid farewell by an apocalyptic swarm of flying ants.  Apparently, once they’ve lost their wings, they can be collected and sautéed in butter. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to try this. Gosh darn it anyway. 

Tomorrow, we head home. We’ve seen and learned so much, had lots of fun, been moved to tears and laughter, and been forever changed. Thank you for making the dreams of Tumaini Afrika a reality for us and for the kids to whom all of us have given a hands up. 

Pamoja tunabadilishwa


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

“Know Thyself.”

So, in case you’ve been wondering, no, it isn’t possible for six women to go on a trip without shopping. Yes, that does sound like a stereotype, but as the great Greek philosophers said, “Know thyself.” And when Polonius exhorted Laertes: “To thine own self be true,” he was speaking to us. To shop well is to accept a challenge, to arm ourselves, to go out to do battle in the markets, and to return with booty worth a king’s ransom. Yes, today we faced the foe, tilted at windmills and won our Dulcinea, mixed our metaphors, and shopped till we dropped.

Yes, we did enjoy our shopping experience today, but we did so knowing that the businesses we supported are about bringing disadvantaged women from many backgrounds together to create viable, lasting enterprises.

We began our day by visiting Amani ya juu where vulnerable women from many African countries come together to create beautiful textiles and textile products. They interview for a position then serve a probationary period before becoming full time members of the cooperative. Competence and integrity are essential, as this is a profit-sharing group. Over ninety women work, sing, pray, and share their lives as they produce some of the best textile products (clothing, art, decorations, toys, and accessories) that we have seen in Kenya. The unity quilt that hangs over their meeting area illustrates how many cultures can come together in peace.  On another wall, a tiled mosaic kanga reads “Pamoja tunabadilishwa“ - “Together, we are transformed.” We were toured around the operations and met the women who make the products - clearly, it is a positive and uplifting place to work.

We were pleased to meet Maggie, the face of Amani ya Juu , who organized our tour and called our Sault Ste. Marie friend, Julia Clarke, to meet us. Julia is the organization’s chaplain who also serves as overseer of restaurant operations and marketing. She introduced us to her Kenyan husband, Ken, who works in audio-visual, IT and communications. The second of their two weddings was celebrated in Sault Ste. Marie and attended by Holly. 

We were especially happy for this connection when we were able to enlist Ken’s help to give us a boost when our van decided to take a break.

With our credit cards still malleable from the heat of our purchases, we headed to Kazuri Beads, another cooperative which employs over three hundred  women and men who produce beads and pottery. Wow! You have no idea how much work goes into making those beautiful clay beads. Kazuri exports to many countries, including Canada, so keep an eye out for their products.

Our last stop was Ocean Sole, a Kenyan social enterprise that collects and recycles old flip flops to produce unique and whimsical decorations.

Doing good and shopping - now there’s a win win. Tomorrow - fair trade coffee.