This post will make you sad. But I hope you’ll understand that the people you see on tv are real; they just didn’t win the birthplace lottery like we did.
During our first week at KYGN, we received a poignant lesson in food insecurity. Students who come to Kilimanjaro Young Girls in Need are living with extreme poverty. They were not going to school prior to being enrolled, because they couldn’t afford the fees for tuition, uniforms, transportation and other costs to attend public school.
Everyone morning after the second period, all kids receive a cup of porridge and a banana. The bananas are the type that Canadians children would thumb down, but these kids gobble them up because they see them as the sweet, ripe fruit that they are.
Al and I have been helping to distribute the bananas and porridge, because you end up dirty and the buckets of porridge are heavy. We enjoy taking the load off the female cook, and helping the teachers to stay clean just makes you feel good. We need to conserve water when washing our clothes, but we don’t have to worry about it running out.
The first time we doled out the porridge, we put slightly too much in the cups. This meant that about 10 kids at the end of the line had no porridge. We then ran out of bananas because there wasn’t enough.
Some of these kids only get a bit of rice, or maybe some vegetables at home. Their bodies desperately need the caloric intake they get at school.
You can imagine how horrible Al and I felt. There were three kids at the end of the line who had neither porridge nor a banana – they were going to have nothing to eat.
We had brought some apples for our snack, so we handed them to the kids. Their faces burst into big smiles, because apparently apples are a delicacy their families can’t afford. Suddenly they went from sadness to joyfulness to be at the end of the line.
To better understand the difference the school is making for the children’s nutrition, we began weighing them this week and checking their height. They were off school for about a month, so we wanted to know who had lost weight, as well as whether there were signs of abuse. It’s not uncommon for children to be beaten with sticks by parents who don’t know any better. We’ll know the results later on.
The girls have continued working with the two Kindergarten classes, and Al and I have been hopping from one class to another when a teacher is working specifically on English.
Al even spent some time with a machete cutting down massive prickle bushes that were creeping into the dala dala as it passed by. We were worried that someone was going to have their faced ripped if the side of the van passed too close.
In my last English class on Friday my lesson ended early, so I had the children sing English songs that we both knew. Then I sang songs that they had never heard (hilarious!). After that was done, I asked them to sing songs in English that I didn’t know.
The first song was about Kilimanjaro and the pride Tanzanians feel in the mountain. The next was something about a camel and the refrain was about shaking their “booty”. It seemed slightly inappropriate but super funny to see them all do it.
Then the last song went something like this:
I remember to take care of myself, I remember to take care of
People are being killed by HIV, I remember to take care of myself
You remember to take of yourself, you remember to take care of
People are being killed by HIV, you remember to take care of yourself
We remember to take care of ourselves, we remember to take care of
People are being killed by HIV, we remember to take care of ourselves
I’ve forgotten the tune so the words are not quite right, but you get the picture. Can you imagine a group of Grade Three students singing a song like that in Canada?
You’re going to hear a lot about famine in Ethiopia and Somalia in the next few weeks. You will continue to hear about deaths from HIV in Africa. If you want to do something to help, give to a large international organization like the Canadian Red Cross, or research and find a legitimate, smaller organization.
KYGN also takes donations and I’ve hyper-linked their website (the charity is based in the UK and I’ve met the people handling that aspect). If you could see how bright and resilient these kids are, and how hard their teachers work, you would have no hesitation!