Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Scholarship Recipient Update

The African Orphan Education Fund began granting scholarships in 2005. It's first recipient was Mwasiti Juma, a young woman who had been accepted to college but didn't have the funds to attend.

After Mwasiti, the next two recipients were David and Vincent. Both had been the original two student teachers at The Rift Valley Children's Village. They had worked on site for over a year - teaching and tutoring the children, in exchange for a scholarship to secondary school.

Below are pictures of David at his secondary school graduation! He graduated last year. He is pictured with a classmate and with India Howell, Founder and Director of The Rift Valley Children's Village.

We are so proud of David and his accomplishments! I just saw him at RVCV for Christmas - a proud graduate! Moving to Arusha to begin job interviews!

And Vincent was home with his extended family in Karatu for Christmas as well. We got to spend some time together, catch up. He still has a few more years of secondary school to go but he is doing exceptionally well!

We are so proud of David and Vincent! As well as of all of our other scholarship recipients. These are some of the hardest working young men and women that I have ever met. They are an inspiration!

They have been afforded the opportunity to pursue their education because of generous donors like you! Thank you again for your support of these scholars! Your donations are helping them succeed!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Me and the kiddos at Gibbs Farm

Doesn't look much like Christmas time, does it?

Belated Merry Christmas!

I spent Christmas up the mountain at the Rift Valley Children's Village. This was my first Christmas in Africa, as I usually get home in time to celebrate with my family.

But if I couldn't be with my family in Cleveland this year, RVCV was the next best option.

Christmas eve the kids all get new pajamas, read The Night Before Christmas, and go to bed in time for Santa to come.

The adults all get to have a lovely dinner together before becoming Santa for the dozens of children at the village - gifts in the stockings and under the trees!

We woke up on Christmas morning at 6am and every single gift had been opened by 6:05. It was the fastest Christmas morning in the history of Christmas mornings! But then we enjoyed the day - singing and dancing - playing with new toys - eating a family feast in the rec hall.

Here is a picture of India and all of the kids - wearing their brand new Christmas shirts and dresses - made locally with local fabrics!

I hope that everyone had a joyous holiday back home!
Happy New Year! (a little early in case we don't have internet between now and Thursday!)
Love, Meredith

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Here is one of our amazing nurses, Safi.

She is holding Coleton who came into the clinic last week with a little fever - he is fine!

I have said this before, but COMPASSION cannot often be taught. And without it, medicine isn't as good as it could be, no matter how "state of the art" a hospital is!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Christmas Treat!

Lots of people have kindly asked for a bit of an update on the babies. So, this is my Christmas gift to all of you who read this blog. Here they are, Coleton and Addison. He is about to be five months and she is about to be seven months. But they are the same height and he out weighs her by over 5 pounds. She is dainty and girly. He is huge like a line backer.

They are both incredibly happy and healthy. I am blessed each day to have them. We are still in the waiting stage of the foster period. Three months have to pass before we can go to court. And then "court" here is NOT like court in the US. Who knows how long it could take.

We miss everyone back home! I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family!

Keep these two in your thoughts and prayers - for health and a speedy process here in TZ so we can get HOME to Ohio ASAP!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


As we wait for the momentous climax of the advent season, many other people sit waiting too.

But not for Christmas.

They wait in line for medication. ARV’s. Drugs needed each month in order to delay the effects of the AIDS virus.

Last week when I travelled to Dar es Salaam I visited an AIDS clinic. People sat waiting for their medications.

Waiting and waiting.

I met a young Maasai girl who had been waiting for hours. She hadn’t eaten. She hadn’t moved. She lay in the grass, waiting.

She didn’t complain. She didn’t pout or cry. Her courage in the face of a disease that is killing her was astonishing to me.

She reminded me that we are essentially all waiting for the same thing – she for medications, and I for a cure. We both wait for the suffering to end.

Pray this Christmas season for an end to the suffering. For this little girl and for all the others in the world suffering as she is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Tree

Here is my little african christmas tree! It doesn't compare to the giant, real trees of my childhood, but it does the trick!

The afternoons here in Karatu are getting hotter and hotter - I keep asking the staff when the snow is coming? It doesn't feel like Christmas at all.

The clinic is doing really well. In the last four months since I arrived, the patient load has increased tremendously. The word is obviously getting out!

Otherwise, life here in Karatu is quiet.

Missing everyone back home! Hoping that all is well ...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Christmas Picture!

Happy Holidays from the entire staff of FAME Medical!


Here are Dr. Frank, Dr. Mshana, and Nurse Safi caring for a young girl from the village who had an infection in her leg. Frank gave anesthesia and Dr. Mshana went to work cleaning out the infection. She was back on her feet that day!

trip to Dar

Again, it has been quite some time since I last blogged.

This time it is because I was out of town on business - Frank, Susan and I went to Dar es Salaam last week to visit laboratories there that we needed to see before finalizing the plans for the extensive lab Frank is building here at FAME.

We actually only spent Wed and Thurs in Dar but that means going to Arusha on Tues and returning to Karatu on Friday - a long trip for an "overnight."

What made the trip SO much longer is that Dar is NOT Karatu. I have come to love the rural setting of Karatu, the villagers, the quiet mornings, the cool mornings/evenings.

Dar is the OPPOSITE. Hot, crowded, huge, disorganized. This was only compounded by the fact that I got sick - Frank too. Some bug. But sweating non-stop and feeling like puking, not a good combo.

So, back in Karatu - very happy to be "home" - glad that Frank doesn't like the heat either and decided to build here, as opposed to somewhere like Dar - or else I couldn't have worked for him - the heat would have done me in!

More to come ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving upon us, I felt it was timely to tell you about a little boy who came to the clinic a few weeks ago. He came with his mom - not making a sound - totally stoic. His feet were wrapped in a kanga, a traditional Tanzanian piece of fabric.

Everyone quickly discovered that this poor little boy had extensive third degree burns covering the tops and bottoms of his feet. And the burns were weeks old, and infected.

Dr. Frank sedated the little guy so that he wouldn't feel a thing, and the FAME team got to work debrieding the wounds and applying burn meds.

This process was repeated twice more. And on the third return visit this little guy RAN into the clinic. His feet were healing so well that he couldn't keep still.

The funniest part was that having been sedated three separate times, he thought that was part of coming to the clinic. But the wounds were doing so well he no longer needed it. As the team began to remove some of the dead skin, he asked for lala - sleep in swahili - he wasn't sedation! That is how good Frank is - patients ask for his services!

This little guy might have lost both of his feet were it not for the FAME team and their ability to heal him.

He is grateful. His mom is grateful.

And we here at FAME Medical are grateful too. For all of the love, support and generosity that we have received from those back home - making a story like this one possible!

Happy Thanksgiving! Love from everyone at FAME Africa!

Happy little guy!

His feet after all three treatments.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Been a while ...

It is pretty obvious that it has been a while since I last posted a blog.

So I wanted to share that a lot has happened over the past three weeks.

I am currently in custody of two babies. Much like being a foster parent in the US. Both babies have single birth moms who can’t currently care for them. Both birth moms would like for me to adopt them. I hope so too.

One is a little boy of 4 months, the other a little girl of 6 months.

But an “official” adoption is a long way off. Adoption in Tanzania is long and difficult. And there are NEVER any guarantees of the out-come.

So, that is why it has been so long since I last wrote a blog. I have been a bit busy changing diapers, making bottles, dealing with the reality of basically having twins.

I am not prepared to give details, show pictures, etc, until things are more of a “sure thing.” As soon as I have more news to share, I will! I am simply trying to get to them both and enjoy each day with them.

Please keep all three of us in your thoughts and prayers in the coming months!

Missing everyone back home!

With love …

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Rains ...

Alas, the rains have come. Pros and cons. Cooler weather, always good. No stifling hot car in the afternoon, great. Green foliage everywhere, major plus.

But imagine the dust that I have spoken about before, now covered in water. Dust and water makes mud. And mud is one thing. But mud when the roads are not paved, there are no sidewalks, no concrete or pavement to be seen - that is another kind of mud altogether!

It is mud that becomes like slop that covers your feet until you can't see your shoes. Covers your floors, your car, your shower (when you try to wash the mud off of your legs).

And that amount of mud is no good.

Oh well, these are only the "short rains" - just wait for the "long rains" - I will loose my mind.

I have only done the long rains once here in Tanzania - the first time I volunteered for Rift Valley back in 2004. I have blocked those mud memories from my mind.

So, be grateful for the pavement in your communities. Trees too. But pavement most of all.

More to come ...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Been a while

I apologize for the delay since my last blog. We have had house guests and tons of sick patients. It hasn't let up for days.

And as the safari season begins to get busier and busier, we have more and more Europeans and Americans with digestion shida (trouble).

The other day we had a group of 12 Parisian tourists - ALL SICK!!! Our beds were full and the extras overflowed onto the verandas.

In addition, we are waiting here with baited breath for the election. The village in Kenya, where Barack Obama's father's family is from, is waiting too. They have lined up dozens of bulls, cows, goats and chicken - ready to slaughter them all and celebrate his victory. No cows for me, but I am ready too!

The weather has also changed - the hot hot hot sun has arrived and there is no escape!

Oh, and for those without Facebook - I PASSED THE BAR EXAM!!!!! My best friend from law school looked it up online and emailed me on Friday - it was a wonderful Saturday morning surprise!

It has been a good week! Missing everyone! Hoping all is well back home!

Monday, October 27, 2008

This mornings patients

Dr. Mshana with a teeny orphan from a local orphanage - his feet had been infected with funzas, and was having them soaked.

Prior to the soaking - he was NOT sure about what was happening!

Dr. Mshana and Susan with our little patient.

New pics

Women's group met this past Sat to watch a video on mother to child HIV transmission.

This beautiful little girl attends a local primary school. She had fallen and broken her wrist.

This is the family of children of the single mother with the goiter.

It was another crazy busy weekend with tons of patients from the village, RVCV (both kids and volunteers!), and surrounding areas. We all worked straight through Sat and Sun - no rest at the clinic!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Busy Week

It has been a busy week.  It started with a single mother who has a severe goiter in her throat.  He husband died about a year ago, she has a full time job but isn't making ends meet.

She has FIVE children under 10 years and her own elderly parents to feed and take care of.  The children are obviously starving.  The two oldest have been getting beaten at school because their mother can't afford them school uniforms or work books.

I told Frank and Susan that it is a good thing that we don't have any volunteers at the moment because my job title should really be social worker.

If this mother dies from her condition, that will be five more orphans.  And in the mean time, no child deserves to be beaten at school.

So, with the help of the African Orphan Education Fund, we got the kids outfitted in new uniforms and school supplies.  We helped to supplement the family food allowance.  And we will work on getting the mother the much needed surgery in Arusha.  It will cost about $400.  A tiny amount by American standards but an impossibility for this family.

Pictures to follow soon ...

Monday, October 20, 2008


First and foremost, Stella (Aiden's mother) has been discharged from the hospital and returned home to recover. She is doing better with each passing day.

Second, thank you to everyone who has emailed me, or my mom, or called my house with thoughts and prayers.

It has been a week, but seems like months. Work has kept me busy and sane.

Frank and Susan, and my circle of friends here in Karatu/Arusha, have been nothing but loving and supportive.

I am so grateful to everyone ...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Waking up ...

The past few mornings, since returning to Karatu, I have felt as if I was waking up from a terrible dream.

It hasn’t even been a week, and yet my brain is playing tricks on me. It seems so long ago.

I have been thinking a lot over the past few days. About the recent events. What they mean. How to move forward.

Despite the pain and grief, what is there to learn from what happened? What can this experience teach me? How can I honor this little boy’s short life?

His brief time on this earth has illuminated parts of me that I didn’t know existed; and parts of me I had been ignoring for some time.

Everyone faces pain in their lives. I truly believe that we are shaped, not by the painful event, but by the way in which we internalize the pain and allow it to affect our lives.

If you had told me before I left the U.S. that I would loose this baby, I would have said you were crazy, that I couldn’t survive an experience like that, and therefore, wouldn’t do it.

But I am surviving. I have no choice.

I am trying to honor the experience for what it is and search for the meaning in it. If there is something to learn, perhaps I am not the only one for whom the lesson is meant.

It was shear luck or chance that this baby was born in a country where “hospitals” don’t have the ability to intubate a child in respiratory arrest. What makes babies in first world countries more deserving of life saving medical care?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Dear all,

As you might have noticed, I haven’t blogged in quite a few days.

Many more of you might be wondering why I haven’t responded to recent emails.

The past few days have been some of the most joyous and the most painful of my life. And although the recent events are personal, and not work related, I have decided to share them anyway. I have decided to blog about the past few days with the hope that sharing will help me to heal.

Last Wednesday I received a call from a Tanzanian friend of mine in Arusha. He is a social worker and a village leader. People often seek him out for advice. A young couple had come to him in need of help. Both are HIV positive. Although they are not married, they are in a serious relationship. Despite their best efforts, they had become pregnant. Pregnancies are incredibly difficult on HIV positive women. In addition, this couple had no intentions of starting a family.

This is where I came in. I got the phone call asking if I would be interested in adopting their baby. As many of you know, I am planning to adopt in the coming year. So, I said that I would love to meet them and make sure that they fully understood what an adoption really meant.

I drove to Arusha and was informed that the mother – Stella – had been admitted to a local hospital with contractions. I went to the hospital and spoke with the couple. I had my Tanzanian lawyer join us and asses the situation. The couple was already incredibly informed and their decision was a conscious one.

I asked if she would be willing to transfer to another hospital in town – the “best” option - and undergo a c-section in order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. She agreed.

I took her to this hospital’s “best” ob-gyn in Arusha and had her checked out. He said the contractions were Braxton Hicks and that he would do the c-section on Monday the 13th.

Unprepared for a newborn, I spent the weekend with friends shopping for supplies, thinking about names, celebrating the immanent arrival. I visited the mother each day and we spoke about the future of her little boy or girl.

Monday finally arrived. I drove to the hospital first thing and invited myself into the surgical room but missed the actual birth by a few minutes. It was a boy. He was born at 10am on Monday the 13th of October 2008. I named him Aiden.

Unfortunately, he came out covered in meconium. As all mothers know, that is the first stool after the baby is born. Releasing the meconium in utero is a sign of stress on the baby. He weighed 3.0kg – 6 ½ pounds – a great weight for an African baby born to a mother with HIV. The mother made it through the surgery well.

Everyone said that the baby was doing fine and that meconium is not a big deal. He was seen by Tanzanian doctors and nurses, as well as two American doctors who are doing a visiting rotation at this hospital.

The baby spent most of the day in an incubator – with oxygen – and iv antibiotics. Around 5pm I finally got to hold him. I never expected to adopt a new born. It was a blessing I thought was too rare a miracle. Holding him was one of the most joyous moments of my life – imagining our lives together.

But I had been coming down with a head cold all weekend and decided that I would return to where I had been staying with friends for the night – get some sleep and some cold meds – and head back to the hospital in the morning. I wasn’t going to be any good with a cold.

I returned to the hospital Tuesday morning. The baby’s father was waiting.

The baby had died.

The hospital form said that he died of respiratory arrest at 6:40pm. Just moments after I left.

It was one of the saddest days of my life.

I have faith that I will survive this and that all of this was meant to happen - that one day I will realize why and for what purpose. In the mean time I am simply trying to breath.

In the midst of my grief, it has been incredibly obvious to me that had this baby been in the US he might have survived. There is no way to know for sure. But I am positive that the medical care in Arusha where we went was some of the worst I have ever seen. In addition to terrible facilities, the staff had nothing invested in their jobs. At 7pm when the baby died, there were NO doctors on the entire medical campus. They had all gone home for dinner. The nurses were basically useless. Even the morning I was told that the baby had died, no one seemed to care. Just another death. Just another expendable life.

We will never know what really happened, what was really wrong with Aiden, or what could have been done to save him.

I realize what a blessing it is to work here in Karatu with doctors and nurses who actually care and are properly trained. They are a rare commodity.

Please pray for Aiden. That he is resting comfortably with the angels.

Please pray for Aiden’s mother, Stella, that she fully recovers from the surgery and this tragedy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Market Day

Market Day happens each month in Karaut - on the 7th! It is the biggest thing in the whole region! Clothes, food, cattle, shoes, supplies, ANYTHING you could want - if you were a Tanzanian living in Karatu ... no Gap, no Target, but the basics!

Nyoka - Snake

Here is the lovely green snake that the askaris found - and swiftly killed - this morning. Snakes are typical in such a remote area. This one isn't that big. No one seemed very impressed. Except of course me - the white woman - willing to take a picture of almost anything.

The askaris were so funny, they wanted to make sure I got pictures of the top and bottom of the snake - which required that they turn it with a stick and threaten to throw it in my direction.

The terrible part about this snake is that it was discovered in our "lunch room." It is hard to see in this small picture, but the traditional Tanzanian lunch - of beans/rice or ugali (like stiff porridge) and veggies or meat - is cooked inside the door on the left by the green bucket. And we - the staff - eat on these school benches. Now, I will eat in paranoia of another snake crawling around!

Monday, October 6, 2008


SO, starting off the week with a bang. Tanzanian medicine never disappoints. Elderly woman with pain in her elbow. Well, yeah, if I had sixteen screws, a nail and some pins in my elbow it would probably hurt too!

She needs surgery in Arusha. It is already in the works. But can you imagine!

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Blood

Today I took Susan to the bank in Karatu. And while she was there a man came in looking for people to donate blood. It turned out to the the electrician who worked on the FAME clinic. His wife had just had a baby at the local Lutheran hospital and things were not going well.

So we came back to the clinic to round up donors and I realized that I didn't know my blood type! So, I walked right into our lovely lab and they took some blood and did this wonderful test you see above and ...

I am B+. Unfortunately, the woman is A+. But Susan and our head nurse are A+.

But isn't that just the coolest looking test? I just had to take a picture ...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Most recent patient ...

Yesterday and today, Frank treated the wife of one of our Masai askaris (night watchmen). For those of you who have been to RVCV, this is the wife of one of Godwin's many brothers - he looks just like him only WAY shorter.

Anyway, she had gone to a local dispensary near the boma (Masai village) and as soon as the "doctor" found out who her husband worked for, he admitted her and charged 30,000 tsh - about $25.00 USD - an ENORMOUS amount for any Tanzania.

SO, yesterday I drove down to Mto Wambu to pick her up and bring her here to see Frank.

It happens with medical treatment, transportation, rent, everything - when one Tanzanian knows that another Tanzanian works for a mzungu (a white person) the price sky-rockets.

She let me take her picture this morning before she left. Here, she is giggling at her husband who is instructing her on how to smile correctly for the picture.

She doesn't speak any swahili - only the tribal Masai language - meaning she has never been to school. They said she is 19, my guess is closer to 12 or 13. And the kicker ... there is a second wife, and she is even YOUNGER!

Ah the joys of "cultural traditions"

More to come ...

Monday, September 29, 2008


Natalie - new to RVCV - came to visit the clinic this morning.

She had a boil on her leg - which led to an infection inside - that Frank worked on over the weekend. She came just to make sure that things were all better - which they are!

She is gaining weight and seems to have really come to life - three weeks ago she wouldn't make eye contact, smile, make any noises. Now she is a completely different baby.

Still very small for 16 months, but on her way to as full a recovery as is possible!

Calm and happy!
How cute is she?

Weekend Clinic at RVCV

Joshua - in a time-out in Sara's office - although as you can see, he wasn't taking it too seriously.
Edina and one of our Mamas - waiting in line to see Frank at clinic - she had an upset stomach.
SO cute! And by the way, nothing was wrong with her. Seeing the Doctor is just so much fun!
Safi, one of the nurses from FAME Medical - at the dawa (medicine) table - ready to fill prescriptions and give injections!

Clinic went well - almost 100 patients in two days - and only Dr. Frank to carry the load.

It is always great to spend time with the kids. I gave Swedi and Ismail math work-books and told them that if they finished them by the time I came again in two weeks I would give them a prize. About an hour later they found me in the office - workbooks TOTALLY finished. Oops, no prizes on me - they didn't realize that they might have to wait!

More to come ...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

House Invasion

So, the past few days have been filled with bugs.

The other night I got eaten alive by mosquitoes while having an evening meeting with a visiting donor. My feet and legs look as if I have painted polka-dots on them.

My bathroom is an ant haven.

And then yesterday I came home and found lizard poop on my bed. (I know that lizards aren't bugs but they are in that same annoying, moves to fast, makes me sick, list of yucky things)

All to be out done last night at 5am. I had been sleeping soundly - as soundly as you sleep while you worry that a lizard is defecating on or under your bed - but regardless, I was sleeping. Suddenly the most horrifying sound woke me up - I sat straight up in bed.

It sounded like a fire alarm. SHRIEKING!

But we don't have fire alarms. This is africa, lets be serious.

What else could sound like a fire alarm? My appliances consist of a toaster and a fridge. Could it be my night askari, Fabi, sending some sort of emergency whistle?

Then is came to me. I know that sound. I have heard it at RVCV. A bat!!!!!!! Popo in Swahili.

So I got out of bed and went into the hallway. The noise intensified and was almost deafening - no exaggeration I swear - my ears were vibrating! It must be dying I thought - maybe rabies?

The sound was obviously coming from the guest room. So I went and yelled for Fabi, gave him a broom, a box, and a towel and explained that he needed to procure the bat and remove it.

He agreed. I went and hid in my room.

After about ten minutes of banging and crashing and swearing n Swahili, the sound stopped. Fabi exited the room and called to me. I peered around the corner of my door - not sure if seeing the bat was such a good idea - but there in between Fabi's two fingers was a


For the love of god, how can a cricket make that much noise?

Obviously one of the wonders of the world.

Thank God for Fabi!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Slowly slowly

So, I have been offline since last Wednesday - or I would have written more. Bright and early Thursday morning, Susan and I drove into Arusha to stock up on the basics and outfit my house with the essentials. Basically, we went grocery shopping. And it took two full days. When we got back late on Friday I was exhausted. I felt like I had been hit by a semi. All for some groceries. My mother reminded me that she can make it to and from Heinen's in under an hour. Thanks for rubbing it in.

I worked on Saturday, here at the clinic. We have a women's group who meets once a month to watch videos on health and female empowerment issues - all in Swahili. They LOVE it! Singing and crying and yelling and clapping along with the plot of the film. So much for the American standard of being quiet for your fellow movie goer.

Sunday was a lovely off day. Sara, the volunteer coordinator from RVCV, and I got to hang out and relax a bit.

Back to work this morning with a bang. A three year old girl came in, her hands and feet infested with funzas - a kind of worm that is in the dirt here and then burrows into skin. This little girl was abandoned by her mother and left to live with an elderly grandmother who is not capable of caring for this little girl. Not bathing each day combined with crawling and playing in the dirt has led to dozens of funzas.

I sat in with the doctors while they basically cut open each of her fingers and toes in order to remove these pea sized worms. Dr. Frank had sedated her and she didn't feel a thing but it was incredibly painful to watch.

We will follow up with Rift Valley Children's Village in hopes that this little girl can recover there and potentially make a move there if things don't improve.

At least she made it here before her blood went septic from the worms, which would have killed her.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Such is Africa

It is Wednesday again, so Mary and I had grand plans for our parenting class this morning at the orphanage. But alas, the head Mama and some of her staff had to go to Arusha for a "funeral" and so they asked to cancel the session. Susan told me that they have had a lot of "funerals in Arusha" lately. Oh well. We will try again next week.

I have officially moved into my little house. Yesterday, as I finished unpacking, I heard what I thought were voices in the backyard. Upon further inspection it was only a cow in the yard next to mine, munching away. So much for noisy neighbors.

Susan and I are heading into Arusha tomorrow to stock up. Karatu is booming but the shopping options are still pretty limited.

I have been feeling very accomplished lately; I hooked up my own water filter, hung my own mosquito net, and have begun driving on the left side of the road (the dirt road, more aptly referred to as the rut filled dust bowl that people around here call "the road") - things I never had to do back home.

We had a good laugh last night at dinner. Susan asked how things at the new house were going. I told them that my shower was extremely relaxing. Relaxing because you can barely call it a shower. More like a heavy dripping. And when you try to wash your hair in a heavy dripping you basically just have to stand there for quite some time and wait. Hence, quite a relaxing shower.

All in all it has been a successful start to my time here with Frank and Susan.

I hope that all is well back home - the news on the economic front has looked pretty grim from what I have had time to read on the web.

More to come ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

RVCV Update

I was supposed to move into my little rented house on Friday but that was postponed a bit - so instead, I got to go with the mobile clinic team up to Rift Valley Children's Village for the bi-monthly village clinic.

It gave me a chance to say hi to all of the kids - whom I haven't seen since last December. They are all doing AMAZINGLY well! Taller, happier, calmer and succeeding in school far beyond my wildest dreams.

Our kindergartners took the Standard 2 (Second Grade) test - just to see - and all passed it!

Benja, currently our oldest at the Village is in Standard 5 but got a 90% on the Standard 7 exam.

I sat with Ismail for hours on Saturday (he is 8, in the second grade, his mother died in childbirth and he sat in a crib in the maternity ward for almost 4 years before being transferred to India). He read to me from a chapter book and then we did some long division problems!

And for those of you who have been before, it isn't just the Manyara kids who are settling into their life at the Village. Serengeti and Terengeri are both doing really well too. Paulo is testing off the charts in school - he gets 100% on every test. The volunteers are even having a hard time challenging him.

Simone has calmed down, Eva looks like a young lady, Vicenti (from Serengeti) is ENORMOUS - we have to get a basketball team going.

And of course, Baby Vicenti, is no longer a baby. First of all he has been replaced by Baby Musa and Baby Natalie (both of whom have already gained weight), but more evident, is the fact that he just isn't a baby anymore. Although he did love the attention he got from me - someone who remembers the days when he didn't talk yet - or more importantly, whine yet.

And just in case you were wondering, he still runs with his little arms plastered to his sides - waddling like a duck - it is still the cutest thing.

I am impressed each year I return with the ways in which the kids are each maturing and growing. The chaos of having so many kids all in one place is always going to exist, but the bottom line is that things are well.

The kids are healthy and happy.

And at the end of the day, that is all that counts!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pain and Happiness

Yesterday, I began another facet of my job here with Frank and Susan, which is to assist their Community Development Officer, Mary, with certain projects that I might have experience for.

Mary has been working for Frank and Susan now for years and speaks perfect English. I have worked with her before on mobile clinics in the area and up at RVCV. She is a real gem!

Every Wednesday morning, she and I will be teaching "parenting" classes (of sorts) at an orphanage located very close to the Clinic. The orphanage is run by a Tanzanian woman and her husband who is a Christian pastor. It is called the Shalom Orphanage. Frank has been doing health screenings of all of the children and the director inquired as to some assistance with issues like discipline.

Rift Valley Children's Village it is NOT. Nor did I expect it to be; but Mary and I have our work cut out for us. It only took moments to notice some of the topics that we will need to counsel the staff on. Hygiene being first and foremost. Every child had their hands in their pants, complaining of being itchy. Runny noses, ring worm - all obviously the result of not bathing everyday. I couldn't find a bar of soap in the entire place!

But I have to say, the staff were amazingly open to Mary and I, and were also very forthcoming about their own backgrounds and the issues they were having with raising so many children (42 at the moment).

We began the session with introductions and then Mary invited each staff member to share with the group their greatest pain and their greatest happiness. I, as the guest, was invited to go first. I began with my greatest joy - my family - I discussed our close knit family and how supportive they are of my choices.

But then, I couldn't really think of a greatest pain. Every family has illness, the death of grandparents, the passing of a much loved pet - the basics. I spoke briefly of what has been a more recent pain, the painful departure from my parents and brother in light of my trip here to Tanzania.

Ok, all done, onto the ten staff members. Well, imagine sitting in a tiny concrete room for two hours listening to the most heart wrenching stories you can imagine. First in Swahili and then, to make sure I understood every word, Mary translated it all into English.

Every single staff member had suffered the loss of a parent early in life. The lack of a father. Step-parents who did not accept them as their own. Physical abuse. Starvation. Loss of siblings to disease. Lack of funds for education. Poverty. Alcoholism. Being uprooted from one location to another. Feelings of abandonment. Lack of love. On and on and on ...

The guilt of not having pain in my life to even begin to compare with theirs was palpable.

We, as the western world, so often wonder why places like Tanzania can't get their act together. I am not sure that with backgrounds like theirs that I would even know how to get out of bed in the morning. Much less help my country get its act together.

On the walk back to the clinic, Mary and I discussed the enormity of the situation. We decided to start with soap.

More pictures!

Just one section of the newly organized store room!
Each doctor (Dr. Frank, Dr. Mshana, and Dr. Ivan) has there own office for seeing patients.
The whole clinic runs on solar power but with the sky lights that the architects installed, there is limited need for lights at all.
The other end of the clinic - the main entrance.

The FAME Clinic is truly one of the most gorgeous and modern facilities in the entire region - I have never seen such quality anywhere else!

The Clinic!

One quick pic - as I experiment with compressing for the web - whew, the internet connection could not be slower!

More to come ...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Additions to RVCV

Yesterday was my first day at the clinic and I started off getting to observe the first physicals for the two new additions to the Rift Valley Children's Village. A little boy, Musa, is 9 months old. And a little girl, 16 months, arrived without a name. India, the director of RVCV, named her Natalie - after India's mother.

Both children came from villages about two hours or so from where the clinic and RVCV are located, in some of the most desolate and destitute areas of Tanzania. Musa's mother recently died of AIDS and was left without any extended family to care for him. He weighs only 15 pounds due to malnutrition. But he was alert and expressive. Although at 9 months he can't sit on his own much less bear weight on his little legs. He is too young and too small for an accurate HIV test. He did test positive for malaria.

Natalie was in much worse shape. At 16 months she weighs only 16 pounds and does not walk yet. Her eyes were bright but she couldn't muster up the courage to smile, she was exhausted and incredibly shy. They only explanation is malnutrition - her labs all came back clear. The HIV test will take a few days. All India knows is that Natalie's mother suffers from mental illness and her family (as in the majority of Tanzanian families) assumed that Natalie was therefore mentally ill as well. All we can assume is that by not feeding her enough they hoped that she would pass away before anyone noticed. Someone did notice and Natalie ended up with India.

The blessing for them both is that they are now in the hands of the mamas, volunteers and staff at RVCV and will be fed and pampered 24/7. Without Rift Valley, these beautiful babies would most likely not see their first or second birthdays.

I will take pictures and hopefully post them as soon as I get up to Rift Valley for my first visit. Although by then I would bet they will be pudgy and full of smiles!

More to come ...

On the ground!

Greetings from Tanzania! So, I apologize for the initial delay in writing but working out an internet connection is always challenging this far outside of any city, town, village.

But things are now off and running. This was my second full day at the clinic. I arrived safe and sound in Arusha last Wednesday evening and spent Thursday in Arusha visiting my friends at Cradle of Love Baby Home. I then came out here to Karatu on Friday morning after stopping at Shoprite for some groceries.

Shoprite is my barometer of Tazania's progress. Five years ago, on my first trip, Shoprite, a South African chain, had just been built and for the coming year the shelves remained only moderately stocked with basics that you could get anywhere in Arusha. A year later, on my second trip, the array of choices had improved but the shelves were not completely full and imports ran out quickly - if your timing was off you would only ever hear about the amazing things you could get there.

On my third and fourth trips, in the last year, vast improvements had been made. As my mom and last summers crew can attest to, shopping there had become quite fun. Things were almost always in stock and there were plenty of things that were worth the ridiculously high prices.

On this shopping trip - my fifth time in Tanzania - I almost fell over! The shelves can barely contain their contents! It was amazing!

Although, they were out of SweetnLow. A real bummer.

But, minus the SweetnLow, I made it up to Dr. Frank and Susan without a hitch and have begun work as their volunteer coordinator. We don't have any volunteers at the moment, so I have been doing what I do best; ORGANIZING. An enormous container full of ordered medical supplies arrived a few weeks ago and the enormous job of sorting, shelving and labeling all of these new supplies has fallen on my shoulders - without complaint. You should see what happens to my parents closets and cupboards at home when I have a day off!

The weather is lovely, cool mornings and warm afternoons, but the dust is incredible. This is the driest time of year and there is no avoiding it. I walked home from the clinic today - a forty minute walk - and by the time I got home I was covered in a thick layer of red clay dust.

That is all for now, off to dinner, Susan is a wonderful cook - especially with the limited supplies. I will be moving into my own rented house this weekend.

More to come ...

Miss you all ...

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Welcome to the new African Orphan Education Fund blog!