Updates from our February 2020 Visit
I wish each and every one of you could experience the joy we experienced over the last two weeks. Our journey to Lake Eyasi in February 2020 was a very special one filled with much celebration. We arrived to a large celebration of the new well. The sun was shining, local music was playing from large speakers in the back of a truck, and 200+ people were gathered around the water and the new shops to celebrate. The day included a ribbon cutting with the governor, traditional dances by the 3 local tribes, many speeches by leaders, and honoring of the people who have contributed. A very sweet spot in the event was the presentation of ownership papers to the women who now officially own the homes we have built over the last several years! At the end of the event the local women presented a feast for everyone who attended.
The well has had a truly life changing impact. We walked into a wall of green; corn, vegetables, flowers, and squash flourished where last year there was a desert. Over 600 people in the area now have access to clean water for drinking, cleaning, and growing crops for themselves as well as potential income for the women to sell extra food.
The duka (shop) is open! The shops have brought the women a community gathering place right next to the road and water access. We arrived each morning to find the women gathering and working. The duka is divided into 3 shops consisting of a sewing shop where some of the women make school uniforms for the local children; a small store stocked with basic supplies and snacks; and a small cafe where people can gather for morning chai and mandazi (a local favorite similar to a donut). The stores are operated by the women who share the income. Plus, the shops provide shade and benches, serving as a gathering place within the village.
Two more houses and outhouses are complete this year! The village is growing and these safe homes provide a new security for the abandoned women to rest and live peacefully with their children.
This was a big year for medical help for the women. Laura, a massage therapist, came on the trip and spent a few days working with the women in one of the homes we built. The women started hesitant, but quickly opened up and began to share their stories and their pain and learn how to give and receive compassionate touch. It was a truly amazing experience. A young woman from the village, Paulina, sat with Laura side-by-side and learned to help with the many aches and pains of the women. This also opened the door for the women to start sharing their medical problems and questions. Gail, a paramedic, also came and answered questions the women had about home births. This experience helped to encourage the women to attend the free clinic and receive much needed medical attention during our visit.
The clinic is fully operational and providing much needed care for people who had no other reasonable access to healthcare. We brought 3 doctors to the local clinic and together with Gail, Laura, and a local team, we triaged and treated the women and children of the village. Over 25 women of the village were transported in, saw the doctors, had testing, and received medicine. Plus 125+ of the local people in the area also came to the clinic for this event. The impact was huge! See the hopes for next year below.
The school was a special treat to visit, and the new addition of the pre-school brought more smiles and excitement from the young kids. There are 5 young women currently sponsored who are thriving in the school environment. At the school, we worked with the girls on computer skills, English conversation, and played sports with them. We brought much new technology with a new projector, 6 computers, a router, and internet access – allowing us to help implement a remote computer training program in its pilot phase.
The school added a pre-school and hopes to add a childcare center. This provides a safe place for local children to learn and be while their mothers can focus on working to support themselves. There was pure joy on the faces of the small children when we erected a playground for the new preschool students and local kids, who instantly asked if they could start playing on the slide, monkey bars, and new swing.
We also committed to a scheduled program for the next 4 years by paying the salaries of the teachers at a livable level. The intention of this is to allow the school to focus on increasing the number of students to a self-sustaining level as well as supporting a realistic income to the dedicated teachers.
Beyond this we have initiatives such as the micro loan program, helping to support Fatina’s family (the HIV-positive woman we built a house for several years ago), Teresia and her kids (another homeowner who has suffered a mental breakdown), and other actions.
A big highlight of the week was the pilot of an outdoor Friday Night Movie Night on Valentine’s Day. We rented speakers and a generator to project “The Jungle Book” movie on the side of the duka. We brought the school staff and students, and many of the local community members and children came out for the showing. The hope is that this can become a regular event that brings a safe, joyful event for the local kids and also brings income to the shops for the women.
Overall it is astounding how much change has happened. None of it could not have happened without your support.
In the next year, we are planning more projects in these areas.
In the village, we hope to put solar lighting on the houses so the women can see to work, read, study, and cook during the 12 hours of daily darkness ($5500). We also plan to build one more house, ($10500) for a wonderful woman in the village also named Lightness.
At the school, the cook currently works in a covered area outdoors over a fire on the dirt floor. We hope to add a kitchen to the school allowing for food storage, a stove, and sanitation ($10,000).
We are committed to taking on the large challenge of increasing the teachers’ salaries to a sustainable level and supporting them for a few years. There has been no money to pay them. They have not been paid for 2020 yet as of February 20th. Previously, the main teacher was paid $125/month. We increased his pay to $300/month after taxes. This is still below current teacher pay but acceptable. There is a main teacher/principal, hospitality teacher, sewing teacher, two kindergarten teachers, a matron to stay over night with the girls, and a cook ($16,000 total).
At the medical clinic, we started a fund for the women which will support monthly visits to the village by a doctor/gynecologist to treat the women with cancer and pregnancy and medical support as needed. During the clinic, it was discovered that currently 4 women in the village have tumors that need operations; the women have no way to get the operations. It was also discovered that even with free transportation and a requested donation of $1.00, many women and children did not attend the clinic because they did not have the $1.00. Our goal in 2020 is to make healthcare accessible to all the women and children in the village ($5,000).
An update on supporting Teresia…. She is a woman who we built a house for in 2019 before she had a psychotic break after the birth of her youngest child. We could write a whole report just on her; in short, after sending people to find Teresia and her kids, several times, treating them, clothing them, housing them and feeding them, the family is stable at the school. We have put $1500 in a fund for 3-months to pay for weekly doctor visits, food, and care for the kids, school for them, clothing, and a place to live while the new medicine has time to help her stabilize. The changes during our brief visit were amazing… when we arrived she was afraid and hearing voices in her head, and by the time we left, after she spent a day with a psychiatrist, she was back to the smiling, prayerful Teresia we know and love.
The budget for next year is $60,000 (we have already paid out well over $10,000 this year for expenses in January). We are very hopeful and appreciative of all efforts to support our projects this year and in the future.