Friday, March 23, 2012

Never doubt...

Never doubt… or if you must, doubt only so that your doubt may be proven wrong

and your gratitude amplified – me.

Yup! I just quoted myself! :) Only slightly pretentious, right? :) But it’s a lesson I’ve learned repeatedly in the last month of working on Hero Home and just thought it was worthwhile sharing with everyone.

I know this update comes a little late, but I wanted to get all my ducks in a row before emailing… and having played with the neighbours ducklings a few times, I can assure you getting ducks in a row is not an easy task! However, my ducks are finally in place and I have lots of exciting updates to share with you.

First off, if you haven’t been following the updates on facebook, let me bring you up to speed on the well progress! Last email, the amazing digging crew was still going strong digging! Since then… we hit water!!! It happened on Friday, March 2nd almost 2 weeks after the digging began. We saw a few glints of water on the Wednesday and then the guys kept digging Thursday and FRIDAY morning, there it was… all shiny and beautiful!!! It was quite an impressive site!!!! The water is super clear and not very salty (I know because I had a celebratory sip.. and it must be pretty clean because I didn’t experience any adverse effects!!) There are plenty of pictures up on our facebook page so definitely check them out!

After hitting water, the guys emptied all the water out and kept digging a bit more to ensure we had a solid water source. In the end, they reached approximately 40’8”. Pretty impressive work! On the Sunday, as planned, we had a huge celebratory feast! We killed a chicken, had spiced rice, pasta, fresh salsa, and soda. It was DELICIOUS!! Turns out one of the well diggers has also worked in a restaurant! Our lucky day!!He was a fantastic cook and it was a great way to end 2 weeks of hard work!

After reaching water, the next step was to find someone to make the cement rings to go in the well. This is was fun. Jonathan, our amazing friend and “general contractor” (our go-to guy who lives near our land and has been amazing at helping us with all the work) tried a few different contacts but all of them wanted way more money than we could afford or fathom paying for the work that needed to be done. However, we were in a bind because with the well already dug and we needed to get the rings in fast before the rains started and ruined all the hard work. After being told ridiculous prices for renting the metal frames needed to make the cement rings, we decided that we would get our own rings made and then at least, we could use them and rent them afterwards. Tabitha and I went on a mission to find some frames so that we could get some pictures and have it made. It was two long days with lots of dead ends, but in the end, we found someone with rings. He wanted over 1 million shillings to make the cement rings (over 600$). Instead, we smiled pretty and convinced him to let us take some pictures of the frames. We found a highly recommended metal “fundi” (expert) to make the metal frames. He had never done it before but was confident that he could do it. We went to town and spent a few hours finding all the supplies and then I told him all the measurements. Then I wrote out all the measurements. Then I drew a sketch with all the measurements…

Can you see where this is going? :)

So, that was Wednesday. He said he’d be done Friday. I went there on Friday with Uncle Moshi (oh yeah, uncle moshi came to visit!!) We got there and the fundi wasn’t there but the frames were.. but… the measurements were wrong!!!!!! Shocking, eh??? :) I bet you didn’t see that coming. We waited for him for a couple of hours and when he finally showed up, he regrettably informed us that he had forgotten the paper at home and called his wife to read him the measurements. She read 3’ 8” as 38” and she read 3’ 2” as 32”. Awesome. So, our frame was 6 inches shorter in diameter.. which when multiplied by pi, makes quite a difference. Frustrating! Right? We all stood around staring at it for a while. They all seemed to think they could just add on 6 inches... but they didn’t quite understand the math involved in circles and I think I was too disappointed to really be able to explain it well. I think I just shook my head a lot. In the end, we just had to accept it. In Swahili they say, “sinajinsi”… which basically translates into “I don’t have any means…” and it was true. We couldn’t afford to buy all the supplies again because they cost over 100$ and that’s a lot of money here… and even if we did buy all the stuff, it would take another 3 days at best and the rains could start any day and even after getting the frames, it still takes close to 2 weeks to make all the rings.. so time was of the essence. So, we gave up staring at it, thanked the fundi for his efforts, gave him a slight lecture on what to do in the future when he forgets measurements, and hopped into the back of pick-up tryke (motorcycle front end, pick up truck back end) and headed back to Kisesa.

Now that we had the frames, we needed to find someone to make the rings. And that was still a challenge. We talked to a couple people, all who had ridiculous prices. Finally Jonathan got in contact with a cement ring fundi (expert) that lives in the same village as our land. He said he could make the rings. (did you notice my wording… I’m sure you did). He had a good price (see where this is going?). So we negotiated a bit with him and agreed on a price. The work was to begin on Wednesday, March 14th (12 days after we finished digging). Wednesday morning he showed up. So did his friend. We were surprised, but whatever. We had already negotiated the price with him so if he wanted to bring 1 or 100 people, it was the same price as far as we were concerned. You follow, right? Well, here’s the where the story gets awesome. Within the first hour it was apparent our “fundi” had no clue what to do. Serious doubt set in. His friend did all the work and all the directing. Unfortunately, the frames were sticking and they only got 4 rings made. At 430pm, we got another pick-up tryke to come out to the land and take us and the frames back to our metal fundi. He made some repairs and we headed back out to the land to drop off the frames. I got home at 930pm. Definitely another long day…

The next day, our “fundi” came with his friend and his friend got to work. A couple hours in, our fundi said he had a funeral to go to. He needed a deposit. We paid half the money, which is standard protocol here. However, was isn’t standard protocol is saying you’re going to a funeral and then going to get sloshed on local beer, which is what he ended up doing. Awesome. Luckily for us, the friend was amazing. We were so grateful to have him!! He stayed and made 11 rings the second day, 10 rings the third day, 7 the fourth day, and even came back on the Sunday to finish up the last remaining 3. Our original fundi appeared on the last day to collect his money. He ended up keeping it and not giving it to the guy who did all the work. It sucked big time. I felt awful. Our fundi was a complete scam and the guy who did all the work got screwed over big time. Not fair. We ended up paying the real guy some money, but we have so little money to go around that we couldn’t afford to pay for the job twice… it sucked. Again, “sinajinsi”…

The awesome fundi agreed to drop the rings in the well. He came out on Wednesday of this week with his amazing crew of 5 young guys and in one day, they dropped 31 cement rings into our well!!!! It was impressive! Each ring is 38” across and 16” high and weighs over 200lbs.. but the 6 of them and our 2 diggers dropped them in to our 40’ well using homemade ropes. There are videos to come.. but basically they tied 4 ropes around the ring. The 8 of them lowered the ring into the well and then one guy would climb into the well, shimmy down the rope to the bottom and set the ring. He would then climb out and the process would start again! They were pros! It definitely wasn’t their first rodeo! Me and my bike were on site before 700am that day and I left the land at 700pm. So, it was a long day but very exciting!

Our diggers filled in the sides with sand today and yesterday and tomorrow, we should be putting the lid on. And that will be the end of the story of the well. It’s been slightly over 1 month since it began and we’re excited to be nearing the end. There were definitely days and days of doubt and frustration, but in the end, we are super grateful for all the wonderful people that have helped us make to make the well happen, both here in Tanzania and around the world!!! THANKS!!!!

So, that’s the well update. On to the next excitement that I’ve been dealing with. So, as I mentioned in last email, we started Saturday Soccer with the street kids. The first two weeks were awesome! 25-30 kids came out. We had a great time and we’re starting to get to know the kids. Week 3 there had been a ceremony at the field so we couldn’t play. Week 4 (last Saturday), Tabitha stayed out on the land to help with making the cement rings and I went to town by myself for soccer. Our numbers were lower, likely because the week before had been cancelled. However, we still had 12 little guys (10-12 yeard old) come out and we played on the full field. It was excellent… until the end. Three older boys (14-16 years old) showed up at the end while I was sitting around with the younger dudes having tea and donuts. They wanted donuts but I said our rules say that tea and donuts are for people that play. We finished up, the little kids left and the three older ones hung around. They continued to pester me until I finally gave them some donuts. Then they took off…. Any guesses of what’s coming next? While they were pestering me, 3 little guys came back to the field because I was holding one the kid’s money. Luckily, they filled me in on what happened. While one of the older kids was pestering me about donuts, the other one stole my camera. Oldest trick in the book and I feel for it. Luckily the kids came to get their money and said “teacher, they just took your camera.” So, off we went. We tried to find them.. no luck. Talked to some older street kids to start spreading the word… sat around for a bit. I shook my head some more… I think I would have had a stronger reaction but I was in a complete state of exhaustion. I had been at the site all morning helping with the rings, had biked the 10km back to the house, hoped on a bus with my tea thermos, 2 soccer balls, 25 cups, donuts, etc.. and had just spent over an hour running around in the sun playing soccer.. without having eaten anything… my brain had given up. Me and the three awesome little guys went to where all the other street kids were waiting for food. Apparently someone brings food on Saturdays. I met up with the little guys that had been playing soccer and they of course were not surprised. They all told me they older dudes were planning it. Bummer! I said they needed to tell me these things. They said they were afraid of being beaten…. Long story short (unless its too long already to be considered short), the three thieves showed up. Older street kids grabbed them and tried to make them give back the camera (a show put on for my sake, because really, they were probably more proud of them then mad at them…) and the thieves denied it. While all the commotion was going on, I got robbed again. They stole all my money, which fortunately wasn’t much more than 20$. They were nice enough to throw my licence on the ground, so when a kid picked it up and said “teacher your face is on the floor” I knew right away the money was gone. In the end, two older kids said they would get my camera back. I said great. They said how much. I said 50000Tsh (33$). They said 70000$ (47$). I said fine. I waited with a group of kids and 10 minutes later, they came back with my camera. However, I didn’t have a single shilling on me since I had just been robbed. I borrowed 33cents to make a phone call to a friend in Kisesa. He sent me money over the phone (a new fancy technology that’s all over Tanzania). I got the money, I paid for my camera and the guys took off running. Then I broke down. I think the exhaustion got up with me. I was able beg a ride on the bus after I told the driver I had been robbed, twice. Everyone on the bus knew in no time.

And when you doubt humanity, humanity gives you a reason to be grateful…. 5 different people offered me money, included an elderly grandma. No one looked at me with disdain and said I deserved or said I had lots of money so I shouldn’t care… Everyone was disappointed in “their” children since all kids are “their” kids. It was an amazing scene to balance the drama of the thefts.

But, that’s just the background info. Here’s what I really want to say. When it first happened, I was super angry. Here I was trying to help and they go and steal from me. But, the thing is, I was helping the little kids and they didn’t steal. They were super stars and told me it had happened and helped me track down the kids, even though it was potentially putting them at risk. While I was on the bus going home, and had more time to think about it all, here’s what hit me. I can be mad at the kids that stole.. but they’ve been taught to steal. It’s not even that they should know better, or have been taught better.. they’ve been taught to steal. Their education is not in a classroom or in a home, it’s on the street and that’s what the older guys on the street are teaching them. So, do I get mad at them, or do I get mad at the circumstance. At the situation? Why are they on the street in the first place? Some of them have lost their parents to AIDS and that makes it easier to understand… but the truth is a good deal of them have left their homes because they are constantly beaten by their parents and couldn’t take the abuse. So, how can I be mad at a kid who has left home because he is tired of being beaten? I have to be mad at the parents because how can you choose to bring a child into the world and then abuse him or her. It’s not right. It shouldn’t happen. But, the thing is, the parents are poorly educated. They have more kids then they can handle and contraception (thanks in part to the church) is frowned upon and people constantly quote the bible saying “god told them to make babies” (I think God would have a different message today if she saw how many people were already on the earth.. but that’s just my thoughts…). The parents themselves were raised with beatings and therefore they pass it on to their kids. And why are the parents not educated, because the entire country is living in a state of poverty… So, I can have this anger but I can’t direct it anywhere and in the end, being angry isn’t going to change the world. So, I have to let it go and used it as motivation. Motivation to work even harder to make Hero Home happen. The scary thought is that our window of opportunity is shrinking. The little guys we play soccer with are going to be big guys in no time… and if they continue to live on the street, they are going to be just like the big guys. And that’s a scary but all too possible reality. We need to make Hero Home happen as soon as possible so that we don’t lose more kids to street life…. And that’s my motivation.

So, I’m going to soccer again on Saturday. I won’t be by myself and I won’t have a camera. Hopefully the little guys will keep coming and hopefully I can get them into Hero Home before I lose them to street life. I have huge doubts. I have to doubt. But hopefully, like with the well, all my doubts will be proven wrong and I’ll be eternally grateful.

Sorry for the heavy email.

I hope everyone is doing well. I heard spring has sprung in Winnipeg! Crazy! Enjoy the warm weather!

If you’re on facebook, please LIKE our new facebook page and then you can follow along with all the updates and pictures as they get posted!

We also have some excellent videos on our youtube channel (growingopportunities) to check out:
*GO! talks to Street Kids in Mwanza
*GO! Be a Hero with your Hands (might be blocked... I have Ben Harper's "With your own two hands" song in the background. It's a perfect fit but apparently EMI music disagrees.
*GO! digs the Hero Home Well
*GO!- Westwood Collegiate Hero Month Kick Off

and of course, our website!

Peace and love,