Friday, April 27, 2012

The Wall (not referencing Pink Floyd's Album)

26 APRIL 12
I don’t know much about luck.. have to say, I’ve never really been a “lucky” person… some might go so far as to say I have bad luck.. I don’t know, but when you go out at midnight to have a peaceful number 2 while squatting over the hole in the cement floor of your outhouse and a scorpion decides to run right in front of you... I don’t think that’s a good luck sign… although, I did manage to kill it with a bucket so maybe I’m not as unlucky as I think... either way.. I haven't been having much luck lately...

So, it’s been another long haul since the last update.  There are definitely updates to share but not quite as warm and fuzzy as the ones that I got to share when we were digging the well (if those were considered warm and fuzzy…).  Things have been rough.  I’m not trying to exaggerate or be a downer… but like I said before, you guys are along for the whole ride, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health (unless you want me to stop sending you emails.. in which case just let me know and I’ll be sure to take you off the list! No worries!! :).

So, we finished the well on March 20th.  Tabitha had gone to Sirari (a town near the Kenyan border) a couple of days before we finished the well to complete some of her unfinished business.  However, while she was there, she blacked out and was taken to the hospital.  I’m not exactly sure what happened. The doctor discovered the left side of her heart is enlarged (possibly due to all her years as a marathon runner) and it’s causing severe high blood pressure.. like 180/140 high blood pressure…  She spent 5 days in the hospital and another 5 in bed out in Sirari.  It was a scary time, especially since I didn’t get all the details until she came back.  It’s been a month since the incident and although I would love to report that she is back to full super-trooper strength, that’s unfortunately not the case.  She had a few really bad weeks when she first got back.. and spent a lot of time in bed…but things are  getting a little better now.  She has some good days and some bad days.  She’s still a trooper and fighting through it.  Hopefully she’ll feel better soon.  For those that pray, we’re happy to have you pray for her.  For those that don’t, cyber hugs, and warm thoughts are most welcome!!!

As for Hero Home- well, that too is less than warm and fuzzy right now.  We’ve hit a bit of a wall… but when you can’t climb over it.. and you can’t find a window to sneak in.. then you take out a sledge hammer and start making your own door! And I think that’s what we’re going to do… not literally.. no sledge hammers will be used.. but you get the idea.  Apparently the Mayor of Bujashi (Bujashi is where our land is and I think he's considered like the Mayor though I don't really know) wants something.  We’re not sure what he wants.  We unfortunately haven’t honed our mind reading skills.  But apparently until he gets what he wants, he’s decided to make things challenging for us (because building a home for 50 street kids and orphans in the middle of nowhere is not enough of a challenge on its own). 
So, at the start of April, after finishing the well, we asked the mayor to have a town meeting so we could ask the locals to come out for one day to help us clear land.  We want the local people to help out since the centre is for the good of the whole community.  Our sports fields will be for all the children, not just the kids that live at Hero Home, and we will also run programs for parents and youth in the community…  So, we believe that if the locals put some of their sweat in to the project at the start, they’ll have more respect and appreciation for it in the end.  Last year, they all attended a meeting with Tabitha to learn about Hero Home and they all accepted it… so there really shouldn’t have been any problem to have them help out one day… and probably they wouldn’t have had a problem but the mayor didn’t call the meeting.  The day of the meeting, we went to the village to meet with him and he explained that the district government (one step up from the village government) has asked us to report to them and show them our registration papers.. “if we even have them...”  Well, of course we have them.  Tabitha registered with the national government two years ago.  And the district government has already seen all the documents and the mayor has seen the documents… but I guess they forgot.  So, OK.. that’s fine. We’ll go back and show them again. 

So, Tabitha went to the district government to deliver our registration documents (we both decided my skin wouldn’t help this process so I stayed back and waited).  After being tossed around from minister of something to minister of something else (with a lot of verbal abuse in the process), she finally ended up at the minister of youth, sport, and culture.  Makes sense since our goal is to use sports to help youth to live well within in the community.  The minister was a mama that Tabitha knew from her running days.  They worked things out and made an appointment for the minister to come see the land on May 5th.  She gave us the green light to go ahead and work on Hero Home until then.  However, I guess the mayor didn’t like that and is still trying to be the best darn wall he can be.  We tried multiple times to call him but he’s decided not to answer our phone calls.. unless we call him from a different phone number in which case he answers but they usually finds a way to hang up once he realizes it’s us. At least we get a little chuckle out of it. :) Tabitha did finally run in to him a couple of days ago.  We were coming back from the land and he was in Kisesa (our town) and to his misfortune, his friend saw Tabitha and called to her.  I guess the friend wasn’t in on the secret that he isn’t talking to us.  Tabitha chatted with both of them.  The mayor said he had been to the district office and that we need to stop working until the minister comes out to check the land.  Tabitha explained that the minister has approved the project and there is no reason to hold up work.  The visit is just to see the land, but the project itself has already been approved.  I don’t think the Mayor was happy.  

So, that was Tuesday.  I forgot to mention, on Saturday, we met with our general contractor and two of the awesome well diggers.  We’ve officially hired them on as full time workers! So, the GO! Team just got a little bigger.  They are happy for the full time work and we’re happy to have them! They started clearing the land on Monday.  They continued on Tuesday.  On Wednesday and Thursday,  there was a funeral in the village so they couldn’t work.  Today is Friday.  They went to work.  However, our friend the mayor went out to the land to tell them they couldn’t work until the district office comes out on May 5th.  Harrrouumpphhhfffff!!!!!!!! The Mayor has yet to call us or tell us directly that we can’t work, but I think we get the point.  Where’s that sledge hammer ???? :)

So, needless to say, things have been a little slow.. but we haven’t given up… I mean, some days we want to.. and there is a lot of lying on the cement floor contemplating our future… but we’re still going on!!!  You see, last year, Tabitha met with over 200 townspeople and they accepted the project and the local government not only accepted the project but agreed to give us 30 acres of land, the national government as registered us as a NGO and in February of this year, we had another meeting with 30 local leaders and they accepted the project again and measured out the land and now the district government has given us the go ahead to work.. so really… there is no reason not to move forward.  One apple cannot ruin the bunch, one man cannot stop a thousand people who believe… so.. we will make that door!!!  We will get through this wall!!!  it’s maybe just taking more time than we’d like.

Since writing this email, we've talked to the district minister.  She was surprised to hear that the work wasn't going on.  She told us she'll come out on May 2nd to see the land and get us a signed document allowing our work to proceed.  She said she's never even talked to the Mayor.  go figure!
So again, those who pray, by all means, keep us in your prayers! Let's hope things go smoothly, we make the door happen and we walk through to greener pastures!! Those who don’t pray… all positive vibes are accepted with open arms!

But enough of that.  On the warm fuzzy side, we had our first real soccer game with some of our street kids!!! It was awesome!!!  We brought some of the street kids we play soccer with in Mwanza to Kisesa to play against the local Kisesa team.  If there was ever a David and Goliath match, this was it!!! This was the type of match movies are made of!  Our kids were all under 12 and we told the kisesa coach to bring his under 12 kids.  He showed up with a group of giants! :) The youngest might have been 12 but the oldest was at least 15 or 16.  And they had shoes.. each and everyone one of them.  And we didn’t.  It was definitely mismatched.. but our kids were awesome! They put on their jerseys, tied up their shorts and took to the field! Although it was a gong show getting started, once the game got underway, it was awesome! The kids played their hearts out!! We had the local drumming troupe play at the start and at half time and there was a good group of kids out to support!  The last 10 minutes of the game, a huge rain storm came! We played on for a bit and then gave up and everyone ran from the field to the shelter down the street! It was a great ending to the day!! We were soaked to the bone and happy to the core! :) the kids had a lot of fun, even if we lost 4-0 (it could have been 40-0 with the size difference.. but our kids played hard right til the end!).  We sat with all the players after the game.. gave out some notebooks and candy.. congratulated all of them for an excellent first match and amazing sportsmanship and then called it a day.  I had supper with the mwanza kids and then we headed back to town so that they could sleep… on the street… the taking them back to the street part was definitely hard.  There were only 6 street kids that came to the match.. but it was still hard to know that they weren’t going home to parents or adults to care for them… and they are awesome kids!!! Super awesome who deserve a great home! We had a great ride back on bus. They had the whole bus laughing.  No one would have ever guessed that they were a bunch of “no-good street kids” (as people refer to them..).  they were normal kids who were happy after getting a chance to play soccer!  It was definitely a good reminder as to why Hero Home needs to happen.. despite any wall that tries to be put in our way!!

Last thing, I’ll shamelessly plug our new and super awesome facebook page again! Check it out! LIKE us and tell your friends to LIKE us! We're very likeable!! :) There are tons of pictures and all our videos as well! and you can stay up to date on everything that's happening with GO!.

Also, just thought I’d share with everyone that St. Pauls High School had a super successful Mission Week back in March during which they raised 2517$ in support of GO!.  We’re super thankful to the staff, students and families who supported the cause!!!
And Westwood Collegiate just finished up their amazing Hero Month! They had tons of events including selling hand prints, t-shirts, a bake sale, and a soccer tournament!! It was hugely successful and helped us spread the word about GO! and Hero Home!!!!  So successful that Sharon Blady- the MLA for Kirkfield Park actually talked about it at the Manitoba Legislative Assembly! Check out the link to read what she has to say about Westwood and GO!.  YEAH!!!

I think there are some more fundraisers coming up in the next few months as well, so stayed tuned to our website and facebook page!!

Thanks again for all the support! :) I hope everyone is doing well! As always, I love to hear what people are up to!

Tupo pamoja (“we are together” in Swahili)