Our Garden

8:00 am definitely a big task ahead
 This weekend we had one very exciting addition to our school, a garden!   For about 9 months I have been thinking of and dreaming of how incredible it would be to see and witness our children at Stella Maris take ownership of and have a garden to call their own.  To have plants and trees to care for and watch them grow over their years at Stella Maris.  To know that every time our students come to school and eventually return to Stella Maris after leaving for secondary school, they can see what they did to help build our school.  They will be able to point to a tree or to our garden and see it as their own.  It is their contribution to our school and something that they will nurture, build and care for.  The first day I arrived I told Mama Lucy of my grand idea of a garden and she said her always famous “be cool Mr. Terry, just relax a bit”.  Luckily for me I have never been one to listen too much when I have a good idea and I just quietly waited for the right opportunity.

the boys relaxing on our random collection of wood
Then this weekend presented itself as the perfect opportunity. One of my best friends Michael Dolan just got married.  Michael and I have been friends since grade school and I was supposed to stand up in wedding as a groomsman on Friday.  Of course Michael and Emilie (his beautiful wife) knew of my commitment here and were extremely supportive of the work being done for these children.  They are both elementary school teachers, so they understand the responsibility I have that requires me to be here.  They just made me promise that I make their wedding weekend count for something, since I couldn’t be there to share in their celebration.  So I took it as a challenge and opportunity to give the school something lasting while thinking of them.

So over the week I purchased trees, some seeds, nails, some scrap wood (from the old scaffolding used to build our hotel) and borrowed some tools.  Then with the help of one of our teachers, Mr. Soka, and 10 eager, hardworking 9 year old third grader boys and one girl, we set to work.  The children showed up at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning full of smiles and started right away preparing an area for our garden.  We cleared out bushes, rough brush and small patches of weeds.  We leveled the ground for our garden and dug holes around the perimeter of our school to plant avocado, mango and orange trees.  Then we began to build a fence.  We need a fence to protect our smaller trees and vegetables from grazing cattle and goats.  After protecting some of our smaller trees we can transplant them around our school grounds or even sell them at the market.  Together we hammered all of the differently sized and shaped pieces of wood to create a fence.  We worked side by side for 7 hours with quite a few breaks to play with bugs, lizards and eat some bananas, but we finally finished.  With our work finished I had all the children join me for lunch at the Stella Maris Executive Lodge for a feast.  We celebrated our work together by eating some barbeque chicken and chipsimayai which is an omelet with French fries, a local Tanzanian favorite.  Every child finished every last bit of food from their plates.  Afterwards they began laughing and comparing who had the biggest belly after finishing their food.  They are all very thin, so after eating a big meal their bellies literally bulge from their little bodies. 
Our Saturday crew!

Our happy third grade farmers
It’s hard to put into words the joy I feel when I look at our garden.  I am so proud to see the children lean against the fence and smile looking at their trees.  They are glowing with pride and ownership of what we have accomplished together.  Today Alphonce, one of the boys who showed up to build the garden over the weekend said “I will never forget this weekend.  It was the best and the food was good!”  I told him "me neither, I am so happy that you are happy, it was the best weekend."  Today we assigned a tree to every child in third grade to care for and water.  They were so overjoyed they started to cheer and held their trees tightly before planting them.  They were even showing off their trees to me and the other children saying “Mr. Terry this is my tree” and “My tree is the best”. Admittedly if you looked at our garden you may not see it as a masterpiece, but it is beautiful to all of us. Our trees are not strong yet and we need more plants, but all of us see the future for our garden and our children.  We see what it will bring and represent from this moment forward.

Our garden may be a small addition.  Our trees are only about a foot or two tall.  Our garden is hardly going to end up in any Better Homes and Gardens magazine, but to us it is so much more.  Now every child can look around our school and see their work and feel proud.  They can imagine the fruits that will one day come from their tree, just like their work in school will one day bear “fruits”.  They will grow taller just like their trees and become stronger like their trees together.  One day when they graduate from Stella Maris, head off to Secondary School and eventually to college, their trees will remain as evidence of their presence and work in school.  Every day we have an opportunity to make something great at Stella Maris and shape the culture of our school together.  Every week we try to make our school just a little bit better and we are lucky to have the best students to accomplish this.  We are so blessed at Stella Maris to have 116 students that love one another and love their school.  They love their school so much and are willing to work so hard for their school.  They don’t mind coming on Saturday, or spending hours working in the hot sun just to make their school a little bit better.  I couldn’t be more proud of them, so even though I missed one of my best friend’s wedding, I know that the Dolans and all our friends in America are so proud of these children. 
Check back soon for the St. Joseph groups thoughts (hopefully this weekend).   Mungu akubariki na usiku njema!


  1. Great work Terry and your P3 crew!

  2. Ah, to see the joy on everyone's face! It is wonderful and seeing the fruits of their labor is all inspiring. The fence is better than Better Homes and Garden. It is a piece of art with so much soul! Love it. Pat K.

  3. Thanks Stan! It was a lot of fun to work with the children and see them so eager to help. They have been bragging about their awesome meal all week and how "delicious" it was. Thank you Pat, I am going to see if Better Homes and Gardens have a Tanzanian branch! It definitely has a lot of love and soul put into it!