There is definitely an added element of joy with visitors of the foundation or St. Joseph because of the near decade of caring and love that we have shared with one another. I can't say enough about the smiles that were brought to the children and visitors, but here are some of their thoughts:
Ed and Barbara Walters
I've been thinking a lot about what stood out for me. I guess I would have to say that although the children live in crushing poverty, their spirits have not been crushed. They are typical children who have all kinds of hopes and dreams for their futures. We are playing a big role in making those hopes and dreams achievable so that the cycle of poverty can be broken for these children. We know that they are God's children and deserving of opportunities for a better life, but there is nothing like seeing their smiles to really drive that point home.
I'm glad I had the chance to experience firsthand God working in and through the children of Mailisita.
Nona and Greta Duba
|Our visitors providing vision screening for the children|
I was excited by the progress at the project. It was wonderful to see both the school and guest house in operation. The best part was the opportunity to be with the children and learn first hand how well they were doing in school and especially their ability to communicate in english. Both Greta and I are delighted to have been able to join with the other volunteers at Stella Maris.
Dr. Michael Scheer
WOW! What a difference four years makes. I was privliged (and I do consider it a privilege) to be part of the Mailisita project in 2008. At that time the Stella Maris school construction was nearly complete and we were able to help with some finishing and with equipping the first classroom with desks and decorating the walls with first grade English study aides. Our main construction efforts centered on construction of the Stella Maris guesthouse. We were helping to build the first floor exterior and interior walls as well as the center supports for the second floor. For anyone who has participated in construction in Africa you know it is all done by hand. The construction blocks are solid and each weigh around forty pounds. Needless to say it is hard work but with the twenty plus volunteers from America the work progresses rapidly for the week that we are there.
Now four years later, the Stella Maris school has three grades and 120 students eager to learn English and to play with us, the wazungu. And the Stella Maris Executive Lodge is open for business! It is a full three story hotel that is five star for Africa with wi-fi, satellite cable, a restaurant, and a swimming pool ( just kidding, see the sign). What a pleasure to be able to stay at the Guesthouse, have a light breakfast and walk a few feet to the school and work site where the children would be enthusiastically going through their morning calisthenics, professing their love for their Stella Maris school and teachers, and praying "all in English". What a way for us to start each day!
Our rainforest walk in Kibosho
Another beautiful day
Although the week with the children had ended we still had Saturday and Sunday prior to returning home and this afforded us the opportunity to visit Dr. Allen Minja at the Kibosho Catholic Hospital for a tour of the hospital and a walk through the rainforest jungle in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was my fifth visit to the hospital and it was wonderful to see the progress that has been made since my first visit four years ago. It was my first trek through the rainforest however.
Can't wait to go back!
I don't think anyone could spend time there without being profoundly changed.
I was especially impressed by the kind spirit of the children. Working as a school counselor here, I spend tons of time on kids being mean to other kids and I was so amazed to watch the Stella Maris students play and work together. At recess I did not see any children being excluded or treated unkindly. We Americans need to learn something from the Tanzanians.
Dave and Glenda Braun
Going to Africa the second time I found was more rewarding than the first. Seeing the growth in the children, both in size and in the English language was so special. The once kindergardeners who could hardly say a word of English are now P3 who can communicate in sentences with you. They are still shy, but very well mannered. Everyone there made us feel so welcome. The children made us feel like celebrities when we were around them. There was always someone, or two or three or four or five who would reach out to hold your hand. Some of the preschoolers would even kiss our hands. It was so sweet.
On one occasion I was privilaged to meet the mother and baby sister of Lillian, the girl in P3 we are sponsoring. When she realized who I was her face lit up and you could tell she was so grateful for our help with her daughter. It was also special to spend time with them in class, to hear them read, see them draw pictures, or watch them do motions to their favorite songs. I still can't get their Stella Maris song out of my head, but honestly I don't want to. I want to remember them singing it forever. -Glenda
Terry- I could not be happier to be a witness of the amazing impact these guests had on our school. They made a football field, built two classrooms and brought so many smiles! It was such an incredible few weeks. Check back in just a few days, when I will write about last Friday when we closed the school for our August break (well sort of closed). I will explain further, and tell you all about our wonderful celebration last Friday. Check back soon!