The first and most exciting news I have to share is that we now have the next three pilau days sponsored. Skip and Tooty Izac, Roger and Janet Guderian, and Beth Keen have all donated to pay for pilau for our children! I cannot wait to share this great news with the children and of course all the pictures with everyone back home! Not one of us can imagine the miniscule diet that so many of these children endure daily and then conversely the joy this meal of rice and meat will bring. With the end of the month approaching the children have already asked me “Are we going to have pilau again?” Even two weeks away, the children are boiling over with excitement! So thank you to those three families for helping our children enjoy another great meal! There are almost too many things to pick from to write about from this past week, so I will do my best to write about a few big ones.
This past week we hosted Dr. Sonia from ISL International Service Learning which is a non for profit that provides college age students with service opportunities in underdeveloped countries. Dr. Sonia was here to try to put together a program for Tanzania working through our hotel and with our connections so that our area could benefit. After working together all week, we have assembled a staff, itinerary and they are going to bring their students here starting in December! So starting late December we will have 25 pre-med college students staying in our hotel. It will be very exciting for all of us here and if everything goes well, we could become their “home” in Tanzania for their future trips!
This month is a very important month for all schools because starting in November parents will begin enrolling their children in schools. That means that we have to go to our kindergarten and try to select our students. Obviously our school is different. Our school is meant for the orphans, the poorest, and also the students with the best chance to succeed. The staff demanded that I become a part of the process and that we (the headmistress and I) make the selections because our previous methods were somewhat out of our control. This means that we have to find out as much as we can about their background, home life and current achievement levels over the next two weeks. This is one of the harshest and most difficult challenges I will ever face. It is challenging as an educator as well as personally. The headmistress Madam Lucy and I will go to the kindergarten to interview the children, read their test scores, give a few more tests and then try to decide who will be enrolled next year. Spots are limited at our school. Some children will stay in our kindergarten until they are eight years old waiting to get into our school, but if they are not “needy” enough or not yet able to read or write then they cannot be selected, which is heartbreaking. The orphaned children always "come first" and frankly always get in. It is everyone else that make this process so difficult. To me, they are all poor, all malnourished, all in need of love and all deserving of an opportunity to succeed. Every child has their own issues entering the classroom and their own growth rate in learning. I despise reducing children to numbers and refuse to. Yet somehow we have to select from more than 100 students, our next 30 students at Stella Maris. Luckily, some will be eliminated by being too young or the fact that their parents have enough money, but for all the rest it is difficult. I have no experience, no lesson learned over my time here, no one to look to for guidance, no magic answer or prayer. I just hope that in the coming weeks we can learn enough about the students, talk enough with the kindergarten teacher and learn from each of the students as well, who needs our school most.
With this selection process hanging over me, I decided to try something new with the children. I needed to relax a bit, and starting something new and exciting always helps. So for the past two weeks I started to play soccer with the older children at the end of the week. Men always come first in Tanzania, I however was raised better than that, so at our school I always tell the children “ladies first”. Not only is it good manners, it also prepares them for life outside of Tanzania and breaks the sense of entitlement they are conditioned to. It is a hard habit to break but it starts with the smallest things. The boys always play on the big football field and most of the time the girls never mind because they jump rope or play with tennis balls. I knew that there had to be a few girls that would love to run around and play soccer on the big field though so I wanted to change that a little. I told the children during class that, that I would play football with them (cheers) and that all girls are welcome (groans from the boys). Later on that day I was shocked to see that every boy and girl wanted to play. So we split off into two teams. Our first game was boys vs. girls & Mr. Terry. The second game was boys vs. girls, Mr. Terry, Sigsmund and Sylvano. Whether it was to be funny, to beat their friends, or be on my team I frankly could not care less. Progress is progress and I could not be happier than in those moments playing together, laughing together and smiling together.
Thank you everyone for continuing to write to me, email me, message me and support me! I love all of you very much!