Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kwaheri (Goodbye) Tanzania

After two days of flying and a run in with food poisoning, it has been a real treat arriving back in the U.S. In America one tends to take for granted a refreshing shower and the ability to brush through your hair. Although Colleen and I are both back in the U.S. we look forward to continuing the construction of St. Dymphna. Before my departure from Tanzania, the fundi (workers), were rigorously working on the foundation of the second portion of the school. Only moments after I had arrived back in the U.S. and checked my email, I received word from Mary that the foundation had in fact been completed.
The fundi consistently amaze me with their endurance, speed, determination, and how meticulously they work. Their day is spent shoveling dirt, mixing cement, stacking cement blocks, all while being bare foot, yet rarely do I witness them breaking a sweat.
In addition to the foundation, the fundi were able to complete three bathrooms, which included tiling the main bathroom, placing sinks in the kitchen, and finishing the ceilings in the office and adult classroom, as well as other touchups. Lori, Anna, Colleen, and I were able to participate in a little hands-on work. We spent a day and a half sanding the adult classroom in preparation for painting. Once we were finished sanding and cleaning the walls, we were able to begin painting the classroom a color we referred to as Buttercream. We also spent time helping the fundi shovel dirt to prepare for the placement of cement blocks for the foundation. Needless to say we didn’t last long under the scorching sun.
The next step will be to construct the walls for the main level of the second portion of the school. We hope to be able to provide continuous updates as the walls are being built. Mary has agreed to take photos, scan them, and email them to us so we are able to share the school’s progress with all of you as it is happening. Keep in mind technology and transportation in Tanzania for Mary isn’t as reliable and timely as we are accustomed to in the U.S, but we’ll do our best to keep you as updated as possible. Thank you for your continued support.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hello from Arusha!!!

We have nothing but good news for our first update. Since I left a year and a half ago the school has grown tremendously and it continues to grow before our eyes. The building was not what we expected but we are happy to say that it surpasses our wildest imaginations.

When I left here in July of 2006 we thought that the two-story portion of the building would be the priority and would hopefully be completed by now unfortunately as we are all too familiar with in the states our engineer/contractor had taken on one too many jobs and kept putting the school on the back burner. Fortunately for us Mary did not want the building to stop so while she waited for the contractor she began a second phase of the school and it is something we are very excited about.

One of the things we were worried about when we first started building St. Dymphna was how the school would sustain itself. Kari and I knew that we would not be able to continue to support the school upon completion and that Mary would have to find a way to keep it running herself or with the help of someone else, and in the last year Mary found a way to do just that.

Mary realized that once the children completed school around age 15 that they were then sent out in the to the world that was unlikely to employ them and provide them with the necessary training to obtain the skills they would need to be successful. So Mary came up with a solution. She began building another section of the school this section includes an adult/older children classroom that will be used to teach sewing, cooking, jewelry making etc. Right next door to this classroom is a storefront where the students can be taught to sell the goods they make, learn to make change and interact with the world in a business setting. We think the idea is brilliant and is exactly what the school needs to accomplish its mission to help children with special needs become functioning adults in Tanzanian society.

So it is with great excitement that we can tell you that this addition is almost complete. The building contains 6 rooms; two small sleeping quarters (Kari and I joked they were our rooms), an office, a store front, the adult classroom and bathrooms that contain two toilets and a shower. The building looks great and while the pictures don’t quite do it justice they are included here for your viewing pleasure.

The grounds also are shaping up quite nicely. Mary has planted a beautiful garden with both flowers and trees. The playground area is a very good size and is ready and waiting for a swing-set and slides to be installed.

And as for what is next, as of today, building will resume on the two-story portion of the main school building. We’ve hired a new engineer who is highly qualified in building such structures and he is bringing his crew today to start re-digging to stabilize the columns we sunk in July of 06. They’ve recently had earthquakes here and are now taking extra precautions to ensure the building is here to stay. By the time I leave next week the foundation will be poured and hopefully by the time Kari leaves on the 20th the brick walls will have begun to grow.

And as for Kari and I we are both happy and healthy. We are thrilled to have two new energetic volunteers on the trip with us. Kari’s sister, Lori, and her cousin, Anna, have dared the 20+ hour plane ride to come help us work on St. Dymphna's. They are a great addition to the Brick by Brick team.

We hope this update finds you all well and enjoying the New Year!

Until next time…salama.

***This was written on Friday, January 4th but due to lack of power is being posted today***