Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kimondolu Physical Education!!!

One of the MANY schools we're working with is called Kimondolu Primary School. A few of our HELPInternational volunteers, Annette and Faith, have been teaching "girls health" classes to some of the older girls and educating them about menstrual cycles and nutritition, etc.

But, the school is also in need of a structured physical education program. After 1 hour of trying to implement organized games and activities with over 200 students and only a few of us volunteers there may or may not have been a few crying children. Let's just say it was less than successful.

Because of the traumatizing experience, we planned like crazy, rounded up all 16 or so of our volunteers, and braced ourselves for another try. We separated the students into age groups and rotated them between pairs of volunteers with specific activities planned and it actually worked pretty well! We all had loads of fun and here is some proof to show for it: Josh and Chris in the "duck duck goose" group

Faith and Tanya stretching with their group

Me and Annette teaching music

Liz and Seth doing... I don't know what. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Chickens have been on my mind a lot lately. And not just because they're so tasty and I just finished eating a really spicy chicken dish at our favorite local restaurant. But, mostly because we've been planning an already begun chicken coop in a little village in the middle of nowhere called Sanya Juu.
H.E.M. Orphanage in Sanya Juu

There is a small orphanage out there called H.E.M. and the children are absolutely adorable! The problem, like most of our projects we're working on, is that the orphanage is struggling financially and the children lack necessary nutrients in their diet (mostly protein). So, building this chicken coop is combining an income generator with a public health initiative by providing the orphanage with eggs and meat to sell and eat (I love rhymes). :)

The kids at H.E.M. Orphanage. Aren't they adorable? Who wouldn't want to help them?

So, there ya go. Yet another cool project of many that we're working on here in Tanzania. And let me tell you. It is VERY rewarding.

This is the coop so far...

Austin measuring the foundation

It's a work in progress... :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

SAFARI in the Ngorongoro Crater!!!!

Austin and I in the jeep

The only people who live in the crater, the Maasai people.

The day looked promising as we drove towards the crater and saw a giraffe roaming in a field and had to stop the jeep for a few dozen baboons to cross the road with their babies on their backs. We took dozens of pictures until we realized there would be even better things ahead to capture with our cameras.

An Elephant heading to water.

The Ngorongoro crater was a big volcano about 3 million years ago until it erupted leaving a giant hole behind, just like Crater Lake in Oregon or Yellowstone National Park. The crater is 360 sq. km and 200 meters deep and absolutely FULL of exotic animals.

We saw thousands of zebras and wildebeest

Our goal was to see the "Big 5" of Tanzania which are the black rhino, elephant, cape buffalo, leapord and lion. We saw everything except for a leapord, but we saw even more than we had hoped! We saw gazelles, ostriches, warthogs, hippopotamuses, hyenas, a cerval cat, zebras, wildebeests, tons of amazing birds, and many more animals that I can't recall at this moment (Aust could tell ya... he knows everything). :)

The 3 coolest things from the safari were probably Austin reaching his hand out of the jeep and touching a zebra, seeing an entire pride of lions (including cubs, the papa lion, etc.), and watching an elephant cross the road right in front of us in order to get to a water hole that was full of warthogs bathing and zebras and wildebeests drinking. It was AMAZING... probably one of the coolest days I've ever experienced (and I've had a lot of cool days in my short life)! :)

Austin and I agree that it was worth the hit that our checking account received. It was a day we will both never ever forget!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mining for Tanzanite!

Austin and I have become really good friends with our neighbor, Samson, and his wife, Brenda. They are a young married couple like us... but they're WAY cooler than us! Ya know why? Because they own a Tanzanite mine here in Tanzania! Austin about flipped a lid when he heard this and flipped even more when they agreed to take us out to see it!

We spent all day Saturday driving out to the mine, bribing the men who guard the mines to let us in without paying a ridiculous amount of money, and actually climbing around in the mine! It was really incredible and also a pretty big shock. I'd never seen anything like it. I guess I didn't know what to expect because when I saw Austin and Jared climbing down the rickety ladder into a dark, endless hole... I got pretty nervous. Austin and Jared climbed down about 130 meters and weren't allowed to go any farther because they would have needed compressed air in order to do so.

Jaklyn and I waited until they came back and then we went down together as well.... but not as far as the guys went. :) It was creepy down there. I can't believe miners go down for 10 hours a day in that little hole where you have to climb, crawl through tight spots, etc. all the while risking your life just for tanzanite. I'm sure it's not a healthy job or anything. In the states a mine like this could never exist legally because of the lack of safety and health regulations. I mean think about all the dirt and graphite dust they are breathing in all day, every day. But, I guess you gotta make a living somehow, right? Besides... it was WAY cool to see. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011


Step-by-Step is one of the most amazing places I've been in all of Tanzania. It is a special needs school for students with developmental disabilities. There is a stigma in Tanzania that people with these types of disorders are a curse and a burden to their families because of past transgressions. So, often disabled people are extremely neglected, malnourished, and don't have any opportunity to rise to their potential. A woman named Margaret, who has a daughter with autism, decided to start this school, Step-by-Step, where children with mental and physical disabilities can come and learn in a safe environment and receive the love and attention they need.

We partnered up with Margaret and are doing several projects for Step-by-Step that will improve the health of the students, make the school more sanitary, etc. One project is building rabbit cages so the school can breed and raise rabbits. Not only will this serve as a therapeutic routine for the children as they care for and play with the rabbits, but it will also improve their diets immensely. The students are typically not fed well at home so the meal they eat at school is really important. Having protein in their diet from the rabbit meat will be a huge boost to their health.

Another project we're doing is building them a bathroom. They already have the space but no running water or toilet or anything. The squatters they currently use are really unsanitary for the students who are too weak to hold themselves up enough. We are going to create a running water system from the irrigation ditch outside into the bathroom where we will install a toilet as well.

The other projects we're working on are communication books for the students who cannot communicate well or even at all. The books will be a tool in communicating with other people through the pages instead of vocally. We are also making a music book with illustrations and huge pages so they can all see better during their music time each day.

We're really excited about all the projects we are doing with Step-by-Step. The students are so sweet and loving and so full of light. They have so much faith in God. It's incredible to see people with so little and yet so much hope and love for life. It makes me want to be so much better.

Pigs, pigs, pigs...

We finished the pig pens and the timing was just about perfect! The baby piglets were born the final week of construction. The pens are a HUGE upgrade from their previous pens, rickety boxes made out of sticks.

Ernesti and Anna are thrilled about the way the pens have turned out. Honestly, one of the coolest parts about the whole project is the business plan that is set-up to improve the orphanage in many ways.

One way is that raising and selling the pigs will help the orphanage financially and will allow for them to support more children through their schooling. They will also have enough money to finally finish the small bathroom they started building in the orphanage but never finished.

Currently it is so unsanitary because they don’t have anywhere to go to the bathroom. The children mostly go outside in holes or who knows where else! With a little extra money they can finally finish a bathroom which will improve the sanitation in the living space.

Another benefit from the pig pens is that it will allow for a better diet for the orphans. Having the pigs will enable them to have more protein in the meals they prepare for the orphans. Most children here in Tanzania are so under-fed and hardly ever have a balanced meal.

So, having the pig business will also help to improve the overall nutrition and health of the children at the orphanage. I wish we could stay in Tanzania long enough to see the cute kiddos get a little more meat on their bones…. Literally. :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mount Meru

A few weeks ago we climbed a base hike on Mount Meru, the 5,000 ft. volcano just West of Mount Kilimanjaro. Because it is RIDICULOUSLY expensive to climb mountains here (they make you hire a guide, pay expensive gate fees, etc.), we just hiked around the base of the mountain and used a local friend as our guide. It was still one of the most gorgeous hikes I've done. We walked through a ton of Maasai villages and saw a lifestyle I almost didn't think existed. It was amazing. Here are a few pics from the day: