Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Rudisha Foundation is Swinging into 2019

What happy faces, big smiles and laughter these new swings have brought to a school yard which only a month ago stood bare and lacked fun filled recesses. Let me rewind back and explain how this all came to be. 

In July 2018 my mother-in-law, Martha (Mama) and I went to the the St. John's Lutheran Church in Elmwood, Ontario to give updates on our childrens foundation, Rudisha Foundation. The churches (St. John's and St. Peter's Lutheran Parishes) sponsor two children in the program and as a thank you to the church and the members we like to visit and give updates on how the children are doing, show them new pictures of the children and their school work.

At the end of the presentation a member of the congregation asked how the schools that our students attend compare to schools in North America. I explained there are big differences in that many of the government run schools are not well equipped with text books and teaching materials, the school grounds are very bare as are the classrooms. We showed a few pictures from previous school visits at the different schools and I guess it "hit home" just how fortunate our Canadian children are to be attending such well equipped schools. 

The St. John's and St. Peter's Lutheran Parishes were so generous to give extra funds to Rudisha Foundation for the 2019 school year, to help with a school project. I write this blog as a thank you to the church and to explain the progress of these fantastic additions for a school in need.  

When Mama returned to Moshi for the winter we discussed which school was in the most need and possible ways we could help provide happiness and smiles for many children and teachers.  

It was decided that the funds would be donated to Shule ya Msingi Mtakuja, the school that one of our youngest children (Sarah) attends. Mama and Jakobu (Sarah's dad) arrived at the school to see Sarah with her big smile. They met with the headmistress, Riziki and went over the different areas that need updating and where the funds would be able to help the most. They discussed ideas and talked about who they would contact to start getting estimates for the projects, etc. As I am in Myanmar for the winter Mama and I had many emails back and forth. I will share a bit of "background" of the first ideas and the emails Mama sent to me...

Driving down that rough road you see rice fields flooded with water, people working in the fields. Talk about a rough corrugated road!!! Sometimes traffic drives in the ditch, sometimes smack dab on the very center top of the road.  Bumping along at 20 mph is just about the fastest you can go. The buses and piki piki’s (motorcycles) go a bit faster than Mbung’o (the nickname for her truck). We go through several small towns in the district of Mabugini and several large church compounds with schools on the premises too. Many Children in uniform are walking as we drive along. I heard that a lady District officer recently travelled this road to open and cut the ribbon for a project - - and came back into town saying "that road just MUST get paved"!! 

The railroad track is seen all the way down to the first corner where we turned right. Piki piki's are perched at all corners, also fruit stands. The railroad can’t be used until the track gets fixed. The track has been badly eroded in places! Just the jigger could go on that track, but people walk on it like we would walk on a sidewalk.
Now we come to the flat rice fields flooded with water and irrigation ditches around the field. Finally we reach the town of Chekereni .The 17 kms down here where we are going, to Mtakuja Shule is dusty in dry season, and nearly impassible in rainy season, so I’m told. The mud is slippery!
We nearly pass the school, not recognizing it. Kids are standing around in the dust of the yard. I park the truck and out walks Riziki, the Headmistress. She recognizes Jakobu because Sarah goes to school here. After the introductions we go into her office, I place the letter I brought on her desk and we read it together "Projects of improving the school or updating what’s here". 

Riziki has more to add to my list, she shows us the bathrooms behind the classrooms, the dug well where water is the best around – they sell this water to the locals. She explains that kids skip out of school behind the tree line or come to class an hour or two late because there is no fence! This is a problem! They need a tall wire fence.  
The standard three class was playing with one ball, it looked like soccer, but there is another game that needs reviving – something with nets. It could be used and brought in to safely every night.  

The bathrooms are ok except there are no taps next to the toilet. Outside is one huge black water tank with a cemented table for washing hands, but the circular tap isn’t there since the kids "play" with the water and "waste it”. They could really use sensor taps here. Kids can’t wash their hands after using the toilet - another project.  The school has approx. 398 pupils and 7 teachers. 
We (Jakobu, Riziki and I) picked three projects to get estimates for. First we need all the estimates from the fundis (construction workers/repairmen) to see if the money is enough. Riziki says there used to be a mlinzi (watchman) at the school, not anymore – no money to pay him.
# 1  -  The broken down platform surrounding the classrooms is dirt and mud in rainy season, hundreds of shoes are pure mud dragged into the classroom. This project takes stones, sand, cement and labour costs for the fundis. We will need one large truckload of stones and some loads of sand.  We think to do the right side platform first …  the left side also to be done, some day.

# 2 - There is no school bell! What is being used are two broken railway ties laying on the dust under a tree. I would like to see a real bell mounted on a post.

Riziki holding the "school bell"

# 3 - Swing sets! The frame is there and it's cemented in nice and sturdy, but no chains nor seats - no action here at all! There is a playground equipment business in town, so Riziki agreed to have an estimate done to install a second set of swings and repair the existing one. She says the kids would line up and take turns swinging with a teacher to supervise during recess.

Mama didn't mess around with getting started on the projects and before I knew it the fundis (carpenters, cementers, welders - basically any person preforming a trade) were starting on project # 1 - The platform - updates from Mama - "Big day down at Mtakuja school. The rocks all cut and levelled, ready for cementing tomorrow. I met the fundis; Rashidi, Omari and Joefrey. They needed another full load of special white fine sand to finish the smooth top. They expect to be done by Thursday".

Stone were laid first

"Desks were all outside where I parked because no walking allowed in and out of classrooms during cementing. They were huddled around one tattered book!"

The finished platform, where the children will be able to remove their shoes before going into the class when it rains and their shoes will stay clean

# 2 - The new school bell - updates from Mama - "Risiki wants a bell like all the other schools are using. It's a tire rim which they'll get at a scrap yard, and then they use a piece of steel to bang against the rim. One gong means a certain class goes in, two gongs mean another class etc. It will be mounted at eye level rather than hanging on the side of the tree or laying on the ground like most schools. A "church" bell isn't practical for these schools as classes go in and out at different times. Riziki and I will talk about bell expense once swings are complete. It will need a solid frame cemented into the ground. They are having teachers meeting with parents and being told that the government will finance the askari (watchman) to guard the new equipment, especially since there's no wall around the school."

Freshly painted tire rim for the "bell" 
Mama and Jakobu deliver the bell to school - frame is mounted on top of Mama's truck
Mama digging holes for bell frame 
Mama and Jakobu installing the frame 

Completed bell!
# 3 - Swings - updates from Mama - "Boy the 17kms on that bad road on the way to the school -  we came to a 5 km section and I thought we'd get stuck!! The road is under construction, mounds of stony gravel, water being sprayed, ruts etc. but Mbungo' (her truck) got us past it all and onto Sarah's school.  Jakobu in the passenger seat picking out the smoothest spots to drive on in the road! We got to see the brand new cemented floor/shelter for when it rains for these 398 kids. Now we are working on the construction of swings! Holes are being dug and fundi is collecting supplies for welding the steel posts. Can't wait to see it completed and get pictures of the six children swinging at the same time. I want a swing ride too!"

Installing the new swing set 
Wondering when they can test out the swings?! 
Just can't wait for the first turn on the swings - even though they aren't fully cemented in
Cementing the swing frames 

Cementing is complete and last step is to shorten the chains
Mama checking on the progress - chains have been adjusted

We want to thank the St. John's and St. Peter's Lutheran Parishes for the donation to Rudisha Foundation which sparked all of this great work. While we went over budget by about $350 Canadian dollars it was such an accomplishment to get these three projects completed. I wish I could be in Moshi, Tanzania right now to join the children taking turns and pushing each other on the swings! 

I also want to personally thank Mama for all her hard work on these projects! The many trips back and forth the "bad road" in Mbung'o and the many hours she spent helping with the work. As you can see from the pictures she's not afraid of manual labour and is always ready to jump right in and lend a helping hand, no matter the task! Also, thanks to Jakobu for his time and work as well - he was Mama's "right hand man" in getting these projects completed! 

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act - Proverbs 3:27

Waiting their turn :) 

I have found that among other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver - Maya Angelou

To help the Rudisha Foundation continue to make a difference in the lives of children in Moshi you can contact Amanda at astrowbridge@tpi.ca 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Amazing East Africa Safaris

As a person who follows their heart, it felt like home when I arrived in Tanzania. It was where I was meant to be at the time, to learn about the wonderful country, wildlife and the East African culture.  

When one spends time in the "middle of nowhere" listening to the sounds of nature, watching lions, elephants, giraffes and many other African animals in the vast open plains it touches the soul, in a way that you will never forget. It excites me that my job allows me to help others achieve these life changing moments and make their travel dreams a reality. 

I love my career as an International Travel Agent & East Africa Specialist and take pride in my knowledge and experience about travel to East Africa. Having spent nearly six years living in the African bush with my husband, I am most grateful for the opportunity to have learned so much about the "ins and outs" of what it takes to create a successful safari, mountain trek or beach holiday in East Africa. 

Really learning what each client is looking to achieve on their African dream holiday helps me create a custom itinerary - designed to match the needs, wishes and budget for each trip I plan. Here's what recent clients have to say about working with me for their trip to Tanzania. 

"Amanda Strowbridge-Msuya is hands-down the BEST travel agent. Amanda organized our trip to Tanzania, which is the best vacation we have ever had and this says a lot! We were a bit nervous and had huge expectations and many questions, Amanda was there for us the entire time. To add to this, we live in Austria and Amanda is in Canada so all of our communication with her was via e-mail and skype and though this may be a challenge to some travel experts Amanda was really great, all communication was prompt and fulsome. We decided on Amanda because we wanted an expert in the area and we were not disappointed! I believe we were treated even better than normal on our vacation because the locals knew her and respected her and this was reflected in their amazing treatment of us. ALSO, she planned things spectacularly as only someone very familiar with the area could. For example, we did a hot air balloon safari and while some people had to get up extremely early to go (around 4 am) we did not because Amanda selected for us a beautiful tented camp relatively close to the balloon safari start point. This is just ONE of the many, many things that showed us how lucky we were to have Amanda plan our trip. We HIGHLY recommend Amanda!"

Tashia and Jurgen

Here’s what they also had to say about the balloon safari I booked for them.

One of the local Tanzanian tour companies I work with also owns three lovely tented camps, which are always a hit with my clients. Their newest camp, Kichuguu Camp is located in Tarangire National Park - one place you do not want to miss if you visit Tanzania! Kichuguu is the Kiswahili word for 'termite mound'. Tarangire has lots of termite mounds and many are very impressively designed. It's as though they were constructed by artists. 

Duma Explorer also has Kiota Camp and Chaka Camp in Serengeti National Park - these tented camps are just as inviting! Here's a quick glimpse of the new Kichuguu Camp. 

Read more testimonials about custom trips I have planned for clients travelling to East Africa. Let me help make your travel to East Africa a painless planning process. Visit www.tembotours.com to see what National Parks you may want to visit on safari, sample itineraries and more! Contact me at astrowbridge@tpi.ca or 519.501.3140. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Continued Success of Rudisha Foundation

It is with great pleasure I am able to write this blog and share updates about the children in the Rudisha Foundation. "Kurudisha" is the Swahili word for "give back" and this is exactly what every sponsor does each year. 

The children in the program were in very unfortunate situations where their families were unable to afford school fees, so the children were not able to attend school. In 2012 Moses and I had the idea to help one child in need and with the help of my mother-in-law, Martha Msuya, we were able to do this. With the desire from our family and friends to also help children in need, things grew from one child to seventeen and we created the Rudisha Foundation. We are so grateful for the love and kindness given to each family and child in the program. 

Joel visiting Martha
Martha Msuya, (co-founder of the foundation) is currently taking care of all the payments for each school. In total there are now fourteen children in the program - they do not all attend the same school. Depending on where they live in Moshi we have them attending schools near their home. This helps make life easier for the child and their family, siblings attend the same school. There are eight schools in total and the fees vary for each child. The foundation covers the cost of school tuition fees, food costs while they are at school, notebooks required for class, school bag and their full school uniform as well as two pairs of shoes for the year. 

Joel is the most recent graduate of the program and he is waiting the results from his 2017 school year. We are excited to learn his results, to see if he will receive his certificate of Secondary Education.  

To date, the foundation has had two children graduate; Nancy and Rashidi. Our goal is to have the rest of the children graduate with successful secondary school certificates. 

When Martha returned from Canada to Moshi in October, the children started their visits and she would send me updates (as Moses and I are not in Tanzania this year) of their marks and overall progress. She will often take the children out for lunch or prepare some food at her home. They enjoy coming over to see "bibi"(grandmother in Swahili).

Abida on her way to school
Sara before school

Sara's tests with great marks!

Brothers- Noel & Joshua

Athumani doing a puzzle at Martha's house last week

More updates from Martha.....

"Elizabeth's birthday today so I made her a small cake! She came over with her school results from the first 6 months, she's doing well and is growing!! She speaks her broken English, she's trying very hard. She was our very first little Eliza at four years old, just playing in the dirt and following her mom around, now she's ten!"

Elizabeth and her mother, Catherine 

"Went to vist Zinduka school today, they had 32 kids in class plus another older class with just as many kids. They are trying to raise the money for their trip to Momella but hardly any parents have paid yet. I'm going to give them our drivers name and number 
from our Rudisha safari, so they'll have another option. They want to hire a coaster. Violet's book work looked good"

Violet & Martha

"Spent part of the day with Wahida, Hassani and Ally!! We had chicken choma (BBQ) across the road first, then went up to Uhuru Hostel so boys could play, then drove them home down that bumpy road past Langoni school. Their mom, Wahida is a very nice person to sit with and visit. They much appreciate the help we give. I have the boys reports from June to show you."

Brothers - Hasani & Ally

"Naomi's mom, Gisella came with Naomi's reports and test results, Naomi comes 4th out of 107 pupils this year. Gisella looks good too, takes her medicine all the time, they both wrote a thank you letter. Naomi came with me all day long in her frilly dress, we walked and drove around town, came back home and had our rest, her mom came and picked her at 4."
Naomi writing the thank you letter to her sponsors, Megan and Craig

"Julieth has two more exams to write, then she is done for the standard 6 . I asked her which subjects she likes best - they were math and science!! Of all things, heh! She smiles a lot and looks so good." Grandmother Christina (when she knew I was coming to visit) - asked me on the phone if you were coming too)! Christina says when she gets the report and the next years costs in writing - she will come to Moshi."


"Lucas says he likes math the best subject. We met at a bar called Snow View, he had chips mayai (french fries with eggs). When the school letter comes, they need payment by Jan. 10 or so."

Great report, Lucas!

"Took Gidion and Loveness to a nice spot just down the road from the school, we had chicken and roast green ndizi (banana). I drove them mostly all the way home then. The outfits are what they wear every Friday to march with. Gidion came 6th in his class this yr. Loveness came 2nd!!!"

Loveness, Martha & Gidion out for lunch
Martha mentioned that the children are still talking about the safari trip we took them on last February! I would love to be able to take them on another adventure, one day! Perhaps next time for an overnight 😀  Read about the Rudisha Foundation Safari and view all of the photos from the amazing day

We thank everyone who has helped provide a life changing situation and given the gift of education to fourteen children for the 2018 school year; Donna Brown & Stuart Ion, Janice McCray, Laura, Madison, Nicven the gift of education to fourteen children for the 2018 school year; Donna Brown & Stuart Ion, Janice McCray, Laura, Madison, Nic and Asher, Jeffrey, Shelley and boys, Lois Tambourini & Zenon Szewczyk, Maureen Carswell & William MacKinnon, Norma and Tom Isotamm, Elmwood Brant St. John's & St. Peter's Lutheran Parish, Margo & Sidney Strowbridge, John and Debbie Baer, Amy, Gerody and Ava Bennett, Mary and Ron Tally, Erica, Derek, Iris and Hugh MacKinnon, Megan Matheson Hamilton & Craig and Morrison Hamilton, Nancy Lee & Eric Strowbridge, Micheline Bissonnette-Kuras & Paul Kuras. View the "supporters" tab to see a list of those who have sponsored for previous school years. 

I would personally like to also thank my mother-in-law, Martha for all that she has done for Rudisha Foundation. It has been hard on my heart not being in Tanzania this year to see the children myself - so I really appreciate her keeping me in the loop with every detail and for all the work she does to get them enrolled into school!  Asante sana, mama.

To learn more about how you can help children in need, contact me at any time! 
Learn about how it all started, visit Rudisha Foundation.