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 

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