Without Borders...

Abby and Sara have been best friends since they met in the dorms at Colorado State University in 2002. Each year since then, they have been on at least one trip together, with the last few years consisting of backpacking travels through Europe.

In 2010, they decided to put their desire to see the world towards a more constructive cause. Instead of taking an adventurous vacation, they chose to visit Tanzania and volunteer with Light in Africa for five weeks.

This winter, they are going back to Light in Africa to volunteer for another five weeks, and can't wait to see how much "their" kids have grown!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 days until Christmas – do you have your shopping done?

We do!!! (hopefully!) A Christmas miracle.

One of our BIG jobs has been getting ready for Christmas here. All kids in Light in Africa care receive a new outfit and then a bag full with a toy/gift, new underwear, socks, a toothbrush, a juice, biscuits/cookies, and some sweets. For over 200 children, this job has been (needless to say) keeping us very busy. Luckily through our friends and family who gave us clothes and gifts as well as the various things gathered over the year by LIA, we had a good place to start – so we thought.

It turns out, 2 nearly 30-year-olds, who don’t have kids and only really spend time with African children, have no idea what will fit which kid. Outfits we picked out for 6 year-olds would maybe fit 3 year-olds. Also, we know most of the kids at Tudor Village very well, but the kids at Mirerani and Pilgrams, we have maybe seen a couple times – so had we been left on our own we would have some interesting outfit and gift choices.

Frida, Sara, Rita (our hero) and me
Luckily, we had two of the older girls, Rita and Frida, came to the rescue. Rita and Frida came to LIA as children and have both been here nearly since the beginning. Now, getting ready to start college or further schooling, the kids are serving LIA for a year before moving on. They have helped us sort out the clothes and gifts for all of the kids, trying to remember who each one is and all the kids in general.

Then we went to the market the first time, looking only for girls clothes. We were originally told that for pants it would cost 2000 schilling each (the equivalent of about $1.50). Unfortunately, as it is close to Christmas and we are Mzungus (white) – we were not able to buy pants, they were giving us prices for 20,000 schillings, almost 10 times the price. Luckily, we had Rita and Frieda again to help bargain.

We spent hours the first time walking through the market trying to find the right sizes. And then if we found the right sizes, trying to find something that at least half-way matched. And then if that all worked out, something that didn’t have some kind of hole in it. On the first day, after lots of sweat from walking around the hot market and then sitting on the crowded buses, we were happy to enjoy some lunch and Fanta pineapple with the girls.

Then, on Tuesday, we had to tackle the rest of the boys clothes. We needed to buy for over 30 children, and given our first experience, we were not too confident that that would happen in one day. We decided to go to Arusha (a bigger city, where all the Safaris go out to the Rift Valley and Serengeti and where the Rwanda trials are currently taking place).

Pastor Frank (a long time staff member of LIA and a truly wonderful man) drove us with Rita and then an older boy Freddy to Arusha. Freddy was to be our body guard, but as he can’t stop smiling, we decided to be extra cautious ourselves, too.

piles of clothes ready for deserving owners
When we got to the market, all we saw was a maze of fruits and vegetables filled with people. We walked through what we though was the whole thing, quite discouraged that we had driven a hour to not find the market and with the thoughts in the back of our head – there’s only 1 week until Christmas. We stopped in the middle of the market – worried.

Then, we opened our eyes to a little shop right in front of us. Rita asked how much the pants were and the man replied 22,000. Discouraged, she started to walk away and Sara and I knew we had a long day ahead of us. Then, something made her turn back, and she way able to get them down to 7,000 (a little over 3 dollars) per pair of pants. We were able to find 30 pairs! And then 20 shirts!! We were done in less than a hour. Pretty convinced some sort Christmas miracle.

gifts ready to be packed
Yesterday, we bought the juice, cookies, candy and hopefully last two pairs of pants. Now its just time to wrap everything and triple check that all the kids are accounted for. A big job – but thanks to the great help and company, Sara and I have enjoyed it and are really looking forward to seeing all the Light in Africa kids on Christmas day!

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