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!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our Time at Light in Africa

After some issues arriving - like apparently cars hitting my plane in Nuremberg?! - I made with a grinning Sara and a grinning Paulo waiting for me. Then we got to a grinning Tati (our taxi driver from last time) and I felt an immediate sense of almost a - "wow, good to be home" - my third home that is :)

We got settled and saw the kids, the reasons we are here. My heart immediately filled with joy when I felt recognition on both sides. We remembered them and we are pretty sure they do too! The older ones definitely and the even sing the little song they have come up with Habby, Sarwa, Habby Sarwa (our names). So that has stayed the sames, tons of laughs and smiles just on bigger bodies! Otherwise, this is a different Light in Africa. It has grown and we even have hot water - but more on that later!

Mama Lynn got back from her travelling and we got out jobs for our time here. Because it is right up her alley, Sara will be organizing the sponsor lists digitally (as we mentioned before, it is the goal for every child to have a sponsor for monthly support and maybe the occasional gift) and I will be organizing to the gifts for Christmas. We will be helping eachother on both, but that will keep up busy!

As for now, we are headed off with 8 kids to Tanga on the coast. We are bringing kids from Mirerani (the mining town), who have probably never left there before and it will be the first time they will see the ocean or anything else for that matter! So we will be taking care these children 24/7 for the next 5 days a definite challenge and learning experience for us, but hopefully memorable and fun for the kids. We will update you when we are back on Monday.

One last thought, when you are reading this. I was walking around yesterday with one of the Mamas and she told the cook Babu - Pole Pole - and he just had the greatest laugh and just a voice of happiness. Pole Pole means to take it slow and easy. I got a huge smile on my face once again. These people are happy - remembering to take it easy and enjoy life.

We're Heeerrreeee!

Sunday, 11/25/12

I’ve been here less than twelve hours, and already, I feel right at home.  I say “I’ve been”, because Abby’s flight to Amsterdam got cancelled and she had to catch a flight out later Saturday night, and wouldn’t be arriving until this morning.

So…I spent my first night back at Light in Africa alone, and as much as I was dreading my first night here by myself, I was so excited to be back.  Paul (used to be in charge of the boys home, Pilgrim) now handles the volunteers and runs Torchbearer (more on that later), and when I saw him at the airport to pick me up, I gave a small skip, even hauling the 200 lbs of luggage with me. 

As soon as we started talking, the laughter and smiles were immediate (it’s hard to not smile when you’re around people who are pumping out pure joy with every breath)!  Paul said he was afraid I’d be shy and quite this time, but he had no such luck.  I may have even clapped about three different times on the drive to Tudor Village from the airport. 

As soon as Paul got done showing me Abby’s and my new home for the next five weeks, (yesss – didn’t have to stay in a tent at all this time!), I took an amazing cold shower and slept for the first time since 7am Friday morning.  Thanks to some very friendly birds, I was awake at sunrise.  I said hello to a baby lizard next to the light switch in our room, walked around the volunteer area of the village for a bit, saw Mt. Kilimanjaro, and did everything I could to not go running over the kids area.  I heard them laughing while I was eating a solo breakfast, and couldn’t quit grinning from ear to ear.  I’m sure the very nice man who cooks for us thought I was crazy.

Paul and I (and Tatti – our familiar cab driver) went to pick up Abby from the Kilimanjaro International Airport this morning, and now that she’s here too, this place got even better.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tanzania - What's it Like?

Mt. Kilimanjaro
Like Abby said in her last post, trying to explain why we’re going to Tanzania for five weeks is hard, but if you’ve seen the video (from her last post), you can hopefully understand the why a little better.  Besides the “why” question, we also get the “what’s it like” question, so I thought I’d give a quick geography/demographic lesson about Tanzania, as well as a little about what our day-to-day lives will look like while at LIA.

Tanzania is an African country located along equator and the East coast.  Their main tourist attractions are the Serengeti National Wildlife Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The country is technically a tropical climate, but as Light in Africa is located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro (bit of a higher altitude), it is closer to a desert in my opinion.  It is hot hot hot and dry during the day, and cools significantly at night.  There are technically two rainy seasons, but with the recent droughts, they have made much of an impact.

Tanzania has more than 100 different tribes throughout the country, but everyone speaks Swahili.  We were told by one local, the reason his country doesn’t have all the political unrest/tribe wars like many other African countries is that everyone speaks the same language.  He knew he had brothers all over the country if he ever needed anything. 

Almost half of the Tanzanian population is under 15 years old, and the leading cause of death in its population is malaria, followed by pneumonia and rotavirus (diarrhea).  The HIV/AIDS epidemic is still a serious problem in the country, as there are estimated 1.4 million people (out of almost 47 million) in the country living with the disease.  Without Light in Africa’s support of the health clinic in Mirerani, the multiple heath dispensaries funded by LIA volunteers for the Maasai, and the countless medical bills Light in Africa has covered – the area would be severely worse off. 

Looking back on how our time was spent the last time we were at Light in Africa, our days were generally pretty different.  We did get into a bit of a routine, but we had our tasks to take care of, and when they were done (or if we could push them off), we’d spend the time hanging out with the kids.  I’m assuming this round, our time will be spent pretty similarly, except this time – we’ll be there for Christmas.  We’ve been told we’ll help make sure each kid at Tudor Village (around 200) will get a Christmas gift, (which knowing how things go in Tanzania – those simple shopping trips will generate numerous challenges and ridiculous  stories to share), as well as making Christmas gifts for the kids in Mirerani.  The kids in Mirerani generally receive a school book (schools require they provide their own), some candy, and pencils.

As much as both of us love Christmas with our friends and family, we’re excited to be a part of an African Christmas, not only because I know there will be no Hallmark BS to swallow, but also, because spending the holiday with the ones you love is important, and we love those kids.