Jambo! For those of you who don't know, I am back in Tanzania with the Tuleeni Orphans for the fourth time and we are having a blast! I have not been able to write much because we have been absolutely SWAMPED in work trying to get all the orphans prepared to start a new school year this week and next week. We have a bunch of kids starting secondary school this year which is very exciting--all 12 of them passed their "end of primary school" exams and were granted permission to continue onto secondary school. 8 of them will be going to the local government secondary school until I can find sponsors for them to go to private schools and 3 other kids, who are exceptionally brilliant have gained admission to two of the best secondary schools in Arusha (which is about an hour and 15 minutes away from the orphanage), Notre Dame and Edmond Rice-- I visited Edmond Rice in July and had written a post about it-- so beautiful. They have not only passed the very difficult entrance exams for these schools BUT more importantly, have been taken on board by the team at Toto Aid!!! This means that these three children will be sponsored by Urmila Kumar's organization and will be able to receive an incredible education and be able to board at the school! These three children are Joyce, Suzanna, and Abduli. Major congrats to them. Another one of our boys, Denis, has passed his exam to get into the school and has his final interview tomorrow with Edmond Rice! We will find out if he got in later this week! I have been super busy taking these kids all over town to get all the things that they need for school-- they will be gone for 6 months and so we have a lot of shopping to do. I felt like a mother taking my kids college shopping, even though these kids are only 14, they are about to leave home for the first time. Very exciting, but I will miss them a lot.
I have also been working on the next phase of building for the new orphanage-- Jackie Weiss and I have been working very hard to get all the money in order and I have been meeting with the contractors, consultants, and Tuleeni Board Members this past week to make sure we are organized! Everything is looking good, and we will begin building the walls and rooms sometime in the next week! VERY exciting!
We had an incredible New Years Eve and New Year's Day celebration filled with music, dancing, singing, and lots and lots of food. I also passed out all the wonderful donations I have received over the past few months and the children we SO excited. Special thanks to Layne Guthrie and the Omega chapter of Alpha Phi at the University of Texas for their extraordinary help! The kids watched a few movies including Pitch Perfect, which they loved because they love music, and Rat Race, because they have an odd obsession with Mr. Bean.
Yesterday was a special day- It was mama's husband's birthday and there were going to be like 60 adults at the orphanage to celebrate and Mama wanted the kids out of her hair for the day. Soooo me and 40 children piled into cars and cabs and drove into town to go to the brand new park called Zumba Land. I had gone by there two days ago to meet with the owner of the property and had arranged a special deal for the orphans. Zumba Land is filled with food, a playground, three moonwalk/bouncehouse like structures-- one is a giant mountain with little stepping blocks all the way up it for kids to pretend they are climbing mt. kilimanjaro, one is a giant slide, and the other is a huge Velcro wall where you wear a Velcro outfit and jump up and stick to the wall. They also had foosball tables, pool tables, a Train that went around a track, and a trampoline. Me and the kids were there for about 4 and a half hours. Longest day of my life. and my pockets are dry. but it was worth every penny and bit of exhaustion to see them THAT happy. The pictures are INCREDIBLE. I will post them on the Neema International Website under "Photos" later today or tomorrow!
Everything overall here has been going really well. A handful of our kids have been away visiting family of some sort all around Tanzania for the Holidays. They have been trickling back to the orphanage over the past week. Its always nice when everyone is home together, so I am looking forward to everyone's return. The babies are all getting so big. The twins are walking and talking, Ismaeli is three now and is getting taller every day and talking so much-- and he says some of the funniest things. I have a darling video of him attempting to sing "you are my sunshine" the other day and when we were talking to the orphanage, I stopped to pet a dog and while he is well aware of my name and who I am, he grabs my hand and says "twende mzungu" which means "let's go, white person " so so so funny. Jonathan is four now, Ericki will be 5 in June, and the other older kids are all getting bigger and more mature everyday. I am so proud of all of their accomplishments and progress in school and in life. I feel so very lucky to have all these amazing individuals in my life...
I only have a few more days here in Tanzania, so I am going to stop writing and go help them get ready for school, but I will hopefully have another post for you before I go back to America on Friday! Thanks for following the updates about me and the orphans!
Me and the Tuleeni Orphans wish you and your families a happy and healthy New Year!