Archive for the 'Our Stories' Category

Sun up, Sun down Safari

At 7:00 am  Amy, Bryce, Joe, Raffy and myslef were sleepily waiting on the side of the Arusha Highway for the St. Timothy’s Students to pick us up in their buses.  Today all 134 students were going to the Tarangine National Park on a Safari. This is a field trip that Mama Hope funds annuallly as a way to celebrate the end of their school term.   At 7:30am the buses pulled up and kids all stuck their heads out the windows waving to us.  When I stepped onto the bus there was a sea of green and white uniforms because it was completely packed with students.  There were 4 children to every two seats, they were sitting on each other’s laps but none of the kids seemed uncomfortable.  They were all grinning and excited for their field trip so they just scooted around to make room for us and we were all on our way.
Almost immediately your typical “Field Trip Bus” hijinks began.  One student would start singing a song like “Bingo” and for a few minutes everyone would raucously join in until it trailed off about 10 minutes later.  A few students were playing a version of “I spy” counting everything they saw that was yellow and every time one of the students named Alvin saw a sign for Tarangine he would update me enthusiatically, “106 km and we arrive!”
When we reached Arusha, Esther tapped me on the shoulder excitedly pointing at something in the street, “Look, I’ve never seen one before.  And now there are two!”   I looked around trying to see what they all were so excited about and then Doreen told me “Look its a stop light.  We don’t have them in Moshi”.
A little later into the trip I heard some commotion and Acinta shouted “Meshak, you just farted!  Open the window!”  Meshak sat there looking embarassed as everyone laughed and the girls looked disgusted. Then he laughed and proudly said “I did!” and played it off like only a 9 year old boy can with the other boys giving him high fives for grossing out the girls.
After about 5 hours we finally arrived at the park and a tour guide got on our bus and said “if you want see the animals you have to be very quiet.”  The kids immediately got very serious.  It was safari time.
Tarangine’s landscape was absolutely breathtaking it was covered with herds of animals, wildebeests, warthogs, impalas, zebras, giraffes, elephants and hundreds of massive baobob trees.   At one point, we were looking at a group of zebra who seemed to be distracted by something and then we saw why.  Under a baobob tree about 50 feet away was a giant lioness eating a wildebeest. The kids all clammered to get a look and whispered “simba”.  I announced “that is my first time seeing a lion”  they all responded enthusiastically “me too!”
After seeing the lion it was time for lunch and we descended upon the picnic area.  When we were finsished and headed back to the bus out of the corner of my eye I saw a giant baboon sneaking up on a group of khakied dutch safari picnicers.  He broke into a run, hopped on their table, roared and grabbed one of the women’s lunch boxes and jumped over the fence and defiantly ate it all right in front of her.  Then if as on cue, 35 baboons emerged from the bushes hopping on tables, stealing lunches and chasing little girls.  We all watched from afar and as they reclaimed the picnic area.  When we all got back on our buses and left the baboons stood in the parking lot as if to say “And stay out!!!”
Two hours later, after seeing 5 more lions and hundreds more animals, it was 5:00pm and time to make our way back to Moshi.  A few hours into the ride Doreen was asleep in my lap, Sarafina and Jessica on either side using my shoulders as pillows and I was balancing Peace’s head in my hand as she slept.  The mosqitoe bites on my leg were itching like crazy but I didn’t want to move and wake the girls so I tried my best to doze off as well.  Just as I finally was starting to dream I was awakend by a huge “BAM!!!” and a loud clunking noise started coming from the buses engine.  It was about 9:00pm and it was pitch dark except for headlights of the passing cars.  I stepped out of the bus and stretched for the first time in 4 hours.  Soon all of students piled out of the bus excited by this new development in their field trip.  They were playing tag and Joe showed a few curious students how to use the southern cross constellation to find Saturn.  It was one of those moments I was sure could of never happened in the USA.  There was no fear about the dark just joy.  There was no complaining from the children or angry parents demanding a refund.  Instead while we waited for a new bus to pick us up we watched shooting stars appear above us everywhere.

The Second 2 Weeks: Kisumu

Joe Sabia and Raffy Marty visit the Mama Hope projects in Kenya and Tanzania. Here is the first hike of many with partner project OLPS Director Anastasia Juma.

Jane Kanango harvests tomatos at the Mama Rita Rose Garden in Kisumu, Kenya. The garden provides nutrition to over 800 people living in the community.

Anastasia and Paul give us a lesson in bow and arrow garden defense.

Joe makes a friend named Phien.

Raffy's impromptu travel log with Helen, a member of the Mama Hope sponsored Woman's Micro-finance Group.

Dorcas, another member of the Woman's Micro-Finance Group, shows us her sewing business in Kisumu, Kenya.

Wherever we go, children tend to follow. We're a little like the Pided Pipper.

Mullen, Program Director of OLPS, gives a tour of the Children's Rescue Center in Kisumu, Kenya. Mama Hope is currently raising funds to complete this community initiated project.

Raffy does his best to help out with the Children's Rescue Center bricks. He later admits he has no clue how the rock working crew manages it day in and out.

A Mama Hope induced stampede at Nyomonge Primary School (aka a game of Mr. Fox).

The longest congo line in the history of East Africa.

Joe teaches geography and American slang.

Raffy plays netball with the Mama Rita Rose Garden women. Netball is basically basketball without dribbling.

... and with a soccer ball.

Nyomonge community meeting. Their most pressing need: water.

Amy dancing with the women of Nyomonge (a continuing theme).

Bryce getting down at the Mama Hope house party with with OLPS and project beneficiaries on our last night in Kisumu, Kenya.

Joe and Nyla editing on the way to Moshi, Tanzania. Total bus time: 30 hours in 4 weeks.

The First 2 weeks

The First 2 Weeks: Bryce Yukio Adolphson

People wonder what we’re up to when we’re out with our project communities.   Here’s a taste…

Travel from Nairobi to Maai Mahiu: 2 hours.

Tuesday, June 28, 3:37pm: Visiting the chaos of Ngeya Primary School's 1700 student recess. It's crazy to think that the garden we fund here feeds them all daily.

Tuesday, June 28, 4:28pm: Attending the Ngeya Primary School Environmental Club meeting

Tuesday, June 28, 5:30pm: Plotting future projects with CTC youth and CTC Founder Zane Wilemon

Travel from Maai Mahiu to Isiolo: 7 hours

Friday, July 1, 3:08pm: Cell phone math with the New Jordan Women's Group in Isiolo, Kenya.

Friday, July 1, 5:48pm: Greg Mortenson got it wrong. It's 3 Cups of Fanta.

Saturday, July 2, 2:49pm: Flash mob dance off with our Kambi Garba water project community.

Travel from Isiolo to Arimet and back: 2 hours

Sunday, July 3, 3:19pm: Camel chasing with the Arimet water project.

Monday, July 4, 8:36am: Purchasing lumber at Mums Timber Sales to begin construction on the poultry project in Kambi Garba.

Monday, July 4, 11am: Tie-Dye madness with the NJWG micro-finance group.

Monday, July 4, 1:48pm: Haight Street, Kenya.

Monday, July 4, 4:45pm: Poultry project is well under way in Kambi Garba.

Monday, July 4, 5:53pm: Kambi Garba partner Sarafina Lokoel pumps iron at the USAID gym in honor of the 4th of July.

Travel from Isiolo to Kisumu: 12 hours

Thursday, July 7, 2:52pm: Corn shucking with the women of the Rita Rose Garden in Kisumu, Kenya.

Total time in Matatu buses: 23 hours in 2 weeks.

The Ride

The Ride: by Amy Vaninetti




I want to tell you about one of my favorite parts of traveling Africa, most would say that this would be their least favorite, but let me explain why I love it so much….

The locals in Africa travel from town to town via a Matatu because it is the cheapest way to travel. A Matatu is a 1980’s 12 seater van that they use as a travel bus. The seats are very small to where your knees hit the seat in front of you and your shoulders are rubbing up against the person beside you. There is very little ventilation, so on a 90+ degree day this can be quite a sweaty ride. They not only pack it full of people, but they pack it full of peoples stuff; under the seats, by the side panels, in the legroom area, anywhere they can find a free square foot. Very cozy to say the least.

You buy a seat in the van, and if you are the first person to board you get the best seat, but could be waiting 2 hours for 11 more people to hop on board. Once the van is to capacity you begin driving and the whole vehicle starts to rattle and shake. The locals call this an “African massage”. You bounce and shake as you hit the road full of dips and potholes. At first you feel like at any moment the van is just going to spontaneously combust, every steel piece of the vehicle falling apart as you roll out onto the open road. After about 10 min of this, you start to get used to it, and this is when I start to find the fun. Seeing it just like the Indiana Jones ride at Disney Land but without the snakes popping out at you. Instead there are people darting out in the middle of the street, as if they were playing a real life game of Frogger and they are the frog. There are cars swerving to try and pass each other coming inches away from hitting one another. There are no traffic lights, so it is a free for all and everyone is trying to get somewhere fast!

View of the road from inside the Matatu

Yesterday I was in one of these Matatu’s as we drove 5 hours from Nairobi to Isiolo, where Mama Hope’s water projects are located. The conditions above may paint this drive as undesirable, but I just love it! I’m jolting back and fourth in a packed car with a funny old man, a mother with her small baby, and a bunch of middle aged African men, listening to bongo music, with pineapples under my feet, driving past small villages and road side fruit stands…. and then it hits me, this is Africa! This is what I love. The little imperfections, the closeness, and the lifestyle so real and raw and different from my own. Pulling over on the side of the road to hear the driver get out and announce “no brakes”… But never the less after some thumping around under the vehicle we’re back on the road again, driving with our flashers on the remainder of the way. I love it all, from the hawkers who bombard you at rest stops; shoving fruit, sodas and crackers in your face trying to get you to buy their goods… to the beautiful scenery that changes from lush rolling hills of banana trees and forest, to a desert full of shrubby trees and dirt as far as you can see.

My and Nyla's feet on Pineapples

Even though this ride is far from the comfort I get at home, with my butt asleep, my knees aching and hot as a sauna… Somehow I’m at peace; more so than I have ever been in the US. I’m relaxed and ready for every bump and shake this ride has to offer. Because its the ride that puts everything into perspective and in the end, soothes your soul. When everything is out of your control, and nothing is ideal, it is so freeing. This is what the ride is all about. Realizing… This is Africa, and it is beautiful! Some people say we’re insane for driving 5 hours in a Matatu with the locals, instead of chartering our own SUV, but I think they are the crazy ones because they’re missing out on the little experiences that make life so rich. It’s the ride… and I hope you all can take it some day.

The Kaisut desert in Kenya

Arriving in Africa

Arriving in Africa: By Nyla Rodgers

Dancing with the women of our partner community in Kambi Garba, Kenya.

A week before leaving on this trip to Africa my best friend’s mother told me, “When all the other little girls were make believing they were princesses your were busy pretending you were in Africa.” After hearing this I started to think back and realized that I always had a fascination with Africa.  I remembered that I wrote my first grade essay about Kenya. I remember using my grandpa’s atlas to trace the outline of the country and drawing the mane of a lion like a sun with an orange crayon.  And in 1986 when I was 7 years old and Paul Simon came out with “Graceland” I would belt out the song “Under African Skies” and imagine all those stars and think “someday I will see them.”  So it was no surprise to me that 20 years later when I first stepped off the plane in Nairobi,  I felt like I had returned home.
This is my 6th trip to Africa and ever since that first trip in 2006 I continue to fall deeper in love with the culture of this incredibly beautiful continent and people.  I feel like each year my heart must expand so that it can fit all the love I receive and give as we travel to all our different partner communities.
This year I am traveling with Amy Vaninetti, Mama Hope’s Operations Director and Bryce Yukio Adolphson, Mama Hope’s Visual Journalist  and so far we are having an amazing time.  During the next two months we will be visiting all of Mama Hope’s seven partner communities across Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana.

Playing with the students at Ngeya Primary

This is Amy’s second trip with me  and it is so fun to be traveling with her again. She is constantly glowing and bringing warmth to everyone she meets.  She feels like I do that a part of her heart has always been here in Africa.
We are also traveling with Bryce who is on his 5th trip here documenting Mama Hope’s projects.  Everyone knows him and his camera.  His Swahili is almost perfect and when we arrive to a community immediately people are calling his name.   He will be busy documenting all of our adventures with his beautiful photos and video.

Bryce in action with partner Rocky Muuri in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

For the next two months, each of us will take turns writing on the blog.  We are not just going to be sharing project updates we will be posting our personal stories, funny times and crazy adventures.  So stay tuned because as we’ve learned  the unexpected is always expected.

St. Timothy’s School, Moshi, Tanzania

Here we have a short overview and progress update on St. Timothy’s School in Moshi, Tanzania. Construction began in September of this year and is expected to be completed by Nov. 30th, with children attending in January 2010. I can’t tell you how exciting it’s been to see this project rise from the fields of Newland village! The efficiency and care our local community partner Tanzania Children Concern has been giving this project is a shining example of how communities know best. From local knowledge of land rights, power and water to the best vendors and manufactures. Again and again, it’s made me believe that communities need to be helped to help themselves!


To read about my nonsense between work, check out my personal blog at:

St. Timothy’s: What I want to be…

What started out as a Q and A about thoughts on the new school turned into a “What I want to be..” fest. It really seems to me that kids throughout the world generally have the same aspirations. Whether it’s about excitement or connecting with people, the occupations are usually somehow related with the people who take care or us. And, of course, there’s always one kid who wants to be president.


Read about my moments between the work on my personal blog at:

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