Saturday, April 2, 2011
Last night brought a mix of emotions for many of us at Tumaini . . . the school term for our children has completed and all of our primary students (and beautiful Mary and Raymond joined us from Makumira) are now home, with progress reports . . . for a one month break where many celebrate wonderful accomplishments (I’ll post grades soon). . . most have been encouraged to read more English books and practice their math and once again we have some stars.
Dampening the Tumaini family reunion was the departure of Katy who flew out last night to “visit her other family” and we don’t say that lightly. Katy has missed all of you at home desperately and now struggles with having TWO families half a world apart. We didn’t say goodbye, simply “baadaye” (later) because we can no longer imagine Tumaini without her. There remains a void here only she can fill. Katy is a special volunteer for several reasons . . . first, unlike some other volunteers who are not given the option of selecting their placement, Katy CHOSE us . . . she researched Tumaini, me, what we are doing here and she CHOSE to bring her gifts and her talents to Tumaini House . . . second, Katy is, to date, our longest standing volunteer. She has dedicated almost six months to loving us here at Tumaini . . . growing, reaching, changing (both herself AND the children). She came to us a vegetarian yet a few things changed while she was here . . . ie. her being gifted with a “cake” of roasted whole goat, but that is a story for her to share . . . and don’t let her off the hook without explaining “burgers” and “chili”. Not a vegetarian bone left in her body I fear . . . and don’t even get her started on “BEANS”!
The two most important gifts Katy brings to Tumaini are her heart and her “FIT”. Katy just “gets” what we’re trying to build here . . . she understands and she works tirelessly, patiently and with loving dedication to support our vision for these children. Her contributions are invaluable.
In doing research to prepare for coming to Africa I discovered “The White Man’s Burden” by renowned economist William Easterly. He talks about the failure of 2.3 trillion dollars in foreign aid getting twelve cent dawa (medicine) to children infected with malaria, or four dollar nets to protect them against it in the first place. 2.3 TRILLION dollars . . . that’s a lot of twelve cent dawa . . .
Easterly contrasts what he calls the “Planners” of the West, and their failed efforts to help the “Rest” (the poor) versus the “Searchers” who simply get things done. I quote, “Planners announce good intentions but don’t motivate anyone to carry them out; Searchers find things that work. Planners raise expectations but take no responsibility for meeting them; Searchers accept responsibility for their actions. Planners determine what to supply; Searchers find out what is in demand (needed); Planners apply global blueprints; Searchers adapt to local conditions. Planners at the top lack knowledge of the bottom; Searchers find out what the reality is at the bottom.”
This is a vitally important issue for us here at Tumaini who suffer the people who just don’t understand. Katy is a “Searcher” as Easterly calls it. She appreciates that many aspects of African culture are different from our own and she compromises, concedes and tries to coexist within this society. She accepts that “normal” here is not the same “normal” one looks for at home. Katy sees the desperate need in this part of the world and she participates . . . fully. She has climbed into the trenches here and with empathy and compassion embraced the needs of not only our Tumaini children, but reached out to help the orphans of Mana OVC and assisted in helping a number of families in desperate situations.
And Katy has put her money where her mouth (and heart) is. She fundraised before coming to Tumaini and provided a generous donation upon her arrival and she and her sister Jerilyn (thank you so much for your own very special contribution to Tumaini) continue to work to help us help these children with a fundraising welcome home party in her honor. Our Katy truly is one of Easterly’s “Searchers”, a “getter-doner” and her relaxed approach comes with her enormous heart which has been a remarkable gift for the children . . .
It is always difficult saying goodbye . . . it doesn’t get easier; I hate to tell you Katy. What I can share is that the children are “okay” today . . . not ideal because you are not here, but “okay” with the knowledge that you will return just as soon as you can.
I may be biased but I do believe that these children may just be THE most wonderful in all of Africa . . . their openness, their spirit and resilience. Many of our children came from terrible environments, damaged in ways we do not understand, cannot conceive and I witness, after almost two years, their changes, their hope, that life may not always have to be the struggle it was for them . . . we are blessed and we are grateful . . . for everything we have and all you help us provide . . . and to you Katy, a special Asante to dada kubwa kwa watoto na mama kichaa. Tunakupenda . . . sana!