The streets feel busier because of Christmas but there’s only a hint of the spirit of Christmas in town. Malls don’t exist here. There isn’t one big store for all your needs but rather little shops specific to a need- pharmacy, grocery, fabric store, liqour store, music, dvd, stereos/speakers, hardware, lighting, cooking ware, stoves, bookshops for primary and secondary school etc. A few days ago, the staff put up some lights, decorations and two small x-mas type trees. It’s nice to have the decorations to make it feel more like the holiday. My emotions are taking over- subconsciously knowing it’s the holiday season and normally I’m amongst family and friends. It’s weird when emotions just take over but I push on. This is my first Christmas away from home. It’s only expected I will a bit sad off and on for the next few days. Thankfully, I have Josephine. She’s wonderful and I can talk to her about everything! I’ll definitely be hanging out with her at Backpackers for X-mas eve and day. None of the staff get a day off for X-mas. They work so much and don’t get paid enough. Once again, I count all my blessings and opporutunities I have in the States.
I visited Amani children’s center for Street children on Wednesday and was happy to finally go after talking about it for 2.5 weeks. It was very impressive and probably one of the most luxurious center’s I will see. It started by three Tanzanians in 2000, who saw the need for a center due to the abundance of children living on the street in Moshi and Arusha. I assumed that most of the children on the streets would have lost their parents to AIDS/HIV but it’s not so. Often, children run away because of abuse, lack of food etc. or maybe a parent has died and the child is not taken in by a relative. I assumed relatives would take the children in (big African families taking care of each other, right? of course it can’t be assumed for all African cultures) but often money influences their decision, whether it’s an inheritance-don’t want to share or they don’t have money to take care of the children or children pose a threat to the dynamics of the family. Check out www.amanikids.org, Why are there street children?”Eventually they had a volunteer who stayed a year or so, came home to fund raise and has been a helping hand in the children’s center ever since. It’s neat to see the potential an orphange can become when given proper funding and used wisely. I enquired about volunteering and they already have all their volunteers set for all of 2008. Amazing.
Yesterday I visited another orphange where they have about 120 kids from a woman, Mama Lucy, who has been caring for orphans for the last 23 years. I could see her heart is huge and the children are so important to her. The place is a 40 minute dala dala ride and then a 15 minute walk. I was greeted with running children excited to give me a hugs and hold my hand. Talk about an instant mood uplifter! I hung out there for a while with Neil, Thom ( a volunteer who just went back home) and two i to i volunteers. I could see myself volunteering a the center a few days a week. It felt right. I’m going back today with Neil and Aaron (an American guy here for a year to do a variety of things) and will spend the night since it’s quite a distant to do in a day. I’m excited to just hang out with kids, learn more about the orphange and just relax.
Of course, if I decide to volunteer anywhere I have to simply say I’m visiting as the Tanzanian government requires all volunteers (unpaid) to pay for a work permit visa, which $120, though may have gone up since a 3 month visa just went up from $50 to $100. crazy! It seems ridicoulous to pay the governement for a visa so I can volunteer and donate my time. So, I’ll be visiting orphanges and making sure I don’t tell anyone that I’m volunteering because they may feel inclined to tell the police, they know someone is volunteering- Report me, make commission from the police for notifying them and then giving me a $400 fine, + the work visa permit. hmmm. I love all the corruption!