Dr. Greg's Blog




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Road Tripping in Tanzania- 20 June 2017


Living with Myasthenia Gravis the past year has been an unexpected challenge. Total recovery is not realistic and one must fight each day to make progress towards some sense of normalcy. It is like a hiker on a steep, loose rock slope. Every step that gains 2 or 3 feet of improvement is followed by an inevitable sliding backward a foot or so. The limbic system is muted and emotions seem to be far distant and experienced through a fog. And these symptoms are worsened or accentuated by the medicines needed to make progress. But I have made progress. The disabling double vision that was the harbinger of the illness has been controled for months. Now the most difficult symptom is profound weakness that comes on haphazardly and often without any clear precipitating factors. Sometimes the source is known such as a cold or flu like illness. But most of the time your day's activity is dictated by what you experience when you wake up. If there is no ''steam in the boiler'' your day will be pretty laid back and uneventful.


During this time Shannon has stepped to the fore and has kept the work in Tanzania moving forwards. The challenge of getting and keeping all of the children we care for in schools and training programs takes much effort. Daniel is a critical component in this work and does most of the day to day effort. Prosper has moved on to focus on his Master's in Business and we have been supporting him in this. This means that Daniel is responsible for keeping track of and supervising 53 children that we support who in the past were associated with the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre. Fortunately most of these children have committed sponsors who stuck with them as we went through the trauma of separating from the now defunct orphanage (Defunct at least according to the government! You would never know this looking at their Facebook site.). But sponsors cover only school costs so we have still had to work to pay all of the extra expenses for the kids when they are home between semester breaks and on holidays. And we also had not expected the need to spend close to 500 dollars for each child just to get them outfitted for their boarding schools. But even with my not being able to work we have been able to keep pace with all of this by using savings and my retirement funds. Several friends and donors have stepped forward and have helped with this as well.


But the best part of taking care of children is the time you get to spend with them. This is the critical time of ''creating events'' that should never be wasted as too soon the children move beyond our worlds and into their own. This recognition led us to favor vacation trips such as the climbs we did of Kilimanjaro with groups of children. And now Shannon is in the middle of a grand one. She is in Tanzania with her son David and has organized a journey to Morogoro with many of the children. They have gone there in two waves to spend time together and to visit their ''uncle'' Marcel, who is a success story himself. After getting his Master's in Business several years ago from the University of Dar es Salaam, he has started a business recycling plastic bottles. His factory in Morogoro is his first and he is preparing to open a second one soon. The children are having an immensely good time getting to be with one another again like in the old days. Since leaving KOC they have been scattered and are in a variety of boarding schools in Tanzania and in Kenya. It is rare that they get to live like brothers and sisters again and they are so happy for the opportunity.


The first wave of kids includes Hussein, Shedrack, Novati, Reggie, Ema, Victor, Edward, Abu, Denis, Marsele, Goodluck, Agness, Jenipher Anselm, Jenipher Joseph, Delphina, Grace, Maureen and Brightness. I do not have the names of the next group of kids coming later in the week. This week all of them will be very busy doing various activities including a safari. Shannon and David will not accompany them to the game park since the presence of Wazungu on a safari immediately drives the cost of such a venture into the stratosphere. But they will get to prepare them, send them off and then welcome them home to share their stories when the journey is done. This reminds me of our years of going to the bus stop each day in Pasua to send the kids off to St. Louis when they resided at KOC. It was a small thing, but usually one of the highlights of the day. I think of these days now that Shannon is sending me the pictures of the kids now. Their smiling faces and obvious enjoyment of life brings a tear to my eye and makes me so proud to be connected to all of them even if my health keeps me far away.