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2019 - Another Year in Paradise
The past year has been one of consolidation and simplification. My heat intolerance with the Myasthenia Gravis (MG) has precluded my spending significant time in Africa so Shannon continues to bear the brunt of that work. However my health has been good enough for me to work at times and this income has enabled us to continue without interruption our primary mission of caring for the children that I once tended at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre. Shannon and I are quite capable of living on the income from my Social Security, but it is far short of what is needed to keep all of the kids in schools. Shannon travels back and forth to Tanzania and Kenya a number of times a year doing the hard work of keeping the children moving forward in their academic activities. We still maintain a rental unit in Moshi where some of the children stay between semesters when their boarding programs are closed. And we still have Lucy working to keep track of everyone on a daily basis and make sure that all of them have what they need. I would prefer to be living there again, but God's will is what it is and we mere mortals must adapt and accept that. We presently are living in Alaska since this offers me part time work and a cooler climate which the MG requires.
This year has seemed so much easier after the trauma of 2018. Last year we spent much time playing ''catch up'' with our work in Africa after the loss of Daniel to help on the ground. We had no contact with him for many months and only recently have we ''found'' him again. To manage things last year Shannon had to spend much more time traveling and we relied on Lucy to directly supervise the ongoing organization and management of all of our kids in their various schools. Lucy has been magnificent in rising to the challenge. The year forced us to revaluate the way we transfer money to care for the children as well. With Daniel gone we lost the ability to do direct bank transfers. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise however since we found a service called WAVE that enabled us to start sending money directly to Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda using phone accounts that were available to anyone in those countries. In East Africa, credit cards are seldom used. Instead, phone accounts that can be used to transfer and hold money have become the primary means of doing monetary exchanges for most people. This system worked very well for us since WAVE does not charge fees and they have better exchange rates than standard services such as Western Union. However, in the last few months, the Tanzanian government has stopped access to this service as they move to control the flow of money into and out of the country. Now we again have had to change our way of getting funds to Tanzania. Kenya and Uganda have been unaffected.
In October we sent three more of our older children to colleges (Novati, Zainabu and Husna). They Join Husein (Social Science Major) and Mwanaidi and Ezerida (Law School) who are already at this level. This is a really exciting event for us. Shannon and I did a projection for the 52 children we are currently supporting in grade schools and high schools. Of these we believe that at least 25 of them will be bound for colleges when they are done with Form 6. This means that 48% of these children should go to colleges. In a country where the national average of college attendance is just over 3%, you can understand why we are so proud of them. And the children we work with are essentially a random sampling of children from the poorest families in the Moshi area. For those who do not go to colleges, we have plans to send them to Trade Schools as we did for Frank and Juma (Carpentry) and Raymond (Electrical Installation).
We continue to use a large number of boarding schools both in Kenya and Tanzania for all of the children still in grade schools and high schools. This has been necessary since they each qualified at various levels and not all are able to attend the same school. This makes Shannon's time in East Africa one of constant movement and travel as she works to keep track of how each of the children are doing and how the schools we are using are functioning. It is imperative that we track carefully what is happening at each school since dramatic changes can occur in a short time. This year we have struggled with a school in Kenya where the management has been disrupted by a director who was trying to wrestle ownership of the school from its American sponsor through the Kenyan courts. Our kids are happy there and the education continues to be good, but we have been pressured by both sides for support which has required deft political maneuvering by Shannon when visiting. And last year one of our schools that was reliable and solid had the owner/manager die which led to her son taking over. The quality of education and student support then plunged under his direction. Without Shannon's work and contacts with the children and teachers, these dramatic changes could have had major impacts on our children.
Next year will be a transition year as more of our children advance to the high school levels. Ten will make that move and this will mean we will have 36 at this level and only 14 left in grade schools. We anticipate placing at least two more of the Form 6 students into colleges. A number of our children have been ''super stars'' in their various schools. Brighty is in Grade 4 and is at the top of her class at Leadership Academy. Gift has not been the best of students, but he is Head Boy in his class at Kilimanjaro Primary and has qualified for Form 1 in both Tanzania and Kenya. Jenifer Anselm is the Class President in her Form 3 class at St Theresa's. Julius is completing Class 7 in Kenya and is at the top of his class. Richard has been at the top of his class and will move on to Form 1 next year in either Kenya or Tanzania. Rebecca remains one of our best and is studying in Form 1 at St. Clare's Academy, an elite school.
We have not given up on our plans to establish our own high school or work to build up a good school already registered. With the loss of Daniel last year, these plans had to be put on hold. But we are working with another non-profit organization that is trying to accomplish the same goal in the southern part of Kenya where many of our children go to school. The impetus for this school is to create a place for Masai girls who want to continue their educations and not follow the traditional futures of female circumcision and early pregnancy. Shannon and I have supported this movement among the Masai for many years and have worked actively with several agencies to change these negative practices. If we are successful in working together to start such a school, we would then have the framework we need to move forward with them.
My health has remained stable. I had only one serious flare of the MG after a flu like illness in August. Otherwise I have been able to remain active in outdoor activity and in working. Presently Shannon and I are completing a work assignment in Haines, Alaska before returning to Anchorage where we hope to settle. Her next trip to Tanzania and Kenya is scheduled for January. I will be working in Alaska and acting as her ground and financial support while she is gone. Her times away are most challenging for me, but the good she does far outweighs any pain and loneliness that comes my way. In my vision of the ''perfect world'' I see myself accompanying her one day. That can at least remain a dream.
Best wishes for 2020
Pictures: 1. Husein at college with his new computer. 2. Neema and Zainabu at Leadership Academy School. 3. Gift at Kilimanjaro Junior Academy School. 4. Grace at Leadership Academy School. 5. Lucy in Moshi.