On the EdPowerment front things are coming along. Jillian, Mama Grace and I went to visit a primary school in Arusha called Uhuru Primary School. It is has a large special needs unit that has been operational for many years and has an amazing director, Mwalimu Onesmo. He was both informative and inspirational. He offered us many interesting ideas for possible things we could do with our Autism Awareness Program-ACT. He informed us that there are only some teachers in Tanzania that train to be special needs teachers. Once they finish their training they are assigned to a school. When they are assigned to a school they are often not given a classroom or any resources and it is very difficult because they are expected to start up a special needs program after only a little bit of training. He informed us that many teachers often then feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that is required with starting up new special needs units and therefore they often try to get regular education jobs instead. When given a regular education teaching post the teachers are given classrooms and supplies. As a result of this many special needs units are understaffed of teachers and classrooms and often kids are not getting the help or services they need. Those teachers in the classrooms often have very little professional development or workshops to learn new skills and after a few years give up on the profession. Onesmo suggested that something that might benefit the special needs teachers in Arusha and Moshi would be to hold some professional development workshops. He told us that the last professional development in the area was in 2007 and that it was helpful but the government used the 3 week training to then state that those who had completed it were now fully trained to work with special needs students. Onesmo stated that many of those who attended that training were not fully trained and could use more development. This was a challenge we felt would be one that ACT might be able to take on. There are about 100 teachers in Arusha and about 70 in Moshi that would benefit from this teacher conference and we now have a vision for something we would like to accomplish with ACT within this next year. We were very excited about the prospect of helping the teachers and working more closely with those that are committeed to helping kids with special needs.
Some other EdPowerment things this week….Our water project is still underway and we are setting up some visits to homes of villagers to see how things are progressing. We also plan to meet with the village leaders to make sure all families in need have access to water. Also, our Kilimahewa afterschool group is going very well. We meet every Wed. and Thursday after school. Each day the kids beg us not to leave and to stay longer than our 1 ½ hour planned time. It has been a lot of fun to work with the kids and get to know them. There will be another blog post on this later. We also have a group going this week to take the QT1 qualifying exam from Kilimahewa. This is our first larger group to do this and if they pass it will be equivilant to them earning the first two years of their secondary school qualifications. (Similar to a partial GED test) They take this test on Tuesday and this will be the first real test of how Kilimahewa if functioning as a second chance center. We will have their results officially in December and the students have been studying very hard for this exam.
For personal stuff and the reason for why this blog is late…..Well, we were evicted from our house 2 weeks ago and had only two weeks to find a new place to live.
It sounds a lot worse than it really is but this is Africa so everything is so much more confusing, and more difficult to not only understand what is happening but also why it is happening. So the explanation….Our friend Mussa, who we live with, rented the house we were living in last Oct. for one year. He was told it would not be a problem to renew the contract for another year so we had planned to stay there for our stay in Tanzania. We were renting our house from St. Joseph Secondary Boarding School. The house was usually used for students but they did not have enough students to fill it and rented it to us. Two weeks ago St. Joseph decided that they wanted their house back and although they said we could renew our contract they now wanted the house back in two weeks time.
This left us with only a few days to find a new house. As anyone who has ever been here will tell you that this situation is explained through 3 letters- TIA (This is Africa). This is the explaination for everything that seems crazy and this was crazy so TIA.
To solve our dilemma Mussa talked to some friends and next thing we knew we were looking at houses. Luckily with two days to our deadline we found a house that was close to where we were living that was nice and had almost everything we needed. It has three bedrooms, two nice bathrooms with hot showers, and a kitchen. The best part was it also had a porch in the front and the back to sit on and a nice garden area. The only thing missing was furniture. (: After some discussions, negotiations and a roommate meeting over coffee we decided to rent it. Mussa had some furniture and we would need to find/buy/or borrow some but we would make it work. That left us with two days to take out a years rent from the bank, exchange it to shillings, review the renters agreement, sign the lease, clean the house, try to move all our stuff out of the other house, find a truck and collect the furniture Mussa had distributed throughout his friends in Moshi. Since everything in Africa takes three times longer than normal this was a lot to accomplish in two days, especially since all of us were also trying to get work done and had little time for moving. Luckily in our house we also have to young guys who help out with the house. Tony helps us with the cooking and Swaleh helps us with the cleaning. In return we make sure they have a place to live and food to eat and they get a monthly salary. These guys had been living with Mussa before we moved here and have been so important to our ability to function here and to not starve. We would not have been able to do this move without them.
So, this past Wed. we spend the day packing up our house and Thursday we came to our new house to clean and wash it. Jillian and I started in the bathroom wiping down the walls and using bleach to clean the floor. Tony came to check on us and informed in us in broken English that we were doing the cleaning all wrong. He then showed us that you take a bucket full of really soapy water and throw it all around the room so it soaks everything. After everything is coated you throw buckets of rinse water all over the place to rinse the soapy water. You do this on the walls, windows, and floors. Then you use a mop and squeegee to push all the water outside. This Car Wash version of house washing was much more fun than what we were used to at home. And after 3-4 hours of it the house looked great. We then spent the evening moving our stuff in and running around collecting some furniture Mussa had and assembling it. Our house has a bunk bed for the boys, a big bed for Jill and I to share until we get another one, and some dishes and pots and pans. We are still lacking anything to sit on in our huge living room but are thinking of getting a bunch of big pillows to throw on the ground with some mats/carpets. We thought living Middle Eastern style would be cheaper than finding big furniture pieces. Especially because if you want furniture here you have to pay to have it made from a carpenter. There are no furniture stores to buy things from. We will keep you posted on how things go but so far we love the house and the area we live is beautiful. So all in all the craziness of getting evicted in Tanzania worked out and the house is even better than the last one with the exception of the hard cement floors we have to sit on. (:
I hope everyone is doing well. Please send me some emails about how things are going at home. I miss hearing from everyone.