Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Help from the Least of Us..

This week, we had a visit from Babu Briton (Grandfather of Briton). He is the grandfather of two of our students, Briton (6 years old) and Vavai (4 years old). He has recently become unemployed and with is extra time he stopped by to see if he could help teach the children about flowers!

This is extraordinary that he would come to us to offer help rather than the other way around....

Babu Briton, Briton and Vavai (both in stripes)
Briton and Vavai come from a very poor family. They were abandoned by their father shortly after their mother, who was born with correctable but un-addressed birth defects, began to exhibit mental problems. She soon began to neglect her boys and her father Babu Briton, stepped in to help in their care. At that time, Babu Briton earned a living by clearing up brush from construction sites. However, recently, a thorn from a local bush damaged his eye. He couldn't afford immediate medical treatment so he lost the use of the eye and was no longer useful to his employers.

Babu Briton came to us this week because he really loves our school. He offered to share his knowledge of local plants and flowers in exchange for the tuition for his grandsons who have now been left in his sole care.

The boys were part of the first group of children that enrolled in our school 2 years ago. They both exhibited severe symptoms of neglect. At first Briton (then 4 years old), especially, had terrible behavioral problems, did not listen to his teachers and often fought with his classmates.

Since they started attending MDFT, they are both well fed, exhibit great hygiene practices and love to learn. Briton is now more himself and has become very reliable, responsible and a leader among his peers. In fact, Briton and Vavai received the first exercise books that were purchased with the profits of our first Flood Garden harvest.

Preventable and/or correctable health issues are left unchecked in most of our community. The children suffer a double tragedy, one is to not have access to needed resources and another is to lose their loved ones to such preventable issues.

Government Exam Time!

This week is Government Examination Week.  It is very important for the children to be at our school to take the exams and the parents must try very hard to get the kids to school on these days.
In Tanzania, children who do not take these exams cannot pass to the next level. Children who are too poor to attend preschool will stay behind academically until they are 9 years old and can enter the public school system.  In public school, many of these kids are often excluded from school offerings because there are no programs to help them catch up.  These students usually drop out of school.

This is also an important week for the Flood Garden Project.  The test results that we will collect this week will be the last academic records using the MDFT traditional school model.  The test results that will be collected on July 2013 should indicate the real academic impact of the Flood Garden Project learning model. We will be working hard this year and look toward that small but meaningful milestone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Flood Mamas

Recently, a group of mothers, locally known as mamas, gathered at our school.  Together with our school head master David, they started a small farm group to see if they too could create Flood Gardens near their homes. David talked to them about how to start their own little farming project and distributed seeds from the MDFT Flood Garden. These mamas are mostly AIDS widows or abandoned single mothers.
Flood Mamas' Farm plots before they planted

The mamas chose a leader among themselves and began to clear out a vacant common garbage lot.  Each mama now has a small plot in which to farm and most of them do their farm work in the morning so that they can take their harvested vegetables to the market for the day.

First mchicha crop
We now have a group of 18 mamas that have joined our Flood Mamas' group. They are an amazing group of young women that have now found a way to supplement their meager income by farming in a Flood Farm.  We would like to share their story.
Mama Ali selling her first harvest

Mama Ali (the mother of Ali, her eldest son) is the Flood Mama group leader.   She is a single parent of 4 young children.  2 of the children belong to her sister who pasted away from AIDS two years ago.  Until now, she has really struggled to feed the children in her care because she had no source of constant income. She and her children were abandoned by her husband.

Mama Ali now has a farm plot where she plants mostly mchicha, TZ spinach (amaranth) and a few other local vegetables. To date, with each weekly harvest, she is averaging about $22 per week.  This might be a small some to some but in her world this amount of money brings incredible improvement to her life.  Here is a short list of some of the things she can now afford:

  • She is now able to rent a small but clean room for her young family -- $5 per month 
  • She can buy up to 10Kg of maize flour every week -- $6 per week
  • She can buy salt --$1
  • She now has a bit of money to save and use for the children
Ugali and mchicha stew

Maize, water and salt are the ingredients used to make ugali, the traditional TZ staple.  Ugali usually served hot and works as a balanced side dish to a rich meat sauce but most people like Mama Ali can only afford to server the ugali alone. Many children live by eating only 1 or 2 small lumps of ugali per day.
Flood Mama working in her plot

Now, however, Mama Ali can afford to make ugali as a side to a more nutritious vegetable stew made with the products of her very own farm plot. With a bit of luck and hard work, Mama Ali and the Flood Mamas will be able to afford to make vegetable stew with beef broth and add needed proteins to their diets.