Looking past the challenges

Some things on my mind this week in Kilimanjaro:

Clean water.  Today one of GO’s youngest grantees, Abdul Hamza, whom I’ve known since 2005 and who has come to call me ‘Baba’, came down with a severe case of malaria.  When I got to the local hospital, he was in such pain he couldn’t even talk.  The nurse gave him 2 tablets and said he should take them with water. I waited for that to happen but the nurse just looked at me. After what seemed like an eternity of me looking back at her, she finally pointed me in the direction of the shop across the street. She was waiting for me to go buy him water.  That was an eye opener.  Makes me remember how so many of us take water for granted, and makes me glad GO has funded 2 clean water projects in Africa, one at a school in Tanzania, and another at an orphanage in Kenya. Look forward to doing more.

Girls’ education.  Thomas, 16, is another one of the kids whom I’ve known since 2005 and he brought his younger sister Esther to meet me yesterday.  He told me he was really worried about her future.  Esther passed the national exam and is eligible for high school, but their mother can’t afford anything more than the local village school which is known for having too few teachers and where most of the girls get pregnant.  The better option would be for Esther to go to a Tanzanian boarding school where she would get a better education and where she would not get pregnant, but the family can’t afford it.  While I’m saddened at the thought of Esther’s future, I comfort myself with thoughts of the girls’ education projects we have funded in Cambodia, Nepal, and Sierra Leone. They say if you educate a boy, you educate one person, but if you educate a girl, you educate a whole family.

Parenting.  I’ve visited a few new orphanages this week, to see if any might be appropriate for a GO grant. One may not be eligible because they are run by a larger well-funded organization so may be outside our grant-making criteria. Another might be eligible though they only have 7 kids, so it would have to be a small grant. A third seems really great, having rescued kids from untenable situations (one 3 year old girl had been repeatedly raped prior to her rescue; another 7 year old had been locked away in a closet because she has a small physical deformity), but this orphanage may not be eligible because I think it requires all the kids to attend evangelical religious services, and thus may not meet GO’s non-discrimination policy. (The woman who runs this orphanage for 40 kids said she heard there is also great poverty in America and she wondered how that could be true in such a wealthy country, and I couldn’t really answer her. Though she doesn’t know where next month’s rent is coming from, she felt bad for the poor in America. I told her GO helps kids in the USA too and she smiled.) All these are great organizations, but I’m not sure GO can help them all, and I’m quite sure no one can solve all their problems, which leads me to another thing on my mind this week…

Challenges.  It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with so much poverty around.  In this past week, I’ve come in contact with theft, suicide, malaria, school drop outs, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, lack of water, lack of electricity, rape, intolerance, and ignorance.  Though I always look forward to my visits here, sometimes all these things pile up and I unwittingly find myself waking up feeling overwhelmed before my day has even begun without even knowing why.  But I try to concentrate on the kids we have helped, the kids who desperately want a better life, who are eager for education for themselves and their siblings, and who are happy for a new pen, or a pair of socks or hand-me down shoes, and are really proud that people in America and around the world think they are worth something.  Abdul’s brother Sadik told me to walk to his right when we walk on the road. He said if a car or motorbike was going to hit one of us, he wanted it to be him, because then he would know his siblings would be OK as long as GO Campaign is around.  I told him GO Campaign was more than me, and all the kids would still be taken care of, but he still felt better with me on the outside of the road. Luckily, we  both survived Moshi’s wild drivers, and I took him out to try his first chicken satay at a local restaurant and we talked about his plans to get a degree in food and beverage administration.

There are a lot of kids who will never get the opportunities they deserve, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying help the ones we can.