Saturday, October 13, 2007

DIANA and I :) :) :)

This picture was lost in cyber space for WAY too long. I just got my hands on it last week and it is officially my favourite. I bought this material in Uganda and brought my friends daughter with me to get measured since I knew I would have extra. A week later I got Diana to put on her dress and when her mom saw us matching she started crying and crying and crying! She was SO happy! All the 'white kids' in Kenya were asking me where I got this dress so I gave her mom a loan and we went to Uganda together to buy more materials. Within a week she'd made FORTY DOLLARS. She never had this much money in her entire life. She told me that because of me, she was finally able to put food on the table for her three children. I can't explain how that feels ... when someone tells you that you just changed their life forever. I also helped her husband to get a position as a volunteer with the local red cross since I had connections while I was there. Since I've returned, I've heard that she is still selling the material and that they have used some of the money they've made to start a poultry project. I'm so sooooo proud of them. I could just scoop this little girl up and adopt her!!!! So sweet!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Gore Bay Anglican Church, Paul & Lynda Flanagan, St. Peters Anglican of Silver Water, Allan Elliot, Myles & Marlene McLeod, Gordon & Valarie Flanagan, Mary Buie, Marg & Bob Tuomi, St. John’s Anglican Church Women of Kagawong, Hugh & Molly Anne McLaughlin, Terry & Rosanne Olmstead, Dr. Bill Studzienny, Mel Wickett, John Limbeek, Pearl Priddle, Rhea Woods, Lou (Woods) Bock, Phyllis Cook, United Church Friendship Circle, United Church Outreach, Maureen Armstrong, Tammy Rolston, St. John’s Anglican Church penny collection, Terri & Wayne Beharriell, Peter & Lydia Flanagan, Don & Mary Lynn McQuarrie, Jen Buie, Minnie Graham, Doug & Sharon Alkenbrack, Heather Whittle, Gordon Township Women’s Institute, Gore Bay United Church friendship circle & outreach, Alfred Armstrong, Judy Mcutcheon, Steve Doane, University of Guelph Students, Lisa Hannah, Lakehead University Education Student Teachers Alliance, Kim VanDeBoosport, Petra (Demeyere) & Scott Mantle, Ingrid & Bryan Guse, The Anchor Inn Easter Weekend Fundraiser (thank you Melanie Stephens and Dawn Noble for organizing), and continually growing!
Thank you to all of the idividuals out there that donated through the church, Anchor Inn - or whatever else. I know you are many and although I might not know all of you personally, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Friday, July 13, 2007


Well, here I am sitting in my parents house on the computer. It feels weird to be here - that's for sure. Africa certainly was going from one extreme to another. After an 11 hour flight from South Africa to Amsterdam, an 8 hour flight to Detroit, a 7 hour layover, and another hour to Toronto - I'M EXHAUSTED! I have news that I'm going to announce soon but not quite yet. Just to keep you on the edge of your seats. Since I can now take advantage of a quick internet connection I'm going to put up some before and after pictures of my time in Africa. It's amazing what changes were able to happen while I was there. I never really realized it myself until now.
Enjoy :)
One mud room. One teacher.
FIRST THE SCHOOL. The changes here are incredible. We went from no uniforms, sitting on mud floors to cemented classrooms with lots of teaching materials, uniforms, blackboards, meal programs, handwashing stations, toilets, a kitchen, a well... where does it end!?!?!

ABOVE AND BELOW: One mud classroom. Still holes in the wall.... kids sitting on the floor, crowded, no uniforms. This is what I found when I arrived in Kenya... and so I thought, "What can I do now to make some changes around here?"...

PROGRESS: A portable blackboard, cemented floor (and one wall while we ran out of supplies), glass windows.

NEW ADDITIONS: Building new classrooms. Getting ready to mud. Class three and an office.

THREE CLASSES UP AND AN OFFICE: Well it might not be pretty yet but we're functional! Wooden doors, steel/glass window... coming along nicely!

CEMENTING TIME: Fundy's are called in to cement over the mud structure... makes it more permanent (rains can wash a mud house away!) and looks nice too!

IN THE BACKGROUND: the school fully cemented! AND UNIFORMS!


LUNCH PROGRAM: "Look, I need MORE"!!!!

BUILDING TABLES: To eat and learn!


CLASSROOM!: Finally, it looks like a proper learning environment. Hard to believe that this is the very same classroom in the first picture. RECIPE FOR A SCHOOL: Take some mud.... stick it to some branches, add a roof. Cement the floor, and the walls. Add children. Dress in uniforms. Build some pretty tables and benches. Get them some pencils. Decorate the walls. Hire a couple teachers. VOILA!

SEE, It's not SOOOO hard!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back where I started!

Here I am back in Johannesburg South Africa! It is strange how this place sort of feels like home since it's where I arrived on December 6th last year. Time flies by. Saying goodbye in the village was tough but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I had so much rushing around to do in the last couple of days that it never really had time to get to me. I'm too tired from travelling to write much so this is just a location update for today!!!!! More pictures from my last days to come. I'll be arriving at the Toronto airport this WEDNESDAY!

Friday, June 29, 2007


WOW. What a city. This place is pretty incredible. The hustle and bustle of Kampala was totally unexpected. I got to the border and wasn't feeling so well so really didn't want to take the matatu all the way to the city. Lucky for me a nice couple let me jump into their very nice landrover and off I went. We also had a bunch of other local Ugandan hitchhikers needing a ride home. The couple had been driving from the coast in Kenya so after being so tired and realizing I could drive - I was promoted to driver and owned the Ugandan roads for a while. Other than seeing a dead man on the side of the road who had gotten his bycicle in the way of a transport, it was a pleasant experience. We'll just put that memory to rest with the others I don't want to recall about my travels in Africa. It was bound to happen at some point as the main transportation around here is by far the bycicle. I planned to go back to my village on Sunday evening but once again the rush from travelling and seeing new places has already formed a new agenda for me. I've met a girl named Grance from LA who's been travelling on her own for over a year and I just have to join her on a short 'safari'. Tomorrow we are going to the "sese" islands (and I'm sure that's not how you spell it)... we'll stay there basking in the sun for a couple days before retnring back to Kampala on Monday. Monday night there is a big 'jam fest' at a theatre in the city... followed by going to do white water rafting on Tuesday at the source of the nile in a city called Jinja. Afterwards we'll drive together back to my little village in Kenya where she's looking forward to seeing what roughing it in the African village is like. I love showing people that place. I might not have covered numerous coutries all over the globe - but one thing is for sure. I have fallen in love with a community and it's people, and I wouldn't change a moment of it for anything.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Babysitting! Baby Shanelle wrapped up in my sarong and sleeping in my bed in Bungoma! So cute!!!! Nutrition presentation day at the school. Local women gather to learn how to make soy milk - which is surprisingly simple and delicious! Mamma Jane mashing the beans... Me... doing... something? Hanging out with Mattea! She likes me, really - she's just pretending not to!
Wendy !! She's 9 !! Me and my directors nephew - Emmanuel :) Christine with her huge hair between braiding! She was my neighbour while I was living in Kabula!!!!! She's also a superstar at basketball so I couldn't but buy her a ten dollar pair of running shoes - she thought she'd died and gone to heaven that day! Me and Habbah from the internet cafe. I'm pretty much an employee here now! A couple of hard working kids on the road to Shibanze. This is actually a very small load on top of her head!!!
Good friends! This is Mamma Jane and her two children. On the left is Ramzy and on the right her daughter Zulfah drinking my leftover soda! Mamma Jane recently gave birth to a baby girl but she died after only three days due to spina bifida - a disease that the healthcare system in Kenya cannot yet tackle. She used all of her small business capital in burrying her daughter but we were able to get her started again with once again - donations! Wow - I'm going to miss these people. My directors son, nicknamed WEPOGA - so cute! In fact, I just realized I don't even know his real name...weird! Junior. This kid definetley has a special place in my heart. Actually his whole family does. And below this picture his his mom and younger sister. Junior was sick recently and needed emergency surgery. To make matters worse the first surgery didn't fix the problem and he was back in for a second only one week later. Being so close to his family, his father wanted me to be there during the entire process so I've spent 12 hour days with this boy beside his hospital bed. He's the most energetic 3 1/2 year old I know and I'm happy to say he's FULLY recovered! Like I said - Junior's mom and baby sister Jennifer! Mom is only 21 years old but Junior's older sister is 6. She started into the mom/married world at a frightening young age but somehow does an amzing job. Her and her husband are incredible people and have been so helpful in my adjusting to life in Africa. My personal project that I funded myself since being here was helping this Mamma to start a small business selling dress materials from Uganda. It's been successful now for 3 straight months. Every time I see them they remind me of how thankful they are. Before this they were begging for food each day - now they are buying it themselves. In fact, I've noticed the kids in a few new outfits lately too! Life is good for them, and getting better! My directors oldest son, Joe. He coudn't resist a picture with me after he saw Junior getting one!
I can't begin to say how much these people mean to me. Although they aren't all present - these are the women I meet with every Thursday. I feel like I have 60 mothers in Shibanze and they are all such amazing people. I think my big smile shows how awesome they are. It's an honour to be in a picture with them. This ones getting framed - that's for sure! Meet Sylvia. She lives on the school compound with her two children - one of which is named Hellen who attends our school and this one in the picture with her, baby Tracy. Sylvia is an example of a young woman who was promised to be taken care of by a man by marrying. Her story tells about a different life - a struggling life where abuse and overall poor treatment is a reality. Food is scarce and the nights are long when they are filled with hunger pains. Boda-boda. This is Ann, another girl that I live with. Here we are returning to Bungoma after I brought her to Shibanze for a day to see what I was up to there. Needless to say, she also fell in love with the place right away - it's impossible not to! Me, Sheilah and her baby Emmanuel. Helping to serve lunch at the school! Today was beef, sukuma-wiki, and ugali! Good stuff :)
Our new cooking 'machine'. Another item purchased through donations from YOU! Three of our four teachers. From left to right is Lillian, Celina, and Emily. Missing is Dorrine because she was sent home to have a baby! Meet some of our new additions. This is what baby class looks like after lunch. It's nap time on top of some blankets that we were able to purchase with more donations! New uniforms for those without are coming soon! More babies! In the background our new school office. We are having a shortage of storage room so for now you can see all of our school supplies piled up behind the desk. Maybe soon we will be in a position to paint the school! Of course there are so many more important things to do that it keeps getting put off! Here's proof to all those who are worried that I do find time for myself. This is a picture of me and my friend Brent from Texas who is here with the peace corps! He's a Kenyan lifer - been here for 13 months and counting - makes me feel like such a rookie! Oh, right - we were out enjoying some Kenyan beer that night - TUSKER :) Highly recommended! I also have to point out how I'm wearing jeans and a turtle-neck.This is how I know that I've adjusted to life in Africa - when I can manage to feel COLD in this country!
Kids chasing my bicylce as I pass by a nearby school. My personal shopping mall. Everything you could ever want and more. Meet Lydia - the reason why I know so much swahilli. The house girl at my home-away-from-home who doesn't speak a word of English - but we get by! Millcent. Wow I can't say enough about this woman. She might be my best African friend. She helps me with SO many projects. She's struggling like everyone else in the village to make ends meet but will never ask you for anything. She lost her daughter when giving birth to her grandson so now take care of him on her own for the past seven years. She's an incredible woman. Clinic day at the Shibanze dispensary. This is me collecting nutritional data for a proposal I've been working on. Cross your fingers that it gets accepted and some money is sent for a year long health project in Shibanze.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

update :)

Life has been so good. I can’t believe the date. And that my ticket home says JULY! How did this happen? How did it creep up on me so fast? It can’t be!!!!!! I’d stay here forever if I could. I’ve started some SERIOUS work lately and it’s been so much fun. The cow has arrived, a new house has been built for a widowed woman and her two young children (pictures coming soon), the school is looking incredible, my nutrition program is up and running – what else can I say? Life is good in Shibanze. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours making soymilk from soybeans (obviously) with about 20 locals. I have been trying to promote soybeans for feeding children that are malnourished so I thought I’d try my luck in making some milk from them. It was completely successful and now the women really believe that I know how to cook! We mashed up the beans, squeezed out the milk, boiled it with some sugar, added an orange peel to take away the bean flavor - and VOILA – nutritious soymilk. We had lots of babies present to be the guinea pigs and they actually drank it! I was pretty impressed with it all! Then we used the leftover and added tea leaves and that was also delicious! Now that it went so smoothly, every Friday until I leave we’ll be meeting in the school kitchen to make something else from the local foods that are available. Good times! Today I made a trip to visit the house we built… and with me I brought three beds, some kitchen and other household items, some used clothing, 3 chickens and lots of fun. We had about 50 kids gathering around to see what was going on and even the smallest of the smallest were carrying something to the new home. This woman is always so sad looking and today… finally, she had the biggest smile out of everybody on her face. I can’t wait to visit next week and see how she’s organized everything. I know it’s going to be amazing. I wish I could build a new house for every hurting family in that village but small steps are also a success. Like every time I write, there is always bad with the good. I’m now working with three mothers and their young children because in all seriousness, these kids are on their way out of this world. I’ve never seen such severe malnutrition. How do you tell a woman what to feed her child when she doesn’t even have enough in her pocket to buy a single egg? It’s a real struggle and something that kills me every day. Sustainability is so important but how do I stop from reaching into my pocket and giving her enough for the next week when it’s so little to me… These are the things that I don’t allow myself to do. In the long run it’s not beneficial to our program and it’s taken some time for me to realize this. We need to encourage these people and teach them. If everything is given with no lessons learned, we are in fact leaving them worse off than when we found them. It’s the most difficult thing for me to remember each and every day. I’m seeing each of them three times a week to go over food diaries and come up with a plan for their ‘shambas’ (kitchen gardens). I have two children with severe marasmus and one with severe kwashiorkor. Both of these are diseases caused by malnutrition. All of them are over one year but none have even taken their first step because their bodies are so weak. To look at the oldest one who is almost 2 years, you would think she was 6 months. It’s a horrible thing to see. They can’t even cry in fear of me. It takes too much energy. I’m making it my own personal goal before I leave this place to get some results out of these babies and get them HEALTHY! I know it’s possible… so the only thing left is to DO IT. Last week I found a young girl sitting in on one of my women’s group meetings. She was holding a baby of about 1.5 years so I just assumed she came with her mother. But then I saw her breast feeding. It was hard at that point to concentrate on the lesson I was teaching. I tapped her on the shoulder on their way out and asked to talk to her. I found out she is 16 and her child is almost 2. Her mother was the first of three wives for one man but her father had chased her mother away 4 years ago. The next two wives beat her every day. One day she visited Shibanze where an older man promised to take care of her if she went to stay with him. Now she’s ‘married’ with a child at such a young age. Because she had a baby so young, you would think she was about 11 or 12 years as her body never got a chance to finish growing itself. When I talked to her in our small school office she started crying and told me that she was constantly running to her grandmothers home because her husband beat her so badly. After a short time she would only end up returning because her grandmother had nothing to give her. How do you not cry when you hear something like this? It’s a horrifying reality in rural Africa. It’s the only hope for a young girl motherless and starving with her young siblings. Unfortunately… what they hope to achieve out of marrying is not what they get. The good news is that I have a friend in a nearby community with a project that I want her to get started in. He has a small sewing school which caters to young men and women who never got to finish secondary school. This way they can at least learn a new skill so that they can make a living in the future. On Monday I’ll go to visit the place with her. I’m hoping to find a family that will take her and her young daughter in while she does sewing school. The problem is that there is no money to fund all of this. So… if there is anyone out there that has been considering sponsoring a child through an organization this would be a great place to start. She needs just a small amount each month in order to have food and shelter for her and her baby while she completes this year long course. Please let me know if you want to help this girl. I can get you into contact with her through letters and pictures and I promise you she’s someone we can’t lose hope for. She’s the sweetest thing and I can’t stand to see her continue on the path that she’s currently on. Back in the village, I have to tell you about the strong connection that's been growing between me and these people. I don't know how to put it really - but it's amazing. I can walk down the road and hear a child shouting "Habari Amanda" (How are you)... and it's awesome to have so many poeple knowing my name now. The woman are always overwhelmed with joy to see me and beg me not to leave. I've gotten so many offers from them to marry one of their many sons... it's just crazy! They promise me that I'll have a very nice little mud house right beside theres and that we'll make Ugali together for the rest of the days to come. It sounds tempting, but I think I'm going to have to pass. But honestly, I don't know how I'm going to leave this place. My last day is going to be the most difficult day of my life so far. I can recall other moments in my life that I thought were definetely the worst at the time... but nothing is going to compare to this. I'm planning a party and putting together a slide show so I just need to find a generator and an overhead projector (wish me luck!) so that I can show these people why I love them SO MUCH! So, I will leave things there for today. Within the next two days I will be posting pictures of the house we’ve been building and you are going to LOVE IT! ADIOS FOR NOW and see you in Canada SOOOOOON!