Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Karibu Chakula!

Chapati, ugali, ndizi, chai....flat bread, thick cornmeal porridge, bananas, tea.

Traditional Tanzanian of the Tanzanian diet.

Meal preparation is quite a process in Tanzania. Market day is typically once or twice a week, and people often walk for miles to get to the central marketplace.

Firewood must be gathered, and water fetched from the river before the actual meal preparations even begin. A chore for the children, carrying wood or a bucket of water which is balanced precariously on their head as they walk down the dirt path back home.

With no access to electricity, cooking is done outside over open fires -- with jicho (stones) to balance the cooking pot. Women tend to the fire for hours in preparing the food for the day. Dishes are washed with more water, fetched from the river, and heated over the fire. Quite a process...a labor of love, really.

So welcome to the preparation of a Tanzania meal! Karibu chakula!

Enjoy the video...

Be sure to check out the Tanzanian recipes on the right-hand column of the blog. We'd love to hear from those who have tried the ugali, chapati and Tanzanian vegetable stew!

NOTE: If the video does not play correctly here, please visit:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Second Sight

Do you remember where you were when you realized you needed glasses? Or when your child needed glasses?

I was about 10 years old, in 4th grade. We were at a major league baseball game. After about the umpteenth time asking what the score was and how many outs there were, my stepfather looked at me with a measure of exasperation, and asked the obvious, “It’s right there on the scoreboard. Can’t you see it?!”

Of course I could see the scoreboard. It was right there bigger than life – huge, formidable, out there in left field, and…..out of focus…..blurry as the house across the street at home when looking through the rain streaked front window.

And in the years since, I wonder how many pair of glasses I have worn as my eyesight changed. Who knows where all those old glasses ended up – discarded for that new, fashionable pair with a more suitable prescription. There was always a new pair when I needed them. I took those glasses for granted. I perhaps still do.

Fast forward to Tanzania 2008. I’m walking around Seela, a village located on the slopes of Mt. Meru. I’m visiting people in their homes. And everywhere I go, along the way I somehow meet the same woman. She’s dressed in traditional Tanzanian clothes, and her smile lights up her face as we greet each other. Hujambo. Sijambo mama. Habari. Salama sana. Nashukuru sana. Asante Mungu. Asante sana.

There’s something about her, though, and I can’t place my finger on it. But she does it for me. Literally. She takes her finger and puts it through the hole in the frame of her eyeglasses where a lens should be. That’s it. That’s what struck me….she’s wearing glasses. It’s an unusual sight in Tanzania…except for those who are fortunate to have employment and an income with which to buy eyeglasses.

Only after I get past that ah-ha moment, do I realize that she is still talking, finger still pointing to the missing lens. In her limited English she is asking, “Mama, I need new glasses. You will get them for me?” And I am speechless. I don’t know what to do.

I can’t take her to buy glasses. It is so important for peace in the village that the Mzungu (white person) not show favoritism for one person or one family – that all is done for the benefit of all people in the village. So I murmur….najua Mama, najua….I know, Mama, I know. And I tell her to talk to Mchungaji – the Pastor – and make her needs known to him….and that somehow God will provide. Mungu anakupenda.

We meet again and again around the village in the weeks that follow. Her request repeated each time. My response the same each time, but each time with lingering contemplations. I don’t believe I saw any of the 1,000 children at Seela Primary school wearing glasses. Can they all see the chalkboard at the front of the classroom? What about the older students going to secondary school? And the elderly? How many people in Tanzania are living their days without the clarity of sight.

God planted a little seed in my heart when I first met that women. The seed stayed there, tucked away safe and sound, and with a little time, and a measure of faith and trust it grew slowly. The first thoughts were fleeting…memories of the missing lens. Then, just as the clarity that comes from sight, an idea and a clear plan.

So that’s where we are now. Collecting used eyeglasses for the people in Seela and the surrounding villages. These will be hand carried when I return to Tanzania in November 2009, and shipped to the village on an ongoing basis after that. This is a project that the villagers can sustain on their own, taking care of each other and passing along the gift of sight that comes from the generosity of those on the other side of the world.

The villagers are excited about this project, and are eager to learn how to do simple eye exams, and to help both children and adults to select a pair of “new” glasses from the many that have already been and will be donated. The prescriptions might not be perfect, but what in God’s world is perfect? What matters is that we do all we can to care for each other, and this is an easy thing we can do to connect with the people of Tanzania and show that we care.

Do you have used eyeglasses to donate? What about sponsoring a used eyeglass collection through your church, school, or community group?

We CAN make a difference with the help of people who join together – with hearts in unity – to donate used eyeglasses for the children and adults in Tanzania. Let us know if you can help.

Tutaonana baadaye... “See” you later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Welcome to Tanzania!

Join us on an amazing journey as we explore life in Tanzania, Africa.

We’ll share stories of the struggles of daily life in the small, remote villages located on the slopes of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro – stories from people living in the 5th poorest country in the world.

Follow along as we reach out, with hearts in unity, to the people of Tanzania – especially to the orphans and other at-risk children who live their lives in heartbreaking poverty.

Celebrate with us as we partner with others in our efforts to help feed, clothe and educate the children of Tanzania.

Come back and visit us often, and share in the joy and delight as we move forward with determination in this mission, changing lives, one precious child at a time.

Mungu akubariki,
Sue and Roland