One Cup or Two?

A vast amount of space in one of my suitcases this time was taken up with bras for the ample woman!

You can buy bras here in the market. They hang on sticks fluttering in the breeze like lacy Tibetan prayer flags.  But they are expensive and limited,  so women often have only one and/or have to alter them to get them to fit. A good tailor can make a bra smaller to fit but no one can properly make one larger if it’s too small to start off with.

I noticed last time that many of the larger mamas on the staff were spilling out of their bras which is uncomfortable and can aggravate back ache.

So, thanks in part to generous friends and some good closing down sales (sorry BHS), I came equipped with 35 bras and set up a stall in the babyhome one lunchtime, calling ‘we dada’ (‘hey sister’), the sales call of the pile market traders, down the corridor until they appeared.

Amidst much laughter and discussion of which would fit who, the mamas tried the bras  on over their T shirts …..

and all went off delighted with their free gifts.

All, that is, except for  the smaller chested or smaller backed mamas who felt left out.

So….the next aim is for a collection of new or nearly new bras in sizes 32,34,36 and cup sizes B,C,D and  E. Hit those sales and check the back of those drawers, ladies!!



This entry was posted on February 20, 2017.

The Long Good Friday

Some days feel more productive than others, some just feel longer than others!

Last Friday was looooong!

We had lost a day the previous week due to the unexpected death of the younger brother of Anna, the social worker. At the time,  I had been slightly grateful for the day off as a bad cold and dust had been really aggravating my asthma but it did mean we were playing catch-up.

7.00am Up early to do a stint of drying and oiling the toddlers ( see any number of earlier posts about the joy of rubbing wriggling children with vaseline and then trying to get them to the next room without shooting them out of your grip as if from a slingshot!)

8.00am Short round of nursery rhymes and action songs to keep the toddlers amused until it was time for preschool.

9.30am Pretty prompt start with Anna and Hassan in the jeep.

First call to catch up with Mama Magreth out in Misungwi (see previous post My Lovely Wednesdays and Fridays). It’s a long drive and we pass the time on the bumpy, dusty journey by singing songs. This morning Anna  and Hassan taught me the classic Nakupenda Malaika ( I love you my angel). You can find a version of it by Miriam Makeba if you google it – probably not up to the quality of ours but she gives it a good go.  By Misungwi village we were on to the ballads of Celine Dion. I refrained from strappping myself to the front of the jeep a la Kate Winslet in Titanic.

11.00 Arrived in Misungwi village. Mama Magreth is outside the village in the country side so to save time we stopped at the wholesalers in the market to buy 3 sacks of maize. Temperature had reached about 32 degrees with no breeze so we were searching for bits of shade to hide in. Amidst much joking and bartering, we managed to get the price down on the maize slightly but the crop everywhere is dying due to lack of rain so prices are getting higher.

11.30am Arrived at Mama Magreth’s and loaded her up….


only joking…most of the lifting was done by Hassan and his brother who came along on the trip as extra muscle. Her maize was looking better than some but it is dead now and will never produce anything edible.


A quick check of the children’s teeth followed…and removal of an ingrained thorn from a child’s foot (with a mental note to carry a first aid kit next time!)

Best laid plans etc – our cunning plan to save time failed when we realised Mama Magreth had run out of food during the week so had dipped in to her capital stock to feed her 8 children and mother. So back we went to the market for a smaller sack for her family’s use, paid for out of her takings and took the rest of her money to keep for her at the baby home.

1.30pm  So, behind schedule already we hotfooted it back to find Mama Hamisi. She has a husband but his work as a handyman is very sporadic and Hamisi, now 2 years old,  has been attending the weighing clinics since he was a small baby as he was malnourished.

Without a good family income he, and his 8 year old brother, Ibrahim, are still small and underweight , so we were going to try to set her up with a business selling children’s clothes. Good quality second-hand clothing that comes from Europe can be sold for a good profit here.

Best laid plans…..she was out and her small house was locked up. Thinking she might be at mosque we parked under a tree and waited.

2.05pm  Mosque seemed like it was never going to finish so we set off again, only to come across Mama Hamisi walking along the road, carrying Hamisi with Ibrahim trailing forlornly behind with his arm hanging at an odd angle. Ibrahim had fallen out of a tree and hurt his arm. They had just been to the doctor who thought it should have an x ray but the hospital was probably busy so told them to wait until the next day or Monday. The angle of the arm and the massive swelling suggested it was broken so, once more noting that some form of first aid kit would be useful, I strapped his arm to his body with his mother’s headscarf to try to immobilise it while Hassan drove at speed to Secatoure Hospital. We gave her money for Xrays and, after Anna asked not to accompany her, Hassan took her in to the ED to make sure she was seen.

Taking her into the ED implies going in through some doors to be seen in some sort of private area but actually its like an open hallway so I sat in the car watching a doctor fit a drip in to someone’s arm and a motorbike accident victim staggering out with a big bandage on his head but none on his arm or leg wounds as they dripped blood on the pavement as he walked.

Anna sat quietly in the front of the jeep. I knew her brother had died the week before but not that he died in this Emergency Department, which was why she did not want to go in. Soberingly, he died from an asthma attack at the age of 26.

2.45pm Now well behind schedule and getting hungry and irritable, we stopped at a local ‘fast food’ joint for chicken, beans and rice and set off again. Hassan’s penchant for ballads led to a very stirring rendition of ‘Everything  I Do ( I do it for you) ‘, the theme tune from the classic Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood .

3.30pm Temperature still around 30 degrees. Baba Joseph was waiting for us at the motorbike mending shop where he worked. He was bringing his son to us for milk as his wife was mentally ill and often refused to feed the baby or got distracted and stopped feeding him halfway through.

With two other children under 4, he was struggling to support the family. We went to meet Mama Joseph and the children. The story was that she had been given twice the amount of anaesthetic during her Caesarean. I’m not sure if that was really the case or whether she was just suffering from bad post-natal depression, which is unheard of as a phenomenon here. Dad asked us to wait while he made sure his wife was dressed and put up a pink sheet to hide the mattress on the floor in the one small room that they share. The room was so small that once we’d all crammed in on wooden stools and the edge of the mattress the  pink sheet was sitting on our heads anyway, a bit like a Barbie tent.

As we talked about the best way forward, the two little girls started giving each other kisses. “Cute” I said with a smile, which turned in to a sightly fixed grin as they then proceeded to run their hands all over each other and lie down on the bed, writhing. “Ah yes. They’ve been watching their parents” said Hassan and proceeded to gently caution the dad about not having sex in front of the children. Most families here will all share one bed with only boys , when they reach adolescence, moving out or onto the floor. He told us about a previous family he had visited with five children and had a similar conversation with. The mother was adamant that the children would never see them having sex. When he asked ” How can you be so sure?”, she said ” I call out ‘Who wants a biscuit?’ and if no-one replies then they must be asleep so it’s safe to continue”!

We decided that giving the family transport money so that mum and the children could return to Kigoma, their original village, where both grandmothers lived would be most helpful so that she could get support and the prayers of her family until she, hopefully, recovered. The only other option here is to have her admitted to a psych ward at Bugando ( see previous post Carry On Doctor) which is very much a last resort.

4.00pm . Then we shot up a steep old hill behind the main hospital and walked through a massive cemetery to check on a new family , that of Mama Rahma.

She is a widow with 7 children whose husband had died in a road accident last year. She had had a good charcoal business until then but had to sell all her stock to pay for the funeral so she had been set up a couple of days before with a new stock of charcoal (almost everyone cooks on charcoal stoves) and books and school shoes for her older children so that they could attend school. Her 7 month old twins were pretty healthy , other than chest infections, but would soon not be once she stopped breast feeding as she did not have enough money to feed the family so setting her up in business quickly was a priority for her self-sufficiency.

We clambered up the rocks to her house to drop off penicillin and antifungal cream


and checked out her business which was outside her house. She’d already sold a sackful of charcoal and was very hopeful of getting back on her feet.

4.45pm Next on the list was Bibi (grandmother) Rehema. Rehema’s mother died during or shortly after a  Caesarean section. As Rehema was 2 months premature, I can only guess that this was an emergency Caesarean and that the mother was already ill although its unclear what was wrong with her. The grandmother had tried to  take  care of Rehema and come to us for milk for the tiny baby when she was showing signs of malnourishment. She had been set up in business, selling material, in October of last year. Best laid plans….she was out, selling material in the local market so not there when we called.  However, Rehema, now just over a year old, was at home under the care of her young aunt who showed me the small shop  (named after her granddaughter) that Bibi Rehema had opened with the profit from her material business and that she hoped to build on as profits increased. She had left a request for funding for a set of scales so that she could sell flour and sugar from the shop.

Many malnourished children stay hungry in the longterm and do not have an ‘off switch’ where food is concerned. Safe to say Rehema is showing no sign of malnourishment now!

5.15pm Off we set again, to the strains of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ to find Mama Joyce. She had developed boils on her breast and was unable to feed her baby, which was why she came to us originally. This appears to be quite a common condition here and, although it does happen in the UK, I think the general poor nutrition (and in some cases HIV status)  of many of the mothers leads to poorer immune systems to fight infections that occur; and the cost of seeking medical help, also leads to boils being left and turning into abscesses. She was set up with a business selling small dried fish in November of last year and had started making and selling mandazi (plain doughnuts) as snacks as well, but was keen to show us that she had already got enough profit to open a hair-dressing salon.

Best laid plans ..she was out. But her stall was still going well and was being manned by a two small boys.

5.45pm We finally made our way to Mama Julius’ house. She is a young single mother, currently living with her sister and her family.

The first step to helping her with a business was to find her a room of her own to live in, as it seemed  likely her sister would take any income she made from a business. When we arrived, Mama Julius seemed to think we were just dropping off money but we explained that we needed to see the room, check the contract and pay the landlord/landlady directly. There then followed 30 minutes of driving around trying to find the room that she had found. Tempers were fraying and the singing had most definitely dribbled down to plaintive renditions of Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colours’  by this point as Mama Julius, sporting a white woolly hat, repeatedly hopped out of the car and sped off to double check which alley it might be in. Very slight of build, she reminded me of that ‘child’ in the red coat in ‘Don’t Look Now’ torturing Donald Sutherland with glimpses of a red coat down alleyways but this  time it was a diminutive figure in a bouncing white bobble hat, appearing and disappearing amongst the shacks and breeze block houses. Eventually, we said ‘enough is enough’ and sent her home. There’s a fair chance there might not be a room – she may have just been hopeful of a handout.

6.45pm Home at last. Exhausted and very sweaty and dusty.  I dragged myself to the market on autopilot and almost wept at the sight of the man who sells ‘chipsi mayai’ (chip omelette) every now and then as he was actually there. So, a takeaway was had, with the addition of a big bunch of spinach and some watermelon.

Closely followed by an early night!


Ibrahim had a broken elbow and was in plaster when we called this week

but we were able to set his mum up with a bale of clothes

and Mama Joyce very proudly showed us her hair salon.

This entry was posted on February 14, 2017. 2 Comments

Things on the back of motorbikes…..

I’m sticking with the same principle as the director of Snakes on a Plane with this title. No need to get fancy – just state exactly what it is.

So ….I started a side project from my back seat in the jeep of trying to capture the things people carry on motorbikes here as the range and ingenuity is sometimes amazing. Daladala (mini bus) is the cheapest way to travel but obviously does not go door to door and some items can’t be carried on one, so taking a motorbike taxi or your own motorbike, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is the next best option.

As will become obvious, there are some difficulties in taking pictures of speeding motorbikes from a moving vehicle in that most of them are already passing or passed as you catch them! Hence, this would have been more spectacular if you could have seen the other half of the load hanging off the back of the bike….


….and you have to peer out through the front windscreen to see the man carrying a car windscreen ….



(not the largest piece of glass I’ve seen being carried on the back of a motorbike!)

I managed to get this man as he overtook, hurrying to get his eggs to market. Presumably, at that speed, pre-scrambling them as he went.IMG_3361

A new mattress on its way home ….


Also a sober  cargo, hopefully empty but you never really know here….



..and there sometimes seems no limit to how many you can get on the bike ….



and, although I’ve seen many a goat  enjoying the ride to or from market, I have to say this is not one from my collection but I couldn’t resist it!


Or indeed this one!



Next….things on bicycles!!

Addendum :

and then there was this. If your load is very unstable, such as 2 big sacks of charcoal, then maybe just put someone on top of it with their legs round your neck to keep it steady!


I’m just sticking in this afternoon’s pic as an update. Woman heading to market, balancing on top of  a giant bag of cabbage with a  baby strapped to her !


This entry was posted on February 9, 2017. 1 Comment

And Dad came too!

A major benefit of being able to support families through the Maisha Matters Outreach Programme is, of course, that it is far more cost effective to support a family to feed a malnourished child themselves and help them to build up a business that will support the whole family in the future than to take their baby in to a home. It can cost the same amount for one month of care in a baby home versus six months of outreach support. So, to funders, the choice of where to put their money seems obvious.

However, realistically, this is not always possible. The Baby Home branch of Forever Projects is less an orphanage, and more an interim care home for babies with the aim of supporting them until they can be returned to their families or, if that is not possible, found new families.
When a mother dies in childbirth and there are no other female relatives to help, the Baby Home is the best option for a dad. The Baby Home provides formula milk, vaccinations, health care and, later, pre-school education in a lively and loving environment, until the child is weaned and walking at which point they can go back home with dad who, hopefully by then, has either re-married or has a strong enough income to support a housegirl to help care for the child.
One of the dads we are supporting a the moment is the lovely Justin, Amani’s father.  His wife died shortly after giving birth, from blood loss. With no relatives to help him, he brought Amani to the baby home at 10 days old to ask for help.
Justin was a fisherman at the time, working on a small boat out on Lake Victoria.
This is a dangerous profession here as, like most of his colleagues, he cannot swim and mortality rates are high amongst the fishermen here.
We started to look at other options for him for work and decided, with him, to train him to set up a clothing business. He would buy shirts from a wholesaler and sell them in his village square, from a plot very near his home. Shirts are a good choice here as all school children need shirts and most men, in whatever line of business aside from manual labour, will wear shirts. Often the shirts are from the UK – bundles of shirts rejected by Oxfam and other charity shops often get sold on to the African markets who can make good use of them!
All through the process, he has visited his son at the Baby Home every single week, travelling for an hour and half each way by bus and on foot from his village to sit for an hour and play with his son.
We set him up in early November 2016 and, on our follow up visit last week,  he had already increased his stock and his neighbour was helping him to sell the shirts. I was trying to sense whether there might be romance afoot but I might have been reading a bit too much in to it!
I have to say it is pretty awesome to see someone beaming with pride at how well they have mastered a career change and how important they feel in their community now.
This entry was posted on January 21, 2017. 2 Comments

Goodbye Christmas Dinner!

Local middle class people were generous this Christmas with donations of rice and oil, none more so than the  staff of CRB bank in town who turned up with big sacks of rice and chapatti flour, toothpaste, soap, fruit juice, sweets ….and a very happy looking goat! “Oh, the children will love having a goat around,” said one of the new volunteers. “Actually, I think that might be our Christmas dinner,” I said. ” Meh,” said the goat.

Over the next few days, Christmas Dinner the goat frolicked in blissful ignorance around the compound, having chewed her way through the restraining rope on the first day. She’d appear on our porch, poking a nose through the door grille; stand by the children’s garden fence engaging in ‘meh’ing competitions with groups of small toddlers; and wander amongst the washing lines looking for anything interesting to eat, trailing her chewed rope behind.

A reprieve came at Christmas in the form of a local family who wanted to supply Christmas dinner for the orphans and brought caterers with the traditional pilau rice, chicken, goat and watermelon. Christmas Dinner came to look with interest at one point at the large family praying over the children’s souls but thought better of it and fled.


So, another week of skipping about, chasing the dogs and amusing the children went by. As we set off for New Year celebrations, we asked the askari if the goat was OK as we hadn’t seen her. ” Yes”, he laughed. Then added, slightly more sinisterly, “until tomorrow”.

Hungover and bleary eyed, we opened our front door on New Year’s Day to the sight of Christmas Dinner strung up on a tree opposite, being expertly and cheerfully skinned and dismembered by Hassan, our driver/outreach worker/maintenance man/superhero.

Those not vegetarian already decided they might be that day. I reckon, if you can’t face how the meat got on your plate, you shouldn’t eat it and, as Christmas Dinner had given her life for us, it would be wrong not to have a bit.

To be fair, she was delicious!


RIP Christmas Dinner


This entry was posted on January 15, 2017.

Every Plague has a Silver Lining!

Sometimes the flow of the Baby Home gets interrupted by power cuts, water cuts, spread of illness….and, for this week in question, a plague of fleas! Everywhere! A complete infestation of itching and tiny spots over all!

iStock_000013644766Large_sm.jpg (360×323)

(Not shown to scale! )

The fumigator was called. A cheery, laid-back man who worked without a mask, despite the HazChem signs on his products, the effect of which became clear due to his inability to organise any sort of strategic approach or move at any great speed other than when he had to go for a chai break, which was frequently and at great length.

So, reassured that the house-friendly chemicals would disperse in around 6 hours, we worked out a strategy and order in which to treat the whole site, including the plants and the dogs whose flea treatments were obviously not quite up to scratch, so to speak. The Baby Home is currently very low on numbers, with only 34 children, so that worked in our favour.

Day 1 – move all the tiny babies to the second playroom in the main building while their house was done and put them to bed in the spare cots in the big baby bedroom. We have no premature or sick babies in so risk was low to them of being in the same building as the older children.

Day 2 – abundantly clear from the burning sensation to bare feet and the searing, stinging of the eyes that the fumes were not that house-friendly and every floor, wall, curtain and piece of furniture would have to be scrubbed and cleaned and the house aired before the babies could move back in.

Fumigator sat back and watched us clean to make sure we were doing it right and cheerily told us that, as he was going to do the trees as well before the volunteer house that the babies would suffocate if they were moved back in anyway. So..they stayed in the main building and we stripped out the volunteer house, taking the opportunity to clean before and after the fumigation,



including a wipedown of the interesting book selection.


Then off to town for a curry and crash on a friends floor as our house was not habitable for 24 hours.

Day 3 – and the silver lining. Nowhere for the children to go today…but our volunteer house!

The furniture was left outside, providing extra seating space outside and a clear floor within.



The Dettoled mattresses were piled in for afternoon nap and bedtime.



The children had the thrill of a ‘day trip’ to our house, picnic meals on the grass and of being washed in a shower rather than having a bucket of water thrown over their head. Mixed reviews on that – some preferred the usual method!

We camped out in a back bedroom in the evening, playing charades and eating cold leftover curry while they were settled down  for the night. Then we all sloped off to bed. My room is off the kitchen, open plan to the lounge, so the night was gently disturbed throughout by the mamas quiet conversations or cooking of porridge for the children’s breakfast. One little boy, recently returned to us after a second bout of starvation and beating at the hands of a relative, had nightmares. Others woke on and off throughout the night, probably thrown by the strange surroundings.


And in the morning, a bit of Postman Pat to set the day right, porridge on the lawn and another day playing in our garden until the Baby Home was finally clear of fumes. It was like Christmas come early!

This entry was posted on January 7, 2017. 1 Comment

My lovely Wednesdays and Fridays!

So…my week’s are roughly going to look like:

Monday Accounts

Tuesday Admin and Maisha Matters (Baby weighing and Milk/Peanut distribution)

Wednesday Outreach

Thursday Admin a.m. and off

Friday Outreach

Weekend -activities with babyhome children and lying down.

This week’s Outreach has been great. Not sure what to expect so settled in back of the jeep with full Dora the Explorer kit – raincoat, sunscreen, 3 litres of water, a pen knife, apples for snacks, kanga (wrap), 2 cameras, notebook and inkjoy pen at the ready and set off with Hassan and Anna, the Outreach team.

All Outreach families start with a malnourished baby, usually through maternal death or ill-health. Once registered with us for formula milk, we explore the rest of the family’s needs, give mosquito nets and any medication urgently needed, as well as peanut butter for older children in need of protein to gain weight. Each family is assessed for readiness to set up in a business that will give them the means to support their own family in the future. Initial plans are done with parents/carers on Tuesdays after the weighing and our end of week visits are to secure the actual set-ups.

This week we have met Shangazi Ibrahim (Ibrahim’s Aunt), who travel an hour each week by bus and on foot to get milk formula from us.   Ibrahim’s mother died during childbirth and his aunt is now taking care of him. She has older children of her own who are no longer at home. She is a very good seamstress and has a sewing machine of her own and was keen to start a business making school uniforms for children for the local schools. There are no school outfitters here – all uniforms are made by hand.
With just a capital input of material, zips, buttons and  waist band backing, she can be on her way and get ahead of the new school year which starts in January.
So we set off  to the wholesalers and have been able to set Sonia up with a capital stock. She was overjoyed as you can see!
The next family we visited lived another hour or so in a different direction and I was introduced to Anna’s alternative to praying out loud as the jeep tipped at 45 degree angles down sinkholes to get to the house. She sings ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ loudly and slightly off-key  – but it did seem to keep us upright (although that may also have been down to me, the ballast in the back, throwing myself to the other side of the jeep like Uncle Charlie on his sailing boat trying to stop it capsizing!)Bibi Fadhili (Fadhili’s grandmother, Laurencia) has been left to care for her grandson after her daughter died shortly after giving birth. She is already caring for another grandchild of around 5 years old. 18% of all deaths of women aged between 15 and 49 are from childbirth – haemorrhage, infection, pre-eclampsia or obstructed labour, and maternal death is the main reason why families attend our Maisha Matters clinic to get formula milk.
Fadhili’s mum was HIV positive and he has tested positive so will also be given ARV drugs. He was very malnourished when he first came a few months ago but is already looking much better on milk and peanut butter.
Bibi Fadhili is keen to sell charcoal. She lives not far from a thriving market and, after our Outreach team set a few scenarios to test her, we decided she was numerate enough and had enough bargaining skills to be able to run a small business. We set off to buy her a capital stock of large sacks of charcoal and measuring tins and bags which will mean she can set up in business the next day. Trying to avoid driving the price up with my lily white skin, I hid round the corner from the wholesaler talking to local children who were keen to practice their English, feeling like Princess Anne on a state visit,  until the deal was done.

While at her house, I asked to check that her mosquito net was secured properly and found that  Bibi, her sister, and the 2 children are all sharing one single mattress on the floor. So, if she can make a go of this business, we might find her a larger mattress for our next visit as an incentive to keep building on it.

I don’t want to give the impression with the first couple of cases that it is very simple just to check what business someone wants to do and to set them up in it.

Many people here are illiterate, not numerate or, even if they can read and count, have little idea of business ie how to make a profit from the goods they sell and how to re-invest in their capital. The Outreach team, Anna and Hassan, often have to make a number of visits to train people and to test that they are ready otherwise the business will fail straight away.
And sometimes it is just hard to find a business that will work.
This week we also visited Mama Magreth who travels for nearly 3 hours to get to our Maisha Matters sessions. She is HIV positive and Magreth is her 10th child, although only 8 are still living (child mortality runs at just over 10% in Tanzania with malaria, infection from injuries or illness, road accidents and drowning being the most common causes). Her husband left her when she became pregnant with the 10th child and she only  has her elderly mother living with her for moral support. Her eldest son is 15 and breaks stones for 3,000 shillings a week (around £1).
She lives in a slightly isolated area – there are some other houses around but no big village for over 10 miles. No-one has electricity and water is fetched from a well around half a mile away.
We are exploring the idea of setting up a solar charging business where she would have a solar panel and could charge local people’s phones. With no land lines, mobile phones are the best way to communicate.
There seem to be quite a few houses in easy walking distance of her house and the route to the well goes past her house. There is no other service like it in easy walking distance and it needs no ongoing financial input from her once set up so it might be a good option.
However, it is expensive to set up so we need to explore other organisations that can support this venture. She does not have a mobile phone herself so we need to train her how to use one and to check its charge. She will also need to be taught a clear ticketing method of ensuring she gives the right phone back! And, as two frail women alone, this might make her a target for thieves so we need to explore whether we need to set a watchman on her property.
In the meantime, the family had not eaten for over 24 hours so the immediate outreach aim was to go back to the nearest village and buy staple food items to keep them going. Two of the children had gone to sell firewood that they had collected locally. They would only get about 30p for it, if they managed to sell it, but could buy a small amount  of grain or rice with that. We also logged a reminder to find toothbrushes for all the family as their teeth are very poor which will affect their general health; and to schedule an appointment for her to bring in one of her children to see a doctor as he is tongue-tied and needs a small surgical procedure so that he can start to speak.
This really was a case of grinding poverty. Carers too sick, old or unskilled to earn much. No belongings. Basic healthcare needs left unattended. But all sticking together and doing the best they can.
The reality of how hard it can be to get the work done hit home on this visit too as the jeep the Outreach team use broke down (fortunately, after our market visit to provide food)  and, embarrassingly, after 5 minutes of waving goodbye, we had to get this poor, malnourished family to help push us along the road!
The jeep is a donated retired safari jeep and was given to the Baby Home 10 years ago. It breaks down frequently and, although Hassan is a technical wizard and managed to wire it up enough to get us to somewhere that could fix it up, that whole process took 2 hours and prevented any other visits that day. Anyone out there with links to LandRover??
This entry was posted on January 5, 2017. 1 Comment

Off Again!

So it’s time again to return to Tanzania.

This time for a year….this time for something slightly different. Am heading off to support Forever Projects by working as a part-time administrator and part-time outreach support worker, gathering data from the outreach work for fundraisers. Living at the baby home volunteer house so still close enough for early morning and evening feeding and cuddles though.

Having already purchased an extra bag for the first two flights as the 46kg allowance was not enought, due to excessive donations, gifts and equipment, the journey already had a few potential hiccups built in as there was a tightly orchestrated swift transfer in Abu Dhabi, entering Tanzania without appropriate documentation and a plan to meet up with Hannah, another volunteer working in Dar es Salaam, at the airport between flights to pick up a fourth bag full of donated equipment without any means of communicating with her.

Evening flight started well, although slightly disappointing film selection from 2015. Then fog struck over Abu Dhabi, resulting in massive turbulence, and over an hour’s circling and 45 minutes taxiing to the gate with visibility at around 6 feet.  But never fear, all connecting flights were held, we were told repeatedly by the bored cabin crew, so after a very long slow crawl through security and then an instruction to run for the gate, I arrived to find that it had closed and the plane heading off for East Africa. Eight hours overnight travel with no sleep did leave me somewhat irritable so my alter-ego Lady Shat-Beazel did embark on a project to tear yon Etihad Customer Services a new sphincter resulting in a very comfortable night in the Abu Dhabi airport Premier Inn with free food and 10,000 Guest miles (not actual air miles you understand but enough to purchase a Juicer or 100 tickets for a raffle).

Onwards at 6am the next morning, trusting and hoping that they had actually transferred my bags to this flight. All went smoothly to Dar Es Salaam, where I was met by a medical crew. Unclear whether they were just checking Yellow Fever certificates or for something more serious but a little past caring at this point. The immigration officer admired my photo for a good few minutes before passing it on to the next officer. Without my permits, I was attempting to slide in on a tourist visa and, although I had worked on my cover story about my hotel and my love of safari holidays, he seemed a little sceptical. This was compounded when I panicked and threw in a possible Kilimanjaro climb at which he just shook his head and passed me over to pay the $50 fee and hand in my passport at the next window. Tense 30 minutes then followed as staff wandered out sporadically with passports and called peoples’ names. Went to my happy place on the inside and tried not to think that people were overtaking me cos immigration had seen my previous residence permit and didn’t believe me but just that they have no queueing system so would just be taking the passports as they came. Meanwhile my bags came off the conveyor built and were being kicked and pulled at by staff in the arrivals section next to me.

Finally all sorted and I hefted my 3 monstrous bags on to a trolley and then on to the security counter as Dar checks as you leave the airport too. Security officer asked what the rings were that were in my largest bag and I frankly couldn’t remember due to somewhat frantic packing so had to open the case, revealing a selection of Christmas crafts. “And what are these?” she then asked, indicating the pack of Christmas crackers. It then did dawn on me that crackers were actually on the forbidden list for carrying on a plane , due to the tiny bit of explosive in them. “Ah yes, Christmas candles” I fronted it with a smile, and on I went.

Miraculously, the message I’d sent Hannah about a 24 hour delay had got to her in her hut in the countryside and she appeared in the Tasty Bite cafe where I was sitting, with Martin, the little boy she dreams of adopting, and Ben, the man who dreams of marrying her (chances for both are slim but all remain hopeful!)


A re-jig of bags and there I was, 71 kg of luggage ready for the next flight later that evening and finally, finally here!


This entry was posted on January 1, 2017. 3 Comments

A Mandazi for Lucia!

Am practising making mandazi, which are basically doughnuts but  without the sugar on. On my last visit to Tanzania, Lucia painstakingly walked me through making them in the BabyHome kitchen so that I could give them to mamas who came on my training course.


And I am feeling sad.

Lucia was only about 21.  She had never known her birthday or exactly how old she was. With her mother dead, she was parcelled  around her family from a young age and left pregnant following rape by her uncle at age 13 or 14.

She he was found by Amy, the director of Forever Angels, very close to death in hospital; severely malnourished, with tuberculosis and AIDS. After a few days of visiting, Amy noticed the sheet moving and found her baby boy in a similar state nestled in beside her.

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The baby was brought to the Baby Home and Lucia, when stabilised, went to an orphanage for older children to completely recover. When both were doing better, Lucia was given a job as a cook at the BabyHome to be near her son.


Her determination to work hard was noticed and she soon started to work as a mama, caring for the other children and her own son went from strength to strength.



At the same time she met a man who offered her a home and went on to become the father of her second son. She was devoted to her boys and to their education. Her pride that her 7 year old could write better than she could because he was going to school made me cry.


Still only young herself, her dancing and infectious laugh, and her mischievous side, made her popular with all the children.


And her generous nature, always there with offers of help to others, made her popular with the other mamas.

On on my last visit, as well as continuing to patiently show me how to cook ‘properly’, her efforts to get me to dance like a Tanzanian led to much regular hooting of laughter from the other mamas.

Then, just a fortnight after I left, she woke with a blinding headache that got so bad that she was taken to hospital but, within 48 hours, she was dead. In a typical TIT way, the cause of death on her certificate was given as ‘cerebral palsy’! But we assume they meant to say cerebral malaria, the rare but particularly vicious form of malaria that causes the brain to swell and then shuts down all the other organs. A horrific and painful way to die for a young girl who fought against all the odds to make something of herself.

It’s blurry but this is my favourite photo of me and Lucia.


Rest in Peace Lucia xxx

This entry was posted on September 17, 2016. 1 Comment

Oh to be a Health Visitor!

In scenes reminiscent of Mum’s Health Visitor Clinic at Heston Clinic on baby weighing day, every Tuesday is Maisha Matters at the babyhome.

One of the additional projects run from the baby home, Maisha Matters suppplies free formula milk powder to mothers who are unable to feed their own children due to malnourishment or multiple births.

Their babies get weighed each week, they get lessons in hygiene, first aid and they pick up their milk powder. Often babies come in very underweight and sick but soon plump up.



Mothers, and grandmothers left with the children after their mothers have died, come from near and far. Some are from our local village; one travels on 2 buses from near the Serengeti taking over 2 hours each way to get her formula milk.


There is a high incidence of  multiple births here so twins and triplets are common (one set  here with a volunteer).


They can ask questions and get advice on a range of issues to do with child development and are taught how to prepare the formula safely.


Mothers can come until the children and fully weaned so some of the children are quite big……


and some are quite small!


Many of these mothers will also become part of the Outreach service where visits are made to outlying villages and additional support is offered to lone parents, couples and grandmothers to help them start businesses such as growing  vegetables to sell, buying and selling charcoal or tailoring, depending on the skills they have. That way, they can keep themselves out of poverty and provide for themeslves and their children.


This entry was posted on June 16, 2016.