5 Photo Friday: Parents’ Day at ELIMAA School


Last week we celebrated Parents’ Day at ELIMAA School. It was a great celebration of all that we’ve been able to accomplish over the last year or so, thanks in large part to the generous support we’ve received from so many of you!

As I explained in my ELIMAA update post, more and more children are in need of ELIMAA School. So we set our sights on expanding for the new year. With the remaining donations we received in 2015, we got very busy in December and were able to:

  • convert a small unused space in the school building into a secure storage room;
  • convert the previous storage room into a second classroom;
  • add windows to the classrooms with glass to keep out the wind, rain and dust and iron grills to keep the rooms secure;
  • build an outdoor kitchen for preparing the daily porridge for the students; and
  • hire a second teacher

At Parents’ Day, we had an official ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the additions. We invited the area community leaders to help with the ceremony.

First, we opened the new storage room:


Then the original classroom, now new and improved with a bigger window:


After that, the new classroom:


And finally the new outdoor kitchen:


(In a future post I’ll share more photos of the insides of the rooms–we were just so busy with Parents’ Day that I didn’t have a chance to get interior shots!)

But, without a doubt, the new update that brought the biggest celebration from students and parents alike was the new school uniforms!


This is something the parents have been asking for for quite a while. In Tanzania, it’s expected that if a child is in school they’ll have an official school uniform to wear. So, even though the children at ELIMAA were receiving an excellent education and excelling academically, it just didn’t quite feel legitimate to the parents.

The new uniforms were made by possible by a new friend of ELIMAA School, Rahel Mwitula Williams, who visited ELIMAA in November with the Women of the ELCA delegation that helped us with the Lutheran World Relief Quilt & Kit distribution. Rahel is a native Tanzanian but now lives in Chicago and is the founder of ILAVA, a beautiful fashion line inspired by the bright, bold fabrics so common here in Tanzania. Rahel designed the uniforms herself, and got them delivered to us just in time to distribute for Parents’ Day.

Now just as we’ve made these huge leaps for the school, we need to think about what more we can do to serve the families of Kwamorombo. Even with adding the second class and teacher, about 20 students more than we had room for reported to school on the first day of the term! We’ve had some other really generous support come in since the first of the year that I’ll be sharing about in another post, but we would also love and appreciate your support to help us take the next steps. Can you help ELIMAA School grow and serve even more in 2016? 

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I don’t really know how to adequately express my gratitude for the generous support and wonderful encourage we’ve received since I starting sharing about ELIMAA here on the blog and on my Facebook page. All I know to do is say THANK YOU! and promise that we’ll be careful stewards of every dollar you donate to make the greatest possible impact on the families of Kwamorombo and beyond. Stay tuned for more great news from ELIMAA!

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5 Photo Friday: Decorating for Christmas

5photofridaydecoratingforchristmasAs my Facebook newsfeed is full of photos of snowy scenes, it’s 89 degrees here. So I wish I could say “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” but it’s not really. At least not by this Nebraska girl’s standards, anyway.

It is beginning to look a little bit like Christmas though, thanks to Max and Elly. Continue reading

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ELIMAA School Update: We Need to Grow in 2016!


It was just a bit more than a year ago that I first shared with you about ELIMAA School. I was nervous to publicly share what we were doing, fearing that if we failed, I would have to own up to that publicly, too.

But this past year has seen huge advances for ELIMAA School. And now we’re ready to grow!

When Kakasii and I first got involved with ELIMAA School, the daily attendance was 11 to 18 students, ranging from 4 to 7 years old. As we just wrapped up the third term of the year last week, we have 33 students enrolled!


And the students are doing great! The majority of them are A and B students, with just a few falling below, mostly because of inconsistent attendance–something we continue to work on with parents.

Here are our top students of the term (from left to right): Mulhat, Monica and Anna.


You might notice that Monica looks a bit older than most of the ELIMAA Students. She is–she is 9 years old and had never been to school before starting at ELIMAA. Her uncle brought her to us to at least help her read and write and then someday hoped to send her to a vocational training program to learn a trade. We’ve committed to not only help Monica catch up with other kids her age, but as soon as she’s done so, we’ll help her uncle pay her school fees so that she doesn’t have to wait until she’s old enough for vocational training to continue her education. Read on to learn how you can help us support Monica…

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To make sure that all of the students can focus on learning and not about whether they’ll get anything to eat that day, we continue to provide a large cup of hot porridge mid-morning of every school day to keep tummies full and minds focused.


We were also able this year to brighten up our classroom with new tables and chairs. Previously the students had been sitting on the floor, which worked out okay until they were ready to focus more on their handwriting. Then it became difficult to have proper posture for writing. So, thanks especially to the Sunday school students at Trinity Lutheran Church in Winside, Nebraska (USA), we were able to get tables and chairs for the students. The Sunday school kids raised $350 and also got matching funds from Thrivent, totaling exactly what we needed (as a bonus, we were able to support a local carpenter and his employees by giving them the work of making the tables and chairs).


There was a lot of excitement at ELIMAA the day we pulled up with a pick-up load of red, blue, yellow and green tables and chairs!



The kids sat down right away and started in on their handwriting lessons.


And one final highlight of the year came just last month, when we were able to serve the wider Kwa Morombo community, the village where ELIMAA is located, with a distribution of Lutheran World Relief quilts, school kits and personal care kits to about 80 households.

If you’ve known me for long, you likely know that I committed 12 years of my career to working for Lutheran World Relief, much of that time focusing on LWR’s Quilt & Kit Ministry. So to be able to combine my love of LWR with my love of the ELIMAA students and their community was a dream come true.



What made that day extra special, though, was a group of visitors that helped with the distribution. A delegation from Women of the ELCA, an organization I had the pleasure of working closely with when I was at LWR, came to ELIMAA that day to help hand out quilts and kits to the families who came to the school, and also made home deliveries to some of the elderly and disabled community members who couldn’t make it to the school to collect their items.


The ELIMAA students just love their new school kit bags.


And they are using their personal care kits in hygiene lessons, learning how to properly wash their hands and stay well-groomed.



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So, it’s really been a wonderful year at ELIMAA School. And that’s largely because you have so generously supported this project. And now as we look to 2016, it’s clear that we need to grow, and we need your continued help to do so. We have at least 8 more students on a waiting list, which means we really do need to split the children into two classes (4 and 5 years olds, and 6 and 7 year olds) so that the teaching can be better tailored to their learning levels. That means we need to:

  • Hire a second teacher
  • Make some improvements to the school building to accommodate a second classroom

We also need to increase the salaries of our current staff, Witness (the teacher) and Teresia (the kitchen attendant), to keep up with the cost of living in Tanzania. Times are hard for people earning a local salary as the costs of goods has increased significantly–in my own grocery shopping for our family I’ve seen the price of bread increase by 20% and the cost of milk by nearly 30%. We want to pay our staff fairly and make sure they can provide for their families while we also assist the families in Kwa Morombo who don’t have the means to do so.

Will you help us jump start our funding for 2016 to make sure we have the resources we need to grow and serve more families in need? Besides providing low-cost and sometimes free education, we are now also trying to help with other needs, like Monica’s school fees and distributing quilts and kits to struggling households. A gift to ELIMAA School in December will ensure we can move forward with the second teacher and classroom, and help more people in need. Please give today!

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Thank you for your continued prayers and support of ELIMAA School!

P.S. Missed the update video I posted on Facebook? Check it out here:

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A New Place to Call Home


If you happened to see us on House Hunters International, you might remember that the greatest drawback to the house we chose was its small compound, which left little room for Max and Elly to play, and zero green space.


But that’s soon about to change as we move to a new house (minus the HGTV cameras and reality-TV fame) in the next few days!

Our new house, which is owned by dear Tanzanian friends of ours who live in the US, has a oodles more outdoor space for Max and Elly to roam, and lots of trees and bushes. Continue reading

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Our Shamba Makeover


We occasionally invite our safari clients to do a home stay with us at the shamba (farm) to get an up-close look at village life. Usually before a visit, we’ll do a small project to spruce up the house to make it more comfortable for our guests. By small, I mean something like buying new pillows for the guest bed.

But this time as we were preparing for visitors, we really wanted to do some painting. By some, I mean painting a room or two. But as we looked around, we decided that if we were going to have the painters come with all their supplies and equipment anyway, we just as well do it all. Continue reading

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Max & Elly Take Acrobatics Class


This past weekend some new friends (who recently moved to Arusha from Omaha) introduced us to an acrobatics class for kids. I wasn’t sure if Max and Elly would be very cooperative in an actual class, despite loving to jump and roll and climb on top of each other all the time at home.

Turns out they both loved it and are already asking to go back again next Saturday. Here are a few of the amazing feats they accomplished in their first class. Continue reading

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5 Photo Friday: Our US Trip


Well, I didn’t mean to take such a long hiatus from blogging, but these last couple of months were packed pretty full–most particularly by a nearly month-long trip back to the US for Max, Elly and me.

We arrived in early August after surviving two long overseas flights (one of them was 15 hours long!) and a short flight from Dallas to Omaha. Max and Elly are actually really good travelers, perhaps because they’ve been flying since they were 8 weeks old (by comparison, I was 28  years old before I was ever on an airplane).

The trip was a great chance to reconnect with family and friends after two years since Max and Elly were last back for a visit. For this week’s 5 Photo Friday here are a few highlights of our trip: Continue reading

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5 Photo Friday: Max and Elly’s Birthday Party


Max and Elly turned 4 years old on Sunday so on Monday they got to have a birthday party with their classmates at school. What better way to kick off the week than to pump a bunch of preschoolers full of sugar! Continue reading

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5 Photo Friday: Birth Day

5photofriday_birthdayOn July 4, 2011, I had lunch with my friend Rebecca. It was a welcome diversion because I was on Day 3 of a long holiday weekend feeling bored and borderline miserable. My growing belly was almost too much to bear, and I had been spending the last few weeks working from home to spare me the waddle from my car to the office and back each day. I was getting tired of only myself for company.

As we said our goodbyes after lunch Rebecca said, “I bet the next time I see you, you’ll be a mom!” I blew off her prediction, reminding her that I still had about five weeks to go. My due date wasn’t until August 9.

I returned home, did a few chores, watched several more hours of Netflix and went to bed.

At 1 a.m. my water broke. At 2 a.m. the contractions started. Continue reading

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5 Photo Friday: Our 3rd ‘Tanziversary’


Yesterday was our third “Tanziversary”–the anniversary of our arrival in Tanzania. It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years already, but these three years have been packed full of lots of fun adventures, new challenges and great memories as a family!

To make the trip with two not-yet one-year-olds, I enlisted the help of my mom and sister Carla (and most of this 5 Photo Friday’s photos were taken by her).

Even with the help of mom and Carla, I was still a bit frazzled when we arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport at about 9 pm after a good 30 hours of air travel. Continue reading

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