For a few months now, Kakasii and I have been working on a project that is something we are supporting personally as well as part of the Social and Environmental Care projects we are supporting through Tanzania Choice Safaris.
A few months ago I was approached by my friend Peter, a former Lutheran World Relief colleague here in Tanzania, to offer some advice to a local NGO, the Green Support Organization (GRESUO), which had founded a small kindergarten school in a poor community just outside of Arusha. GRESUO had gotten the school off the ground but was struggling due to limited experience in organizational development and administration. I was flattered that Peter thought I had something to offer but was quick to clarify that I had zero experience in education projects.
Nonetheless, there was a part of me that was really intrigued by and excited about the idea of helping with the school. It had been some months by then since I wrapped up my 12-year career at LWR (which also ended a 20-year career in Lutheran ministries) and I was honestly feeling a little lost not being involved in some kind of community care work.
So since that time I’ve been volunteering in administrative support and financial oversight and Kakasii has been helping with operations. We work closely with John Kamani, a founding member of GRESUO who works tirelessly as a volunteer administrator for the school.
Through Tanzania Choice Safaris, we donated the cooking and serving supplies needed so the children can have a large cup of hot porridge every morning to keep them alert and energized throughout the school day.
We’ve actually turned this into a family affair and involve the kids as well. On a recent visit to the school, Max and Elly pitched in and helped the students carry bricks that will be used to build an outdoor kitchen.
The students at ELIMAA are learning English so Max taught them a few English words from a picture book. (This is great for Max and Elly, too, since English is not their first language either.)
Our current class attendance ranges from 11 to 18 students with a capacity of 30. Most of the students’ parents are not formally employed so it’s a struggle for them even to pay the nominal monthly school fee of 5,000 Tanzanian shillings that we request (that’s about $3 USD). So now as we’re getting the administrative processes worked out with John, we’ll begin fundraising to ensure that the school can continue to operate despite parents’ inability to pay.
This is a fun and challenging project and there are days I look at Kakasii and ask, “What have we gotten ourselves into?!” I’m sure in his mind Kakasii is thinking, “WE didn’t get ourselves into anything–YOU got yourself into this and then drug me into it!” But he’s always supportive and offers a great deal to the effort. I would literally be a complete mess if I didn’t have his involvement and wise counsel.
And in case you’re curious about what the name ELIMAA means, it was chosen by the members of GRESUO to show their appreciation to our family for joining their effort to operate the school. ELI comes from Eliasaria (Elly’s actual name) and MAA comes from the shortened way Tanzanians say Max. It’s humbling and almost embarrassing to have the school named after our kids, but it was very kind of the group to suggest it so we agreed.
I plan to share more about our adventures at ELIMAA School here on the blog and I hope you’ll join me in supporting the project financially. In the long-term we plan to offer volunteer opportunities so consider visiting us in Tanzania and helping out at the school!
And please keep ELIMAA School in your thoughts and prayers. We need all the encouragement we can get!