Guest Post: Lessons on Joy and Generosity in Tanzania
Mosaic International led a Discovery Trip to Moshi, Tanzania from July 24 to Aug. 8. Trip participants had the opportunity to build relationships with the children and young adults served by our in-country partner Building a Caring Community.
By Carol Stoltenberg
I am a relative newcomer to Mosaic, but from the first pictures I saw of the children in Tanzania who are being helped by this amazing program, I was sold. I knew I would have to join one of the Discovery Trips and see these smiling faces in person. That trip of a lifetime happened for me this past summer.
I knew we would be visiting the centers where these children spend up to eight hours a day and I knew that we would be helping with a field day. I had no idea how impressed I would be by the children themselves and their families.
Mosaic partners with Building a Caring Community (BCC) in Moshi, Tanzania. We started our trip at the BCC centers. By American standards, the buildings are very plain and the materials for teaching the kids extremely limited.
When I walked into one of these one-room facilities the first day, I was drawn to a girl blowing bubbles. She was in a wheelchair and I never did see her walk. She had other motor skill issues and some difficulty speaking. Her smile was infectious, and I spent most of an hour with her doing the same puzzle over and over again.
It was hard to say goodbye to her when our time was up. I was thrilled to see her again at the end of the week. As we parted that second day, we promised to think of each other whenever we wore our red BCC shirts. (Mine is now my new favorite shirt!) While we hugged each other for the last time, she also said, in English, “I love you.” I will never be the same again.
Almost as special as that one-to-one relationship was watching the kids at the field day. There were events that gave everyone the chance to run, jump, throw balls and dance; to do activities that everyone else does.
Those who could walk pushed friends in wheelchairs at the games. No ribbons were given, but everyone was a winner! Kids helped kids. Those who couldn’t walk were helped to cross the finish line and everyone was cheered on and encouraged. Smiles glowed on every face.
Here were kids who have almost none of things that we take for granted in the U.S. They have intellectual and often physical disabilities and yet they were teaching us how to treat those we share our lives and our world with. Their joy and generosity were unbelievable.
BCC enables miracles to happen. Not many years ago, these kids would have been regarded as inferior, as a curse to be locked away in the back of the family hut, hidden from the public. BCC has sent outreach workers into the community to change this attitude, to find these children, feed them nourishing meals, exercise their bodies and stimulate their minds, as well as to reeducate the neighborhoods.
Young people who once barely existed are now walking to the BCC centers. Some are now employed. And all are adding joy and pride to the lives of their families and friends.
But BCC also faces challenges.
The centers in Moshi need materials to use in educating these students. The teachers are creative in their use of music and simple puzzles, but would be able to do so much more with additional items. Secondly, they need vehicles to pick up the students at their homes and drive them to the centers. Such vehicles are not in the budget. Thirdly, they need more teachers and more training for the teachers they now have.
The need is there, but so are the rewards. I hope to continue to support Mosaic and would really like to return to Tanzania for a second visit.
My life is so much richer for having made this connection. I have been to developing countries before, but this trip was different. I learned important lessons about joy and sharing from the Tanzanians, and I’m looking for ways to pass those lessons on to others back here at home.