Saturday, July 28, 2012

I know, I know. We are terrible at blogging. Sorry. We’ll try harder. I promise. I also promise that we won’t start every blog with an apology.  A few changes have gone down over the last few weeks so I thought I would get everyone in the loop. Here’s the abbreviated version: New principal, new ministry opportunity, AND new dog!
New Principal
After a month off of school, I have returned to meet our “new” principal or as Tanzanian say “Head Teacher”. The day before we got out for vacation I showed up at the school to find all of the teachers sitting in the hallway chatting. When I asked what they were doing, they said “Planning Grace’s going away party!” I must say I was pretty taken aback since the day before I had been talking to Grace  (the mkuu)about events coming up in August and she failed to mention that she would be leaving in two days. Long story short, the next day we said “good bye” to Grace, headed out for school vacation and month later we have a “new” mkuu. I say “new” because the replacement principal is actually a teacher who has been promoted.
 Her name is Sister Oliva and she is awesome. She just doesn’t know it yet. Last Monday when I asked her what she thought about her new job she said “I don’t know how to do anything.” I told her that I would help her as much as I can and she seemed very pleased. The truth is, she is very organized and professional and I think with some cheering on, she is going to be great. The best thing is I have had a lot of time to build a relationship with her in the classroom and she seems to respect my ideas, so with God’s help, maybe we can start fixing some of the broken systems in the school that have been tugging on my heart like shaming and hitting. I am very optimistic that positive change is coming to Butimba. Please pray for Sister Oliva that she finds the confidence and time (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that she still has a full classroom full of kids to teach on top of her new job) to bring changes of compassion to our preschool.
New Ministry Opportunity
Over the two months that I observed in the two general ed classrooms at Butimba, I felt myself being more and more drawn to new special education classroom at our school. I started visiting the classroom during my break between morning and afternoon classes and found that I really enjoyed working with the students. I was also very impressed with their teacher, Salome. Salome used to teach at David’s school, Huruma, but when presented with the chance to start a new special ed program in an area that really needed it, she dropped everything and moved out to Butimba.
The more time I spent in Salome’s classroom, the more I realized how much help she could use.  I discovered that she had three big roadblocks. 1) No money. After chatting with Salome I found out that the parish priest who had promised to fund the program, doesn’t actually have the money he thought he would so Salome is essentially working for free.  2) No community support. It also came out that the parish community as a whole isn’t thrilled about the special education program.  3) No teacher’s assistant. On a normal day Salome only has 5 to 6 students in her classroom but the students range in age from 7 to 16 and have disabilities of varying levels of severity. It is nearly impossible for her to accommodate all of their unique needs on her own.
The first two issues are huge and will take some time and prayers, but the third issue is something that I feel like I can tackle. While I will still be assisting Sister Oliva and the other teachers in the general education classroom 2 full days a week, I have volunteered myself to assist Salome 3 mornings a week. My hope is that my presence in her classroom will lift her spirits and make her feel more supported while also showing the parish priest and community as a whole that I think the special education program in invaluable.  
So far, I have spent 2 weeks in Salome’s classroom and I love it. This week we only had 4 kids so it has been really nice to get some one on one time with each student. Some of the kids have pretty profound disabilities so at this point Salome and I are somewhat at a loss for what to teach them, but as for now we are just trying to keep smiles on their faces and I think we are doing a pretty good job.

New Dog

After months of going back and forth with a metalworking fundi (Swahili word for repairman/expert) about getting two gates made, we finally had some atrocious gates built so we could bring home our pup Tequila. She is a three year old mutt who was living with our regional coordinator’s step-son and she in sweet and very well behaved. She is a 100 percent outdoor dog (won’t even try to step foot inside when the door is wide open) but she loves to be around us. She also really likes sitting outside with Julius and Christopher (our guards) at night while we sleep too.  She doesn’t chase the chickens or bother people walking in and out of the compound during the day, but she will bark like crazy if someone comes in the gate at night or walks towards us when we are sitting out on the porch with her. Her only fault is that she has to eat and unless you want to spend around 30 dollars a bag, the only way to feed a dog in Tanzania is to cook for her, so every night, I do just that. I put on my Tanzanian chef hat and cook her up some ugali (think really thick mashed potatoes made out of white corn flour) and dagaa (tiny dried fish) and she is a happy dog. She really has made this house of ours feel more like a home. Don’t ask what we are going to do with her in three years when we go home….

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