Another year, and another trip to Tanzania. This time, it was just me providing chiropractic care to the orphans at Mitindo House in Dar es Salaam, and the SOS Children’s Village in Zanzibar. Although there are many chiropractors who were interested and keen to help out, the timing did not work out. But a promise is a promise, and I was determined to go, whether or not anyone else could come with me!
But I was not alone. My 9-year-old son, Mussa, came, too. And with him, a camera and video camera. That worked a little bit at the beginning, at our first visit to Mitindo House. We used up all the memory on my little Bloggie, though and I couldn’t download it anywhere to free up space! After that, Mussa decided he really did not want any part of the orphanage visits and preferred to spend time with family over there. I had to remind myself that he is an energetic 9 year old boy from Sydney!
Our first night in Dar was pretty horrible because of a last minute arrangement by someone else. I took charge of accommodation from there (that’s another story in itself). in those initial days, we visited the kids at Mitindo House and adjusted all 10 of them. We were also invited to a breakfast for orphans from numerous orphanages hosted by Vodacom Tanzania, which is Mitindo House’s biggest sponsor. Each orphanage received a ute full of goods and a live goat for milk and meat, which was very exciting for them.
I was invited to a fundrasier for Mitindo House, hosted and co-organised by the founder of Mitindo House, Khadija Mwanamboka. There was a colourful fashion parade and a big fundraiser dinner. A lot of money was raised and the only problem with these events is actually getting the money in, once the night is over!
We then went to Zanzibar for a couple of weeks to visit the SOS Children’s Village orphans. We also had a bit of relaxation time, and important holiday time for Mussa. He was still adamant that he not spend time at the orphanages, so I arranged for him to hang out with his cousins. It worked perfectly for everyone.
For the first five days in Zanzibar, there was a minor problem: my missing chiropractic table that I had left there! These things happen in Africa and when you are not on a time schedule, it’s really not a problem. Hence ‘Africa time’. But I was on a schedule and I wanted to see the kids eight times in those two weeks, time was starting to become an issue.
My table: two months before I arrived in Zanzibar, my good friend who was minding it for me, me lent it to someone for a ‘couple of days’. This became significantly longer when the guy who borrowed it suddenly had to travel overseas and could not be contacted. Luckily, Zanizibar is a small place and everyone knows everyone, so we found someone who knew the table borrower, who went and collected it from his empty house.
While the great table hunt was going on, I had decided to start my work at SOS without a table and begin what I came to do. So, I did about 15 treatments seated, in that first session.
In that fortnight, I went to the SOS Village seven times, and managed to do 70 treatments. That’s not an unreasonable solo workload, but it seems little for how time and energy it took. The process was so much longer. The children I had met a year before had to be re-examined before they were adjusted, because it had been so long between treatments. And then, there were many more new children I was starting from scratch with.
Some children have been treated once, others up to five times now, including the visit Fleur Castlereagh and I made in 2010. The children responded really well to receiving treatment and there was one child who I was told was ‘retarded’, who was the first to come in and greet me each day. He was adjusted a lot because he was always there. He certainly was not ‘retarded’, possibly a learning difference.
There were new children at SOS Children’s Village, while others who were now considered self-sufficient adults had moved on. There was a girl from 2010 who really moved me. Her name was Mgeni and she was HIV positive. Back then, she was 18 years old and had been at SOS for about 8 years. Both parents had died of AIDS and she had been abused, which is how she probably contracted HIV. She was very petite, a head shorter that me and physically tiny. I treated her a couple of times in 2010 and did mostly a chiropractic technique called Neuro-Integrations System (NIS). We had a conversation one day and she asked me if she was OK. I told her she was doing great and my job was to enhance her health further. She was on anti-retroviral drugs and had been for 4 years. She also told me then that she had finished her counselling diploma and was going on to study AIDS counselling. This trip, Mgeni had left the orphanage. She is now financially independent, working as an AIDS counsellor, and doing very well for herself. I am very proud of her and admire her courage, strength and determination so much.
After a very welcomed trip to adjust the children at SOS Children’s Village and a donation of $2,500 AUD, it was time to go back to Dar es Salaam to visit Mitindo House again.
By this time we had friends from Australia in Dar es Salaam, so I could leave Mussa playing with them as he was adamant he did not want to come with me. So I returned to Mitindo House and left a donation with Khadija, who was over the moon about how much we had raised. I gave Mitindo house $3.500 AUD plus 40 kilograms of donated clothes, soccer balls, skipping ropes and nutrients (donated by One Health Organisation and Metagenics).
Which brings me to the next saga: The cheapest way to send stuff overseas is unaccompanied luggage, which I opted to do as I had a ticket. From this end out of Oz, it cost $800 for close to 80 kilograms worth of clothes, soccer balls, skipping ropes, nutrients and a few other requested items. All relvatively easy to organise.
It was the other end is where the difficulties began. Khadija arranged for a guy who works in cargo to collect the two boxes for me. He needed my passport so I handed over my passport with my Dad in mind saying: “Never ever give your passport to anyone!” But I figured it would be a lot easier having a local who works there to get my boxes, rather than spending days trying to bribe someone! So I reluctantly handed it over, knowing I needed it the next day; and feeling confident that I had some pretty trusty contacts in Dar.
So I got my friend to chase up my passport and got it delivered at 10pm the next night (it was supposed to be delivered at lunchtime, so it got a bit worrying). This all happened when I first got to Dar es Salaam. I got a phone call the night before I was leaving Dar (4 weeks later), at 9:30pm: “Sara, I’m in the foyer come down.” So I went down presuming he needed me to give him some money, as I had already been told it was going to cost me $300 AUD equivalent to get the boxes (and that was cheap!). So I went downstairs to the foyer of the hotel I was staying in, and he was so excited because he had surprised me by bringing 80 kilograms of stuff in two boxes to my hotel! He thought I was going to be happy about it! He was supposed to hold them so the orphanage staff could fetch them, but instead he brought them to me. The hotel was extremely accommodating and held the boxes until they were collected the next day.
Lesson learnt: I will not send stuff to Tanzania again. I will give them the money to purchase the things they need themselves.
Overall, another great trip for everyone involved. SOS Children’s Village is Developing nicely and have a successful model that has a self-sufficient aspect to it with the school and medical centre helping to support the orphans there. Since last year they have build a massive vegetable garden on the land which provides food for the orphans. They do still need international support and are a good organisation to donate to if you are looking.
Mitindo House on the other hand has still a way to go but making great progress. Since last year there were more beds (not quite one per child yet), and they had mosquito nets. The outdoor area was dirt and is now concreted and the kids are healthier and doing a lot better. I got to spend some a bit of time with the founder, Khadija on this trip who is my age (mid thirties) and a very driven and busy Tanzanian woman with a massive heart and a big vision. This year they are acquiring some more land to build a bigger house for the kids with a garden and a training centre to learn some trades like tailoring and computer skills. So it’s full steam ahead! Another great project to support.
What was most satisfying was being able to see the changes in the children, and some of the success stories. We will continue doing some fundraising this year. On behalf of the orphans, your financial support was greatly appreciated on this trip.
So now I have worked over there with a fellow chiropractor and by myself I highly recommend that groups of 2-3 chiropractors go together in the future, to get them most out of it and to deliver the best and most effective care for the orphans.
I am planning on developing this project further into the chiropractic community and it needs more pro-active volunteers. I am convinced this model is one that can work with orphans, anywhere. I truly believe in “Healthy Orphans, Healthy Future.”
Thank you for being part of the journey so far.