To the ends of the earth…and back!

2011 Adventures

Students helping students!

I am always so inspired by students helping other students.

Over the course of my two years expanding the Child Sponsorship Program (CSP), I have come across quite a few students who have shown great interest and enthusiasm in joining us!

Here are three incredible stories:

1. Livonia Middle School students created beautiful posters for the Tumaini classrooms. From animal and plant cells to the human body, numbers and colors (to name but a few!), the posters were amazing. And, mind you, quite a few were in English, Kiswahili and French–the three languages the children learn at Tumaini! Here is a photo of some posters and Head Teacher Allan quizzing some of the younger children!



2. Several months ago I was asked to speak to a youth group near to my hometown. The teens were thrilled to learn more about our work being done in Tanzania. They were motivated to become involved. I’m so excited to see how they decide to partner with us! Here’s a photo of my delicate self with the student liaison, Kelsey.


3. Last year, I was contacted by a high school Key Club group near my hometown with the exciting news they wished to sponsor a child’s education! Since that day last December, the students’ commitment and energy has blown me away! Through several Spaghetti Dinners among other smaller fundraising initiatives, the students have raised more than $3,000.00! Additionally, many of them wrote wonderful notes to the child they support–which I delivered during my November visit to Tanzania. Glory was all smiles and more than ecstatic to respond to several of the students’ questions!

Earlier this week I had the privilege to return to MAST and hand deliver Glory’s responses to the students. As I thanked the students for their inspiring commitment, I reminded them that I too had been a Key Club member and president during my time high school. Dream big, kids!! Also, Key Club President Elizabeth and a Keyport Kiwanis member presented me with a check from their latest fundraiser!




Stay tuned for 2011 Highlights coming in the next few days!!

Happy Graduation!

Last Friday, two celebrations were held: one for the Standard IV graduates and another for the pre-primary level students.

Two of our children, Charles and Rose, completed Standard IV, having sat for the national examination earlier this year. Both were quite excited and were congratulated by their fellow graduates and pupils.

See below for photos of the graduates, along with one of the teachers Madam Christine, and well as Mr. Bayo welcoming the parents to the Standard IV event. Note: initially the festivities were to be held outside but due to the heavy rains(which were still pouring at 9am), the certificate ceremonies were held separately.

I was asked to be a special guest at the Pre-Primary graduation so was lucky enough to hand the little peanuts their completion certificates and shake their hands. It was adorable.








School is out!!

Yesterday was the last official day of school for the 2011 school term.

The children were ecstatic for a holiday and brief break at Shalom. We walked there this morning, lost in conversation and sharing laughs. The children will have just about a day at Shalom before returning to Tumaini for two weeks of extra tutoring. Then back to Shalom for Christmas.

The children took turns with the camera, snapping photos along the way!
















Driving adventures

Over the past several days, Karatu and other neighboring areas received much rain. Unfortunately there were several fatalities due to the heavy rains.

Some vehicles, one of which was a large truck, was swept away by the flash floods, which picked up as the truck attempted crossing. Crews have been hard at work to fix the bridge which was destroyed by the rains.

As we head to Arusha for the night, Caroline and I passed several of the badly hot areas, some of which still carried remnants of the copious amount of water. Likewise, we drove through mid-covered Tarmac where the water had carried the ground.

In addition to the waters, we had some visits from roadside companions!

Never a dull moment!!





Baby Got Back

I learned last year that to be told you look “strong” is really just a euphemism for “Baby got back”, “Home girl, you like your food, don’t you?!” or perhaps you’ll even be told you look fat. Forget euphemistic!

Contrary to the NYC life to which I’ve grown accustomed [though haven’t quite embraced, thank you hips] one that is obsessed with thin, thinner and way thin, to have some meat on you here is often considered more beautiful.

Well, yesterday I wore a floor length striped dress that I suppose did the trick, for throughout the day, I received compliments. These comments though, were different from those I’d heard in years past. For example, one friend approached saying, “Where’s your tumbo (“stomach”)? When you were in the US you got thin. In Tanzania you were fat before.”

We both shared a laugh…then I used a choice restroom with the below photo showing…hello


A picture is worth a thousand words

The children are in the their final few days of school so their teachers have been busy with revisions and final grades. The air of excitement as Friday (school closing day) approaches is evident.

In the afternoons I’ve been able to steal some time with the children and have been meeting with them in smaller groups of four. In addition to chatting with them about the school year, I presented them with photo wallets. Given their love for photos–both taking them and being in them–I thought it to be a fun idea. Also since they don’t have many (if any at all), this would be a nice keepsake. Though I only included photos dating back two years, that didn’t seem to matter as their giggles and squeals of delight echoed in the head teacher’s office.








Raindrops falling on my head

It’s been raining during the night in Karatu. While I love listening to its rhythms on the tin roof, the walk to and from school proves more challenging. To add to the fun, just realized I didn’t pack my beloved foot brush. Karatu 1, the flower 0. Let the games begin!


Back to School…already?!

It seems the summer has come and gone so quickly this year!

Continuing and Finishing Studies

Several weeks ago, the children began their third and final term of 2011 at Tumaini. They have continued to work hard day in and day out. Two of our sponsored students, Rose and Charles, will be sitting for the National Standard IV Examination in a few weeks. All Standard IV students must pass this country-wide test in order to proceed to Standard V next year.

While many of the Tumaini students are working tirelessly, the Standard VII students have graduated…TODAY! Hongera! : ) (Congratulations!). The Standard VII students make the first graduating Tumaini Standard VII class. Many of these lovely children began their school career at Tumaini in the Standard I class, in just one room of what now is the admin building. Six years later, they have grown into intelligent and mature teens. Likewise, the school has grown and now offers Nursery classes through Standard VII. What a fantastic day for Tumaini!

Karatu in Brooklyn, NY and NJ?!

While at work several weeks ago, I turned on the faucet only to have brown water run over my fingertips. As you East coasters know, we’ve been experiencing a lot of rain over the past few weeks. That combined with old plumbing created the dirt-brown water that thankfully ran clear after several minutes. As the water changed, I remembered the times after heavy rains in Karatu when the water would be almost as brown as my dust-covered body. Talk about a spray tan! Unfortunately, those days of heavy rains have not returned to East Africa.*

Additionally, just last week I headed to Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck, NJ, to pick some apples and fresh veggies. Coincidentally, there were also some pumpkins which appeared to be dropped there. I digress. Anyway, as we drove to the parking lot, red dust was kicked up by people and passing cars. We rushed to close the windows before the red dust could paint a light layer on our skin. Admittedly, I was rather slow on the automatic window, feeling rather nostalgic. That’s right. Being that this is the first Autumn season I have experienced since 2008, a storm of emotions swirled, just like the red dust upon my cheeks.








New Jersey                                                                      Tanzania

*I am sure you’ve heard about the drought in East Africa. Scores of people have died and are suffering from malnutrition. Karatu, too, is feeling the pangs of the rain’s absence. In an effort to further support Tumaini Junior School, Journeys of Solutions will be raising money for the Tumaini School Water Well Project.

After recently receiving an appeal from Mr. Bayo, the headmaster of the Tumaini Primary School in Karatu, we have committed to help the school get more water. They have drilled an exploratory bore hole and have reached good water, but at a great depth. Now they need the funding to construct a well. If you would like to help with a donation, please visit and designate the donation as Tumaini Water Fund. You can also email


Finally, in an attempt to be back in Tanzania, at least for 1 hour and 27 minutes, I went with two girlfriends to see The Lion King in 3D. FYI, it’s only playing for 2 weeks so hurry and get your tickets! Anyway, I’d like to also add, everyone in the theater was in their mid-twenties/early thirties. Clearly we weren’t the only ones trying to revive childhood memories. More than a few, myself included, sang along to some of the favorites, like I Just Can’t Wait to be King and Hakuna Matata. Likewise teared up when Rafiki lifted up baby Simba to the masses of animals at Pride Rock and then when Mufasa appeared to grown Simba in the clouds and water’s surface. Okay, maybe that was just me.

As a young fourth grader, when I first saw the film, I loved it and subsequently learned all of the lyrics/songs. Little did I know I’d experience the beauty of some African plains first hand and would come to call them home nearly sixteen years later.

Don’t stop dreaming kids!









Founders of FAME Medical Ltd. are in Boston/NYC

Hello friends,

Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson, founders of FAME Medical Ltd., are visiting the United States!

:: cue applause ::

This, of course means, you’ll have the opportunity to meet them and learn more about the groundbreaking work they’re doing in Tanzania.

Fundraising Soirees:

BOSTON, MA: Saturday, May 21 5:30-7:30PM

NY, NY: Tuesday, May 24: 6:00-8:00PM

Please email me directly for details on either of these events:

I look forward to seeing you there!!

Worry NOT, if you are unable to attend the fundraising soirees, you can still be involved. Simply donate to FAME online via Network for Good, send them a check, or email them to see about donating your TIME AND TALENT by spending time in Karatu and working directly with them.



As you may recall, FAME’s work has not only benefited my delicate self (I received anti malarial meds from FAME when I had malaria and have received other vital meds numerous times), but has stretched throughout Karatu and into neighboring villages and towns. Several examples include: free check-ups/physicals to the children at Shalom Orphanage Centre in December 2009; medical care (for a fee) for students from Tumaini Junior School (specifically those in Journeys of Solutions’ Child Sponsorship Program) and children from Rift Valley Children’s Fund ( Additionally, FAME does mobile clinics out to the bush, in turn bringing medical care to those who would otherwise not have access. And just to increase their services, FAME is currently building a hospital in Karatu. Truly amazing!

If you’re still on the fence, watch this video:


Tanzania faces a major shortage of medical doctors, with an average of one medical doctor for every 25,000 persons, one of the lowest doctor/person ratios in the world.  Industrialized countries have approximately one doctor for every 350 persons.   This is largely the result of trained medical professionals leaving the country in search of adequate salaries and specialty training.

Fame Compound

Including volunteer houses, the clinic and soon-to-be finished hospital

Updates from Karatu

Hello dear friends!

A Journeys of Solutions Board member recently returned from a Kilimanjaro climb and a visit to Karatu; so you know what that means….UPDATES : )

In addition to visiting Shalom Orphanage with members of the Kili climb and purchasing a food supply, Rick spent time visiting FAME Medical Ltd, where our children receive medical care and Tumaini Junior School. Many thanks to Rick for the fantastic video he put together of the children enrolled in the sponsorship program. Please click the link to meet the children:

Tumaini Founder, Modest Bayo, speaking with members of the Kili Climb

All sixteen children are doing very well and just about to finish up their first term of the 2011 school year!

Another exciting update:

One of our donors from Australia also spent precious days with the children, both at Shalom and Tumaini. In addition to volunteering at Shalom, Fiona presented books and soccer jerseys to Tumaini students. (Jerseys were donated by Blue Team –  Melbourne Victory and Red Team – Melbourne Hearts). Also, each of our sponsored children received a book and bookmarks, gifts from Fiona and Lisa, another incredible Australian donor. Finally, the children were treated to a lovely safari to Lake Manyara. A very special thanks to both women for their continued support and generosity!

Check back in a few days for additional photos!

Asante! 🙂

And grateful thanks to the MAST Key Club in New Jersey for their outstanding fundraising efforts! In just one night, more than $2,000.00 was raised for the Child Sponsorship Program!

You too can host a fundraiser in your hometown…email me for more information!


Pasta Dinner Fundraiser

Sponsored by Keyport Kiwanis/MAST Key Club

Help Support the Educational Endeavors of Tanzanian Orphan Children through Journey of Solutions



Monday February 28th 2011

4-7 PM

Town and Country Diner, Keyport

Donation $10:00




Polepole “baby steps”

I am feeling slightly more adjusted to the pace and cold temperatures of life in NYC than when I initially arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport the morning of December 4, 2010. For one, I’m not as ill-equipped for the winter weather as I was stepping off the Emirates flight in Rainbow Flip Flops and a jean jacket. In my defense, upon departing on August 2, I was originally scheduled to return mid-October, but then extended my stay. I digress. Anyway, my homesickness for the dusty roads of Karatu comes in waves so I am ever grateful for the patience my friends and family bestow upon my delicate self. So too do I adore the inventor of hand warmers and scarves.

The first days were incredibly difficult…

Exhibit A: Coffee drops forming a giraffe.

(so sorry, wish I had taken a photo of the coffee top…

promise I’m not kichaa! “crazy”)

Within five days of my return, I had a meeting for my full time job as an event planner in Park Slope. As a treat, I went to a bagel place I frequent sometimes (Shout out to La Bagel Delight in Park Slope–they’ve also donated to Journeys of Solutions!) and ordered a cup of coffee. As I sat to enjoy my first few sips, I stopped, cup mid-way between the counter and my lips. I did a double take as I glanced at the white plastic top, for a few drops of my coffee has escaped through the blow-hole like opening to form (what I was convinced looked like) a giraffe. Yes, convinced was I…so much so that I walked to work shaking my head at myself and showing my boss. She wasn’t so convinced though I was grateful for the feigned agreement!

Exhibit B: Kesho…Mambo…Rafiki…

(“tomorrow” “hey” “friend” in kiswahili)

Riding a New York City Subway is always an adventure: from running to catch the sliding doors so you don’t have to wait the extra minute (during rush hour) or thirty (some late nights), to musicians and poets sharing their work, prepare yourself for an exhilarating experience. Something else you can expect, without fail, is to hear at least three different languages on one subway car. Whether revealed from shrill teenage voices, sobs into a cell phone (only for those stops above ground), or tourists with cameras around their necks and a new copy of “Guide to New York” in their back pocket, it is inevitable. Something I did not expect though was that I kept hearing sprinklings of what sounded like Kiswahili. Whether I was engulfed in my book (see bottom for some recent reads) or scribbling down some possible lyrics for songs, I would always jerk my head with alert eyes in search of the person(s) who had uttered “hapana” (no) or “poa” (cool) or “sawa” (okay). Of course though, I just had to look as far as the book or Moleskine journal between my hands to realize the words danced in mid-air between Annyong haseyo” “gracias” “Ou va-t-on maintenant?” “Ni hao…” and many others. The mind has a funny way of playing tricks on you.

Such traditions as running the annual New Year’s Eve race in Central Park helped to ease my transition back to life here…though the four miles were a lot easier than the constant hustle and bustle of each day.










I didn’t hear a race gun, nor do I see smoke from a fire– why is everyone running?

For those of you who have never been to Penn Station, or upon most streets in New York City for that matter, allow me to set the scene. Simply put: sensory overload. From the many vendors with both sweet and interesting smells lingering in front of their doors to men and women briskly walking (and sometimes bolting in a full out run), to the homeless or picture-happy tourists, you can see just about anything, and everything. The building which spans West 31st-33rd Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues strangely is home to all of these at various times of the day and night. Granted, if you are one of the many commuters who travel to Penn Station via NJ Transit, the Long Island Rail Road or Amtrak, the people all tend to the look the same: a blur, for the minute your train enters the tunnel to Penn Station (about 3-5 minutes from the actual platform), all you have is tunnel vision. You instinctively are aroused from even the deepest of slumber, ready to go! In moments your briefcases and purses are over your shoulders, your blackberry/iPhone/Android (whatever is the latest and greatest) is in your hand and your game face is on and every strand of hair seemingly in place! It’s as if you can hear the race gun go off the instant the train doors are opened.

I must admit, I am instinctively one of these people. Having just spent four months in Tanzania where my morning commute consisted of a bit of a different route: an unpaved dirt road shared with school children, women and men heading to the market or waiting for rides to local villages and towns, bicycles, motorcycles and goats and cattle, I felt a bit unsteady and disoriented. As I looked down at my Michelin man-esque black down coat, a staple for the winter, and my furry hat, another staple, I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths as the train descended into the tunnel. (see below for my winter wear)

My heart raced as the darkness of the tunnel swallowed the train. In stark contrast from the black of my coat, hat and boots, all I could see was the vibrant greens and reds and blues I grew so accustomed to in Tanzania.

I took a few more deep breaths and choked back some tears as I waited for passengers to disembark the NJ Transit train which had brought me back home to the “City That Never Sleeps.” I do not remember climbing the stairs from the platform several flights down, nor can I recall the strides which brought me one level closer to the street at 7th Avenue and west 32nd Street. As I mounted each step of the final flight to street level, my senses attempted to absorb the Christmas music which blared awkwardly out of rhythm with the bells of Salvation Army volunteers.The cold wind was like a whip against my tanned skin, blowing my sun-soaked golden hair about wildly as the tears burned my cheeks. Once out on the street and making my way through the throngs of people, both tourists and residents, I was like a child in Dylan’s Candy Bar ( in awe of the sights and smells and energy that surrounded me. I actually stopped and waited for the light to change as my mind raced. The scariest part was that within about three blocks, my step had quickened and I was absorbed back into the pace of Manhattan. Even more, I could not help but wonder, “Had I even left?”

A trip with the Frizz…

Most recently (i.e. last night) I hopped on the ever fun M15 bus up First Avenue to a friend’s apartment only to feel like I was a character from The Magic School Bus Series…you know, with Ms. Frizzle. For those of you out of practice with the MSB, basically the children take adventures, along with their eccentric prof Ms. Frizzle from the inside of the human body to the inside of a storm, among many other super fun places. Quite the educational experience for younger readers. I’ve read many a book both as a child and to the children for whom I nannied. Another digression, if you’ll allow me: come summer time in the humidity, there is a strange resemblance between Ms. Frizzle and me.

Anyway, as the accordion bus raced by the colorful flags flying proudly outside the UN, suddenly I was no longer on First Avenue, but upon the tarmac road between Arusha and Karatu. The flagpoles were a combination of the remnants of stripped tree branches, delicious treats enjoyed by mighty African Elephants, and the long legs of giraffes sauntering between bites of leaves. Lights reflected off of the snow-covered pavement, though not quite as bright as the eternity of stars one sees whilst gazing above on a moonless night in Tanzania.

As the bus gained momentum and speed, complements of the subtle downhill around East 44th Street, I reached down only to realize there were no seat belts like those on the Dar Express. How I treasured them during moments of high speed. The shadows of people outside the windows flashed by my eyes like the goats and cattle herded by small Maasai children, dust kicking up from their every step. The slightest turn of the bus driver’s wheel felt like the windy road right leading up from Lake Manyara. Suddenly the bus jolted to a stop, just past the Kenyan consulate, bringing me back to the snow-covered sidewalks and pavement.

The chill from the opening bus doors brought me back to First Avenue, from this









to this…









Thankfully, despite the incredible strength of the throbbing pace, I still manage moments when a few foot steps take me further and further away…

















**Recent Good/Interesting Reads**

Dead Aid; Aid and Other Dirty Business; I Dreamed of Africa; Little Bee; Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth; Angels of a Lower Flight: One Woman’s Mission to Save a Country…One Child at a Time; The Shadow of the Sun

Dear Sweet Viona

Many of you may recall Viona, a young child from Shalom who had been battling cancer. For about 18 months, she was at Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, where she received very good treatment, love, care and school lessons!  In fact, during my visit in November 2009, the nurses and Doctor told us that Viona was a star student and was getting on quite well.

I had the privilege of visiting Viona on several occasions in 2009 and 2010, as well as knowing her as a strong and healthy child whilst at Shalom. Days before I left Tanzania in November 2010, Mama Warra alerted me that the doctors sent the young child home, for there was nothing else that could be done. Mama Warra and I consoled one another, confident that God was in control and would care for His little child. Nevertheless, our tears wet each others shoulders as our embrace acted as a source of strength.  I attempted to compose myself before going to greet the children so as to sidestep their detection of my sorrow. The familiar hallway from Mama Warra’s room to the office seemed like summit night on Kilimanjaro, dark, cold and ever-long. Soon enough though it was as if I’d make it to the peaks of Uhuru (“freedom”), as I found Viona mid-laughter with some of the other children. They were preparing to make beautiful pictures with crayons. She looked quite strong and healthy that day and the one thing that never left her face was her huge smile. The smile of course, had transformed from that of a baby girl with all her small teeth, to a growing young lady, with haphazard gaps about her mouth, waiting anxiously for the adult teeth to arrive.

Viona certainly had more strength than most seven year olds and each time I visited with her I was reminded of that.

I am so sad to share with you that I received word this past weekend that Viona’s battle is over, for she is resting in the loving arms of God now. On Saturday, 8 January 2011, she lost her brave fight with the tumors which ravaged her young body for several years. Some of the children and staff will be attending the funeral services for the little peanut on Tuesday. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

July 2009

November 2009

September 2010