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A Community in Crisis

Forgive me please, as I am not a parent. I never have been a parent. However, I have, at forty-five, two newly adopted sons. Well, I should say two sons to help by assisting with schooling, donating time and being generally available. I am sadly the only male role figure in these young lives to offer any kind of love. These children are destitute, unwanted and unloved, desperate for attention and needing love. My family grows daily, as does the work here in East Africa.

I write from Arusha in Northern Tanzania. We at our charity work with street children and/or orphaned children within our community. Every day someone dies here; last week the neighbour next to our office died from HIV/AIDS – she contracted this from her husband – and now her five-year-old daughter will be following the mother shortly as she also has the disease.

A group of three adults, Pantaleo Saho, Amani Minja and myself, have founded a charity aimed at communities helping themselves. We do not accept aid; funds from outside our community are not encouraged.

Funders have, in the past, have used us for their own political gain – we found this to frustrate the work we do here. We have discovered funding does not really work for us. Now that we are independent we have wings, we are free to help one another, following our vision to build a stronger community – being proud to be Tanzanian.

We are overwhelmed with the children, though – how to help them best? No one wants them and their future looks bleak. We look to link with people who are able to send letters to children to encourage them. These letters have such a wonderful effect on young children. Gifti, who is eleven years old and speaks no English, has received a letter from an eleven-year-old in Liverpool.

The letter talks about life in England and about football; Gifti loves football. Gifti treasures this letter and sleeps with it under his pillow. Every night he opens it and looks at it, unable to read it, but having had it read to him so many times he knows the letter by heart. We need letters from other children; or letters from parents to children; and from parents to single-parent families. Our community is in need of encouragement by way of old-fashioned letter-writing – finance we are sorting out through using tourism. We do not look to others, for this we believe creates a culture dependent on handouts. We, as a community, if we accept funding, prostitute ourselves to survive. We encourage people to come and work on a voluntary basis as this is constructive and beneficial to all parties.

If you are able to help encourage a child or single parent long-distance by letter, it would be greatly appreciated. Money is not the issue here – the issue is help and encouragement of our women and children to persevere and strive for a better quality of life in difficult circumstances.

I have experience in the safari industry and because of this, a safari “ground operation” project to help raise funds has been established. The profits from this company go into the community projects.

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