Dear friends of Sister Helena and Zeru Zeru Simama Sasa.
I send you greetings from a soggy and happy Christmas holiday time in Lamadhi. You don’t know me yet. My name is Mama Joy, and I am quite blessed to be spending three months with these beautiful “children of God” at the center.
Sister Helena asked me to send you holiday greetings, as she has neither the time nor the solar capacity to use her computer to do it herself. I have come to Mwanza on the bus this morning, for this express purpose of writing to you (and also to send greetings to my friends in America, who think I have fallen off the map.).
We’ve had very interesting holiday adventures in the two weeks since I arrived. There were some vociferous demonstrations around the country, and even more tear gassing, as a police response, to the chronically corrupt regime, around election time…
Then a few days later, Sister and I headed out to the closest honest (i.e. non-government) hospital, in Mukula, with a very pregnant teenager named Hridaya. It was an exciting two-mile walk, then an hour ride on a wash-board dirt road to get there. The hospital staff was incredibly kind and competent, and did a marvelous job…especially considering there was no running water, and only intermittent electricity there.
By 9 p.m. (or tatu usiku, in Swahili terms), Hridaya was holding a tiny baby girl, named Noella Joy. We returned home the next day. The kids were quite thrilled with the newest arrival.
The next night, Christmas eve, Sister and I were sloshing around on the flooded village paths, looking for infant formula for Noella Joy. We had to travel to the next village for it.
Any adventure with Sister is fine with me. We sang “Jingle Bells” as we hiked in the dark. As you may know, Sister Helena never does anything halfway, so we went all out with the Christmas tree and the manger scene. Some of our kids had never seen either. I brought sacks of stuffed animals and clothes from America, which Sister had requested….but it seems to me that nothing holds its fascination like bottle caps and wrappers and plastic bottles.
Or for little Susie, it’s shoes.
Many of the children are home with their parents for the holidays….and several of the older children who are here will be going back to their boarding schools on the 10th of January.
Meanwhile, we’re having a wonderful time, trading language lessons, and clapping games, and dancing and yoga classes, and just lots of snuggling with the youngest ones. There are at least eight babies under the age of two, and several more coming soon.
The older girls and blessed Mama Miriam and and Sister never cease caring for the tiniest. I’m slowly learning to draw the water from the well, and cook some meals, and do my share, but I’m still a pretty useless “mzungu” by contrast.
On Christmas Day itself, I pulled out the big Santa Claus that a shopkeeper in Mwanza (named Flora) had given me, for the children. At first they were a little worried about this fellow, but by the next day, he too was part of the family.
Sister Helena refuses to “feel fear,” as she often says, and is the first person in this area of Tanzania to bring her children out into public, as much as possible….so that the local people can see and feel and hear how adorable and intelligent and human our kids are.
On Christmas afternoon, we all went out to a neighbor’s party.
When I asked Sister who all these people were, (the 30 or 40 folks gathered), she explained that our Sukumo host had many wives, and it was all his family. Oh.
There were just a couple of very drunk people dancing when we arrived. I must have been tapping my foot, because someone (less drunk) then asked me to dance. With Sister’s approval, I started to dance, to a chorus of ullele approval by the women.
Within minutes, most of the women were joining me. My status as a foreign Mzungu seemed to shift into the sister/dada category within the hour.
Then our kids, upon seeing this transformation, overcame their own shyness, and jumped into the act with equal exuberance.
And the goat-flavored rice and soda pop was a big hit with the kids. They and Sister seem to put away astonishing amounts of food …. yet no one is fat, by any means.
In fact, everyone is shining.
Social workers from many provinces are taking note of Sister’s magic with the children, and are increasingly requesting her services. The next child who will be arriving is a two year old who has no arms or legs. Sister is so eager to embrace and begin to let this little one feel his own self-worth and beauty.
This has truly been a Christ-mass for me, and I wanted to share it with you.
Happy Holidays, from Sister Helena,
the kids and me,