African Thanksgiving by Bob Bauge

Airborne again this time for a short business trip to Houston where I was several weeks ago before leaving work for a Thanksgiving vacation of volunteering and exploring Tanzania, Africa .  
Having usually traveled to warm weather beaches, snowy slopes or tourist attractions,  East Africa was off the beaten path.  More than one occasion I questioned why my lovely girlfriend and I were off to Tanzania?  From time to time, I had volunteered with various projects in the US with Habitat for Humanity, while these short experiences where helpful in the decision to travel to Africa, nothing would prepare me for the actual experience. We were off to help in an area of the world where, if the roads and highways were paved, they were one lane,  drinking water is from a bottle,  reliably power is an oxymoron. We had left the conveniences of first world for the unmet need of the third.  Some people here survived on $2 a day, some even less, others profited thru graft on the generosity of the kind.  The experience taught me that aiding those in need is difficult without supervision on the ground.  In the short time we spent at the clinic, we could see that even though the temperature was not unbearably hot, dehydration, malnutrition, and illness from waterborne disease were common among those patrons of the Just Us Friend medical clinic.

The purpose of our short visit was to assist with a few projects already started at the Good Hope Orphanage and recently opened Just Us Friends Medical clinic.  While there, we were also going to get a look around and take a few days to explore the wildlife in surrounding national parks.  

In Tanzania, there is much confusion, not just from the language barrier but everyone talks about everything and it seems much is discussed during the day.  From time to time, at times seems to stand still, there are spaces and pauses to think and wait as schedule and direction change.  Since very few processes are automated or digital, it takes much longer to accomplish simple tasks and much team work needs to be employed.  They say “it takes a village.”  I now understand that saying.  Not surprisingly cell phones are plentiful.   

As a city, the city of Arusha is a busy town, which is struggling to modernize.  Car, Bicycles, safari vehicles, dala-dala (common taxis)  and workers pushing or pulling their loads of construction materials or produce, all share the road.   After we arrived to a warm welcome from the Just us Friends, founding doctor, Jasen Benton, we were off to the clinic and thru those busy streets.

While in Arusha we helped with some infrastructure type projects. I assisted with a drainage improvement project around the clinic.  The project re-routed water from the nearby CMU block plant  (neighbor) and move it away from the orpanage and down the driveway.   Additionally, the cooking shed was removed and an outside food prep area that typically became muddy was paved to drain.  We often visited town to eat or purchase supplies as well as investigate solar hot water and get the well water tested.  With the water test, we are one step closer to getting clean drinking water on the compound. Just as we were getting settled into the projects it was time to leave and see the beautiful nature and amazing animals just a few hours away.  We were truly blessed to be with a superb guide on Just Good Safari’s earlier trips and to see the abundance of wildlife.  We we returned 3 days later to Arusha we engaged Ben’s expertise (Green Living Planet) and set out on a team building project to planting a dozen banana trees and clean up of burn site.  While we were gone, Ben purchased trash barrels and I put together a drawing for a trash cart and storage unit.  Now there is an option for trash.

The most difficult part about the trip to Africa was coming home, not just the 4 stops on the way and and nearly 3o hours of travel.  It was: leaving the children we met  and grew to love at the Good Hope Orphanage in Arusha and the Kynongony Orphanage, the new friends and those on the team that works tirelessly to help those less fortunate.  Would I return to Africa again and again…you bet.

Just Us Friends is a Public Charity, home based in Arlington, Tx…

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