The days of 2018 have grown wings and flown by! Since I last blogged, we have watched our dream of a sustainable, affordable daycare become a reality! I have felt like the mother of Frankenstein, watching our creation go from a crazy dream to a living, breathing reality. IT’S ALIIIIVE! On December 23, 2017 the Ministry of Social Welfare gave us the green light to start accepting children. They were thrilled with the outcome of our building, and on board with our plan. They have so embraced the idea of having many small daycare centers throughout the city, to the point that they had some great suggestions on the most needed location of our next center.
Instead of using words, today I am going to use pictures to show you how we went from newly born to up and running in six weeks.
After getting approval from Social Welfare, we immediately starting holding parent interviews. We had already had several meetings with pastors and community leaders about our organization, asking them to identify and send people who met our criteria. Our goal with the Kisongo Center was to target single parent families and families in poverty that could benefit from both parents working outside the home. The people that we met with were enthusiastic, and everyone could think of multiple families who would truly benefit from the daycare. On our first day of interviews, we met with 13 families and accepted 9 of those families (one child each) into our program. The woman in the yellow head scarf was our very first person through the gates. She is a grandmother caring for 9 children. Those that did not meet our criteria, either due to available finances or for other reasons, were told to come back after one month. One important thing to note, is that although I say that ‘we’ met with families. The truth is that our team of very amazing staff met with the families. We all agreed that my presence would be a distraction at best.
After the initial interviews, we realized that we did not have a suitable parent contract for the incoming families. One of the greatest joys has been working with the women in this (very dark) picture. These women, the staff of Walk In Love, have taken such ownership of the project. They also know their culture and are intimately aware of the tendency of people to take advantage of foreign aid. It is just a fact of working in a developing country with a long history of aid given. Aid and the way aid had been distributed has done much good and much harm. One of the biggest harms to Tanzania has been to create a culture that sees a white person as a money tree. This was why I did not participate in the interviews and one of the reasons why we determined we needed a significant parent contract. This allows us to head off major problems before it starts. The contract was almost entirely created by the Tanzanians at this table. They discussed, argued, added, and subtracted until we ended up with a 15 point contract that each parent had to sign. One of the things that was repeated at this table, was the fact that the daycare was a project like no other and a privileged for the families. It is the responsibility of the parent to not abuse the opportunity. If the contract is not followed, there are many other people eager to take their place.
This is contract signing day! These first 9 families all came to the center to sign their parent contracts the day before the grand opening. We read each item aloud, since some of our mothers cannot read. There was much excitement at the table and they gladly signed. One of the best things we did in our contract was to give each family the first two months free. This supports our belief that these single parent families have not been able to work because they have stayed home to care for their young children. After the first two months, each family will pay 20,000 Tsh (about $10) per month. Could we give this service away for free? Yes. Should we give this service away for free? Absolutely not. The payment is vital to the parent buying in to the ideas that we believe. This is a valuable service. If it is working like we hope, then 20,000 Tsh will be easy to pay because the parents have utilized the resource to improve their family situation. All of the income will go right back into supporting the daycare.
The Grand Opening was January 15, 2018!!!! Otherwise known as, IT’S ALIIIVE!!! On the first day we had 9 children enrolled. I arrived I felt like someone who had worked months to plan a huge party and then one the day of, wondered if anyone was going to come. As each child arrived, I had to hold back my tears. Eight kids came that day. It was so exciting to see the community embrace this idea. I know it sounds crazy, but there are NO COMMUNITY RESOURCES like this in the Arusha area. Daycare, a safe place to leave your young children, is unheard of. We had two women who were so excited to bring their children to Walk In Love, because they were about to have to take them out to the village to live with extended family, so that they could stay in town and work. Through Walk In Love, these kids can stay with their parents in a much safer environment. This picture is the kids having their first breakfast. We opened before our table was ready, so we sat on the mat. It was also very special to have my mom here for the grand opening. She made a fabulous cake for the exciting day, that unfortunately we did not get a picture of.
Here are some more pictures of our first week. I wanted to get all the staff represented. This is Jennifer and Mary playing blocks with the kids.
Glory making lunch.
Mo (guard and gardener) swinging with Agape.
Nap time. I was worried that the older kids would not take a nap, but they all go right to sleep. It is normal for kids to wake up at dawn, so they are pretty sleepy by 2pm.
All through our first week, we had families coming in for admission interviews. On Monday of the first week we opened with 9 kids enrolled, by Friday we had 12 kids enrolled and a kid-sized table.
During the second week we hired a new staff member. Her name is Riziki and she is a fabulous nanny! Click here to see her singing with the kids (and while you are there, go ahead and like our Facebook page).We are so happy to have her on our Walk In Love team.
On February 20, five weeks after opening, we enrolled our ‘final’ child. Due to the size of our building, Social Welfare capped us at 25 kids. We actually have 27 enrolled, but we have found that we never have perfect attendance. With 27 kids we normally have 22 kids on any given day. Here we are with two full tables of kids eating lunch. What a difference from the first day! It has been six weeks of trial and error. We have been working on the menu, the schedule, job descriptions, and safety plans. We have been working with parents to train them on what to bring each day and getting them to show up on time to pick up their child. The nannies have been working on getting the kids adjusted to the environment, staff, and schedule. With new kids every week, it has been a huge task. Most of them have stopped crying when they see a white person (Matt, Kelly Mollel, or myself) walk through the gate. Every decision we have made has been filtered through the belief that we can succeed in doing this in a way that is reproducible as a Tanzanian business. We have held fast to using local process, right down to local style cloth nappies and menus.
Matt and I are so very happy! The last six weeks could not have gone better! We are so thankful and cannot wait to see what impact this has on the families in our community. We have already received plenty of positive feedback and know that several of our single parents have found jobs and are excited to be bringing home an income. We are so thankful that we have the full support of Social Welfare, to the point that we have already been meeting with them on possible expansion (more on that soon!).
Here are our prayer requests:
1. Fundraising!!! We need more support. I know many of you have been waiting for me to say that we are ready for you to jump on the support train. NOW IS THE TIME. Head over to our webpage, www.walkinloveTZ.org and click on that Paypal button. Put “Daycare” in the memo line.
2. Wisdom in decision making as we navigate a totally new project area.
3. Health, safety, and spiritual growth for ourselves, our staff, and the kids in our program.
4. Continued strengthening of the relationships that we have made with our staff and community.
We are so thankful for each of you and your support of Walk In Love. If you have not done so already, please follow us on facebook at: www.facebook.com/walkinloveTZ and Instagram at: www.instagram.com/walkinlovetz/