I am sitting in the newly finished playroom/office at the Market Center.
It is the first time I have worked in our new office. The kids are sleeping. I smell onions and garlic cooking for the noon meal. Several of the staff are outside debating the arrangement of the playground equipment. They are laughing and talking in fast Swahili. Their easy comradery is obvious. Nearby a radio is playing an upbeat song. All of the windows and doors are open and a breeze is blowing. My best friend from college (circa 1999), Kim Dean, is busy painting brightly colored animals on the walls.
Kim is here for ten days, an encouragement and blessing in human form. This coming Wednesday the kids, 20 now at the Market Center, will move into this playroom. We are excited that their numbers have grown enough to need the extra space. In two days my oldest turns ten! Ten glorious years of Camille. She is full of life and love and bursting with potential. I love the way she thinks, the way she processes the world, and the way she is integrating all of her unique experiences into an amazing worldview. I cannot wait to see what God will do with this girl.
I do not feel old enough to have a ten-year-old, to have a university friend for 19 years, or to have this life. I am so thankful for every second. Today I am in a “count your many blessings” mood, and my blessings are numerous.
Last week was exciting for our ministry. On Friday we had an esteemed visitor. The Commissioner of Social Welfare, the highest government official over our line of work, came from Dar Es Saleem to view some of the many projects happening in Arusha. Somehow The Walk In Love Kisongo Center ended up on his short list of places to visit. To say I was nervous was an understatement. All week I felt his visit looming in the tension of the muscles in my neck. By the time Friday arrived I was strung tight like a piano string. The Commissioner was supposed to arrive around 12:30pm, we waited and waited….and waited…until his entourage of 15 VIPs finally arrived at 2:30pm. He swept in, emanating power and confidence… and then he did the most unexpected thing. Instead of sitting down to hold court and listen to our carefully prepared speech, he walked around the facility, asking questions and really listening to our answers. He genuinely wanted our feedback about starting a daycare center. He was very interested in the impact the center was having on the community. He said that our project was a new idea and that he had not previously considered how a daycare could help to care for vulnerable children. We talked about the difficult process of reintegrating children into families after being in an orphanage, and how we could be a resource in that situation. He told the other officials from Arusha to stay in contact with us. He said he personally looked forward to talking to us more in the future.
You guys, we have been open for seven months. In our wildest dreams we could not have imagined getting this kind of feedback so early. The commissioner was impressed with our focus on family unity. By his own words he said that our project was what Tanzania needs right now. Before his visit, my mom asked me what would be the best-case-scenario outcome. My answer was that the commissioner would see our vision, that he would appreciate our innovative response to a complicated problem, and that we could enter into the nationwide conversation as Tanzania shifts away from institutionalized care towards a family-based care model for vulnerable children. Without a doubt we got the best case scenario and more! We would love to have input into the smooth transition towards utilizing family-based resources to decrease the dependency on institutionalization. Daycare is such a simple resource, but it can definitely be the game changer for families in crisis.
Even though we are rubbing elbows with dignitaries (<– sarcasm font), it is our goal to keep our project small. We want to be in the community. We want to show that you can really have low cost, high quality care for children in a Tanzanian setting. Last week we had great conformation of the impact our centers are making. On Monday a dad came in to sign up his child at the Market Center. This father shared that his wife had run away, and he had been taking care of his son by himself. He had been leaving his two-year-old in the home alone while he went to work. He said he would try to come and check on him and occasionally a neighbor would help, but most days his son would be unsupervised for hours. He was almost in tears as he filled out the paperwork, because we were the very answer to his prayers.
Our project is working! This kind of feedback is better than any words a government official could say. We are making a difference for kids and their families. We are so thankful to be able to do this. It is a blessing that God chose us to be here at this time to do this work. Walk In Love helps families, we need you to make it possible!
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