A Christmas to remember in Njombe

A Christmas to remember!

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season! Although, for the first time, I am away for Christmas several happenings reminded me of nyumbani without feeling too nostalgic (actually made me smile).

On Christmas Day, Betty and I were at the Kibena Market and I was surprised to hear "Petit Papa Noël" on Radio Africa. A "classic" Christmas carol for me. Those of you who met Betty will not be surprised to read that she knew the lyrics and began to dance. We also sang and danced to "Jingle Bells" at a local music store. There is something quite special about hearing "Silent Night" in Swahili - Usiku Mtakatifa. Overall, family gatherings, multilingual singing, and dancing characterize the holiday season in Njombe.

December 26th was a happy day for the orphans and their caregivers invited to the Kibena Women's Association (KWA) Orphanage/Boxing Day at the Kibena club. KWA initiated "Orphanage Day" last year and hopes to carry on with this annual event in the future.

KWA is a group of 10 women offering support to 16 orphans (3-15 years old) and their caregivers living in Kibena village through a variety of activities, including home visits to distribute essential supplies such as sugar, rice, and soap. The members of KWA are teachers, nurses, and accountants volunteering their time. Most of the orphans' parents passed away from HIV-AIDS and several of the children are also HIV positive. Caregivers include members of the extended family such as elderly grandparents and neighbors, struggling to support their own families. KWA funds its activities mainly through yearly membership fees and the women's additional personal contribution (not counting the incalculable hours volunteered). Supplementary moneys are also obtained from local and international donations.

A total of 26 orphans were present for the Boxing Day festivities, in addition to the children supported by KWA, the group invited 11 orphans and their caregivers from the neighboring Kofu Orphanage Centre.

Members of KWA arrived early at the Kibena club to decorate the room; balloons and pink and white draperies were hung from the ceiling and contributed to the festive ambiance. The group of women had been preparing this event for quite some time and they were eager to distribute the gifts to the children. KWA sponsored the lunch and purchased school supplies, shoes, uniforms, blankets, and soap for the children. Also, KWA offered blankets and soap to members of the Kofu Orphanage Centre to distribute to the orphans in their community. Each child's "goodie" package was carefully prepared to best respond to their needs.

Guests of honor including, the District Adult Education Officer, the Chair of the Njombe Youth Development Association, and the Kibena village Chairman, offered the children their gifts. In addition, no event in Tanzania goes without dancing and singing, the KWA members and guests soon filled the dance floor to the sounds of rhythmic Swahili music. It is not possible to stay sitting down during this time, even if you are like me and have no rhythm! Games were organized for the children including musical chair and a version of "Simon Says"; which would have been difficult to play as I am still confused about the names of the body parts in Swahili.

The celebration's atmosphere echoed the true spirit of Christmas. KWA brought together community members, leaders, children, and their caregivers to share a meal and enjoy this special day. Christmas time is often a moment when there is magic in the air and dreams come true. For most of the children and their caregivers, having access to the materials distributed was a dream come true! Oh yes and Betty was Santa Claus! This is a Christmas that I will remember.

I don't feel that this brief description does justice to the benevolence and dedication of the KWA members nor to the happiness that KWA brought to the children and their caregivers that day, however I hope it does provide a glimpse into the resourcefulness and type of activities that are organized by community groups here, like KWA.

Star TV and the Njombe local radio station were also present. The Kibena village Chairman visited Betty the next day to thank KWA and congratulate its members. Indeed, Hongera Sana for a wonderful day!

In addition to Highlands Hope and other international contributors, I would like to extend a special asante sana to my family and friends for their donations to KWA.

Wishing you all New Year Njema,