I’m glad to announce that after an unusually hot March, I think the rainy season has finally arrived. It’s a few weeks late, which is very unusual and has been frightening to the local farmers. I’ve been staring at the skies for the past three weeks begging the rain to come, and today it finally listened with a few showers. Hopefully it will continue, as the region desperately needs the rain in order to feed the thousands of families who rely on this month of rain to feed themselves for the rest of the year. Also, because I’m very weary of hot, hot, hot, every single day!
Lately things have been fairly normal and, as usual, busy. I did not get the chance to begin my research project yet, as they have been facing a few delays in their preparations, but hopefully that will start up soon! However, it’s probably been a good thing that I’ve been at Amani full time this month, because it’s been extra busy in the health room. The first two weeks were spent mainly in the hospital little Babuu who has made a great recovery. None of his symptoms have come back so far, and we are still praying that there is no lingering illness inside him that will resurface.
The last two weeks of March were also busy because of the many new kids who arrived at Amani. Our normal total is somewhere around 70, but right now, we are housing 96 children. Each new child who arrives requires a trip to the hospital for check ups and testing, which means I’ve spent many hours in the hospital lately! It’s easy to get caught up in hospital visits and the rhythm and habits of the job, and I often forget the reality of where and with whom I am working. Most days, the kids at Amani just seem like normal kids, a bit crazy, but basically an average kid growing up in Tanzania. Once in awhile, something will happen that makes me suddenly remember how every child at Amani has gone through the most extreme hardships, all facing some combination of abandonment, abuse, neglect, poverty and homelessness. Last week was one of those weeks where I couldn’t continue to hide all the stories in a corner and pretend that things are normal. I’ll share a few stories that I faced during the past week:
Arnold is fairly new to Amani, and as the nurse and I were opening his health file, we listened as he explained the circumstances that brought him to Amani. Arnold described his life back home as very abusive. His father was an alcoholic who frequently would come home and beat or burn Arnold for no reason. One night, Arnold’s father came home drunk and violently lashed out at Arnold with a knife, severely cutting nearly all the way around his arm. After lying at home unconscious for some time due to blood loss, an uncle came to help Arnold and took him to the hospital. After recovering, neither the uncle nor Arnold was willing to inform the police because of fear of what the father might do. Arnold eventually left home, and not long after ending up on the streets, Amani social workers found Arnold and brought him to Amani.
My last newsletter, I posted a picture from the Kilimanjaro Marathon. While I was jogging the 5K, I ran into three boys who were obviously street children. One of them in particular caught my attention, because he was so small and so, so adorable. I jogged next to him for awhile, trying to find out his story. All that I could gather was that he was sleeping at the bus station in Moshi. I told him about Amani and invited him to come stay there, but that was the end of it. Over a month later, I showed up to Amani one morning, and there he was, little Colman with his unforgettable face, sitting in the health room, speaking with the nurse. She also took immediate notice of Colman, but mostly because he was very sickly looking. Fungus, flu, cold, skin disease, etc. She was worried about HIV being a possible factor, and immediately took him to the clinic to get tested. Sure enough, Colman tested positive for HIV, and later we found out that he had already known about his status and started treatment back in his home village. This week, we are retrieving all of his old records and getting him restarted on treatment. This kid is so beautiful and has absolutely captured my heart in just the 6 days I have known him. I’ll never, ever forget his face.
The last story I’ll share is about an eleven year old girl named Agnes. Agnes also just entered Amani about ten days ago. Agnes’ story is just heartbreaking. After her mother died, she was sent to work as a house girl for another family. The mother of this family constantly abused Agnes, beating her regularly. The uncle of the household would rape her, though I’m not sure how often. Eventually, Agnes fled the household and was found roaming the streets of Moshi, occasionally being helped by a church, who reported her to Amani. As you can imagine, Agnes has some deep seated trauma and psychological issues as a result of everything she has survived in her short life. Less than a day after she arrived, I started noticing very odd behavior coming from her, and I quickly realized that not only does Agnes suffer from trauma issues, she very likely had some kind of psychological disorder even prior to the beatings and rapes. The day after Agnes arrived, she was found lying in the grass complaining about a stomachache because of the many crayons she had been eating. Later on that day she was brought into my office crying, shaking and screaming about her stomach, though she would refuse any medicine or treatment. She is often found running away from staff members, throwing rocks, whispering strangely in people’s ears, and most recently, eating the toxic disinfectant balls that are placed in the toilets and urinals. The other kids have definitely noticed Agnes’ strange behavior and are now even claiming that she is a witch, able to pass through walls magically. To my dismay, I found out this morning that over the weekend, Agnes ran away from the center, and we’re not sure if she has plans to return. The Tanzanian culture can often be very aggressive and unforgiving towards people who have mental disorders, so I am very concerned for her safety and well being. The streets at night are extremely dangerous for young women, so please be praying for Agnes’ safety as she looks for places to sleep, even tonight.
Yes, there are many heartbreaking stories like Agnes’ that I come across (and now maybe you see why I often tend to hide the heaviness of it all sometimes…just to get through the day), but thankfully there are some happy endings, many happy smiles, and a lot of laughter each day to help me keep going! I feel so privileged to be a part of these amazing and resilient kids’ lives.