Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ali's Youth Group Develops a Bio - Intensive Garden

Another exciting event recently! Ali is a neighbor and youth Leader/teacher at the mosque in our village. He started a youth group to teach life skills and disease prevention (HIV/AIDS) after attending our workshop for Primary teachers. He asked me for a contribution of some seeds, then explained that he was teaching permaulture and bio-intensive gardening to his youth group. John got a few pictures to document this and I shared these at the new volunteer training I was doing with Peter Jensen ( Agriculture specialist who taught Ali these methods at Kongei Primary gardens) this week in Morogoro.

Rose's Garden Revisited

17 September 2009
By Randee Edmundson, PCV TZ
Rose’s Garden
I talked with Rose at Nice’s office, an NGO – For Youth Development and Controlling AIDS in Lushoto. I was there to see what she would want to do at her garden when Peter Jensen returned – one year after developing her bio-intensive garden next to her house. Peter is an agricultural specialist working in several East African countries and specifically all over Tanzania to improve the nutrition of people. Peter wanted to come back to Rose’s garden. He seemed to feel hope that things could improve for her family with the garden and he enjoyed working with Rose, her children and her friends.
Rose, this day was not feeling well. She explained that her legs were swelling, she had a cold and her energy was low. As we talked, she told me of the problems with the garden. There is not enough water to sustain growth to get much food; she cannot get water carried up the mountain for basic needs of cooking, drinking, and washing. She is discouraged and tired. I listen. I tell her Peter does not have to come next week. I said I could come after the rains start and we can prepare the beds. To this idea she replied adamantly, “No, I want Peter to come. But, I do not want to have all the friends and people. I just want my family and a few close friends.” I offered to provide lunch for people. She again replied, “No, I want to make tea and lunch for Peter and you and family. I can do this, I want do this.”
So we made a plan. She assured me that her children and neighbors could get the buckets of water and manure needed brought to the house. Peter and I would bring the charcoal pieces we wanted to try adding this time to capture more water and also drinking water for people while they worked.
It is a privilege to know Rose. She has a strength one can sense. I remember sitting in her living room for the first time last year with Nice. I had come to talk to her about the garden she wanted to make by her house. I had arranged for Peter to come teach us bio-intensive gardening methods by developing her garden the first time. Sitting with her, I read the greeting cards from birthdays past displayed on her coffee table. She showed me her family picture album, explaining who was who at different events. Her husband on their wedding day, her children when they were small held by her mother and husband. I had heard parts of her family story months earlier at the Girls’ Leadership Workshop where she was the guest speaker on “living with HIV/AIDS”. But this time I heard new pieces of her story as we viewed the pictures. They married, they had three children, a girl, a boy and then the youngest girl named Upendo (love). Then he got sick and was diagnosed with AIDS. He died and she then got tested. She, too, was infected with HIV. When we first met she was taking medications. In Tanzania, you cannot get medications until the disease has progressed -- so the medications can give you enough years to maybe raise your children.
Talking to her you know she loves her children and she loved her husband. She is a woman that is determined to have a normal life – with the years she has left. She is physically and mentally strong, she is able, she is determined to provide for her children together with them so that they are equally independent and strong, relying on each other. And did I mention...Rose has the most beautiful smile.
Last year, when Peter came to develop a garden with Rose and her children together with friends and neighbors, some who are also living with HIV/AIDS, we learned how to prepare a small garden close to her house that can grow more food in a small space. Nutrition is so important to the success rate of using medications to reduce the HIV viral load and to extend your life with AIDS. These bio-intensive gardening methods help by providing highly nutritious vegetables and fruits near the house when the person living with AIDS and their family has less energy and less money to manage. And many times, without a spouse because of death or stigma. In addition, Tanzania is having increasing length of the dry season and even drought due to global climate change. These methods can also capture more water and hold it when the rains finally do come. Rose’s first garden was two beds each one meter by three meters. We planted local beans, spinach, and orange sweet potatoes. We also planted a small perennial garden including a papaya tree, lemon grass, aloe vera and a highly nutritious edible green that is a ground cover as well.

What is really important to know is that the soil by her house was very poor before preparing the first beds. This is because her house and all the houses around Lushoto are in the Usambara Mountains such that when a house is built a wedge is cut out of the mountain to make a flat level platform, removing any top soil and leaving only deep subsoil around the house. In preparing the garden, Peter found the soil rock hard and lacking nutrients and fiber. It could not absorb water, but instead, water ran off the land down the mountain. For those first beds we used the double-digging method to break-up the hard subsoil layer as deep as possible, we made the beds flat like a table top and added manure to the bottom layer and to the top – one bucket per meter length. This was our way of capturing rain when it fell on the flat tops and catching any of the water running down from above, dropping into the deep beds of light loamy soil.
Coming back a year later, Peter wondered, “Did it work in these impossible poor soil conditions?”, “How did Rose and her children manage, with health and school and work challenges, to sustain the garden in a year when the area was experiencing the lowest water levels in the lifetime of the people of Lushoto?”
Peter returned on a Thursday morning in September 2009 to find three more beds prepared by the family next to her house and a series of shorter beds terraced next to the path as you walk down the mountain to the main town of Lushoto from her house.
People arrived soon after Peter and I. Rose’s oldest daughter was preparing food for the lunch meal and also, tea with lemon grass for a mid-morning tea break. Peter began digging one of the beds that was laying dormant, waiting for the rains before planting again. He was amazed! The digging was easy and the soil was a dark rich brown with lots of tiny roots making the soil light and also it was sticky showing that water was being held. This difference was clear. Double-digging and adding manure allowed the plant roots to grow deep and break-up the hard subsoil. The water was able to sink and stay, giving the bacteria moisture to continue to move down, breaking up and enriching the soil- lower and lower. Peter was so excited that at the end of the day he collected soil samples to take to Dar es Salaam for testing, comparing it to the hard orange subsoil next to the garden beds.
By the end of the morning, we had re-dug and prepared three beds and reshaped two more beds that were already planted with spinach. Peter worked on the lower beds to shape the trenches between beds directing the water to go from bed to bed when the rains come. Rose dug and planted seeds, her son dug and added manure, Upendo added charcoal and mixed the manure into the beds and the eldest daughter put lunch on the table for all to eat and rest and talk after the work was finished.
The energy and ease with which the family worked together was visible. I knew today was different from the day we first talked about lack of water, the difficulties with her health and with managing alone in hard times. Rose could see the rich deep soil and the confirmation from Peter that her work to build and maintain the garden for a year had changed the land, her home and the home of her children in a sustainable way. This garden has brought a renewed sense of control and accomplishment for the family. For Rose, when hope comes, you can see it in the way she kindly takes the jembe from your hands, enjoying the swing and the sinking into the deep soil that brings nourishment to her family. She has hope for more nutritious food this year and enough food in the future in a small, manageable space next to their home.
Seeing her children carry on the good lessons learned brought a broad smile to her face as Peter took a family photo to document the day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Celebration to Open the New Teacher House and Standard 7 Graduation

Here are a few photos from the celebration to open the new teacher housing and the Standard 7 Graduation. This event was the first ever graduation ceremony at Kongei Primary School!

The story to come!

Trip Jounal from a visit to Lake Tanganika

Here is a journal excerpt from a friend who visited us in Tanzania. Enjoy!

Notes on my trip to Tanzania - June 5 - 19, 2009 -- Edie Pierce-Thomas

Flying to Tanzania is not your usual flight. I have flown 13 hour non-stop flights but three flights with two being 8 or 9 hours each can take something out of you. fortunately I slept whenever my body would allow and so arriving in TZ left me fresh and ready to go. I experienced no jet lag going - or coming home! John and Randee were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. They even had a driver waiting - his name was Eddie! Though I didn't feel jet lagged, I enjoyed catching up briefly with Randee before going to sleep that first night.
On Sunday we went to visit their friend Peter whose lives in a large gated house that is very comfortable. He and his wife work for the US there and the house is provided. Quite a contrast to what I saw later!
Monday we flew to Kigoma. Looking out the window of the Precision Air plane I could see the dessert as we flew over but not much more in terms of terrain or wildlife. Kigoma sits on the coast of Lake Tanganyika and we found rooms in a very nice hotel up on the hill overlooking the bay. there was a gazebo that was the perfect night spot to watch the sunset over the water. One needs to be prepared, however, for Tanzania’s time. We ordered dinner about 6 PM and ate about 8:30 PM. It was tasty and the gazebo was a pleasant place to sit and the weather was beautiful such that it was a nice way to pass the time as we waited.
In the morning the manager of the hotel was also our 'taxi' and our boat handler. For a $150 he accompanied us to Gombe Stream National Park three hours by water north of Kigoma. The boat was relatively small but it felt special to have three men taking just the three of us up the lake.
We arrived around 10:30am or so. We paid our park, guide and room fees; put down our luggage and took off by 11:15am with our guide to go look for the chimpanzees. As we left camp, we walked past Jane Goodall's first house she had when she came here in the 1960s. It was built sometime in the 1970s. Before that she and her people were in tents. We soon came upon her current house. Since she is currently in the UK, researchers are staying in that house. Guests often stay in the first house as well.
It was about an hour hike straight up the overgrown green mountain when we came upon the F family. We first saw Tarzan, a small female - not sure why her name was Tarzan when she was part of the F family, but she was up in a tree eating a fruit that she would suck out the inside and then throw the remains down. We soon found several others taking a mid-day nap. There was Froto (Flo's grandson and Fifi's son) and several others of the F family. There were about 11 chimps around. They all looked slightly different. Some had white faces, some had black. Some had gray hair and others did not. While the relaxed they would spread their legs and arms all over the branches and trunks of the trees. Sometimes it did not look particularly comfortable, but apparently they were. They would lean their heads back. If there was another chimp around they would encourage some nit-picking. At one point there were at least four lined up each one nit-picking the one in front. Tarzan, the one who had been in the tree eating her fruit, swung along the branches and came down to the ground where the others were. There was one chimp with a newborn clinging to her chest.
After an hour or more of watching and hanging out with the chimps, we headed back to camp. It was humid enough and wearing long pants and all, Randee and I immediately got into our swimming suits when we got back and went swimming in Lake Tanganyika. The water was so clear and refreshing. We could see the fish and the bottom with no difficulty. Randee had rented a snorkel and mask and fins, so I just used her goggles and I could see well. I just had to remember to come up to breath! It was great to just relax a little.
It was very peaceful, no noise except the slopping of the water and the insects. We read and had coffee and tea and watched the baboons walking around camp. Being here reminded me of being at Ghandi's ashram last year - simple, open and where he/she works on their life mission.
When it was time for bed, Randee had to show me how to use the mosquito netting that hung over the bed. I had never actually seen one let alone use one. It is a bit cumbersome and it takes up more space from the bed then one would think it would. ...all part of the adventure.
I slept well and woke about at 6:30am to the sounds of what I thought was a thunderstorm. Fortunately it turned out to just be the wind. After breakfast we took off on our next Safari. We hiked up and soon found the G family - Gremlin, the mother; her two children, Gimlee and Gaia and Gaia's 6 day old baby. A professor and one of his grad students were there. He told us that Gaia is not a very good mother. Her babies are not strong but worse, her mother, Gremlin, as taken 4 of her babies (twins last year) and they have all died. This 6 day old baby appears to be weak. He told us that a baby should be able to grab and hold on to its mother by day 3 or 4 and this baby at 6 days needs to be supported by Gaia.
Gimlee, the toddler (between 3 and 5 years old) is curious about people and came up to me THREE times. Each time I walked away as I had been instructed to so avoid chimp/human exchange of germs. Each time he followed me until he gave up. The third time he showed his frustration with me as he swung his right arm in disgust. But it was soon forgotten when he noticed John's boot which he promptly knelt down to and licked. He was very entertaining! However, the grad student told us later how Gimlee is very interested in humans and they are trying to get him to ignore them more.
Soon after, the family of chimps headed up the path. We slowly followed behind and stopped along the way when they did. We reached Jane's Peak. This is where Jane Goodall sat in her initial days with a powerful telescope or binoculars and looked and listened to learn where the various groups of chimps were. We also looked and listened and with Randee's binoculars we saw the Red Colombus Monkey. Their tails must be 7 feet long! They jump from tree to tree and look like they are flying. Amazing! So we watched the G family and enjoyed the view of the mountains, monkeys and the lake. After a bit the G family disappeared and we soon left to hike to Kgombe waterfall. This is where Jane reportedly sat for an entire week waiting for the chimps to come to her out of their own curiosity. It apparently worked since as they say, the rest is history. We hung out at the falls for a while. John took a nap and Randee and I took pictures.

We then ventured to the feeding station where Jane and her researchers at one time fed the chimps bananas through a storage box they could pull-up on with a rope from a distance inside a shed when the chimps approached. They stopped feeding them in this manner around 2004 but will use it to give medicine via bananas if they have to. While at the feeding station, Randee and our guide did a little bird watching while John and I just took a break. Suddenly we looked up the path and were startled to see the T family. The T family appeared equally startled. What a wonderful surprise for us! We followed the three of them as they went down to the creek to drink and as they went into t he brush. Soon they climbed so high into the trees we lost track of them. They were Tonga, Tom and Tambora. It was so unexpected and an exciting extra perk!
That evening as I read comments in the guest book, some spoke of their wonderful visit to the park even though they were not fortunate to see any chimps. And we saw three families! What a treat.
Thursday we got up early to catch the public boat taxi back to Kigoma (for only about $3 each). This is a very large and deep boat with basically an empty hull. We sat along the edges and squished together. The hull carried the luggage and baskets of the people and only a few people chose to sit down there on the bottom. At one point John counted the number of people on the boat and counted 76. It could have easily have held 100. Most of the passengers were locals many with baskets to take to market and others going up and down the lake shore for various reasons. We rode back with our fellow Gombe Stream guests, two German doctors. They met in medical school which they attended in Ulm -where Volker and I lived. They knew Grimmelfingen and Kuhberg!
These large taxi boats are painted a teal blue with stripes on the outside. It was very colorful and very large. One of the guide books say they are safer than the smaller boat we took up the lake. The boat made several stops at the small villages along the lake as we travelled back to Kigoma. It was amazing to me how close to the shore they could get this humongous boat! When we finally arrived back at Kigoma, the wind pushed the boat sideways and they were having trouble getting as close to shore as they wanted. People were rushing to get off anyway. I was confused. John had gotten off, Randee was waiting and people were pushing to try to get pass me. Not sure what was happening, I decided I would take off my shoes and get out - I didn't mind walking in foot of water - it was clear, fresh and warm. Unfortunately, between my boots having shifted to one side of my backpack and the awkward ladder type contraption I lost my balance and ended up in the water on my butt! Boy did everyone think that was funny! Everyone on shore and in the boat were laughing - not helping me mind you - just laughing. Randee told me after we both were on shore that the Tanzanians always enjoy a good laugh when someone falls - it wasn't just that it was me - but that I fell! OK. I was a little concerned that everything in my backpack was wet and that the back of my white capris were now quite dirty, but when we finally arrived back to our hotel, I was pleased to learn that my backpack kept everything nice and dry! My capris are washable.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in town to have breakfast. John bought us 'street coffee' - coffee from a guy on the street that has the kettle attached to a tray of hot coals and a bucket full of little demitasses. It is strong stuff. We ate some fried pastries from a little shop. One had a hardboiled egg in the center of a potato based pastry. Very nice.
We walked up to our hotel deciding to stay at the same place as on our way out since we liked it so well. after settling and washing clothes, and checking my pack for wetness, we walked back to town to 'shop'. On the walk back I found a 10 Tshcillingi piece!! (That's less than 10 cents) However, I even find money in Africa - how cool is that! John took off on his own and Randee and I went shopping for a Kitange. I decided I would look for one to make a tablecloth and napkins. I found one for that and also another piece for capris and a top. And if there is enough left over, perhaps a bag.
The market is very close together - about 3 feet for the walking lane and the 'dukas' are all along on both sides. In some places there wasn't much light since the make-shift roofing in places overlapped . At a craft duka, Randee found a lovely beaded necklace.
The next day we flew back to Dar Es Salaam. We stayed with their Peace Corp friend, Peter. We walked to the local grocery store that catered to the Ex-Pats and when I walked in I saw a very European grocery market. The prices were also rather European. But if you are craving something from 'home' that was the place to get it.
On Saturday, June 13, 2009, we took a bus from Dar to almost Lushoto where we got off the bus and their neighbor, Ali met us to take our packs. Somehow mine did not make it onto his bike, but Asha, a young woman that cleans and waters the garden for Randee and John, also met us and though she was quite petite, she carried my backpack up the 5 K hike back to their place. Since I had a little intestine distress going on, I was happy to let her do that and pay her all of about $1.00 to do so. I walked slow as a result of my ailment and had to stop sometimes. Once Randee and Asha had to cover me with their Kitanges during one of my more distressful stops! I didn't feel like eating that evening. But I got 9 hours of sleep and I started to feel better.
Since the next day was Sunday we had thought of attending church but it seemed church was not being held locally that day and so we saw that as a sign to take it easy! We did yoga and laundry and visited with another teacher that had stopped by. John decided to bike to Lushoto. Randee and I walked up and saw the primary school and the house she had raised the money to help get built for teachers’ quarters. They wanted to have us for lunch and dinner while I was there to honor me as a donor. The house looked great and they assured us it would be complete by the time I left for home.
We stopped at the little duka in the village to buy sodas. I had them and as we stepped down a slippery, damp stone step, I slipped and I heard breaking glass. Oh, broken soda bottles with soda in them! But fortunately, only one broke - it could have been worse! According to Randee and John, to break things there is just part of daily life.
Monday we all biked to Soni. We planned to see the waterfalls and buy fresh roasted and locally grown coffee from a German priest by the name of Father Rudolf Lorenz or Attanis. John continued up the mountain to the next village to get port wine and macadamia nuts from some Brothers.
The biking is not the easiest. It is true cross country. The roads are rocky, and sometimes muddy, and there are ruts. The road turns and winds around. The view is spectacular! Green and mountainous 360 degrees. There are people walking between villages and they all greet us and Randee speaks with them - she says it is part of her job. Midway we went through two villages - Luwandai which was at a peak and had more wonderful views and Mshizii.
At Soni I bought two kilograms of coffee beans to bring home from the priest's coffee farm. The priest wasn't there when we stopped on our way to Soni so we continued on. We looked at Kangas and I found one I liked but it had a stain. It seemed many had flaws and we decided it was best to wait until we went to Lushoto. Randee and I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe (my language) that looked over the waterfalls. We had “chipsi mayai” which is scrambled eggs with French fries cooked into them. It was good - surprisingly.
On our way back to her place, Randee bought potatoes and carrots. Back at her house we 'showered' which means dumping water from a bucket over you, washing, and then dumping more water over you. It felt good after all the biking and getting sticky. We then got dressed in African attire to go to dinner at the vice-Principal's house - Ruben Masenga. I borrowed a dress from Randee and John took pictures of us in our local attire. At Masenga's house we watched the end of the Brazil-Egypt soccer game in the Fifa Confederate cup and saw the News where we learned of the Iran election debacle. Masenga's young sister cooked dinner for us - fresh chicken from their coop; a bean called soya but different from soy beans; a tomato basedsauce and fresh avocado. She also made fresh homemade passion fruit and avocado juice - it was the best juice I had ever drunk! Masenga escorted the three of us home in the dark. It had been a wonderful day.
Next - Lushoto. The biking was hard work going to Lushoto since it was 15 kilometers uphill on a rocky, bumpy, dirt road for the first 5 K and then the next 10 K were tar--- it was awful. It was gradual but constant. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to make it to the Montessori school where Randee wanted to buy cheese and jam. We then checked out the 'gift shop' (they also have a hostel) and I found the same kanga I had seen in Soni but it was in better condition and so I got it along with a dress for myself and a couple of little necklaces. Randee decided to have the exact same dress made for her sister-in-law and bought a shirt - for whom - not sure...
Trekking further on to Lushoto we stopped at a stationary store that also had some statues. I bought one for Volker or Oma and a wooden knife with a hippo on the end for Vida. Later I realized it was really a letter opener, but since she collects knives I decided to keep calling it a knife.
We ate at one of their favorite Lushoto eating spots and had ocean fish -with the scales, head and fins and all and I did OK with it. It also tasted good. We then went shopping in their market. I bought a Pashmina wool and silk shawl; a very intense purple kikoi ( later I learned it is really a man's fringed sarong but it will most likely be a shawl for m. I also bought a painting done with a knife instead of brushes of Massai women. I also bought a scarf for Rozi, banana gum for Philip, a little Chai spice and a little tea. It rained and it got heavier and heavier as the day went on so when we decided to go back to Randee's it was a constant shower. The ride down the hill was fun though wet. The last 5 K were now not only rocky and bumpy but also muddy and slightly uphill. It was nice to get back and bathe and have some tea and get into dry clothes.
I showed John my purchases and after supper Randee and I went through all of her clothes she had purchased over time and discussed options of things to do with them all. John gave me his graduation shirt for Volker - lots of embroidery and sort of a purple tie-dyed material.
On Thursday we took the bus to Moshi - a longer ride than I expected. We stayed at the Backpacker's Hotel instead of the YMCA and it was in the center of the city. We found a restaurant that had a balcony and from there we got a look at Kilimanjaro. It came out albeit briefly - but it came out! We shopped a little more - I bought Erika and myself bags made from Kangas. The market was definitely a market of a bigger town and the people were unrelenting, but we made a few good finds.
I took it easy Friday morning and did a few more errands and had lunch at the same place and we got another glimpse of the mountain. John found a place that sold Tanzanite which my friend wanted me to buy for her. I negotiated with the shop owner and think I came away with a pretty good deal. Bargaining helps when you really have no money left and so, are truly limited to how much you can spend! After that Randee escorted me by bus to the road to the airport. There we rented a motor-rickshaw (at least that is what we called them in India) to take us the little ways down to the airport and her back to the bus stop.
It was an adventure and an experience I won't forget. I don't know if I will ever have the opportunity to go back to anywhere in Africa. I hope so. I know Volker thinks he would like to do the Peace Corp when we retire but after my visit I am not sure I can imagine 2 + years of it- I know I would get used to it - but not sure I would want to.
The flights home were generally uneventful but the last leg from Houston to Indianapolis was the most difficult - I was antsy and tired and just could not get comfortable. It was great to see Volker waiting for me when I walked out of the airport in Indy!
Thanks Randee and John for an awesome time and thanks Volker for holding down the fort while I went on my adventure.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The women carry the BIG stones


I got the chance to add a few more Photos as I am in Tanga helping with the new Peace Corps trainees arrival.

Tanga in on the ocean, beautiful cool breezes and fast Internet!

Here is a photo of a mama quite eager to show you that the women carry the granite stones in this village for new house construction/septic systems.

The men make bricks.

Also, look back and you will see I was able to get the fashion photos loaded and the final paint job on the new teacher house.

The teachers have moved in. I begged to show up with a bucket of water and cleaning supplies to help them prepare the new house to move in, but that would not allow it. I told them that my mama always showed up to help someone clean before moving into a new house. Pole, they said. I could come after, to celebrate together.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Update on Kongei Teacher House

Here are a few pictures. The house is finished as well as two septic tanks for the new and old housing units! There will be two teachers and their familes that will move in this week!

Fashion Photos from a Kongei Student Designer

Rehema is a bright, gregarious and organized young woman. Her talents are in leadership such as building trusting relationships, ability to see the big picture, and creative use of resources is strong. People rely on her and choose her to be “in charge” of a project.

I got to know Rehema when she asked me to lead the music club. The teacher that was their leader left the school two years prior and they have been on their own since. She and her friends wanted to learn how to play the recorders that the school had stashed away. Her dream was to have the band (recorders and drums) play the national anthem and the school song at graduation. Well, since then they have played the national anthem and this year will play both the national anthem, school song and Simple Gifts which was at Obama’s inauguration ceremony!

Last year’s graduation performances required auditions. The band made it in, but Rehema’s true love, African Fashion Designs, did not. I was shocked when she told me that her fashion show was not approved. Rehema had 8 classmates model outfits she designed from kangas and kitenges. She sews the outfits on the model and finishes the look with headdresses and shoes to make it work. The models were very professional in their presentation and “walk”. They even had music! Good music!

Looking back, I guess it is too much for an all girls catholic boarding school to allow sophisticated African women’s’ fashion into the graduation ceremonies, but I also did not forget that this young woman was talented. I did not forget when Rehema told me her dream was to be a fashion designer. She told me she wants to show the world the sophistication and beauty of African fashion.

So, when I suggested to her that I could take pictures of her fashions and make a CD that she could use as she wished to share her designs—sort of a portfolio of her work to date­ she did not turn me down.

After the Form IV Mock Exams in May, she and her fellow classmates had three weeks free. I was teaching during the day, so we planned time for photo shoots after classes and before the daylight dimmed. One day I brought kangas, kitenges and Massai blankets from my closet for her to use. She lined up three models and got needle and thread from the school tailor. In the backroom of the biology lab she dressed her models while I showed a movie, Akeeleh and the Bee, from my laptop to 30-40 other Form IV students.

The models are almost as amazing as Rehema when it comes to posing for shots. Rehema directed the shoot, but the young women were talented, striking a pose, holding it and looking natural for every shot! When I downloaded them at home I was amazed I did not have one bad picture.

The next day, they met to create the designs in the biology lab while I was vigilating exams. Then a second shoot. Now we had an audience of Form II students that called themselves “helpers”, moving plants to add to the settings and clearing the little village children from the background when needed. Rehema talked about having a web page of her designs and we talked about writing her story to accompany her design photos.

My time volunteering here is short and what will have long term outcomes only God knows. But this fun adventure, helping Rehema make a digital portfolio of her early fashion designs, may be something I hadn’t imagined as part of my service.