On December 1, 2014, I arrived in Tanzania to spend a far too short, but extremely enjoyable 10 days with the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre, which is where Jennifer Anselm, Jennifer Joseph, and Winnifrida Leonard live.
The KOC, as it is known, was started about 8 years ago by Edward “Teacher” Lazaro, who also works as a hiking guide on Mt. Killimanjaro. The center has about 60 kids now. Not all of them are orphans; some come from families who simply cannot support them. Some are “day care” kids, meaning they go home at night after being cared for and fed at the orphanage during the day. The kids range in age from about 3 to over 18, and they can stay as long as they like. Some of these kids may end up living at the center their entire lives. All the kids help with chores, from cooking and food preparation, to laundry, dishwashing and general clean up around the grounds. They have several matrons and a cook, and Auntie Lucy manages the whole thing. She is indispensable. The kids are loving, funny, energetic and interested in everything. They hold your hands, beg to be picked up and run to give you hugs. They get a lot of attention and love at KOC.
Greg and Shannon Higgins do all the medical work, help with food shopping, deal with money and organization. Shannon started a book club for neighborhood kids who were instead asking her for candy or money. She takes kids on walks through the neighborhood to teach them polite behavior with others. Godfrey, Prosper and Danny are all indispensable in helping with the orphanage as well, especially since Teacher is gone a lot on the mountain.
While I was there, I spent a lot of time at the center with the kids, and developed quite a close connection with several of them. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with our girls, Jeni 1, Jeni 2 and Winnie, and we had a lot of fun going into town, hanging out and drawing and doing sleepovers at Greg’s and Shannon’s house. We were even able to take a one-night camping trip to a local natural area called Lake Chala. The girls wore fabulous dresses to camp there, and they hiked easily in them and their simple flip-flops. I told them they would make terrific river guides!
Here are some pictures from the orphanage and my visit with the girls. Please visit their individual pages for more photos and videos.
And finally, because it’s impossible to resist, here is a video made by Winnifrida, who grabbed my phone and made a video of the orphanage that is far better (and funnier) than anything I could have made! She makes a commentary periodically and at one point she comments on loving me, loving Katie (a girl she’s corresponding with) and loving “you” (the watcher). She also has a very strong opinion about the soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo!
ONE wishes everyone a very Happy New Year, filled with joy and love, honor and justice. Our wish is that everyone has a home to live in, enough food to eat, an education and a safe haven in their lives. Thank you so much for all your support throughout these past years; you are giving the greatest present of all: hope.