April 1-2: Village Schools Canada was among the mission agencies invited to participate in MissionFest, a 2-day gathering in Toronto of Christians interested in missions. Andrew Hutchinson, after serving with VSI for a year in the little village of Kising'a, returned home to Canada and founded VSC, opening the door for people in Canada to make donations for the work in Tanzania and for churches in Canada to be able to send out missionary teachers to serve in Tanzania.
April 4: Aron Walker, a Peace Corps volunteer now in his fourth year in Tanzania, spent the day with Sarah Bickel, our son Josh and five of Josh's students showing them how to do a variety of biology, chemistry and physics experiments using readily available materials that Aron, amazingly enough, sent our students out to gather up in the village. Dan McIntyr, a retired 3M employee and very good friend of ours who teaches at Tumaini University in Tanzania also came and shared with our students a host of science videos and film clips that he has collected from the internet. VST is now embarking on a new program of launching student-centered Science Clubs in our schools where students will use locally available materials to do science experiments.
April 4: We opened another new school in the village of Ntumbe, bringing the number of schools we have open in the Rukwa region to 7. We now have at total of 21 schools open in Tanzania and another 8 under construction -- total enrollment in our schools is now over 5400 students!
April 7: The bulldozer completed its work at our college, preparing the building sites for lodging for our professors, the site where we intend to build the college chapel, as well as putting in roads to the quarry and to the dorms and making massive firebreaks to help us prevent another forest fire like we had in 2010. Sao Hill Timber company which has given us the use of the bulldozer has indicated that probably next month they will again allow us to use the bulldozer to prepare other sections of the campus land for building.
April 9: The District Commissioner came to visit Madisi today to offer her condolences to our students after one of our teachers drowned two weeks ago while trying to rescue one of our students. She visited our AIDS Community Treatment Center (which opened in January) for the first time and we also were able to give her a tour of the campus we are building for our leadership college.
April 10: Godfrey, Emmanueli and I participated in a late-afternoon town meeting in the village of Wami -- the home village of Bony who is the headmaster at our school in the village of Idiwili. Last year out of 114 students who finished the 7th grade in their village only 5 were chosen to go to the far-away government school, and we heard the painful story of the one parent who resolved to send his son to the city to study at a private school and the young man was killed in a truck accident before he ever got there. Their goal is to build the school quickly so that those 108 students, as well as the new class of those who will finish primary school this coming September will be able to continue their education right there in the village.
April 12: We participated in a town meeting in the village of Samaria in the Njombe District. A young man from that village who is currently studying in Finland learned about VSI from a fellow student at the university, contacted people in his home village, and while on vacation back in Tanzania arranged a town meeting for us to meet with everyone from his village -- and two neighboring villages -- towards the goal that one day there will be a school in Samaria so that every young person will get the chance at an education.
April 17: Emmanueli and his wife Harima are the proud parents of a second son. We are thankful one again for the doctors and nurses at the mission hospital at Ilembula located six hours from us. They were able to do an emergency c-section saving both Harima and the new baby. Experts say that what kills many women in Tanzania are "the three delays" -- the woman's delay in deciding to go to the hospital, the time she loses traveling there and the hospital's delay in starting treatment once she arrives. We are blessed beyond measure and "Junior" will be a continual reminder to us all of that!
April 21: Another record-breaking day for our AIDS Community Treatment Center: 620 people received medicines and treatment!
April 24: Easter Sunday! Our plans to visit the sickest people in the community for a couple of hours ended up going on until late in the evening. Sweet 25-year old Neema was going down hill as much from a lack of food as from a lack of hope. She is one of many young girls who left the village years ago after finishing the 7th grade (long before we ever opened our secondary school) to work in the capital city as a housegirl. She recently returned home to the village very sick. Her parents are already dead and so it is her aunt who is doing the best she can for Neema, but she has precious little money and hasn't been able to do much. Neema is all swollen up, her lips are bleeding, she has sores in her mouth and she is just miserable. Since Easter our band of students and teachers are bringing her food, lotions, prayers, yogurt and love to see if we can nurse her back to health.
April 27: We were called by neighbors to visit Tawi, one of Susan's friends who is HIV+ and also epileptic. He had fallen into his cooking fire at the house five days ago and had charred half of his face and arm and torso. We cleaned his burned body and started him on medications and sent him to the sisters at the Kibao Hospital two hours away. Four years ago his wife died in childbirth and they brought his son to me saying that his father would not be able to care for him. Godlove (the name we gave to the little newborn) is now living with 88-year old Bibi Cecilia, a retired sister, who has a household full of orphaned children. We are all praying Tawi will survive and make it back to the village to see again his now very healthy 4-year old son!
April 27: A vehicle came from town today loaded with office furniture and benches -- a gift from the district government for our AIDS Community Treatment Center! This is something we neither asked for nor expected nor even imagined possible, but just one more way in which local government officials have been showing their tangible support for the work our students and teachers are doing to help people with HIV/AIDS in the villages around our school at Madisi.
April 28: The decision was made today to delay sending Emmanueli, Anysile and Mecky to the Morogoro region to begin building our first school in that region. Four days of heavy rains caused people to send word that it would be physically impossible to get there with our dump truck Tunda (which means Fruit). We were hoping to carry a load of cement and then to make the truck available to people in the village to help them transport foundation stones. The decision was made to delay going until May 5th to hopefully give the rains time to stop and the roads time to dry out. Taita Secondary School will be our first school in the Morogoro region and will represent the beginning of a major expansion of VST's work into a new region of the country.
April 30: A company in Minnesota has made a second donation of another 5 laptop computers to VSI for use in our schools in Tanzania. We have a nearly insatiable need for laptops and they have said they have a nearly insatiable desire to help us!