Updated: Mar 4
I was more emotional than I thought I would be, when I said my final goodbyes to the mamas of Perfect Vision.
A few times.
These women had been a big part of my life. Over the past couple months, I've seen some of these mamas come out of their shell, improve their English and gain more confidence. They are truley an incredible crew!
I spent my final days in Arusha, scouring through various markets, looking for suitable products to spend some of the money I’d fundraised.
❤️ BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED OUT! ❤️
I wanted to purchase a few treats for each of them. ‘Treats’ seems a bizarre word to use, as nothing I bought could normally really be construed as a treat.
These treats were survival necessities for them.
I bought each of the mamas 1lb of rice, 1lb of sugar, 1lb of beans, cooking oil, a variety of biscuits and a loaf of bread. I was going to buy flour too, but I ran out of time and strength. Walking to and fro with 15lb of various beans and rice was quite the feat and I can still feel the strain in my arms.
When you stop and consider how vastly differently this small offering would be received by a young girl in a first world environment, it really starts to put poverty into perspective. More than likely, back home, each product mentioned would be met with disappointment and disapproval, and probably discarded before it reached any kitchen.
This simple gift of substance was a necessity. Each girl was taking home a few days of meals the family might not have normally had, and it was appreciated beyond measure. If there is no money, they don’t eat… and often, there is absolutely no money.
It definitely makes you appreciate life and what life has to offer.
We spent my last week doing a few interesting things with the girls.
One of the volunteers, originally from Venezuela, came and taught a macramé class. There wasn’t enough material for us all to make a bag, but watching the knots being created took me right back to primary school in the 1970’s. I remember us all sitting along the wall, diligently working on our plant hangers for Mother’s Day.
She actually teaches a macramé class through AirBnB experience, in Spain. So cool and so original. You can check out her Instagram page ~ @le.nuc. I think I might try it again once I’m back home, but no promises on talent or project completion.
For one of my final English classes, I got up in front of the girls and told the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For fun though, I changed it to Lola (one of the volunteers) and the three Simbas (lions). I also changed 'porridge' to 'ugali,' which is a popular & traditional, starchy maize meal here in East Africa. I was struggling on a class and finally figured a good children's story might do the trick. One with repetition, numbers and a variety of simple adjectives and nouns was exactly what I needed for my finale. When it was all finished, I quizzed the mamas on things like "who's ugali was too hot?" and "why didn't Lola like Mama Simba's bed?"
I had actually looked at a lot of fairy tales, but they're so dark! I didn't want to scare anyone in the process.
Editha took Vicki and I on another Outreach program. This time we stayed fairly local, visiting a nearby women’s community centre. Vicky gave a talk on entrepreneurship. Editha taught everyone to make laundry soap.
My assignment was to discuss the dangers of domestic violence.
I’ll admit it.
It was tough.
Probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.
I’ve never suffered domestic violence. I’ve never directly dealt with anyone who has suffered at the hands of abuse. I’m not a social worker or a therapist. I have no experience when it comes to the topic of domestic violence at all.
I did what basic research I could and then formed my discussion around the different aspects of abuse, whether it be physical, sexual or emotional. I covered excuses, isolation, mind games, male priviledge… and then I gave examples of what better behaviour and a mutual partnership should look like.
Of women aged 15-49, 44% have experienced either physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Spousal violence prevalence is highest in rural areas, averaging 52% while the prevalence in urban areas averages 45%. Almost 30% of girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18.
I choked up a few times.
While discussing breaking the circle of abuse, I realized that every single woman in the room was looking to me for help. Their fear was evident. They all wanted to know how they could possibly leave without any money, without a job or any skills, without any education… and without much help or support. How???
I don’t know.
Domestic violence is a major issue in Tanzania... and has left so many women with lifetime disabilities and depression. Some have even died at the hands of their abusive husband. Many of the women brought up the possibility of leaving and never seeing their children again, which shattered my heart into a million pieces.
I was not equipped to answer any of their questions properly, and for much of it, I stood there silently. I’m from a first world country, with resources and support right at my fingertips. Here I was, speaking confidently about a topic I knew nothing about... and giving advice to ladies who were at risk of everything, including their lives.
It was nothing I could ever fully comprehend.
Things I definitely have to remember about my time with Perfect Vision...
My favourite Mamas word in English...
How they say 'clothes.'
Without fail... they all say it, no matter how many times you correct it. Clothes-es.
Every day at Perfect Vision, Jennifer would get up and give us 30 minutes of learning Swahili class. It was good... and sometimes fun... to learn Swahili, though her lessons were probably not as interactive as we might have liked. It was written lists of words pertaining to a certain subject. Money, colours, insects, wild animals... etc etc. The class gave her an opportunity to practice her English, as well as her teaching skills. She was quite strict with our pronunciation to0 and drilled the words into us.
My Swahili vocabulary...
Watermelon - Tikiti Maji
How are you - Mambo / Vipi
Good / Cool - Poa / Safi
Donkey - Punda
Crocodile - Mamba
Lion - Simba
Elephant - Tembo
Giraffe - Twiga
Chicken - Kuku
Friend - Rafiki
Sister - Dada
Thank you very much - Assante sana
Welcome - Karibu
I love you - Nakupenda
Bus Coin - Jero
Goodbye - Kwaheri (the name of the blog)
One day we did 'hair styling' and the girls gathered around us to make us beautiful. I don't think I was such a fan of my new look, but it was definitely different.
I think I look like a bug!
Now that I'm leaving, I'm starting to really reflect on some of my favourite Mamas moments...
THIS one tops them all... if only for the mere shock value when I first arrived.
As an introductory game, we went around the room getting to know each other a bit better. I asked everyone to tell me what their favourite animal was... and why.
I started and, of course, mentioned Potzy. I showed everyone a few photos of him that were on my phone and told them how much I love him and love to cuddle with him. Some of the girls said their favourite animal was a cat. Some said bunnies... and other assorted animals.
Then we got to Tina.
What's your favourite animal, Tina?
Oh.... that was a different one. Ok... Chicken.
Because I can eat it.
Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but why not?
In the last couple of weeks, the girls started making us lunch at the end of our day with them. It was usually just some chapati or a baked potato, but it was always delicious... and very much appreciated. In addition to this, they would make us Ginger Tea.
Now... I am NOT a tea fan at all, but I am definitely a ginger tea fan now. It became my favourite part of the day... and I think I know the recipe... but I can't be sure quite yet. I did ask a few times! From what I could gather, it was ginger, black tea, sugar and some honey...
Man, it was good though. I fully intend to make it when I'm home.
I decided one of my projects for my final week at Perfect Vision would be to redo their catalog. The one they had was outdated and falling apart. Badly.
It's a project I should have started earlier, but I managed to pull it all together and get it finalized on my very last day. Vicki took photos and I diligently worked on the design all night and all morning until it was completed. Then we found a suitable place in the centre of town to print. Kwik printers, owned by an Indian woman from Canada!
It was rather slow, but I eventually got one printed and Vicki has agreed to go pick the rest of the catalogues up on Monday. The brilliant thing is that I can design things while I’m back home and send them directly to her, as well as pay through a bank transfer or paypal, which means I have the capability now of supporting Perfect Vision from anywhere in the world.
I still have a bit of funds left from my fundraising, but it is diminishing quickly! I managed to transfer some of the money, but was extremely hesitant about transferring all of it in one lump sum.
The fear of international transfers combined with no knowledge of what the money is actually being put towards isn't a great combination for me. I did manage to transfer $300US to start off, but even that won't arrive until mid-March. Fingers crossed it doesn't get lost in translation!
I didn't like the limbo, so I chose tangible things... such as purchasing food, printing catalogs and buying material for the homemade sanitary napkins. Editha has asked me to do a few more design projects, so I can pay for those costs and continue to transfer funds in stages, depending on how much is left over.
I would like to end this post by sharing some of the stories of the mamas. I had previously done interviews with each of them, but it worked better when they were given the opportunity to share their stories in their own words, and in their own language, Swahili. Editha translated each story into English... and then I reworked the grammar, punctuation and the sentence structure.
The mamas were special.
All of them.
All of them are so unique, and soooo worth a life full of all their dreams coming true.
I will definitely miss my time here, but I am confident that my work with them is not over.
I will eventually be back.
My name is Halima Hassan.
I am 19 years old and I graduated from secondary education in 2020.
Unfortunately I have not been able to continue my studies due to many difficulties at home. After being sick for a very long time, my father died of cancer, leaving my mother alone to care for us. I am the eldest of three children. It was always our father’s responsibility to provide and his death left my mother without a job or any money.
Despite her own health concerns, she took a job raising the neighbour’s children. The salary was low and life became increasingly more challenging. Often we were expelled from school for lack of fees and other school requirements. My mother’s health has since deteriorated and now, she is very weak. Hard work and heavy lifting is almost impossible for her, leaving me to take care of our family. There are still moments I completely lose hope.
Joining Perfect Vision has given me the opportunity to learn many new skills.
Today I can sew, speak English, bake cakes and make laundry soap. I dream of a life as a seamstress in the world of fashion design and I would love to attend a sewing college to make my dream come true.
My name is Rahma Shabani.
I am 18 years old and I live with both my parents.
Unfortunately we do not have a lot of money and life can be very difficult. My mother has her own business selling porridge, and the money she makes from this business is all she has to take care of our family. My father does not have a steady job, so he rarely makes much money. Sometimes we have nothing at all.
I finished secondary education in 2022 and I succeeded in attending college for a short time. My dream is to become a teacher, but unfortunately fees could not be found.
I joined Perfect Vision with the help of a local government leader, who noticed I had lost direction. The mamas here took me out of the darkness and brought me into the light. I’ve been given an opportunity to learn so many new skills. Even though I had been disappointed in myself, thinking I couldn’t continue, Perfect Vision has made me realize how brave I really am.
One day, I will fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher.
My name is Rahma Salim.
I am 20 years old and I live with my mother.
My father abandoned us when I was young, leaving us in a very difficult situation. My mother took a job selling rice which provided us enough money for only food and rent. After graduating Form four, I was unable to go onto college because my mother did not have the funds to continue my education. I stayed at home for a long time, doing nothing.
When I heard about Perfect Vision, I decided to join and give myself the opportunity to learn new skills. Everyday I make laundry soap, sew clothes and make paper bags. I am thankful for all the training and know one day I will be able to help my mother. My dream is to become a secretary and I believe, with hard work, I will achieve my goals one day.
My name is Zainab Shabani.
I am 23 years old and I have three children.
My father and mother separated when I was young and my father ended up marrying another woman. Life became difficult and suddenly I found myself married at the age of only 16 years old. My husband was very sick and died, leaving me with three children. After his death, his relatives chased me away, like an unwanted dog. I had nowhere to go, so I returned to my mother, but we continued to struggle. Being unable to provide my children with the basic needs, I completely gave up on life. I couldn’t even take them to school.
Perfect Vision has given me a second chance in life and I have met women faced with similar struggles and situations. Together we exchange ideas and learn various new skills.
My dream is to grow my business of selling porridge, and one day be able to send my children to school and help my mother. I believe the support of Perfect Vision, determination and hard work will make my dreams come true.
My name is Sabrina Ramadhani.
I am 17 years old and I live with my mother.
My father abandoned us when I was in Grade 8, denying I was his child. His departure left us in a very horrible situation.
My mother worked tirelessly to ensure we finished our education. When she couldn’t afford the fees needed in order to send us, she helped us study at home until we graduated. There were times that life was very difficult and some days we went without food.
Currently, my mother has her own small business, the money she earns pays for our rent and food. My dream is to be a journalist, though I don’t have plans to continue college at the moment, due to my mother's low income. Perfect Vision has given me the opportunity to learn various new skills and I know it will lead me to find something to help my mother.
I have also learned to believe in myself as I am and I believe my dreams will come true.
My name is Mariam Raashid.
I am 17 years old and I live with my father and my stepmother. My father and mother separated and my father married another woman. There are many challenges I face in my home.
My stepmother does not love me like a mother should. She is very busy with their children and often does not have time for me. I have tried to speak to her about it, but it’s not a comfortable situation.
I graduated Form four and was successful in getting the grades necessary for college, but due to my father's low income, I was unable to attend. This left me at home, without any hope. I felt so alone.
A local government leader told me about Perfect Vision and the training they provide. Since joining, I have met so many mamas from similar situations. I am not alone. We are strong ladies and together, we believe in ourselves. Perfect Vision has enabled us to learn a variety of things, including English, computer skills and assorted handicrafts.
I am talented with hair braiding and my dream is to attend a hairdressing college. One day I will open my own salon and I will hire girls who are in need. Perfect Vision has given me inspiration and I know, with their support, I will succeed.
My name is Mariam Abdi.
I am 18 years old and I live with both my parents.
I have always dreamed of working in tourism, but I have never really thought it would be possible. My father is a labourer and his income is very small. There are times when he has no money at all to support the family. My younger sister got sick when she was only three years old and she is in the hospital frequently. Treatments are expensive. My mother is unemployed and she is the one who takes care of us. There have been times I was unable to go to school due to lack of funds. As much as I studied, my performance was not as good as I would have liked it to be. I do have the grades to attend college, but unfortunately I do not have the money. ,
I am grateful to have found Perfect Vision. I have only been here a short time, but already, I have found peace. Learning so many various new skills can help me and now, there are so many opportunities to move forward, In the future, I know I will be ready to start my own business.
My name is Miriam Milan.
I am 16 years old and I was born with many health challenges.
All the treatments and issues surrounding my health made life so much more difficult for my parents, as they were unable to afford the hospital bills. They did seek financial assistance from the good Samaritans, and with this money, I was able to undergo the surgery necessary.
In 2019, I remained at home, and once I had fully recovered, I returned to school. In my absence, my classmates had come so far academically. I graduated from primary education, but because of all my challenges, I did not do well in my studies.
I would like to continue my studies and attend school, but it has become impossible due to our family’s poverty. Currently I am attending Perfect Vision and I now spend my days learning to sew, to speak English, to make paper bags and so much more.
One day, I hope to continue my studies.
My name is Jennipher Michael.
I am 17 years old and I live with my mother.
My father died in 2012, when I was very young. After he passed away, there were many challenges in life. Everyday my mother works hard as a fruit vendor on the street, but she has come close to giving up on numerous occasions. Her income is small and it often does not meet our essential needs, such as food, shelter and education. The area we live in can be extremely dangerous, and there are many temptations for young girls.
I completed my secondary education in 2022, although my results were not as good as I would have liked. I would like to go to college, but with such a low income, I have not been able to continue with my studies.
My mother brought me to Perfect Vision to give me the opportunity to continue learning. Everyday I gain more and more knowledge that will help me in my life.
I dream of working in a world of fashion. I love clothing design and sewing. With hard work, perseverance and the support of Perfect Vision, one day my dream will come true.