Elisante and his family are safely relocated into the small house on the land where the Irish Potatoes project is going to flourish. Yes, I can honestly say that this project will flourish I completely have faith in this young man’s recognition of this amazing opportunity he has been given and he will not waste it.
Elisante has updated me both proudly and regularly. He has never once questioned that we have not as yet raised as much as is needed he is simply adjusting and flexing his plans with an underlying determination that this will work.
The family moved in and the hard work began. Every stone and rock had to be hand removed from the planned one acre before the hired tractor would drive onto the land to make the soil ready. This was done, the tractor came and then the land was ready for inspection by the Co-operative’s advisor who comes and oversees any new members first efforts at production thus securing their chances of a successful yield for everyone.
I must confess to shock at the so-called seeds! I am not a farmer but now I understood why these “seeds” were so much more investment than watermelon or maize seeds.
Literally the fruits of their labour, the by hand and then tractor cleared land accepted it’s first careful planting of the family’s future. Irish Potatoes.
From now on the potatoes will be covered and the land will be carefully tended and watered.
Now, this small determined family must wait and watch as their potato babies incubate and flourish.
The family’s survival whilst waiting for the crops to grow is not yet secured. There is still some funds needed to help them live and feed themselves while their babies grow. The support from everyone has been awesome and heartwarming to me personally and each and every donation is greatly appreciated.
Now, on the final hurdle every little will really make the difference because now we are funding the lives of this small family and a £10 donation will buy rice, sugar and oil for at least a week.
That was my opening to a longer version of this post back in January 2017 which I am reposting today as an introduction to another important character from my Tanzanian adventure. This is what I said:
Oftentimes I have a blue day.
A chance encounter on the street, I hear my name being called and turn to the fervent looking young man smiling at me and I don’t know him.
“Gill, you don’t remember me!” It isn’t an accusation; it is just a statement of fact spoken so cheerily I know this young man is accustomed to being forgotten. “President Obama, the book, remember? You taught me the word toddler.”
The memories crash through my mind in cinema like freeze frames, one on top of the other crowding out the hopelessness and obliterating the blue that had seeped and washed through my mind.
“Elisante,” I smile at the young man remembering the boy of three years back and my early days working with the street kids at the Amani Centre. In that moment, talking to Elisante, I accepted that I couldn’t change the world or even a small part of it.
That day was some weeks past and this morning I stumbled upon the notes that form this post. Today remembering that encounter with Elisante is particularly poignant for me, because of late my heart and soul has allowed itself to become steeped in the blue of hopelessness again and reading these words has made me sit up and think. How dare I lie in my bed and feel sorry for myself, how can I possibly allow the tide of hopelessness to drown out the goodness. And so for the second time, that young man Elisante, a fine young man who hopes to be a veterinary surgeon and is working hard to achieve this, has saved the day and helped to wash away the blue from my heart and soul.
If a young man remembers me from three years past when I encouraged and helped him to read a book about the then president Barack Obama and taught him the meaning of the word TODDLER.
Then you know what?
I am making a difference in my own small way and I don’t deserve the luxury of feeling sad or sorry for myself.
Elisante’s Story Continued
From that encounter until now Elisante and I have kept in contact and in 2019 we met again. The very young and somewhat insecure young boy that used to creep into my Library six years ago begging me to allow him to stay and read while I continued my class preparations, has grown into a tall, handsome, humble and quietly confident young man. In 2019 my respect and admiration for Elisante grew as I gently questioned his life and recognised that despite all his efforts, hard work and achievements he was still without employment and living on his wits, one small step above life on the streets. He is by no means alone in Moshi Tanzania, it is an all too common tale.
In the seven years of knowing Elisante, he has never asked me for anything. He arrived at our first reunion in Moshi last year with a banana or something similar in his backpack for me “in case I hadn’t eaten” when he had only had a cup of sweet black tea for breakfast.
Then on the 26th of April of this year, Elisante asked me for something. I had sent out messages of concern to all my Moshi friends who could have been affected by the terrible floods I had heard about. I knew that two of the projects that I had been involved with were underwater and my fears were for the families whose shanty town style tin shack homes had been washed away. Elisante’s home was one of these. He, along with his Mama and two younger sisters, found themselves not only homeless but all their meagre possessions and food was gone, washed away.
And so Elisante asked me for something, he asked me to join with him and his family in prayer. As he put it:
“For the world and those close to us for protection against everything bad.”
I and two friends stepped in and helped Elisante to find a new, more secure, home and paid the rent and helped with mattresses and food etc. Since then I have been chatting with Elisante and encouraging him to “think outside the box” about how he can make a living and support his family. COVID has stripped all the street traders of their meagre potential earnings and an alternative must be found. I have maintained total confidence that Elisante can do this and would somehow, someway come up with a plan. Moving from Moshi would almost certainly be a part of this plan as he does have one asset to his name in that he has permission to farm some land commercially but he has never been able to raise the capital needed to finance that venture. There are no bank loans etc.
Now, Elisante has a plan and I believe it to be a good one.
My original post in 2017 was commented on by a staunch supporter and virtual friend within these hallowed pages http://gravatar.com/violetsvegnecomics. Her comment contained the following quote:
“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do”
said Edward Everett Hale, American author & clergyman
It resonated then and it is quite literally hammering at my heart and soul today.
Elisante has a plan to survive and prosper and keep his family safe. He has a guaranteed market for the fruits of his plan and he has expert help waiting to advise, assist and supervise his first efforts. He has access to the land needed and he has the will and determination to make it work.
Elisante plans to grow Irish potatoes.
I will take up the challenge, and yes I understand that I cannot do everything but I will NOT refuse to at least try to do the things that I can do.
Again, as ever, perhaps it will always be this way, I cannot say but yes, I will once again ask and pray for your help.