I love Fairy Tales and Fables and I live in a land made of them.
There are real life fairy tales going on all around me. fairy tales in a country with few books and scarcely any authors, a land where the meaning of dreams focuses on survial until tomorrow. Fairy tales where the dragons roam the street breathing the all-consuming fire of poverty, the knights fight the dragons swathed in armour made of dedication and sheer damned strength of will. The good witch battles daily to cast her spells of education over the happy, smiling and friendly ordinary folk who breed children pure and open-minded and with a longing for the succour of knowledge. A land where the inevitable little people eating ogres run amok in large castles called government. Here they control and influence the minds of those ordinary folk that are trying to do a good job. Here the dragon is called corruption.
Let me share a Fairy Tale:
Once upon a time, a long time ago in the year 2011 there were four Tanzanian people all of whom had been showered with the magic caring dust that made their souls special and their lives destined to meet. They lived in Moshi in a village called Majengo and each of these four had their own difficulties in life and carried the burden of their own personal dragon on their back. These people are our knights bearing shields of determination and what they do is the fairy story.
One of the knights was but a young man, still studying at school with a passion for education and a deep understanding of its importance. He volunteered at a local NGO centre where kids who couldn’t go to school were cared for. He wielded the sword of education and taught them English, a vital component in any Tanzanian’s future, even the street sellers. The other three were mamas who held various roles within the same NGO, one was a student herself.
The centre was there to provide education, support and care for the children, volunteers from the magical land of Afar would come to help, teach and fall in love with the big smiles and willingness to learn amongst the kids. Many of those volunteers went back home and sent monies to support the kids they had met. One of those volunteers came from the land of Germany, she became good friends with our four knights. They were five.
The days were long and hard, the details of their time spent working within the NGO are of little consequence, they served only to bring the five together, so let us skip to the conclusion. Our heroes carried the magic dust of caring and this caused them to constantly question.
“There must be a better way? Surely it is possible to use the gold coins proffered by the visitors from Afar to provide free secondary education?”
“There are many others, I visit the homes of the sick and needy and I see the problems and issues there, some families have so little and have been struck by the demons of the HIV dragon. They can do little for their children. They and their children also need our help and support.”
And so the dream was born.
A free education programme that would set the children cast out from the government sponsored education system on a better road for their future. For the road many of these exiled children trod led into the dark woods where the paths are littered with the wolves of temptation proffering alcohol, drugs, and rewards for the sale of their bodies. Many children disappear in these woods, gobbled up by the evil Slave Labour Troll. These dark paths always end in the big cities and result in lives on the streets. Or the discarded children would flee the dark paths and remain locked within the cycle of poverty and forever treading the same roads of their parents, perpetuating the cycle through their own children.
Free education for the kids of the local community, an organisation that was all about the children, this was the passion and the dream. But how?
Local connections kicked in and a room within a mostly empty building was secured for three months without rent. A room, dirty, full of rubbish and in no way designed as a classroom. The five dreamers had space, they agreed a loose plan centred on the making of local craft items and clothing to raise monies and work began.
October 22nd 2011 Good Hope opened its door to 18 young children, most of whom spoke no English. These kids came and sat on borrowed plastic chairs in a room cleaned and tidied but bereft of the most basic teaching aids. No books, no blackboard, no pencils, no paper but a lot of hope, love and determination.
October 22nd 2011 still described to this day by our knights as the best day ever.
Introductions, getting to know each and English patterns was the day’s teaching theme:
Lay Way Say
Cook Book Took
Cat Sat Mat
A fond but telling memory is of one little girl whose eyes would fill with tears of fear and nerves when asked her name. She is finishing form 2 at private secondary school now and will move on to form 3 in 2015 thanks to this fairy story.
Everything was amicable with the original centre and our five friends started with fresh new kids but then the kids from the other centre turned up, and turned up and turned up. The magic of love and true caring had spread its dust and could not be denied.
Visiting the sick in the community was always a given and one of our knights who carried a magical cloak of love and caring. She travelled daily out into the homes of the ordinary folk that were sick, as she walked she would see the kids, cast asunder by almost everyone and she carried the message.
“Come to Good Hope, we will help you.”
Arts and crafts, purses and necklaces, kangas and mzungu pants were diligently and quickly produced using materials purchased by our five friends’ contributions and the volunteer from Germany hatched a plan to take these goods home with her and sell them. Volunteers came and fell in love with the kids, they took things back with them and sold them. A limited income stream had been created.
In 2012 volunteers arrived and took over the teaching so that our youngest knight could return to his own education programme. One of these volunteers stepped forward and sponsored two of the girls in secondary education. Those girls having being banished forever from the government subsidised school system, would need a private boarding school and so it was that the girls were proudly sent off with their new uniforms, back packs, bed rolls and the hope of Good Hope in their hearts. Both of these girls will start the critical and crucial form 4 education in January 2015, both still carry the hope of Good Hope with them.
Another volunteer arrived and helped our knights form a constitution and fulfil the necessary legal issues to create their own NGO. Brochures were printed, Good Hope had officially arrived.
Three more students caught in the jaws of the poverty dragon were rescued and their primary school education within the government system was paid and subsidised before their parent’s lack of funds could see them exiled into the wilderness outside the castle gates of the system. They each started 2013 without interruption to their education thanks to the Good Hope sponsors.
The fairy tale is unfolding and I think the players are in place, the details and dates of expansion from one room to two to three and currently to four are vague and poorly recorded and the humility and shyness of our knights make such public applause embarrassing.
Maybe the big rains of 2012 carried the magical potions of enchantment. Maybe our knights themselves emit such a strong aura of love and caring that all who enter the humble ramshackle rooms called a school become entranced and cast under the spell of love. Maybe it is the kids themselves with their wide smiles, their open hearts and their thirst for the nurture of education. Who knows? But the conclusion is the same.
2013 was a truly enchanted year and Good Hope remained blessed by the magic of the gifts of good people. Many came from the land of Afar, some returned from 2012 visits but all carried a passion and longing to help. Organisational charts were created, a computer provided and lessons for the knights ensued, educational projects from these far off lands were brought and these fed the children’s thirst for knowledge and lit the smouldering embers of education in the kids souls. These people came as volunteers but in truth they were and are the magical fairies in our tale.
It seems the tides of love and caring took hold during this time and when they lapped back out to sea they left their treasures on the shore. By January 2014 Good Hope had eighteen students in either primary or secondary school education programmes and one in vocational training learning the skills to be a driver and tour guide. All have been sponsored by the volunteer fairies.
I truly believe this tale to be a fairy tale and I truly believe in the knights and dragons depicted within the story. But life is cruel and even fairy tales are hit by storms.
2014 has seen tempests batter the resilience and determination of our knights. These storms seek to smash the fragile structures that hold our rickety Good Hope story together. These storms sent thieves in the middle of the night and those thieves plundered the limited resources of Good Hope, stripping their arts and crafts shop of all of its materials and sewing machines. Stealing their limited income stream, leaving our knights bent double under the battering of their own personal dragons and home life.
Many of these storms are the new business storms many of us in the western world have weathered in our daily endeavours in the lands of business and commerce. We have protocols and guidelines and support systems and education as our armour and we often swipe through the normal trials of a start-up organisation without a second glance but these demons are greater here. Our knights have no frame of reference to seek solace from, no education background to teach them how to overcome and they have the backbone of their culture running within them. This backbone is hard and straight, it is a proud and respectful culture that hates to say no and does not want to disappoint.
Our knights are happy and comfortable with the knowledge that all the children already in an education programme will remain so for the next year despite their initial reluctance to ask for further sponsorship. The lessons that need to be learned from the storms effects are mostly about shoring up against the weather and for this fairy tale to continue these lessons need to be heeded and Good Hope needs to protect itself against future storms.
The seas are calming and the sun is shining fiercely down on Good Hope and all within her have high hopes for the future of the children that have and will enter their doors.
This is not the end of this fairy tale, this is but the beginning…