This is Vicky. She has not always looked this happy and relaxed. In fact, when I first met her and her family in September 2013, their living conditions were dire. Vicky lived with her mother, Justina, and her younger siblings, Rita and Pascale. The four of them shared a single mattress on the floor of one room no bigger than my childhood bedroom. The room was constructed of a wood frame that was packed with dirt and covered with promotional posters, intended to stop the dirt from falling. There was no window, no electricity, no kitchen, no water, and a poorly constructed tin roof that did not prevent the rains from soaking them as they slept. Food was scarce. None of the children were in school. And, there was nothing to indicate that their life would ever get better. Justina spent every evening praying for a way to provide for her children.It was clear to me that there was lots of love amdist the hardship of their lives. I wanted to help.
With assistance from family and friends, I sponsored Rita and Pascale for schooling at a very good local primary school, paid the arrears for Vicky's government school, and borrowed money to provide the capital for Justina to operate a local eatery. They moved into a two room home, with a solid roof and walls, and a proper double bed was donated. The family was hope-filled! And I was happy that Justina would be able to provide for her children. They welcomed me as part of their family. Justina lovingly called me "Mzungu Mama Rita" (White Mother of Rita), since it was a chance meeting with Rita that had brought us all together.
Shortly after I returned to Canada, in April of 2014, Justina became desperately ill and was hospitalized many times. In August, less than one year after our meeting, Justina passed away, with her children by her side. At that time, there was no family to take them in so, with the help of a Tanzanian friend, I paid a local woman to care for them. Three months later, I travelled to Tanzania to check on the children.
Much to my dismay, my first visit with the children was at the hospital. Little Pascale was sick with Tuberculosis and infections associated with AIDS. He and his mother received the virus from the children's father. Thankfully, Vicky and Rita were spared. We spent three and a half weeks in and out of hospitals, until I was told of a specialist in pediatric HIV. With a very aggressive treatment plan, Pascale was able to return to school and play with his friends. His recovery surprised even the doctors.
It was also during this visit that I discovered that trouble was finding Vicky. This was not surprising after all that she had been through, and all that surrounded her. After learning that she and her friends had been beaten by teachers at the government school, for using text books without permission, I knew I had to do something.
It was November. The school year had just finished. With more help from family and friends, I made arrangements for Vicky to go to Eden Garden Secondary School, located just outside a nearby city. There she would be shadowed and mentored by the Head Teacher and matron in preparation for the upcoming school year. I sent her with strong faith, high hopes, yet little expectation that this would work because Vicky, still in her vulnerable teens, had been through so much.
In April of 2015, I returned to Tanzania. Rita and Pascale were now being cared for by relatives for whom we provide monthly assistance for food, clothing, medical and other expenses. All three of the children had certainly changed. They were happy, healthy, and more grounded, knowing that they were well-loved, well-fed, and still going to school.
It was Vicky, though, that surprised me the most. She was gracious, loving, gentle, and presented an air of peace that I could not have anticipated. The gratitude that she demonstrated was far beyond her teen years.
One day, she took me aside and thanked me for being her 'mama', since her own mother could not longer be here. Vicky made a memory book, complete with pictures and letters, for me to bring back to Canada. As I read through the memory book it struck me just how important my chance meeting with Rita had turned out to be. Vicky and Rita may have had to live on the streets. Pascale, well, using his own words; "I would be with my God".
My name is Suzanne Grandy. I live in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, when I'm not "Mzungu Mama Rita", in Tanzania, East Africa. I am asking for your help to ensure that Vicky can return to Eden Garden Secondary School, in January. The funds collected will pay for her tuition, board, supplies and transportation for visits with her family during school breaks, for the 2016 school year. Education is imperative for her to have any chance at a healthy, productive future for herself and for her beautiful little family.
Thank you so much!
You are very welcome to "like" our Facebook page. "Mzungu Mama Rita" so that you can follow along and see how things evolve.
(Very welcome in kiswahili)
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