Moving on

It was Tabitha’s last day at pre-school today. This feels quite emotional. She’s been going to the loveliest little school – you couldn’t want for nicer and more supportive teachers, friends and parents. I’m glad that she’s had the best start to school life that I could offer, but it feels a big step forward for that to end. I don’t think she can fully understand things ending, but she is worried about missing her friends and her school. We’ll meet up with friends in the holidays and I’m sure she’ll soon settle at lower school, but for now it feels like a big change. All the more so as it gets us one step closer to us having to take on the role of educator as well as parent. A very daunting prospect.

Tabitha is excited about Tanzania and keeps reminding me that I need to get her some Swahili music and that we need to start learning some Swahili words. It’s hard to keep on top of the current demands and so this ‘extra’ work keeps somehow slipping through the cracks. Tabitha was thrilled this week to be given a book of Swahili numbers and we’ve had a go at counting 1-4. She spent the majority of one car journey to school (about 10 minutes) chanting these first four numbers again and again!
Thankfully the book provides the words in phonetic English as well as the Swahili. For anyone interested in learning, the numbers go like this
1 – moja (mo∙jah)
2 – mbili (m∙bee∙lee)
3 – tatu (ta∙too)
4 – nne (n∙nay)
I’m encouraged that the numbers are not crazily different to Chichewa (used in Malawi) and number 3 is the same.

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Questions questions questions

There are three questions I get asked a lot, so I thought I’d try and give a few answers:

Why do you need to raise so much money per month?

I’m answering this without the budget in front of me, which may not be the wisest… but… there are a few main costs associated with our time. One is flights to and from Tanzania, plus the internal flight to Mwanza. I believe this also includes a budget for a return trip mid-way through our three year stay. One of the biggest costs is the cost of a car. Cars in Africa tend to be expensive due to the high import cost. We will also need a pretty robust vehicle due to the fact we will be doing a lot of travel on pretty bad roads. We have made the decision to base ourselves in Mwanza and travel to the Islands for the project work there. For that reason we will need accommodation in both places.

Finally some of the things we take for granted in this country include the cost of health insurance, and there’s also a budget for home-schooling, which isn’t massive, but should cover some syllabuses in core subjects.

We haven’t put the budget together ourselves, it’s a joint effort between the Emmanuel International operations team and those already on the ground. We think it’s a great cause though, and are committing to it financially ourselves too.

What will you eat and how will the kids cope?

I’m working on the basis the transition will be pretty tough. My understanding in the main staple food is Ugali, which like many foods you’re not used to, is a grim substitute initially, but you get used to it. Mwanza is a city and I’m therefore guessing you can pretty much get anything, if you’re willing to pay for it. Or at least will be able to get most of the ingredients needed to produce it yourself. Our experience in Malawi was that many normal things here would be available in specialist shops, with a high premium attached. We’ll probably go a bit easier on ourselves at the start and then cut back.

On the Islands life will probably be pretty basic. Vegetable and what have you will be available from markets, which will no doubt be the central point of most villages.

I have a few plans in mind, for one thing I’m planning to take a load of the stock cubes we use, in a clip lock box. I think that will give the undercurrent of a familiar taste to the food we cook, at least initially, which I hope will help the children. In Malawi Simon used to make pasta and we also managed to somehow get our hands on a bread maker, which was amazing. We’ll be exploring all of our options, at least for our time in Mwanza.

Will you need to take clothes for the children in bigger sizes?

Global clothes waste in unfortunately a reality. Our charity shops in the UK and elsewhere get so swamped that much of it is sent over to Africa. Local individuals are able to purchase a bundle of clothes and sell them on to make a small profit. For this reason second hand western style clothes are available io a lot of local village, markets. In Malawi there are also shops that sell quality second hand clothes. New clothes imported from China are sold in bigger markets and some shops. There were also one or two South Africa fashion chains. I actually quite liked buying clothes for myself in Malawi because the sizes tended to be small! I will have to confirm with the guys on the ground, but at the moment I don’t plan to take a whole load of clothes out for the children.

One thing I’m more concerned about is shoes, I’m a bit of a clarks shoes fan for the kids, and I’m planning to stock up on sandals and possibly shoes of various sizes at the end of the summer.

Cake, anyone?

Sunday afternoon was our first real chance to present to our church our plans as they stand at the moment. HSBC has an active mission team and whenever there’s an opportunity, such as visiting missionaries, or in our case potential new ones, the team lay on a fantastic spread and invite anyone to come and listen. Armed with lovely leaflets and bookmarks it was our turn to take to the stage. The event was really well attended, with around 40 people and the cakes were top notch! Following the talk we had some really good chats and discussions and hopefully a few more people know a bit more about our plans for the move to Tanzania and the work of Emmanuel International.

We were also asked some really good questions, which have prompted us to do some more research and thinking!

Thank you to all who came! it would be really helpful to have your feedback on the projects and presentation.

The Vision

So it seems like it’s finally happening. Since leaving Africa four years ago we’ve been biding our time and waiting for God to give the green light to go back. It’s been a busy time in many ways. We now have two beautiful children, and although we have a long way to go, we do feel better equipped to return.  We’ve also had a great deal of time to reflect on our experiences in Malawi, lessons learnt, things we’d do differently, things we’d like to try and mistakes we’ll do our best to avoid making again.

Having felt it was time to start considering a return to Africa, it seemed that checking for possible positions with known organisations would be a good place to start. Simon had previously made a trip to Kenya with Emmanuel International, which had been a really positive experience. After a quick search we found they were looking for someone to help set up a Community Health Education project on the rural Islands on Lake Victoria, off Mwanza. Victoria has done a fair amount of research around community health education and has been keen to put her more theoretic knowledge to good practical use. The project held instant appeal and it wasn’t long before we were praying, chatting, phoning, meeting and making our first steps towards going. Like many of these projects, based within incredible resource poor populations, although the project advertised for help with health education, the potential scope of the project is much wider. During our time in Malawi, Simon was struck by the challenges faced by communities living with little or no electricity and he has since completed an MSc in renewable energies. This will help him in the search to help our local community, once we settle into Tanzania. with plenty of scope for including energy based projects.

First steps

It’s all beginning to feel real as we take the first steps towards our move to Tanzania. We recently made a trip to Scotland to complete our advanced wilderness first aid training with WMT, which left us feeling a bit more prepared. We now have a better idea of some of the things we should sort before we go, like having an ‘in case of emergency’ plan. We’re also now eligible to access a much wider range of medicines to put in our first aid kit, like antibiotic injections and strong pain relief to use in emergency situations when far from help. It was a four day course and Simon’s parents came with us to look after the children. Reuben is very clingy and doesn’t settle with others easily, so it was a real encouragement that he was really happy to stay with Simon’s parents and barely made a fuss. We had prayed a lot about this (Victoria in particular had visions of him spending his days wailing his head off!) so we see it as an answer to prayer.

The next big step for us is to begin the work of telling people what we plan to do! This is tied up with needing to raise financial support for the trip, which feels a bit like begging! We know though that this work will not be possible without finances and that there are people out there who have the means and desire to give, so we are just going to jump in feet first. We are really grateful to have the strong support of our sending church, Hockliffe Street Baptist Church, and that they are experienced when it comes to supporting missionaries. We’re also extremely grateful to have the mission sending organisation, Emmanuel International, guiding us through the process. We’ll be doing our first ‘mission event’ at our church in a few weeks, so we’re busy getting any bits of literature we need together so we can hopefully get people interested!

We’ve been struck this week by the excitement of the reality of the forthcoming trip, coupled with anxiety of the things to come, unknown and known. We believe that God is in it all though, and we are trusting him to go before us and with us, leading and guiding us on the way.