Amani Center for Children
Friday, October 22, 2010
N.B. I've tried several times to upload pictures to my blog, but the internet connections here are just not strong enough. I'll have to share those later. Pole, as they say here in Tanzania.
One of the deepest impressions made on me during my trip thus far: our too-short visit to Amani Children’s Home, near Moshi.
Amani means “peace” in KiSwahili. The home is well-named.
Nancy Brooks once told me how she knew, first-hand as a parent with children in different schools in the UK, immediately and intuitively, which one was a “happy school.” The term is quaint but apt, and I’ve often hoped and prayed that Trinity would deserve such a name. Amani is a happy school. I didn’t meet many adults. The volunteer art teacher from Portland gave us a tour. And I met a young English teacher whom Jenny knew already. And a veteran teacher of 38 years, whose name was Philomena Maro. She let me take her picture but insisted that it be one of her helping her young student, Alex. I liked that. The children were happy, and the adults loved being there.
The home has a half dozen social workers. I’m sure they need them all, for they comb the streets of Moshi and Arusha, looking for young children who have mostly migrated to the cities to try to scrape an existence together, having been orphanded, abandoned, or abused. They bring them back, in groups of one or two or a half-dozen. They interview them to find out where they came from, and they make it their goal to reunite them with their community, somehow, some way, sometime. They try hard to make Amani a place of peace, but not to make it the sort of place that they would never want to leave. I liked that. They are doing important work, but they know that families and communities are the God-ordained way to care for children.
They can’t all be reunited, and the home is there for them as long as they need it.
All their students take the standard Tanzanian test at the end of Form 4 and Form 7. They all pass, but not all get into public schools, the best and most elite route toward success. I had an interesting conversation with a teacher about the relative value of higher liberal education and vocational training for their students.