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Ready, Set, Go!
Sometimes we get to travel as photographers and we take our kids along because we don't send them to school. We engage them in our lives (which we try to live richly) and know that through experience they will cultivate themselves into what they need to be to serve the world they live in. This past winter, we travelled to Igoma, Tanzania to document the work of the Stouffville-Igoma Partnership. It took a day and a half with an overnight in Kilimanjaro to get there, but our kids were easy adapters 'cause they've always done this. Our work lives and our family lives cross over in ways everyone tells you is wrong, but I'll tell you this - compartmentalizing kids' education, career aspirations, relaxation, family time, work and fitting it all into a calendar just makes it harder to juggle. So we dropped the balls and declared the juggle hustle OVER! We're living, finding creative ways to pay for it all and helping make change in the process.
Welcome to Igoma
Standing across the street from Daniel Salamba's music parlour in Igoma, Tanzania it hit me - When you let the signs guide you, you end up exactly where you're supposed to be.... even if it's 12,000km away.
PARTNERED WITH IGOMA TANZANIA.
After years of passing this sign, the nagging voice that told me it was more than just a sign finally caught up with me. When I started digging I found a tiny group of passionate people whose mission to serve Igoma lit us up. With my adventurous husband and kids on board we started imagining that we could serve too. So with our gear in tow, we took our kids to Igoma to be witness and to document how our two little towns are connected in a big way.
Thank you Daniel (aka: Salamba the Pink) for letting me begin with you, for setting the tone with your welcoming smile and arms always raised, for being a gifted voice, for making art despite difficult circumstance, for keeping the music playing in the street, for being the talented connector you are.
The Stouffville-Igoma Partnership began fifteen years ago when Peter Neufeld (Sr) began a clinic with the help of some friends and their church community. He began by helping one boy, Marcus, to acquire a leg surgery so that he could develop properly and walk. One act. It all starts with one little thing. A reminder not to get caught up in the how, but just do.
Today the clinic is open 24 hrs, with a bustling weekly baby clinic, and the SIP team is working really hard to open the adjacent minor surgical theatre. This is where the focus is at the moment and it's huge for the community.
People of Purpose (Igoma)
These are just a few of the heart-centred leaders we learned from in Igoma! Prisca (the SIP Tanzania chair) and Moses (the Director of the childcare sponsorship program) work out of the blue container near the clinic, but spend most of their time on their feet connecting families in need with resources. Pastor Samual and Pastor Julius work tirelessly to keep the faith and keep people working in community through their ministries. These are the people on the ground who connect the people of Stouffville with the people of Igoma. Prisca's children were priceless ambassadors, leading us through streets, translating Swahili and being thoughtful mates to our kids.
Fredy & the crew
So, now you know how we arrived here in Tanzania, face to face with Freddy and his rambunctious crew of pals, the joyful ambassadors and eager connectors of a future Igoma. These were the first friends to meet us in the streets each day to play and who industriously helped me track down those we photographed to return their portraits. They are fearless, friendly and fast and their gift for building easy bridges and bringing strangers into the fold could literally change the world.
Taking in the light.
The Baby Clinic
A bustling day at the baby clinic really brings out the feeling of community and the members of the SIP Canada team were eager to help out wherever they could. Ethan, John and Dennen got to work refreshing the clinic alongside two vocational students, whose education is supported through SIP scholarships. Scholarships cover tuition, meals, accommodation, uniforms and toolkits.
Behind the Scenes
This is how we spent our days in Igoma. We visited local families, we hung mosquito nets in homes and spent evenings processing the heaviness of poverty at scale. I had to be reminded that I wasn't there to build a school or dig a well on this trip: I was there to show Igoma to YOU.
Mother, Daughter, granddaughters, subsisting together on their courtyard homestead. Only one of these women is sponsored through the SIP but it helps the whole family stay afloat. This girl showed us her trick for making chickens easier to catch - let them roam with a long string dangling from their foot so you can step on the string at any time and stop the chicken in it's tracks!
The Neighbourhood Kids
I don't think any of these kids are in any sort of sponsorship program and each neighbourhood in this 70,000-person town of Igoma has a bustling group of them. While parents go out to work, there are dozens of kids playing in the streets for hours with no meals, responsible for their siblings and supremely grateful for the soccer ball that John brought them.
If you want to do something fun that's actionable and would make a lot of kids happy, rally your friends, collect sports equipment and send it over! We'll help you with a contact. You don't need a charity for that. You can do whatever you want. You might think it's small, but these kids would tell you different.
Update: Because of this post, three women are collecting sports items and sending them to Igoma. Way to make change ladies! Thank you Arlette, Averill and Anna!
What do you See?
Woman on a Mission
The Connectors. The Doers. The Rise-the-Tiders.
They're everywhere in the world and money doesn't make the mindset.
Thank you for introducing me to your husband and neighbours and allowing me to feel the energy of your network and community. You work together in ways we need to do better here.
Giving is a Loop
While in Igoma, John, Dennen and Ethan met a young mother who hadn't been able to breastfeed her newborn baby. They bought the baby enough formula to get him to solid food and delivered it up the hill to a grateful family. While Prisca taught Mama Mpuela how to prepare the formula for her grandson, John got to melt over this tiny little life that he was having a hand in lifting up!!! What a privilege.
Be the Giving
I came upon you in the road, soapy pot in hand, and you sweet girl, you curtsied to say hello and giggled and offered me this moment and then carried on with your washing chores.
Giving is not related to having, I'm learning. It's a way of being.