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The Perfect Holiday Gift

This holiday season you can give a gift of joyous music and support the library in Mbale, Uganda at the same time!! That’s right – Bushiglory, an eight-track CD with songs by BCC staff and children, is now available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbcsacc for $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Thanks to Rachael Keeler, the CD also includes a 12-page color booklet with lyrics and translations to accompany the joyful singing on the CD. You can listen to clips of the music here, and you can read more about the Ugandan recording experience here. Proceeds from the CD go toward the improvement and maintenance of the library. (If you live in the NY area and/or want to buy the CDs in bulk (5 or more) at a discount rate, please email me at maital.baldachin@gmail.com.)

I am also excited to announce that in July 2009, I returned to Uganda for the opening of the library!! I hope that you have read the blog entry about the 15 boxes of donated books from Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax, Virginia that I picked up in Kampala, the 50 local textbooks that we bought in town with your help, and the opening ceremony that was filled with joy, music, speeches, and celebration. You can even watch the ribbon cutting ceremony. The library is now in use!! Children and teachers fill the room with learning and reading every day.  The building houses over 200 books, has six bookshelves, four tables, 12 chairs, and a desk for the librarian.

And yet, there is still more to be done and every donation helps. The community dreams of purchasing computers ($1000 each), additional reading materials ($15-20 per book), opening an internet café, offering computer classes, hiring a trained librarian ($175 per month), and more. The current monthly cost of running the library is $170. Help keep the library up and running – sponsor one month per year. Donations can be made through Paypal (the button on the right of this post) or by sending a check made out to AFBCC to 223 Albemarle Rd. White Plains, NY 10605. AFBCC is a registered 501(c)3 and all donations are tax-deductible.

We look forward to sharing other exciting updates with you soon. Keep your eyes out for a BCC Community Library website…

May this year be one of bringing educational opportunities to people around the world.

Happy Holidays!

Library Opening!!

Shana tova!!

Almost four years after BCC staff, students, sponsored children, and I conceived of the idea for a library, I sat under the mango tree in front of the newly constructed library building as we celebrated its opening!!

Before the day of the opening actually arrived, we received a shipment of 15 boxes of books from Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax, Virginia! Thanks to the astute matchmaking skills of Rabbi Amy Perlin, I had the honor of working with Leslie Viente and Donna Breskin on collecting, organizing, and shipping 15 boxes of books to Uganda. When I decided to travel to Uganda this summer, the women worked diligently to ensure that the shipment would arrive during my brief ten day stay in Uganda – not an easy task when you are dealing with shipments to East Africa. But, somehow, despite the odds, the boxes all arrived safely to the Serena hotel in Kampala. We then packed the boxes in my friend Jen Pulskamp’s car and transported them to the bus park, where we had to struggle with various bus company employees   to load them onto the Elgon Flyer to Mbale.  Anyway, once the books finally arrived in Uganda, I had the privilege of spending a few days working with BCC staff,Edden, and his friend Adi to unpack and create a system for organizing the books. In addition to the books from the US, we picked up 50 local textbooks from town and included in the collection many other books that have been donated from Australia over the years. Even before the books were fully organized, Doctor “Docta” Levert and two teachers found their way into the library and began using the resources! It was very exciting to have the chance to witness them already being used and to get a sense of how they would be used in the future.

 

"Docta" Levert reading the new books

On July 24, 2009 over two-hundred students, teachers, staff, and board members gathered to commemorate this exciting moment. After the opening prayer, a few staff led the community in two national anthems – the Ugandan and the American!

Only a few hours before the ceremony, Edden and I sat in the library with five BCC staff to teach them the American anthem. Both a bit tone deaf, this was a somewhat unfruitful task as we worried that we were teaching them the wrong notes. But after a few rounds of a somewhat off-key rendition, Linus Hire, the BCC administrator, entered the room, took out his cell phone, and played the music for the Star Spangled Banner!! The staff then learned the proper music and sang it beautifully (with Ugandan English pronunciation) at the beginning of the ceremony.  Also, when one of the staff asked about the history of the song, Edden pulled the World Book off the shelf and summarized the entry – we were in the library after all (ok, he knew most of the history without the book). But it was incredible, time after time, to see people making use of the library resources even before its official opening.

After the anthems, we heard speeches from master of ceremonies and child-care department (CCD) coordinator, Dan Wambi; board members, Michael Wangwe and Janet Mulatti; director, Anne Wandendeya; and me. We recounted the history of the dream for a library, the effort that has been put in by so many different people from all over the world(!), and the goal for the institution. A few people mentioned the famous Ugandan saying, “If you want to hide something from an African, place it in a book” repeatedly with the hopes of inspiring the community to prove this adage untrue by uncovering the many hidden worlds inside of the library. The children’s choir sang songs and recited poems about their school and its values. Then, Lunyolo Winnie, famous from the YouTube video about the library (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU6pLvm4b10), stood before the whole community, thanked everyone who had contributed to the construction of the facility, and expressed her gratitude for the resources now available to all of the students. The whole community then prayed for the success of the library. As all of this was taking place, members of the Mbale School’s Band, a brass band led by an exceptionally talented British ex-pat, Phil Monk, arrived. After the prayer, they began to play some music as I walked toward the library with the BCC staff. Mary, the Joshua Primary School secretary, handed me a scissor with twisted purple ribbon tied to the handles and the keys to the building. I cut the ribbon wrapped around the front of the building and then unlocked the doors to the facility as teachers, students, and other community members followed me into the library! Everyone spent a few minutes looking through the growing collection of books, including local textbooks, medical resources, novels, encyclopedias, and more!

 

Cutting the ribbon

We then returned to the front of the building, where we cut the cake as Mary burst open a bottle of Sprite and everyone clapped. The band continued to play as we celebrated the opening of the library.

The children were very, very excited by the band and the opportunity to watch a live musical performance. Some of the youngest children were mesmerized by Phil as he conducted the band. As two of them meticulously imitated his every move, he encouraged them to move forward to stand in front of the band so that they felt and it looked like they were leading. In addition to creating this brass band, Phil Monk is in the process of bringing music to many children in different schools in eastern Uganda. BCC hopes to have the opportunity to partner with him so that BCC’s children have the privilege of learning to read music and play instruments.

During the ceremony, all of the speakers repeatedly thanked everyone who helped make this dream a reality! So, I am passing the message on to you – Thank you!! I look forward to continue to update you on the progress of the project as we continue to expand now that the library is up and running.

May this year be one of generosity, learning, sharing, and community.

*I will be posting an album of photos of Facebook soon – stay tuned.

** I am still working on getting videos of this exciting ceremony online. As soon as I do, I will let you know how to view them!

It’s about time that I write a blog post about my incredible adventures this summer in East Africa with my brother Edden and his friend Adi. Since so much happened during our month there, I am going to, for the most part, just write about highlights from the trip. With the encouragement (or coercion) of my friend Levert in Uganda, I now have a facebook profile! I have already posted one album of photos from the trip and hope to post more photos and videos there.

We landed in Nairobi on July 1st – Edden and Adi from Israel and I came from the United States. We spent one night in Nairobi before leaving for Mombasa on the eastern coast of Kenya. Mombasa was a wonderful introduction for the boys to East Africa. The bus ride was relatively uneventful and we had our own seats (in contrast to the next intercity bus ride we took to Moshi, where Adi stood in the aisle because he gave up his seat for an eighty year old man and a woman handed him a baby to hold during a bathroom stop in the bushes). We had dinner the first night at a local restaurant where you sit at a table with other customers. The two high school principals from Kisumu who we joined at dinner were in Mombasa for a national principals’ conference. They chatted with us extensively about the differences between life in the US and Kenya – how we could afford such a trip (no matter how long they worked and saved, they could probably never afford to travel for a few months on another continent), how many children people in US have, if there are poor people in the US, and more. The next day we toured the old town of Mombasa and spent some time in the vegetable, meat, and chicken markets. The coast of Kenya offers many more kinds of fruits, vegetables, and spices than in Uganda and even different food. When people found out that we were from the United States, they excitedly welcomed us home! A few people even tried to sell us kanga’s (cloth wraps) with the words “Hongera (or Congratulations) Barack Obama” in an arch above his photo.  There was even a photo of President Obama above rows of cages with tens of chickens in each. Oh, the principals also wanted us to visit the newest tourist attraction in Kenya, Obama’s grandmother in her village near Kisumu.

When we returned to our hotel after a day at the beach, we saw at least a hundred people of Indian descent dancing in front of floats. It wasn’t a wedding like we thought but actually a Hari Krishna parade. Supposedly, these take place all over the country at different times throughout the year. We had the privilege of being in the right place at the right time (this actually seemed to be the theme of the trip!).

The next day, we headed out on an overcrowded bus across a very small border crossing to Moshi, Tanzania to begin to prepare for our climb up Kilimanjaro. During our preparatory days in Moshi, we were able to see Mt. Kilimanjaro in the afternoons after the clouds cleared. Before the big day, we had the opportunity to meet with Sandra and Frank, the founders of Tembo Tamu, and meet our guide Stanley and cook Frank (a different Frank). They checked our gear and rented us a few remaining necessities – like down jackets, thermal pants… Well, they rented Edden and Adi down jackets and me an additional fleece. It seemed to be a slight misunderstanding. But Edden pulled through. As you can tell from the photos, on the final ascent to the summit, I wore Edden’s large down jacket (on top of many other layers) and he wore the fleece!!

On the morning of the climb, Frank picked us up at the YMCA, where we were staying, and we headed to the mountain. After registration and other logistics, Edden, Adi, and I put on our day packs, and with our hiking poles in hand, began heading through the rainforest up the mountain with Stanley, our guide, and Joseph, our assistant guide. What we didn’t really know at the time was that we would be accompanied by 11 more people carrying our hiking backpacks, food for a week, and tents. And remember, we did a budget trip, so they weren’t carrying portable toilets up the mountain for us. The Kiliminjaro tourist industry is quite amazing – in addition to the tourists on the mountain, there are at least three or four times as many Tanzanians. As tourist’s huff and puff (mostly due to the lack of oxygen at the high altitude) up the mountain, the porters, (hopefully) carrying less than regulated weight, climb and descend past the tourists not even wearing the hundreds of dollars of fancy equipment that all the tourists on the mountain are sporting. The Tanzania national park service (KINAPA) and other organizations, like IMEC http://www.mountainexplorers.org/club/about.htm, have begun to regulate, enforce regulations, and improve conditions for porters as the industry continues to grow.

Back to the rainforest – one amazing aspect about climbing Kilimanjaro is having the opportunity to pass through five different climate zones, each with its own unique characteristics. As we drove through the first zone, cultivation, we passed lush fields of all sorts of produce, some corporate farms and some local families. We then hiked through the rainforest. It’s really hard to describe (even the pictures don’t capture) the intensity of this experience. The whole forest was dense and green!  The trunks of the trees are covered in moss and there are vines and plants growing everywhere. After about four hours of ascent, the trees become less dense and a bit shorter and we felt the transition from rainforest to moorland. Sandra described this part as feeling like trees and shrubs straight out of a Dr. Seuss book—we wholeheartedly agreed.  After about 4.5 hours, we reached the first camp at 3000m from Machame Gate at 1490m. It quickly became very cold. We added more layers, enjoyed the cucumber soup thoroughly, and wondered how we would be able to withstand the cold as we got further up the mountain.

On day 2, we hiked for over five hours through the clouds to the New Shira Camp at about 3800m. By the time we reached this camp, we were already above the clouds, so as the sun set, we looked out over what seemed like an endless sea of clouds. It actually looked like if we walked to the right spot, we would be able to jump onto the clouds and walk to Mt. Meru in the distance. It was so cold that I actually filled my water bottle with hot water and put it in my sleeping bag to warm up enough to fall asleep. On day 3, we ascended to the Lava Tower at 4630m for lunch and then descended to Barranco camp at 3950m. The ascent and descent are to help us acclimate to the altitude. Well, by the time we descended to Barranco, we were all not feeling well (and we were taking medicine). At this point, we had to decide if we would be climbing in six or seven days. In other words, whether we would split the next day’s climb into two. We were all feeling sick and realized that at high altitude it’s hard to recover anyway, so why prolong the torture – we will go for six days.

So, Day 4 begins very early with the most challenging of any of the climbing on the mountain as we used our hands to climb up a rock face.  We continued for about four hours until Karranga Valley (where people climbing in 7 days spend the night), had a hot lunch (as opposed to packed lunches the other days), and donned our rain gear since it was beginning to rain. The porters had to bring all of our water from here to the next camp, Barafu (Swahili for ice) at 4681m. We hiked the next three hours or so in a misty rain cloud. We arrived in camp at around 3:30pm and after barely being able to eat any dinner we laid down to rest (it’s hard to eat and sleep at this altitude) until 11:15pm when we got up to prepare for our midnight summit ascent. When we went to sleep it was still rainy but when we work up it was perfectly clear! We had put on layers and layers of warm clothes before we rested. We had a few sips of tea, a bite of a cookie, and turned on our headlamps. After a few minutes of climbing, we realized that the light of the full moon was enough to light our path, so we turned off our headlamps! After only about an hour of hiking, the pipe to my camelpak froze as did Edden’s, so we were only drinking from Adi’s pak. (We had already finished one waterbottle that I had put in a thermal sock to keep it from freezing). About three hours into the hike, I didn’t think I would make it. My hands were freezing, I was nauseous, and just exhausted. The one porter who came along with us to help the guides (help us, of course), took my daypack and the guides basically pulled and pushed me for the next bit. I begged to find out how much longer, but they kept telling me close. At night, you can’t see more than a few feet ahead, so I couldn’t see the summit. Stanley actually claims that’s one of the reasons everyone summits at night for if people saw where they had to go, they wouldn’t make it. Well, I stopped every fifteen minutes for water. But at about 6am, I made it to Stella point – the end of the steep incline. At this point, the sun was coming up and we had only 45 minutes or so of much flatter terrain to the peak. Although I walked very slowly, and passed some people already coming down, we all made it to Uhuru Peak (5895m) just in time for sunrise! As we witnessed a gorgeous sunrise and stood near an enormous glacier, everyone gathered near the rickety wooden sign and waited to take photos with it to prove that they had reached the peak. Freezing, sick, and still needing to descend, we only stayed on the peak for about 15 minutes. We snapped a few pictures as our fingers froze and then began the long trek down. At around 11, we reached Barafu, had some juice and laid down for a one hour nap. The boys already had splitting headaches, and by the time we woke for lunch, they were so bad, that I was the only one who ate anything. Stanley said the best cure was to descend – so we did. We hiked for another four hours or so  to Mweka Camp (3100m). It’s incredible to descend rapidly through the climate zones, watch the trees and shrubs get taller and denser and your breathing easier as you descend.

With our appetites back, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and night’s sleep before descending another three hours to Mweka Gate, where we retrieved our certificates and waited for Frank to pick us up. After a warm shower and a Kilimanjaro beer, we were ready for our next adventure and left Moshi for Nairobi early the next morning. As you can imagine, we highly, highly recommend using Tembo Tamu as your tour operator and requesting Stanley as your guide. Everyone was super helpful, warm, and fun throughout the process!! Contact Sandra at sandypandyster@gmail.com when you are ready to climb!!

After one more night in Nairobi, we set out for a three day safari in Masai Mara. We traveled with a couple from Reunion (a small island off of Madagascar) and a couple from North Carolina, one of whom is a lawyer and had been volunteering for nine months in Mombasa through the Foundation for Sustainable Development (the organization that placed me at BCC in the summer of 2005). All in all, the safari was incredible! We saw lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, alligators, and more. But most significantly, we saw thousands and thousands of zebras and wildebeest, because July is the time when the wildebeest migrate from Tanzania to Kenya over the Mara River!! We saw the zebras and wildebeest walking in long lines toward the Mara River, crossing a small stream on their way, and waiting to cross the Mara River. It was phenomenal!

And then we were off to Uganda…

** I posted an album of photos from the trip on Facebook — that’s right, I am finally on Facebook, thanks to Levert Wafula.

It’s about time that I write a blog post about my incredible adventures this summer in East Africa with my brother Edden and his friend Adi. Since so much happened during our month there, I am going to, for the most part, just write about highlights from the trip. With the encouragement (or coercion) of my friend Levert in Uganda, I now have a facebook profile! I have already posted one album of photos from the trip and hope to post more photos and videos there.

We landed in Nairobi on July 1st – Edden and Adi from Israel and I came from the United States. We spent one night in Nairobi before leaving for Mombasa on the eastern coast of Kenya. Mombasa was a wonderful introduction for the boys to East Africa. The bus ride was relatively uneventful and we had our own seats (in contrast to the next intercity bus ride we took to Moshi, where Adi stood in the aisle because he gave up his seat for an eighty year old man and a woman handed him a baby to hold during a bathroom stop in the bushes). We had dinner the first night at a local restaurant where you sit at a table with other customers. The two high school principals from Kisumu who we joined at dinner were in Mombasa for a national principals’ conference. They chatted with us extensively about the differences between life in the US and Kenya – how we could afford such a trip (no matter how long they worked and saved, they could probably never afford to travel for a few months on another continent), how many children people in US have, if there are poor people in the US, and more. The next day we toured the old town of Mombasa and spent some time in the vegetable, meat, and chicken markets. The coast of Kenya offers many more kinds of fruits, vegetables, and spices than in Uganda and even different food. When people found out that we were from the United States, they excitedly welcomed us home! A few people even tried to sell us kanga’s (cloth wraps) with the words “Hongera (or Congratulations) Barack Obama” in an arch above his photo.  There was even a photo of President Obama above rows of cages with tens of chickens in each. Oh, the principals also wanted us to visit the newest tourist attraction in Kenya, Obama’s grandmother in her village near Kisumu.

When we returned to our hotel after a day at the beach, we saw at least a hundred people of Indian descent dancing in front of floats. It wasn’t a wedding like we thought but actually a Hari Krishna parade. Supposedly, these take place all over the country at different times throughout the year. We had the privilege of being in the right place at the right time (this actually seemed to be the theme of the trip!).

The next day, we headed out on an overcrowded bus across a very small border crossing to Moshi, Tanzania to begin to prepare for our climb up Kilimanjaro. During our preparatory days in Moshi, we were able to see Mt. Kilimanjaro in the afternoons after the clouds cleared. Before the big day, we had the opportunity to meet with Sandra and Frank, the founders of Tembo Tamu, and meet our guide Stanley and cook Frank (a different Frank). They checked our gear and rented us a few remaining necessities – like down jackets, thermal pants… Well, they rented Edden and Adi down jackets and me an additional fleece. It seemed to be a slight misunderstanding. But Edden pulled through. As you can tell from the photos, on the final ascent to the summit, I wore Edden’s large down jacket (on top of many other layers) and he wore the fleece!!

On the morning of the climb, Frank picked us up at the YMCA, where we were staying, and we headed to the mountain. After registration and other logistics, Edden, Adi, and I put on our day packs, and with our hiking poles in hand, began heading through the rainforest up the mountain with Stanley, our guide, and Joseph, our assistant guide. What we didn’t really know at the time was that we would be accompanied by 11 more people carrying our hiking backpacks, food for a week, and tents. And remember, we did a budget trip, so they weren’t carrying portable toilets up the mountain for us. The Kiliminjaro tourist industry is quite amazing – in addition to the tourists on the mountain, there are at least three or four times as many Tanzanians. As tourist’s huff and puff (mostly due to the lack of oxygen at the high altitude) up the mountain, the porters, (hopefully) carrying less than regulated weight, climb and descend past the tourists not even wearing the hundreds of dollars of fancy equipment that all the tourists on the mountain are sporting. The Tanzania national park service (KINAPA) and other organizations, like IMEC http://www.mountainexplorers.org/club/about.htm, have begun to regulate, enforce regulations, and improve conditions for porters as the industry continues to grow.

Back to the rainforest – one amazing aspect about climbing Kilimanjaro is having the opportunity to pass through five different climate zones, each with its own unique characteristics. As we drove through the first zone, cultivation, we passed lush fields of all sorts of produce, some corporate farms and some local families. We then hiked through the rainforest. It’s really hard to describe (even the pictures don’t capture) the intensity of this experience. The whole forest was dense and green!  The trunks of the trees are covered in moss and there are vines and plants growing everywhere. After about four hours of ascent, the trees become less dense and a bit shorter and we felt the transition from rainforest to moorland. Sandra described this part as feeling like trees and shrubs straight out of a Dr. Seuss book—we wholeheartedly agreed.  After about 4.5 hours, we reached the first camp at 3000m from Machame Gate at 1490m. It quickly became very cold. We added more layers, enjoyed the cucumber soup thoroughly, and wondered how we would be able to withstand the cold as we got further up the mountain.

On day 2, we hiked for over five hours through the clouds to the New Shira Camp at about 3800m. By the time we reached this camp, we were already above the clouds, so as the sun set, we looked out over what seemed like an endless sea of clouds. It actually looked like if we walked to the right spot, we would be able to jump onto the clouds and walk to Mt. Meru in the distance. It was so cold that I actually filled my water bottle with hot water and put it in my sleeping bag to warm up enough to fall asleep. On day 3, we ascended to the Lava Tower at 4630m for lunch and then descended to Barranco camp at 3950m. The ascent and descent are to help us acclimate to the altitude. Well, by the time we descended to Barranco, we were all not feeling well (and we were taking medicine). At this point, we had to decide if we would be climbing in six or seven days. In other words, whether we would split the next day’s climb into two. We were all feeling sick and realized that at high altitude it’s hard to recover anyway, so why prolong the torture – we will go for six days.

So, Day 4 begins very early with the most challenging of any of the climbing on the mountain as we used our hands to climb up a rock face.  We continued for about four hours until Karranga Valley (where people climbing in 7 days spend the night), had a hot lunch (as opposed to packed lunches the other days), and donned our rain gear since it was beginning to rain. The porters had to bring all of our water from here to the next camp, Barafu (Swahili for ice) at 4681m. We hiked the next three hours or so in a misty rain cloud. We arrived in camp at around 3:30pm and after barely being able to eat any dinner we laid down to rest (it’s hard to eat and sleep at this altitude) until 11:15pm when we got up to prepare for our midnight summit ascent. When we went to sleep it was still rainy but when we work up it was perfectly clear! We had put on layers and layers of warm clothes before we rested. We had a few sips of tea, a bite of a cookie, and turned on our headlamps. After a few minutes of climbing, we realized that the light of the full moon was enough to light our path, so we turned off our headlamps! After only about an hour of hiking, the pipe to my camelpak froze as did Edden’s, so we were only drinking from Adi’s pak. (We had already finished one waterbottle that I had put in a thermal sock to keep it from freezing). About three hours into the hike, I didn’t think I would make it. My hands were freezing, I was nauseous, and just exhausted. The one porter who came along with us to help the guides (help us, of course), took my daypack and the guides basically pulled and pushed me for the next bit. I begged to find out how much longer, but they kept telling me close. At night, you can’t see more than a few feet ahead, so I couldn’t see the summit. Stanley actually claims that’s one of the reasons everyone summits at night for if people saw where they had to go, they wouldn’t make it. Well, I stopped every fifteen minutes for water. But at about 6am, I made it to Stella point – the end of the steep incline. At this point, the sun was coming up and we had only 45 minutes or so of much flatter terrain to the peak. Although I walked very slowly, and passed some people already coming down, we all made it to Uhuru Peak (5895m) just in time for sunrise! As we witnessed a gorgeous sunrise and stood near an enormous glacier, everyone gathered near the rickety wooden sign and waited to take photos with it to prove that they had reached the peak. Freezing, sick, and still needing to descend, we only stayed on the peak for about 15 minutes. We snapped a few pictures as our fingers froze and then began the long trek down. At around 11, we reached Barafu, had some juice and laid down for a one hour nap. The boys already had splitting headaches, and by the time we woke for lunch, they were so bad, that I was the only one who ate anything. Stanley said the best cure was to descend – so we did. We hiked for another four hours or so  to Mweka Camp (3100m). It’s incredible to descend rapidly through the climate zones, watch the trees and shrubs get taller and denser and your breathing easier as you descend.

With our appetites back, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and night’s sleep before descending another three hours to Mweka Gate, where we retrieved our certificates and waited for Frank to pick us up. After a warm shower and a Kilimanjaro beer, we were ready for our next adventure and left Moshi for Nairobi early the next morning. As you can imagine, we highly, highly recommend using Tembo Tamu as your tour operator and requesting Stanley as your guide. Everyone was super helpful, warm, and fun throughout the process!! Contact Sandra at sandypandyster@gmail.com when you are ready to climb!!

After one more night in Nairobi, we set out for a three day safari in Masai Mara. We traveled with a couple from Reunion (a small island off of Madagascar) and a couple from North Carolina, one of whom is a lawyer and had been volunteering for nine months in Mombasa through the Foundation for Sustainable Development (the organization that placed me at BCC in the summer of 2005). All in all, the safari was incredible! We saw lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, alligators, and more. But most significantly, we saw thousands and thousands of zebras and wildebeest, because July is the time when the wildebeest migrate from Tanzania to Kenya over the Mara River!! We saw the zebras and wildebeest walking in long lines toward the Mara River, crossing a small stream on their way, and waiting to cross the Mara River. It was phenomenal!

And then we were off to Uganda…

And I’m Off…

It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since Adam and I returned from Uganda. We have had an incredible year in New York City– Adam finished his first year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary while serving as the rabbinic intern at the Maryland Hillel and teaching Hebrew school at Oheb Shalom and I worked at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES) as an administrator and math teacher in the GED program. But as many of you know, Adam and I don’t stay put for very long.

So… tomorrow morning, I am returning to East Africa!!! I will be traveling with my brother, Edden, in Kenya and Tanzania before returning to Mbale, Uganda. I will do my best to document my adventures in Africa on this blog.

In the meantime, Adam will be studying at Yeshivat Hadar in NYC and planning a family camp program at Ramah in the Rockies. All of this before Adam and I head off to Israel for a year where we will be living in Jerusalem. Adam will be studying full time at Machon Schechter and I will be a Dorot Fellow.  Stay tuned… we might even write a bit about our lives in Israel.

We have a few other exciting updates: The Bushiglory CDs are finally complete!! Thank you to Rachael Keeler, who worked diligently on the beautiful and informative booklets that include all the lyrics in the local language and translations. We are still finalizing the details of how to make the CDs available to all of our readers and generous donors (more on this in August!). If you happen to live in Westchester or see my parents — ask them how to get a copy.

Also, members of Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, VA (Rabbi Amy Perlin’s congregation) collected books for the library. The books should be arriving during my stay in Uganda!! I am excited to post pictures and stories detailing the delivery and reception of this generous contribution.

As they say in Kenya and Tanzania — Kwaheri.

Photos!

This morning I received these incredible photos of the completed library and the first pieces of furniture. After the district held a training for 126 people about HIV/AIDS and Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in the facility, BCC has begun to outfit the space with furniture. I will continue to post pictures as more furniture and books are purchase. It is your donations that have made this project possible and it is with with your help that this project will continue to grow!!

Thank you. Happy Passover.

The Library!!!!

Bookshelves

A Passover Thought

Our seder begins with children being encouraged to ask questions and reflect on various aspects of Passover. We then spend hours explaining to the children “why this night is different from all other nights.” Additionally, we read about the four children who have different ways of engaging with the tradition. We often explain these four children as encompassing aspects of all children. For each child, even the one who doesn’t know how to ask, we have a specific, personalized answer. And yet, I think that there is another child: the one who does not have the opportunity to ask. Last year while living and working in East Africa, Adam and I encountered too many children who are never given the opportunity to ask questions. And, even if they were given an opportunity, they don’t have the resources or tools to find answers. In fact, according to the United Nations Development Program Human Development Report 2007/2008, the literacy rate in Uganda is 66.8 percent. Unfortunately, those who are lucky enough to learn to read lack access to educational materials.

As we think about the different types of questions that have become a central part of our Passover tradition, I encourage us to think about children all over the world who never have the opportunity to ask questions and who have no tools to search for answers. Over this past year, many of you helped to change this reality by supporting the establishment of a community library in Uganda. The library building is now complete!! With your help, hundreds of children and adults will have access to materials that will empower them to ask questions. As they use the books to explore the world around them, they will learn to formulate questions and research answers that will hopefully lead to even more questions. Even before we finished purchasing furniture, the facility was used to host two programs: a training for 126 community members on HIV/AIDS and Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of the virus and a five day peer-educator training seminar on adolescent reproductive health. By the end of April, the building will be filled with the voices of children, teachers, and community members asking questions and searching for answers. As we sit at our seders celebrating our freedom to ask questions, let’s commit to continuing the work of bringing this freedom and privilege to those who have yet to be given or are just beginning to have the opportunity to ask.

Library Update!!!

Dear Friends of BCC,

Our library is almost complete! This week the facility will be used for the first time, hosting a five day peer-educator training seminar on adolescent reproductive health. Your support helped make BCC’s dream a reality, and we are excited to share some of the highlights of the last few months.

In addition to completing the building, in a few weeks we’ll be releasing Bushiglory, an eight-track CD with songs by BCC staff and children. Thanks to Rachael Keeler, we’ve also been able to produce a 12-page color booklet with lyrics and translations to accompany the joyful singing on the CD. Copies will be on sale on our blog (proceeds to support the library) by the end of December for $20 + shipping and handling (discounts for students and schools available).

The CD will be one more way for us to introduce people to the Mbale community. Throughout the year, we’ve been privileged to share stories, music, pictures, and lessons from our Ugandan students at many venues, including the Westchester Coalition on Global Poverty & AIDS and Kol Ami, a synagogue in White Plains. The enthusiasm, interest, and generosity with which people received the project have been so helpful and so moving. If you know of a group that might like to hear about Mbale and its library, please put us in touch with them!

Most inspiring has been the way the library has brought together students and children in support of their peers in Mbale. Through a partnership with New Bridge International Learning Center, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh graders in Chicago have begun a pen-pal program with students at Joshua Primary School. Third graders at camp Ramah Nyack participated in a swim-a-thon to raise money for the library. As part of her senior internship at Solomon Schechter of Westchester, Tali Cohen sold candy and hosted car washes among other programs to help raise awareness and funds. We are so impressed by the work of these students and hope that working on these projects has helped them understand both the challenges and the opportunities we have in trying to make a difference in the world.

Since breaking ground last May, we’ve been focusing efforts on raising funds to furnish and outfit the building with the books, computers, and materials it needs to serve the community. Over sixty friends and supporters gathered in New York in September to learn about and support the library. We are $4,000 on our way toward our goal of raising $20,000 to complete the library and every donation counts! $20 buys a chair, $60 buys a table, $100 a bookcase, and $1,000 a computer…all of which go towards educating and sustaining the Mbale community. Donations can be made at paypal (the button just to the right!) or mailed to 223 Albemarle Rd White Plains, NY 10605. AFBCC is a registered 501(c)3 and all donations are tax-deductible. During these challenging economic times, the community continues to look to us to help them plant the seeds for a sustainable future, and we hope we can count on your support.

In May we asked for your help as we got ready to break ground, now let’s work together to get the library off the ground!

Happy Holidays,

Maital

Breaking Ground

Breaking Ground

Beginning to Build

Beginning to Build

Construction

Construction

Almost Done

Almost Done

Thank you

Thank you