Blog Tanzania

31 Kids That Rewrote My Story

29.01.2016

How the kids at the Children’s Home changed me for the better

Molli smiling with Baraka Molli and Baraka at a Children's Home birthday party.

About one month ago I left Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and my position as Fundraising and Marketing Manager for help2kids. Now as I write this post, I am sitting by the fireplace in snowy Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I couldn’t feel farther away from the life I lived just a few weeks ago.

As the help2kids marketing team lead, I had the privilege of working at all of our Tanzanian projects. I witnessed the determination of Bajeviro students fighting for opportunities many others take for granted. I watched the beaming faces of children at Mwandaliwa Nursery School when a lesson in English or Mathematics class finally clicked. From behind the camera I saw the Health Project distribute mosquito nets with immense appreciation from staff at our partner schools and orphanages. I cheered the Bajeviro Rainbows players as they demonstrated a tenacity that represented more than just winning a football match.
IMG_1196 Molli with a student from Mwandaliwa Nursery School.

But my relationship with the help2kids Children’s Home was different. The Children’s Home became my home. I stayed with the fabulous and selfless mamas that make the house a home. I roamed with ducks, rabbits, cats, and one elusive turtle. And I lived with 31 kids that absolutely changed me in the best way possible.

Let me explain: Living with 31 of the coolest kids on Earth has absolutely and completely changed who I am. I will forever be changed in the way I do my job and live my life, inspired by the kids that demanded my best from me. It was an honor to share their stories, and in the process they left quite an imprint on my own.

Growing up as the youngest child, I never had much experience with kids. My questions were always, “How was your day?” “What are your ambitions?” This may not be the best conversation starter with most kids, but at the Children’s Home the kids were very responsive.

Augusti would tell me with ease about his aspirations to be a member of parliament, wanting to see his country grow and develop free from corruption. Star shared how important it was for her to become a successful businesswoman, so that she could be a role model and mentor for children from similar backgrounds.

Through my interactions with the kids I would grow to not just be the Fundraising and Marketing Manager, but to be Auntie Molli, which is perhaps the most cherished position I have ever held.

I started my days with a smile and kind of raspy but very sweet, “Hi Auntie,” from Angel. I would come home and find Baraka waiting to see if I wanted to go buy fruit that day, and wondering if he could come along. 

I’d then unwind with a post-work run with Happy Johnny, Happy Masuke, Prisca, Donaldi, or Evaristo. For fun I would scoop up Digna and spin her around as she giggled, and I would get goofy making funny voices with Francisca.

At night I would read to Winstoni, Neema, and Savera. Later Nuru, Pascal, and Riziki would wish me sweet dreams before heading to bed. As the rest of the house slept, Simon, Star, and Tausi kept studying into the night. The children were a part of my life all-day, everyday.

Molli and Francisca enjoying a soda Francisca and Molli, aka "Kooks"
Molli and Happy Masuke hugging Happy Masuke at a monthly birthday party with Auntie Molli.

But it wasn’t just about the hugs, goodnight rituals, and renditions of Frozen’s “Let It Go” at all hours of the day. I had the privilege of watching them figure out and own who they are.

Kulwa, born without the privileges of his classmates’ well-off nuclear families, has ranked first in his class two years in a row. His sister, Dotto, is a part of a group of “baby whispers” at the Children’s Home. I would watch in awe as Suzy, Haika, Zainabu and she held any infant they encountered with great love and care.

Whenever anything needed to be fixed or assembled, Pius would jump at the opportunity to build, design, or create something to better the house. With the precision of an artist and the strength of an athlete, he constantly looks for ways to help without being asked.

There is the general nature and sweet spirit of Costa that colors each interaction he has with others. There is Richard’s sensitivity and quiet courage, Dorie’s compassion and generosity, Happy Joseph’s confidence, Selemani’s desire to give his best, and Abu’s bright smile.

If I had just been the Fundraising and Marketing Manager of help2kids, I possibly could’ve returned home with a sense of normalcy after working in Tanzania. But I wasn’t just the Fundraising and Marketing Manager – I was Auntie Molli. That is what has changed who I am and who I will continue to be.

I’ve adopted some of the drive of Tausi, Simon, and Star, some of Prisca’s intentionality, some of Evaristo’s thoughtful curiosity, and a pinch of Happy Masuke’s silliness.

I’ve seen the way that 31 children, who were born with all odds against them, have fought and thrived. I always wanted to tell their stories with dignity – to give them a venue to express themselves and give people across the world the privilege of connecting with these amazing kids. I just never knew the impact they’d have on my own life’s narrative.

Three Children's Home girls and Molli on a bench Molli spending some quality time with (left-to-right) Haika, Happy Johnny, and Zainabu at the Children's Home.
Three Children's Home girls smiling for camera (Left-to-right) Dorie, Dotto, and Angel bring some happiness to every help2kids volunteer and staff member.

As I continue to fill in the chapters of my story with each big decision I make, the dedication page will remain the same: the 31 names of the children who helped shape it.

 

You too can work with and impact the lives of these incredible kids! Learn more about volunteering with help2kids in Tanzania. You can also visit our donation page to support the Children’s Home or start a campaign on myhelp2kids.org!

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