Food, Fun, and Family
Every year the kids from the help2kids Children’s Home can’t wait for the 25th of December. Christmas preparation starts weeks in advance: kids are decorating the house while staff members are wrapping presents and gathering food for a hearty holiday meal.
On Christmas morning our mamas prepare a huge meal for both the children and visitors. The feast includes some of Tanzania’s most popular and traditional dishes, including chicken, pilau, and chips. Christmas Day doesn’t have set meal times – it’s one big feast all day long.
The children are always excited about the delicious food, but they’re even more excited about the presents.
“The kids were super excited and always asking me when they could open their presents,” said Justine, our Children’s Home Coordinator. “They knew that all the presents were hidden in my room, so they kept trying to sneak in. It didn’t work.”
Finally Christmas rolled around, but the kids had to work a little before receiving their gift. Mari Yogi, our Field Manager, and Justine organized a game for the children. Volunteers hid slips of paper outside the house with each child’s name written on them. The kids first had to find their name before they could claim their gift.
Once the game started, the children rushed outside, sprinting around the Children’s Home, searching for their name. Once found, they ran even faster towards the living room to finally open their gift. There were some stragglers who had a tough time finding their slip of paper, but eventually everyone was in the family room excitedly opening their presents.
“They loved the gifts,” said Justine, “and I think the towels were the biggest hit.” Their gift bags held pencils, erasers, a personal journal, towels, a pair of sunglasses, and lots of candy, all of which were purchased through the help of local donations.
Towels are quite expensive in Tanzania and get worn out very quickly, especially by the children. Between playing outside, going to the beach, and the intense heat, towels can get used up to three or four times per day. Thanks to a local donation we were able to buy a new towel for every child.
But of course Christmas isn’t just about the presents. It’s also an important time to come together as a family, albeit an unconventional one. Many of our mamas were at the Children’s Home for Christmas, as well as our uncle, our international staff, and former volunteers.
“Our family is not always blood-related but it’s a small, very close community of people who come together because of the love they share for these kids,” Justine said.
We also appreciate the volunteers who decide to spend Christmas with us here in Tanzania, especially returning volunteers like Miriam and Monika. Every volunteer leaves an impact on the Children’s Home; when they decide to return it sends a clear message to our children that these volunteers are not only coming to Tanzania to teach them, but also because they want to be a part of their family.
The celebration of family, gifts, and good food didn’t end on Christmas at the Children’s Home. Boxing Day, another commonly celebrated holiday in Tanzania, was met with music, candy, and a long night of dancing, while Sunday evening was spent celebrating Mama Deme, one of help2kids’ longest employed caretakers at the Children’s Home.
“The weekend was a lot of fun,” Mama Deme said. “We ate good food, drank sodas, and had a lot of dancing. At the end there was some crying, from me and the kids, because they love me and I love them so much.”
It was hard for Mama Deme to leave after dedicating four years to the Children’s Home, but she promised to visit often.
“I promised the kids I will come back to visit in a few months,” she continued. “I will miss the children because they’re my children. We’re a family.”
It wasn’t easy for anyone to say goodbye on Sunday, but children and staff still had a great evening of dancing and celebrating everything Mama Deme has done for the kids.
Although it was a packed holiday weekend, we still hope to add one more event to the list before the children return to school in mid-January.
“We are trying to plan a Bongoyo Island beach trip,” Justine explained. “We recently had a donation that covered about half the cost, so we’re trying to get the rest funded. The kids have never been before and Bongoyo is a beautiful beach and one of the most popular spots in Dar.”
If you are in the giving spirit this holiday season, we greatly appreciate donations to all of our projects. The Children’s Home is looking for help to fund the rest of their Bongoyo trip and is looking for donations of swimsuits and school supplies, especially backpacks. And if you’re looking to get friends and family involved, there are always campaigning opportunities on myhelp2kids.org.
help2kids wishes everyone a Happy Holiday! Our children greatly benefit from the love, care, and support we continue to get through international and local donors and volunteers. Thank you all and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
— help2kids (@help2kidsorg) December 27, 2015