Tuesday, August 9, 2016

July25 Social activism and philanthropy...

Today we indulge in the Philanthropic part of our African trip and I am most excited. The explosive emergence of social media bringing remote injustices to our dining table conversations coupled with our innate bleeding hearts has created a new vector in our world. This one has many faces such as social responsibility, social and corporate citizenship and social philanthropy. Our company, Fair trade safari admirably donates all of its net profits to such initiatives and encourages us to match them. My daughter happened to read my itinerary before the trip and like many of her generation she is single-minded in correcting all the imbalances in our world. To this end she redirected one large 20kg duffel bag with soccer balls, soccer cleats and jerseys from its original destination of Senegal to mine which is Tanzania. Aisha runs a non-profit http://connectforcare.wixsite.com/connectforcare who's vision is to find need and to fulfill it by gathering and redistributing the excess, superfluous and unused "things" that gather in the homes, garages and storage areas of our first world homes. The soccer equipment was contributed by families all around our home town of Wyckoff and many of her soccer teammates. Another family friend Riya who is a dancer collected and packed two dozen pairs of dancing shoes for me to take. 
In the morning we visited an NGO called SOS Children's village  www.soschildrensvillagestanzania.org who's mission is to strengthen the family life of every young child and to provide a family and a home to those who don't have one. I was impressed with the school, the boarding and lodging facilities and the caliber of the administrators. The environs reminded me of my young days in boarding school far from home and it a brought a tear to Fern's eye as he flashed back to his early life in Cuba. To travel two continents away from anything that is familiar and then to succumb to overwhelming familiarity is truly a human condition. We are of the same clay transmuted differently. 
( Dancing shoes for Ibuka's kids)
The soccer equipment was mostly donated to SOS with our guide Phillip retaining soccer balls  to distribute to remote schools in the bush, when he delivers pens and paper on behalf of his NGO called pens4kids! 
As we left the SOS campus we were flagged down by a well-dressed local policeman and cited for speeding! Contrary to our initial reaction it was not a shakedown and we proceeded to our next NGO with Edwin the driver a little unhappy. Ibuka dance foundation in Arusha is our next stop where we are introduced to this NGO that provides dance training to youth and teaches them this art-form and skill which they can leverage in their lives. 

Brian and his friends leads our group through dance moves on the large outdoor stage and then dance their most complex and acrobatic moves for Fern and Ali to photograph at close range. Their moves gathered inspiration from the cameras in their faces and the cameras were only to happy to oblige. I donated the dancing shoes to Ibuka and Fair Trade and several members of the party donated money in support of the cause. What a wonderful second 'hit' this effort was. If the Serengeti and its animals had us walking in the clouds, these NGOs had us back on the earth enjoying the richness of humanity. 

Today had been earmarked on the trips’ itinerary as the ‘social philanthropy’ day and one that my daughter Aisha and have looked forward to most. Aisha is home and I am her emissary in Africa bearing gifts for local children.  Two duffel bags are packed with deflated footballs the largest donation coming from the Bukharis even as we prepped to leave for the Airport. We stopped at the local Puncture repair shop to inflate the balls and the small crowd watched in wide eyed glee as crumpled leather turned into colorful spheres… greens with adidas motifs, reds with black borders reminiscent of Masai’s shawls that we photographed yesterday, purples and blues like the tropical flowers of this landscape and white that looks officious and world-cup like! Tap-tap-tap the repairman showed his ball juggling skill, tap-tap the onlooker retorted with the green ball, bounce-bounce in the dirt and soon balls were being exchanged and played all over the gas station! A damp rag was summoned and the balls respectfully wiped down like a cut-glass antique bowl being passed from hand to hand to admire the light reflecting off the crystal! In that one instant it is evident to me…sport though apparently physical, most immediately and inexplicably dials an ethereal connection to the uninhibited soul within. In this crowd of ten from up and down the human and economic range there was this transcendence of the immediate gas station reality into a ‘let my Messi skills show your Ronaldo skills’ delirium. We are playing gas-station soccer …   
Baba Phillips our driver gathers all the balls and we headed for the SOS Childrens village a place where orphan children live in families. 
Even as we put all the bouncing balls into car Malawani (Baba Phillips) tells me about a non-profit called ‘Pens 4 kids’ that he works for. Amazing … here is a Sernegeti tour guide and master off-road driver distributing millions of pens to kids in the deep bush of Africa…places where there are no roads and little connection with other humanity. His drives tourists like us to places where most of his countrymen don’t venture… villages that live amidst lions, people that live on the animal migration routes and those marooned deep in the Rift valley. Here he delivers his precious gifts of ‘writing instruments’ as we somewhat snootily refer to them in our schools. This is how some kids get there ‘back to school’ supplies…

( this is how you take a 3 layered photograph! )

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