Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Usonji Day 2.0

Greetings from cold and rainy Moshi, Kilimanjaro!  Spring has sprung, and with it, come the rains.... finally!!  We are happy to, at last, have some relief from the intense heat that has plagued us all year, but at the same time, rain brings other troubles: cold and wet, mud and dirt, stuck cars and no power.  Nevertheless, I have been told not to complain, that mvua ni baraka (rain is a blessing), so I guess I should just count it, and be done!

This past Saturday, we celebrated once again Siku ya Usonji Duniani (World Autism Day) with a march through downtown Moshi and festivities at the Gabriella Center, which is always a big contributor to the event for obvious reasons.  In case you don't remember, we participated in the big day last year though not as actively as I would have liked, so this year I made a concerted effort to get Toa Nafasi into the mix properly.  Under the umbrella of Connects Autism Tanzania, another local NGO dealing more specifically with autism than us, we were able to join in.  Check last year's blog post here: http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2015/04/usonji-day_16.html

We had a banner made with the "Light It Up Blue" theme for autism and arranged for all staff to wear their Toa Nafasi t-shirts.  Nearly all of our wonderful teachers made the trek from Msaranga into town, and even the diwani (local councilman) came to represent.

After an abbreviated walk (RAIN!), we ended up at the Hindu Stadium for some speeches and a bit of drumming and dancing.  In the last photo below, the kid in the middle with his head bent in concentration is one of the students that Toa Nafasi sponsors to board and study at Gabriella.  He is definitely somewhere on the autism spectrum, but doing remarkably well at Gabriella and showing an amazing proclivity for drumming, something we never would have known had he stayed at Msaranga Primary!  So proud of Danny!!


After the speeches and drums, the event was more or less over and the rains had started to come down in earnest.  But, our day was not yet done.  I had decided that because Toa Nafasi and Gabriella have developed such an incredible partnership, I would co-sponsor a lunch at the center for the kids, their parents, our teachers, and assorted guests and speakers.  Well, this was a GREAT idea when we were planning it but when the time came to go, it was raining buckets of cold, wet, sloppy drops and I was wearing open-toed sandals and short sleeves.  The mud was epic and the whole thing was a bit of a mess as the special guest scheduled to talk (some government bigwig) was two hours late and no one had eaten lunch!  Now, looking back, of course I'm glad we stuck with it, but it was a bit uncomfortable at the time!!  (And my car only got stuck in the mud once, soooo....)

All in all, I'd have to say it was a pretty great day and I am happy that Toa Nafasi was able to be a part of it.  I think the teachers felt a bit special, that their work in a dusty little classroom in Msaranga is actually part of a bigger system and has a meaning beyond passing the hours and banking a paycheck.  I had hoped for a bit more networking at Gabriella but the rain made it impossible.  Plus, it's always good to have something more to strive for next year!  Light it up blue!!

PS: The photos taken for this blog entry are by Marytza Leiva.  Asante sana, Marytza!


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  2. Glad you liked the post. For more information on special education and/or autism services in Tanzania, check out the work of my colleague, Angi Stone-MacDonald. A simple Google search should yield plenty of info!