We rise by lifting others.
I first landed in East Africa in 1991 as a 19-year-old student of wildlife management and almost instantaneously the beauty and vastness of the land and the kindness and generosity of the people rooted themselves deep within my heart. During the three years that followed spent traveling, living, studying and working in and out of Tanzania, life was filled with wonder, adventure, excitement and, at times, great challenge and severe discomfort. When things became unbearable, as they did more than once—due to the mere good fortune of where and to whom I was born—I could evacuate and access safe lodging; clean water and healthy food; quality healthcare... Those around me could not, and the injustice of that inequality has haunted me ever since.
Years later, in January 2008, while sitting with my husband David in our suburban Connecticut home watching our three daughters, then ages 2, 4 and 6, play, I surprised even myself when I said out loud: “It is time for me to go back Tanzania and find a way to be part of the solution.” With no clear plan besides a heartfelt calling to serve, David and I landed in Dar Es Salaam five months later. There we were met by our friend Father Dennis Mnyanyi who picked us up in a borrowed vehicle from his village, an ancient Izuzu belonging to the Bishop. For hours we bounced along over barely-there roads to reach Dennis’ home, a simple cement structure with a tin roof nestled in the forested foothills of the Uluguru Mountains. Along the way, groups of smiling barefoot children chased our car calling out “Mnzungu! Mzungu!” (White person! White person). This familiar chant followed David and me over the next few weeks (and throughout every visit since) as we traveled the country meeting with NGOs (non-government organizations), clergy and non-profit leaders; visiting schools, hospitals and development projects; and witnessing what extreme poverty, resilience, courage and hospitality looks like.
It was then that the vision for Unite was born. Shortly thereafter we launched Unite The World With Africa LLC, a social enterprise under which we operate our Unite Tours Service Safaris, partnering with local outfitters to combine personalized wildlife safaris with opportunities for travelers to discover, learn, share and serve in the field. Under the LLC we have also purchased and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of African product to drive job creation and security for artisans across East Africa and to redefine what ethical fashion looks like here in Ameria. For the first few years we searched for and partnered with existing NGOs who were doing transformative work (and could meet our strict reporting criteria) and drove donor support through them; however, the call to venture farther afield, deeper in the bush, to serve and empower those living in greatest need was too strong, so in 2014 we incorporated our 501c3 Unite The World With Africa Foundation.
According to professor of African political thought at Cornell University Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, Africa’s largest crisis today is not a lack of water or food but instead it is a lack of knowledge. In Tanzania alone, there are ~25 million children under the age of 16 (43% of the population) who are eager to learn and desperate to receive an education; however, few will get the opportunity. Unite’s current key programs all now focus on addressing this knowledge crisis by creating and providing access to high-quality education—pre-primary through university—international mentorship and comprehensive life skills programs to empower the growth of leaders who can and will become the positive change agents and thought leaders of tomorrow.
The flow of knowledge, of course, goes both ways. I personally have learned countless lessons working in and out of a culture so different than my own, where strangers are regularly welcomed to share last cups of tea, celebrate new life and honor the sick and dying; where there is no perceived need for speed; and where divine intervention is assumed, anticipated and even incorporated into life plans.
In Africa I have witnessed the enormity and complexity of human need and the fall out of good-yet-misguided intentions. I have felt the despair and loneliness of being met by cynicism, judgement and greed and the hope and joy of being met by open hearts and open minds. And I have learned that no matter how humble one’s circumstances, every human has a desire—and a right—to be seen, honored and validated. During a women’s meeting in rural Tanzania, each participant stepped forward to introduce herself... “I am Lightness. I have two children, and one rabbit.” “I am Sarah. I have five children and two goats.” “I am Mary. I have seven children and three cows.” A roar of applause followed each speaker who would then stand a bit taller, smile brightly and soak in the adoration. I think of these lovely women often when I am working with our sponsored children and am reminded me to slow down, be present, listen fully, validate even the smallest of accomplishments and say: “I see you. I hear you. You matter, and I love you.”
Years ago I traveled with Sister Crispina Mnate, director of the St. Joseph’s Orphans Center, to a boarding school to visit a few of her teenage boys who are sponsored by Unite. When the boys walked to meet us, I noticed their toes sticking through their worn and tattered shoes. Since the school required them to run ~5 miles every morning, I thought it would be nice to buy them each a new pair of sneakers and a new pair school shoes. Sister Crispina reprimanded me. “Anne Wells,” she said sternly. “No more than one pair each. You must never take away their struggle.” Time and time again, I have experienced the wisdom in these words: More is not always better and easy can undermine. With this in mind Unite is small and focused by design. We are “in it” for the long haul, working closely alongside those we serve with near daily communications, in-country support staff and regular site visits by myself and other Board Members and Advisors not only to protect our investment but to do all that is necessary to achieve our shared greater goal of breaking the complex and multifaceted chains of extreme poverty—one of the greatest threats to Planet Earth today.
I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you who has supported this work in any and all ways, big and small, over this past decade; to our team of Advisors for their time, generosity and expertise; to our Board of Directors for their remarkable commitment and for making it possible for 100% of every donor dollar to be allocated directly to our programs in Africa; and to the couragous souls I have met along the way who have given up everything to live on the frontlines of this work. Together, you fuel my passion and help me resist the occassional tug of fatigue or allure of apathy. May we continue with our individual and collective efforts to love, heal and honor one another and ourselves.
The stakes are high. All outcomes are possible.
Yours in service,
The Knowledge Crisis
- Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number (202 million) of children & adolescents on Earth who are in school but not learning the fundamental subjects of reading and math, with nearly 9 out of 10 between the ages of ~6 and 14 not meeting minimum proficiency levels.
- Of those who complete primary education (~elementary school in the USA) in Tanzania, only 10% each year continue on to secondary school (~middle & high school in the USA), giving Tanzania the lowest secondary enrollment rate in Africa. Of those who do enroll in secondary school, only ~6% will pass their Form 4 Exams to successfully complete lower secondary; and only ~3.2% will enroll in higher secondary to complete their equivilent of an American high school education.
- Less than 1% of all Tanzanians complete any form of higher (tertiary) education.
Sources: University of Sussex, World Bank, Human Rights Watch; UNESCO; Girls Education Collaborative; Unicef; Problems Facing Education in Tanzania
To support Unite's efforts to ensure that talented youth across East Africa can access quality education and comprehensive mentoring, Board member David Wells will lead the TANZANIA TREK 2019 to raise funds for our Unite Scholar's Program. This new adventure will combine a descent into the Empakai Crater (in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area) with a climb up the steep and rugged Oldoinyo Lengai, Maasai Mountain of God, and a trek to see the Gorillas of Rwanda. For more information, CLICK HERE and/or email email@example.com.
Unite is thrilled to welcome our new summer intern Lauren Murphy. Lauren just completed her Junior year at High Point University in North Carolina where she studies Strategic Communications and Documentary Media. She has worked with many non-profit organizations before including Reading Connections where she helped provide video and PR marketing for events. Lauren is currently apart of Ascension 336, which is a public relations agency at High Point University, and she is also a member of High Point's news team, Triad News 360. For Unite, Lauren is working on editing images using photoshop and editing video clips to be featured on our social media platforms.
The great Ophelia Dahl, daughter of author Roald Dahl, co-founder of Partners in Health and modern-day warrior in the fight to end global poverty and "serve as an antidote to despair," is defined in this December issue of The New Yorker as a Searcher. In the world of development, a Searcher is one who is just on the lookout for favorable opportunities to solve problems—any problem, no matter how big or small.
Here at Unite, we too are Searchers. We make long-term commitments and understand that in order to reach our very specific and targeted goals we may often be pulled this way and that by favorable opportunities to solve problems, big and small, which cannot be ignored.
For example, education. In order to empower a child to succeed, one must ensure far more than a seat at a high-quality school... Instead, in order to thrive EVERY CHILD needs a safe, clean place in which to live; clean water, proper sanitation and nutritious meals; a safe way to get around, to transport; at least one trustworthy adult to supervise and advocate; peer support; opportunities to explore their talents and interests outside of school; and medical care -- preventative and acute. And, by paying close attention, we often uncover other needs and challenges that we may or may not be prepared for. So, with our Tanzanian partners, we search for ways navigate these often unexpected potholes and pitfalls, detours and demands, road blocks and ransoms... these problems... and we FIND our way.
As we pause to celebrate this holiday season and prepare for the new year, I invite US ALL to take a moment to meditate on the Sustainable Development Goals (listed below) that were designed by the United Nations to stimulate aggressive problem-solving action around the world.
The burden of responsibility belongs to each and every one of us. Daunting? Perhaps. However, with it comes a unparalleled opportunity to -- as Searchers who are just on the lookout for favorable opportunities to solve problems, big and small -- help transform the human experience and ensure very survival of our precious Planet. Now THAT is something to celebrate.
"We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions,
and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality
and in a healthy environment."
-The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest. ~Nelson Mandela
Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
- The White Man's Burden, by William Easterly
For friends and loved ones who have it all, why not give in their honor to those who have nothing at all?
Click HERE to make a tax-deductible donation. Just cite an item (or two) from our wishlist below,
email firstname.lastname@example.org the details of your gift and recipient, and she will mail him/her a letter to be opened over the holidays.
Selflessly serving those who will likely never be able to do anything for you return fosters a deep and unparalleled
sense of joy, contentment and fulfillment. Each and every one of us is wildly powerful, and what we do -- and don't do --
will contribute to either the healing -- or the destruction -- of our precious planet.
Maria, now nearly two years old, is the newest child to join our family at the St Joseph’s Orphanage (SJO) in Tanzania. Maria is extremely malnourished and suffers from flat feet and fluorosis of the legs. (In certain areas of Tanzania, there is too much fluoride naturally occurring In the water, which can make the bones of young children soft and cause them to bend in unnatural ways.)
This week Sister Crispina Mnate, founder and director of SJO, took Maria to see our friends at The Plaster House in Arusha for an assessment. Next steps: Sister will now take Maria to be fitted for leg braces that she will wear for at least a year to correct her flat foot and move her legs into proper position. She will also start an aggressive nutrition-rich re-feeding program with weekly weight checks. While baby Maria has clearly suffered a painful start to her young life, we are thankful that she is now at SJO where she will receive great love and excellent care.
This is "Mamee." Now 45, Mamee grew up with Sister Crispina Mnate and their extended families in their home village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. In 2000, when she learned of Sister's call to save abandoned and orphaned children, she decided it was her life's work to serve Sister's mission. Mamee left home to follow Sister to the Arusha district. She decided never to marry or have children of her own. And she has since been cooking, cleaning, washing, feeding, loving and caring for the now 48 children...ages 1 to 25... who life at the St. Joseph's Orphanage. Here below, just one of countless stories that illustrate how and why Mamee is so critical to Sister's mission:
In 2008, a newborn baby whose young mother died during the child's birth was brought to Sister wrapped in a tattered blanket by a Good Samaritan on a motorbike. When Sister received the ~2 lb. bluish-colored, cold and tiny orphaned child, no one expected a good outcome, instead everyone was anticipating last rites. However, Sister, with her ferocious faith and professional training as a nurse, believed differently. Immediately she baptized the baby " Irene," and gave her to Mamee to love, feed, bathe and just hold close in a secluded room to avoid any cross contamination. Day after day Sister brought fortified milk and porridge and ministered as best she could to Irene while Mamee patiently held the child and protected the space. Many times it was unclear whether Irene would survive, but remarkably, after three long secluded months, Irene was not only alive but thriving.
PLEASE HELP US BUILD SAFE, DECENT LIVING QUARTERS FOR MAMEE.
Unite HAS received a $15,000 matching grant to build new proper staff quarters for Mamee and the now dozen other people who live and work at St. Joseph's Orphanage in support of Sister's mission. To achieve this goal, we have partnered with the crowdfundraising platform GLADITOOD. Every dollar you can contribute will be matched - doubling your impact.
Click HERE for our Gladitood campaign OR donate directly online through this website HERE.
Award-winning American contemporary painter, photographer and mixed media artist Andrea Bonfils has created a unique “Encaustic” work of art by taking an original photograph taken by Unite Founder & Director Anne Wells and adding to it melted beeswax, resin and other natural materials. Andrea has very generously donated this piece to Unite for our fundraising efforts. Andrea’s work is represented by galleries in New Mexico, Connecticut, South Carolina and in the Bruce Lurie Gallery in Los Angeles, is in corporate and private collections worldwide and can be seen at www.andreaartstudio.com.
The cost for the elephant encaustic above is $1,500.
100% will be donated to Unite The World With Africa Foundation
by artist Andrea Bonfils.
See more of Andrea's work, which includes photography, encaustics, paintings and multimedia designs, at www.andreaartstudio.com. For any purchase made before January 1, 2018, that comes through Unite, Andrea will donate 30% of sales to our Foundation.
Unite recently received a fast-cycle $15,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor to construct safe, decent living quarters for those who have dedicated their lives to caring for orphans.
Since she was called to open St. Joseph's in 2000 to raise children who had either been abandoned and left for dead or orphaned by HIV/AIDS, Sister Crispina Mnate has been blessed with a small-but-dedicated team of men and women who have given their lives to serving her mission and the children (some of whom are pictured, right). With this extraordinary team, Unite is committed to providing everything these precious children need grow into independent, happy, healthy, successful adults and leaders of tomorrow.
Every dollar raised in this campaign will be matched by an anonymous donor so you will double your impact!!!
We will rebuild the existing staff house (pictured left), which is dilapidated, leaking, mold infeseted and extremely overcrowded. The new staff housing and volunteer compound will include toilets, showers and sanitation systems; electricity; a kitchen with piped water and stoves; enough bedrooms for the staff, their children and proper self-sufficient guest quarters for international volunteers who come to share their time, talent and expertise. Our goal is to raise the funds and build the compound BEFORE the coming rains in October/November.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation
to help us reach our goal.
Donations can be make online at www.uniteafricafoundation.org/donate/
or by mailing a check to Unite The World With Africa Foundation, 49 Whitney Street, Westport, CT 06880.
We have also partnered with the
crowdfundraising site Gladitood.com
for this challenge.
Click HERE to visit our campaign page.
(We also accept stock donations.)
Since Unite first began working with Sister Crispina in 2014, we have:
Completed comprehensive renovations of both the girls’ and boys’ dorms, the indoor dining hall and laundry facilities;
Installed rainwater harvesting tanks and water purification systems;
Purchased (and continue to fill) water tanks and grain and bean silos;
Built a full-scale kitchen with industrial stoves, an outdoor furnished and covered eating area, a chicken coop and goat pen (and continue to fill them with livestock);
Constructed new toilet and shower blocks for both the boys' and girls' dorms and installed proper septic systems;
Opened an on-site health clinic and connected St. Joseph’s to the local power grid;
Built the adjacent Heaven Pre & Primary School to provide a top-quality English-speaking education for the youngest orphans as well as hundreds of surrounding at-risk village children; and
Built a security wall to enclose and protect the campus (this project is underway).
Construction of this new staff house & volunteer compound is last major building project necessary to make St. Joseph's safe and secure for all the children AND staff living on campus.
Unite The World With Africa Foundation's founding board member David Wells summited Mt. Kilimanjaro with his HIKE FOR HEAVEN team this June to support Unite's work with The Heaven Pre & Primary School. To prepare for this herculean adventure, David spent six months riding a few times each week at the infamously rigorous SOUL CYCLE. Here below, SOUL features David and his inspiring story.
"In the fall of 2016, I made the decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with four friends to support the Heaven School and St. Joseph’s orphanage. I had no prior experience with a climb of this type, so I needed to get in shape… fast.
We had moved to Westport, Connecticut in late 2015 — less than half a mile from the SoulCycle studio. My wife and daughter had taken some classes and they encouraged me to join them. My sister Linda has also been going to SOUL in New York City for years and loves it. Thankfully, the women in my family are the trailblazers.
I went into my first class feeling nervous, excited, and clueless. I had not really exercised for more than 25 years but was reasonably fit... or so I thought. SOUL took it to a whole new level. I felt the effects immediately. I felt (and continue to look) like I'd been through a monsoon after each class – and I keep coming back! I was hooked. The fun, energy, and challenge brought me back. The instructors and staff at WSPT are also fantastic – each and every one of them.
I felt an immediate and sustained impact on my energy level, strength, and lung capacity. I knew I was on the right path for my climb, as well as my health and sanity. I work long hours and travel quite a bit so the efficiency of SoulCycle — spending 45 minutes to an hour on full throttle — is perfect for me. My mind is clearer, my body is stronger, my energy is way level up. I have lost a few pounds and my stress level is down. One of the instructors at Wesport, JULIANNE, shouts out in class that we are “creating energy, not consuming it." I love that mantra.
With SOUL, any concerns I had on my strength to do the hike washed quickly away. My legs, arms, core and lungs were ready — and delivered for me all the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro and the roof of Africa. We successfully completed the climb and reached our goals in the process.
Through our Unite the World with Africa Foundation and a community of committed U.S. donors and volunteers, we're supporting 48 orphans — ages 9 months to 24 years old. Six are now in university, including one who's enrolled in medical school. The purpose of our Kilimanjaro climb (or Hike for Heaven) was to build and expand the Heaven School, a 200+ student primary school in Tanzania that provides outstanding education for these orphans and the surrounding community. We are still raising funds to complete the school expansion. The opportunity to do this work with my wife Anne, and have a seat at the table to engage with extraordinary Tanzanians to make this happen, excites me each and every day when I think about where these amazing children can take their lives.
Back home, SOUL has brought our family closer. A few times, all five of us (me, my wife and three daughters) took a class together, riding side-by-side in the back row. It has shown each of us a different side to the other — a healthy side committed to exercise and fun." ~David Wells
The Greer Foundation recently announced their continued commitment to Unite by providing university/college scholarships for seven children from the St. Joseph's Orphanage, each of whom is now referred to as a “Greer Scholar.” These lucky Greer Scholars are studying Engineering, Tax & Customs, Education & Teaching, Wildlife Tourism Management, and Medicine & Surgery.
Why is this so important?
Tanzania is one of our world’s poorest countries (ranked 156 out of 174 in the UN’s Human Development Index) with 68% of the population living below the international poverty line earning $1.25 or less a day. Nearly half of Tanzania’s 51,000,000 population is age 14 or younger; more than half of all girls have given birth by age 19; and 70% of women are married by age 20.
The country’s formal education system comprises of two years of pre-primary, seven years of primary (Standards 1-7), four years of junior secondary (Forms 1-4), two years of senior secondary (“A-levels,” Forms 5 & 6), and three or more years of tertiary (university/college). However, attaining access to any amount of schooling continues to be a great challenge for the vast majority of Tanzanians. In fact, the average school life expectancy (primary to tertiary) remains just eight years.
Those who are lucky enough to enroll in and complete primary and secondary school and then go on to attend university know that theirs is an extraordinary, precious and rare privilege. The slogan “Education is liberation” can be seen painted on buildings, printed on T-shirts and heard chanted over and over again in classrooms and as one walks through towns and villages.
~Net enrollment in senior secondary school in Tanzania is just 1.9%
and less than ½ of 1% (.27%) go on to university/college.
The good news for the orphans of St. Joseph’s is that they have already overcome many of the core barriers to education that face most impoverished families across East Africa. Thanks to the remarkable dedication of Unite's partner St. Joseph’s founder & director Sister Crispina Mnate, these orphans have avoided the widespread challenges of gender bias, physical threats of violence and abuse, child labor, lack of access to quality schools, pregnancy (for the girls), lack of adequate nutrition and healthcare, and/or a safe home to which to live/return. While each of these children experienced some kind of early childhood trauma and/or loss, their lives at St. Joseph’s have been built upon a powerful foundation of faith, love and hope.
We are so thankful for this powerful partnership with The Greer Foundation. Over the years they have helped us complete the build out of the Heaven Pre & Primary School to provide a top-quality English-speaking education to the youngest orphans from St. Joseph's as well as more than 200 at-risk children from surrounding villages; install comprehensive rain-water harvesting systems to secure water; bring power to the St. Joseph's and Heaven campus; and send many of our oldest orphans to university. Today, their commitment continues to grow. Asante sana!
Hand in hand, Unite and The Greer Foundation will continue to
serve, educate and uplift the lives of these precious and worthy young men and women.
May they each become the great leaders of tomorrow that Tanzania,
East Africa and the world beyond so desperately needs.
This June our Hike for Heaven team (Allie Cunningham, David Doherty, Steve Ho, Steve Stafford and David Wells) traveled to Tanzania under our Unite Tour program with Unite's Founder & Director Anne Wells to meet our Foundation's team & partners in Africa, tour St. Joseph's Orphanage and the Heaven School, get to know many of the children, and... climb Africa's highest peak Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet).
Here, a gallery of images of this amazing team during their time spent at The St. Joseph's Orphanage and Heaven School. Allie Cunningham arrived at St. Joseph's a few weeks ahead of the rest of us to spend time volunteering, teaching the children, getting Unite's student sponsor letters complete and generally supporting Sister Crispina with all the work she faces each and every day. We are so grateful to Allie for also raising funds to purchase bikes for the orphans (a sampling of sizes to share). It is the first time in their lives they have ever had the chance to ride a bike and every one of them, from age 3-26, absolutely LOVE this new adventure. Riding a bike is clearly a timeless ageless joy all over this precious planet! Asante sana Allie! Allie also served as our videographer during the Hike for Heaven and we are grateful for her footage, some of which is shown in our HIKE FOR HEAVEN EY version (link above).
To support this team in their efforts to raise funds for the Heaven School
(building more classrooms and providing professional development for our staff),
please click HERE.
This June our Hike for Heaven team (Allie Cunningham, David Doherty, Steve Ho, Steve Stafford and David Wells) traveled to Tanzania with Unite's Founder & Director Anne Wells to meet our team & partners in Africa, tour St. Joseph's Orphanage and the Heaven School, get to know many of the children, and... climb Africa's highest peak Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet).
They climbed to raise funds and awareness for Unite's work with Heaven & St. Joseph's, and to date, this team has raised more than $31,000! Every dollar raised will be used to further build out and enhance operations at Heaven. Projects will include construction of more classrooms, professional development workshops for teachers and staff and advanced teaching tools and technologies, the development of sports, music & arts programs, and more. Our goal? To position Heaven as a model school for excellence in education in Tanzania.
This HIKE FOR HEAVEN campaign continues... To support our team and honor their herculean effort made in service to orphans and at-risk youth, please click HERE to make a tax-deductible donation or send a check to Unite The World With Africa Foundation, 49 Whitney Street, Wesport, CT 06880. Asante sana! Thank you!
Godfrey Daniel Saitoti, 25, is one of the kindest souls you will ever meet. (Click HERE or on the video above to hear his message to Unite and all of his supporters.) His tremendous spirit, inspirational faith and clever mind defy his small frame. As a young boy, Godfrey lost his parents and in 2000 he was taken in by Sister Crispina Mnate to grow up in shortly thereafter became her St. Joseph's Orphans Center (SJO). Godfrey is now one of the oldest orphans living at SJO with his 47 brothers and sister, ages 1-24. Godfrey's dream has always been to become a doctor and help save lives. We are thrilled to report that he is well on his way!
In Tanzania, the government assigns students who have passed their A levels and performed well on the national exam a place in any given university. The government decided Godfrey should be an engineer and placed him accordingly. Godfrey was devastated as his dream was to become a doctor. With the support of Unite and a number of generous sponsors, Godfrey applied for and enrolled in a 5-year medicine and surgery program at Kampala International University in Uganda.
In August, Godfrey will start his 3rd year. We are so proud of this extraordinary young man who has overcome tremendous odds and hardships and yet still is happy and performing well. Godfrey enjoys the fact that so many of his fellow students come from all around the world. In fact, his best friend at medical school is from Cuba! Grades at Kampala are pass/fail, and we are grateful to report that he is passing! Godfrey tends to be a solitary student but he reaches out to others for help if and when needed. And to avoid the distractions of a busy library, Godfrey will wake long before dawn and/or study into the wee hours of the morning. Godfrey’s classes (listed favorite to least favorite) are Anatomy, Physiology, Immunology, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology.
We were so lucky to see Godfrey this past month in Tanzania as he was home for a school break. Unfortunately, he had surgery for appendicitis just before we arrived; however, he was healing well and will soon start an internship for July shadowing the surgeon who did his operation!
To learn more about Godfrey, email email@example.com.
On December 23, 2000, at 6:00 pm I gave birth to my first daughter, Lila Talbott Wells. Until that moment, truthfully, I wasn't very interested in children. Mine or anyone else's. They were cute but distracting, often even a bit annoying.
Then she came and, as it happens with every new mother, my heart burst open with a force of love I had never known possible. 16 months later I was pregnant again, thrilled to be delivering a sibling for precious Lila, and questioning how on Earth I could love another one as much as I did her. February 23, 2003, Harriett Merriman Wells was pulled from my cut belly and whisked to the NICU. A ferocious love literally pulled my broken body out of bed and down the long hall so I could sit with my baby - against doctors' orders. What I knew then was that my love pie did not split to accommodate another child, it grew & expanded. Deep within my core, from a source unknown, flowed more and more reckless LOVE.
Over the years I have continued to fall in love with children... not just my own (our third Katharine Elizabeth Wells came on March 4, 2005), but ALL of the children of the world. And I have learned that my heart is big enough.
My husband David will climb Africa's tallest peak Mt Kilimanjaro in a month to support Unite's work with Sister Crispina Mnate and her St. Joseph's Orphanage and Heaven School. In preparation, he (out of necessity) and I (for moral support) have been going to spinning classes at Soul Cycle, the most challenging and intense form of exercise I have ever done in my entire life (sad, but true). One day, during one class, one instructor said off the cuff, "You must use up all of your energy before you can make more. Trust your body." In that moment, with my burning legs going round and round and sweat dripping from the tip of my nose, I got it.
When my girls were babies I breastfed each of them exclusively for more than a year. Anyone who knows me might just take one look and assume that this was easy given my naturally well-endowed bosom. Not so. Those first few days, weeks and often months were littered with moments of excruciating pain and utter desperation. There were times (now known to be growth spurts) that my babies would suck on my breasts for hours upon hours leaving me exhausted, flattened, cracked and bleeding. They screamed and I wept, unsure I was capable of providing what they needed. New mommies are often advised during these times to supplement to more quickly ease the discomfort, the babies' and our own. Rarely are we advised to wait. To endure. To trust that our bodies, if given the chance, from somewhere deep within our core, will create more.
To me, love is like energy and a mother's milk. It is only after we give away all we believe we have, when we are certain we have not an ounce left within us and when our rational selves are screaming at us to pull back, retreat, protect... that we are able to access that place where supply is infinite. When breastfeeding, the front milk which flows easily and often at the most inopportune times (e.g. at the cry of a strangers' child, which of course reinforces my belief that all women are mamas of the world) is not the most nutritious. Instead, it is the hind milk found in the very depths of the breast that is loaded with fat and nutrients. And reaching these precious life-sustaining droplets takes time, patience, commitment and often a great deal of discomfort. Yet, once shared, the child thrives and the mother, when allowed to honor herself and her body's natural process, will survive and will source more.
One of the many reasons I cherish my work with Unite and return to Tanzania as often as possible is that in this journey I have met countless women who support and care for (in one way or another) children who are not biologically their own. Whether she embraces the weeping child of a stranger, welcomes hungry children to her table even when food is scarce, pays an orphans' school fees or raises children of the less fortunate as her own, never does she turn a blind eye to need. From such women as these who step forward to love and serve as best they can (often with the scantest of resources) and who support one another other in doing the same, I have been inspired and blessed to find and tap my own inner infinite supply of powerful, life-changing, life-giving love. And for that... for them... I am eternally grateful.
Today, with our three daughters, four dogs, and now 47 orphans.... I have a hunch and a prayer that we are just getting started.