We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Camp Time for Kids with Albinism

I love that life is never dull here! And this week was another occasion to prove it! It has all been rather crazy with various projects bubbling to the boil, and two girls arriving home from a fabulous, "best-time-of-my-life" 10 days in Kenya at Kids Camp, one ill with pneumonia and the other with a painfully sprained hand/thumb. As the girls arrived and an overnight guest departed, the daily 8am-6pm camp schedule began! In such situations, those basic things like sorting laundry and going to the market rather fall to the wayside. But thanks to a crazy influx of beans on all farming fronts, meals were sorted! And grab-piles in the living room work for clothes. But, I digress ...

Summer Camp 2016
This week was Summer Camp time with 171 kids with albinism! We joined in with the BMCC church here in Mwanza, Peter Ash with Under the Same Sun, and a super group of volunteers from Canada, the US and UK ... as well as the Upendo wa Mama Group! And what a fantastic week it has been! I cannot begin to cover it all here, but I want to highlight a little for you, especially about the Mamas! 
Peter Ash arrives to open the camp
Camp officially opened by the Regional Commissioner (centre)
along with Peter Ash (L) and Brad (R) with Pastor Mbuke (BMCC) in the background (L)
The camp was extremely well organized (led by Brad and Meg Sumner, friends from Langley, BC) with a day-care nursery and 6 stations for the age-groups of kids to rotate around throughout the week.

In drama, these kids, many of whom have faced a lifetime of rejection have been learning (without even being aware of it!) how to stand tall, project their voices and be confident in who they are. These kids who will struggle their whole life with impaired vision are learning memorization skills that will help them navigate their world. It was awesome to see the change in some of the kids in just a week!

In music they have gained confidence in performing while worshipping their heavenly father who has created them and loves them. We are talking enthusiastic and energetic singing here! 

In art they have been learning to express themselves, being bold with colour and ideas. These kids, who have suffered intensely, enjoyed art games, even without realising the activity was a powerful tool in trauma counselling.
A running-around art activity
The kids have gone to the Bible corner and learned the truth of God's word and experienced the power of prayer.

In sports, they used a large colourful ball they could actually see and discovered the fun they could have playing hockey, as well as many other team games!

And in science, as well as basic hygiene and sun protection, they learned about albinism; they learned the biology of their eyes explaining their visual impairment and heard (most for the first time) the true facts explaining their genetic condition. This is life-changing stuff for these kids!
Learning how to handwash. 20 second rule.
Through the camp as a whole, the children could together reject the lies about themselves (spread through witchcraft, rejection and abuse) and instead understand the truth about what it means to be a person with albinism (spiritually, scientifically/genetically, physically, emotionally, individually and socially). They have been loved and they have had fun!  

And a feast of rice, pilau, chicken or fish, beans, cabbage and fruits for lunch every day!

I was thrilled for all the women in the Upendo wa Mama group who volunteered to help! It was a huge thing for them, giving up their week away from their homes and any business they might miss and also whopping 100 000 Tsh of their money to cover transportation costs each day (which for many of them meant two separate buses as well as walking). But they wanted to serve Under the Same Sun who has done so much to help their kids! And there is something good that always happens when people join together to serve. It was such a growing and encouraging time for them.

The mamas were asked to share their stories in the science class. After learning about genetics, some of the older children had questions and fears about finding a mate and starting families. The women were asked to share with the children from their perspective as mothers of children with albinism or as mothers who have albinism. This was something they have never done, and they were naturally very apprehensive. These women didn't all know the genetic facts when they birthed their babies. Several of them were abandoned (even on the hospital bed), solely blamed for a condition that can only come from both man and woman. Accused of sleeping with Chinese or Europeans. Rejected by husbands and families. Several of them have had attacks attempted on them and their children. They have been discriminated against because of their children; children whom they love with a fiercely protective love. And yet they carry such hope. We had a lovely time as a group, just praying for them before they shared. They wanted the children to know how much they loved their children, no matter what. They wanted them to know that there was so much hope for these students to raise their own families in the future.
Mamas sharing in the class
There were tears from the mamas, myself and others listening as they shared from their hearts the heartache they have suffered, the love they have for their children, and the hope that they have. For the students, many of whom have never known a mother's love, to hear the "mothers' love" ("upendo wa mama") from these women was so precious; this lovely group of mamas truly lived out and lived up to their name. 

The Mamas' Group was delighted to run a stall at the camp, selling the fruit of all their recent labours! They sold bead necklaces, earrings, lip balms and body balms, candles, soaps and cards. It was a fantastic encouragement for them to persevere and work even harder! And another thing I found so wonderful was meeting with them at the end of the week with the final count of the proceeds (which more than covered their transportation costs!) and emphasizing the fact that this money was hard earned by them. They had done this with God's help, together. They are able. They are in business, they are serving others, they are reaching out to help others out of all they have been through themselves. And we thanked God!
Setting up shop
(Notice the amazing wooden necklace display which Louisa quickly made for us after the first day!)

Soaps and Balms
The final day is today! I think everyone is exhausted! Mamas, volunteers, organizers, the kids, me ... But it's the best kind of tired. Fulfilling and satisfying. Knowing we serve a faithful, loving, incredibly big God who is at work bringing his transforming Life and Light into the darkness!

Now to find some clean clothes and cook something other than beans!

[You can find out more about the Upendo wa Mama Group on the blog page above]


  1. Wow, what a great idea. Are all these kids from Tanzania? We've only once encountered a person with Albinism in Japan and I can totally understand how misunderstood they must be in Africa. It was hard to believe that this little girl was Japanese at all, because she was missing all the obvious cues. Well done!

    1. Yes, Wendy, all the kids were from Tanzania. There is a much higher population of people with albinism in this area of the country. You can read more about it on the albinism page in our blog header or the Under the Same Sun website. Thanks!


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