Lwitiko’s Story Told by Barry Childs

12 years ago, I and 10 Africa Bridge donors first met Lwitiko Kadenge in village of Igembe, Tanzania. We sat on makeshift benches together with the villagers under a beautiful shade tree. After the formal introductory protocol, the village Chairman introduced us to one of the many orphans. It was Lwitiko. The Chairman then did something most unusual. He asked Lwitiko to present the formal village profile. Typically, this would be done by a village leader or an elder, not a child.

Lwitico at the time was a small, very thin 15-year-old boy, with a Primary School education.  Calmly he stood up and with great authority made the presentation. It was brilliant. It was so well, thought out, covering the essentials, yet short enough to maintain our attention.

Lwitiko, being an orphan was fortunate to have completed his Primary school education. However, his prospects of going to a good high school and perhaps gaining a college diploma were nonexistent. Despite the fact that Lwitiko excelled in school and the villagers considered him a genius, he could not conceive of ever leaving the village. Given the circumstances there was no way to further his education.

Through the generosity of donors like you, the lives of vulnerable children and their families in the 8 villages of Masoko were transformed. Lwitiko began to dream of a brighter future.

In the spring of 2014, he graduated from a high school for gifted children with distinctions in every subject. In October 2014 he started Medical School. This July 2019 I received an e-mail from Lwitiko describing what he had learned during a 3 month placement at Durham University Medical School….. in Great Britain. 

In November 2019 Lwitiko graduated as a doctor. His dream is to return to Igembe to practice.  Then in time start a community health initiative using the principles he has learned from Africa Bridge.

Lwitiko’s journey started as a most vulnerable orphan with no hope of escaping his fate…  to now he is living his dream.

At his inaugural address in 1992, Nelson Mandela said that we are all brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. We are all born to manifest the glory of God that is in each one of us. As we shine our light on others, we liberate them to share their talents and gifts.

I feel very fortunate that Africa Bridge has given me and many others the opportunity to shine our light on children like Lwitiko and to liberate them to be Brilliant, Gorgeous, Talented and Fabulous.

Lwitiko will be joining us on Friday, October 23, 2020 for our annual Toast to Tanzania Event! Visit our Africa Bridge Website for event details.

Celebrate International Day of the Girl on October 11

Barry Childs tells us Zinduna’s story

Zinduna lives in the small village of Mbeye. In 2003 both her parents died, leaving the four children orphaned. The village council proposed splitting the children up to live with close relatives.

Zinduna, who was 15 at the time and the eldest, objected to this idea. In order to keep the family together she became the head of the household caring for her brother and two younger sisters. She left primary school and started a small business selling fruit, vegetables, cooking oil and spices.

In 2005 she joined one of the early Africa Bridge co-ops. She says that “The experience of being a co-op member enabled me to increase the output of my land and to build a small shop for my business on the highway”. My vision was to help all my siblings to be well educated and to achieve their dreams”.

Despite the challenges of fluctuating costs of farm inputs, inclement weather and a robbery, Zinduna persisted and all the children, including Zinduna completed their education. She is now married with her own family.

With a little well aimed support it is remarkable what Zinduna has achieved. I am continually humbled by the actions of the children and adults in the villages where we work.

Love and Jacob & Garannetti

I first met Jacob and Garanetti Mwakakipesile from Bujesi village, Tanzania in 2008. Their four adult children had died, leaving the elderly couple to care for eleven grandchildren. On an income of approximately $1 a day, they had no hope of giving the family a good life. In the fall of 2008, the newly formed Bujesi MVC Committee (MVCC) nominated the family to be founder members of the new Bujesi cow coop. After 4 months of training, building a cow shelter and planting a pasture they received a 9-month-old heifer, and they named her “Tumaini,” which means hope.

Tumaini has transformed Jacob and Garanetti’s family. She has produced seven calves, thousands of gallons of milk and plenty of dung to fertilize their crops. Her first calf was donated to the cow coop, enabling another vulnerable family to increase their income, and her second calf was donated to the Most Vulnerable Children’s Committee. The sale of milk, calves and the increased yields of their crops, has raised their family income four-fold.

Today the grandchildren have a healthy diet and receive healthcare and a good education. The four eldest grandchildren have graduated from university, two granddaughters are in law school, and the remaining five children are in secondary school. In a country where very few can even aspire to go to a university, the achievements of the Mwakakipesile family are remarkable.

Asante Sana, Barry Childs, Founder

New Uniforms For Today For A Brighter Future Tomorrow!

When you or I walk into a dark room, we can flip a switch and there is light. If you lived in a village in rural Tanzania earning $1 to $3 a day, there is no switch, and few people even have electricity, nor can they afford kerosene for a lamp.

As our children grow up, we assume that they will go to school. In the villages we serve this is not so. School tuition is free; however, to attend school a child must have a school uniform, note books and a pair of shoes. Most of the families caring for vulnerable children cannot afford the $40 to $60 it takes to purchase uniforms, books, and necessary school supplies.

A few years ago, with big smiles on their faces, Orida Mwakaja and Gilbert Agray celebrated along with their classmates when a pickup truck loaded with boxes of new uniforms, crisp white shirts, apple-red sweaters and navy blue skirts for girls and shorts for boys, arrived at Kalalo Village primary school in southwestern Tanzania. The uniforms and other school supplies were a gift to the school’s Most Vulnerable Children made possible by donors from Africa Bridge.

Orida and Gilbert are proud — not just of their new uniforms, but of the education they are receiving. To realize their dreams, they study hard at school. Twelve-year-old Orida is in Standard 7, her last year of primary school. Although she is an orphan, Orida has big plans for her future. After completing primary school, she wants to attend secondary school for six years. Her hope is to continue her education at a university and become both a doctor and a businesswoman. “My favorite subject is math because it will help me to make a lot of money as a businesswoman,” Orida explains. When not studying or helping with home and farm chores, Orida enjoys running.

Eleven-year-old Gilbert is in Standard 6. His favorite subject is Swahili, Tanzania’s national language. Gilbert loves playing soccer, known as football in Tanzania,  and one day hopes to become an airline pilot.

Despite the new uniforms, Orida knows her school lacks some basic necessities. Orida explains,“My primary school’s seven classrooms need more desks, glass in the window frames to help keep out the cold in the winter, a toilet and, most importantly, more teachers,” Eight teachers are responsible for 427 students, with class sizes ranging from 53 to 80. Orida hopes her village will improve its schools because she believes education is important to improve the lives of villagers.

Africa Bridge creates agricultural co-ops in villages to promote self-sufficient agriculture that enables the villagers to improve their standard of living and provide a future for their vulnerable children, including orphaned children like Orida. Gilbert and Orida are proud of Kalalo Village’s increased emphasis on agriculture. The village grows maize, bananas, avocados, coffee and tea, in addition to raising cows. Gilbert relates: “I want Kalalo to be known for its agriculture.”

In a country that has seen its adult population significantly reduced by the spread of HIV/AIDS, resulting in large numbers of orphans and fewer resources, children such as Orida and Gilbert understand they must overcome many challenges if they are to succeed in school and obtain the education they desire.

However, students and families can see the positive changes already happening in their own village as the cow and avocado co-operatives started by Africa Bridge empower villagers to create economically sustainable businesses, grow more food and improve schools so that both the vulnerable children and families will all thrive.

Your gift of new uniforms helps children like Orida and Gilbert attend school today and gifts for the co-operatives will ensure they can continue to attend school in the future.

The Board of Africa Bridge challenges you to donate towards our school uniform drive and co-op programs. Between September 16 and October 31 2020, every dollar you donate will be matched by us. Your money will be doubled, therefore, sending hundreds of vulnerable children to school, while also investing in their future through improvements to the village co-operatives.

Many thanks for your consideration,

Barry Childs

Board Member and Africa Bridge Founder

Empathy, Listening and Love

Written by Barry Childs, Founder and Board Member

A question I have often been asked is “What makes me qualified to found a non profit organization 5,000 miles away in a very different culture?”

My answer is that I have the intellectual knowledge and a visceral understanding of the context within which Africa Bridge works. I grew up in Tanzania. From the age of four I would go on safari with my father who was an Agricultural Officer. I watched how he worked with the villagers. It was a process of involving the whole community, providing training, and demonstrations, supporting early adopters, and following up. He loved the work and the people. Before going to university, I worked for a year on a dairy farm.

I had the good fortune to work for two of the best managed corporations in the world, Exxon and Abbott Laboratories in the UK, Germany, and the US. I worked as an individual contributor, manager and director, at regional, national and international levels. I served in multiple functions, marketing, sales, HR, IT, operations, leadership development and TQM (Total Quality Management). I learned how to get results in many different functions, countries and cultures. I came to understand that to run an effective project one must have the “hard stuff” such as capital, staff, volunteers, and technical skills but, also the “soft stuff” such as empathy, listening, and love.

In 2000 I took early retirement from Abbott and founded Africa Bridge. I had few resources. However, Africa Bridge has gone from serving 1 village to 37, reaching approximately 10,000 MVC Most Vulnerable Children) and thousands more care givers. The critical factors are working from the bottom up, enrolling others, taking a holistic perspective, and having the courage to move toward challenges.

Barry Child’s Personal Story

My father worked for the British government in Tanzania as an
Agricultural Officer. Every 3 years he was required to take 6 months
leave outside of the tropics. At the start of one of those leaves, in
1950, I was 6 years old, and we were sailing to the UK on cargo ship.
We docked in Port Said, on the Suez Canal. On the dockside the
heat was oppressive and the air smelt of rotten fruit. A small Egyptian
boy dressed in ragged clothes approached. His arms reached out
and in broken English he said, “No mother. No father. No curry. No
rice. Poor little orphan child”. I was transfixed; I wanted to help but I
did not know what to do. I turned to my father; he gave me a coin
which I gave to the boy. The incident left me feeling empty. A gap I
did not begin to fill until later in life.
I went on to have a rewarding career with Exxon and Abbott
Laboratories. In the spring of 1998, I was participating in a public
leadership conference downtown Chicago. Four young African
American men in my group approached me at the end of the first day
and said, “Barry, when you talk to us about your corporate leadership
experiences, it’s boring, but when you talk to us about Africa, we are
inspired.” I was perplexed. I had no recollection of what I had said to
them about Africa. I had not been back to Tanzania since 1962. The
next day a young woman approached me and said. “Mr. Childs, I
heard that you are from Tanzania and work in the healthcare sector. I
have just returned from working at a small hospital just outside
Arusha in Northern Tanzania. They desperately need hospital
equipment. Can you help?”
These conversations kept me awake at night, I had to take action. I
started acquiring hospital laboratory equipment for the Selian
Lutheran Hospital. In December 1998 I was back in Tanzania for 9
days. The people were still welcoming and the country beautiful.
However, the population had grown 5-fold using outdated
subsistence farming techniques. Poverty was prevalent and HIV/AIDS was rife. In particular I became aware of the impact this
had on children. One morning, I awoke before dawn and I wrote in my
journal, “I am going to do something”. When I returned to the States, I
decided to retire early and start Africa Bridge. Tanzania had given me
a unique childhood, I needed to do something for the vulnerable
children of Tanzania.
I have lived in 7 countries on 3 continents, encountering many
different cultures. My career enabled me to gain experiences in sales,
marketing, IT, HR, operations, leadership development and Total
Quality Management on district, national and international levels.
Each of these work and cultural transitions taught me something. In
2000 at the age 55, I had been equipped with a rich arsenal of skills
and experiences that helped me to found Africa Bridge. The listening
I learned to do in the early years ensured I understood the context
within which we were working and to find a path that is effective.
When I set up my first home office, I made a small altar in one corner.
It is here, I give thanks. Establishing and running a project in a
remote area of a developing country 5,000 miles away is challenging.
In the early 2000’s in Southeast Tanzania, there was some internet,
no cellular services, and banking was limited. It was not easy. I made
mistakes and I experienced numerous hardships and
disappointments. When my wife Hazel, my soulmate and rock died of
ALS. I did not think I had the strength to endure. However, I learned
that we do not know what our strengths and capabilities are until we
are faced with adversity. Africa Bridge has given me a purpose in my
later life. It has helped me to grow spiritually and intellectually.
Children are every society’s most precious commodity. They are our future. I have had the privilege to serve thousands of vulnerable children, I have met incredible people and been humbled by their generosity, and I have reconnected with my homeland.