I'm going for a long walk

It's almost two years since my husband and I took a van-load of students to Tanzania, to visit our friends Jonathan and Rose Kyando, who lead a small church in Mbeya, Tanzania.

It broke our hearts.

From the valley town of Mbeya, we took the long, bone-shaking drive up into the hills to the small village of Ndaga, close to the Zambian border, sadly reknown for the many orphans left behind after migrant parents die and leave no extended family to care for the children.

The children we met on our visit were not sullen or depressed, as you would expect in their condition of poverty, though ragged and tatty in their worn, too-small bits of clothing, but were playful and 'happy'. A home-made 'football' was noisily kicked about by a small group of boys, while others chased each other around in the dusty courtyard, playing 'tag'. This courtyard was the communal 'playground', also shared by two scrawny looking tethered cows and the friendly, equally scrawny neighbourhood dog.

The story here was one of trial and tragedy eclipsed by an uncommon robustness of character and joy in the midst of obvious pain and lack.

We heard of how a young pastor of a small local church discovered two young children crying after everyone had returned home at the end of a funeral service. The story is sadly not unusual in this area. This family had crossed the border from a neighbouring country to look for work in Tanzania. The parents had both lost their lives to Aids. Without any extended family to care for them, the children were left to fend for themselves, alone. As they were relatively new to the area, the family were not known to others and, subsequently, the children were simply left behind after everyone else had made their way home.

The young pastor took the children home to live with him and his own small family, in their humble three-roomed home. This was to mark the beginning of a new and demanding life and ministry for this generous-hearted couple.

At the time of our visit there were 40 orphans living and being cared for in their home. Little ones shared beds, sleeping 4 to 6 in a small bunk-bed, while neighbours made room for the older boys. The demands of this ever-increasing family have caused the pastor to give up his church ministry to serve full-time in what he fondly terms his 'home-church'. Caring for the house-hold involves growing vegetables and selling the extra produce to generate some income. The church in Mbeya supplements this by contributing out of their own congregation's offering, often out of their own lack.

In an email update this month we hear that there are now 60 orphans being cared for by this couple, in addition to the several hundred more in the village. They continue to do what they can.

I am moved by what I know to be a desparate situation.

We, as a local church in Portsmouth, UK, have had the privilege of sending finance to the Mbeya church in support of their care for and work with the Ndaga orphanage. But it is not enough.

The harst reality is that their situation has not changed - only worsened.

They still do not have electricity to light their cramped sleeping area - too dark to see two feet away, even in the daytime. The very basic of needs are still unmet.

I want to help make a difference. I must do something!

Hence, my long walk, 200 miles from coast to coast, across the UK from St. Bees to Robin Hood Bay.

I've just completed the first week of a 16 week training programme and yesterday walked for 2 hours (6 miles). I'm not a fit 50 year-old - but I will be! I ache today, but I am determined to do this!

Will you raise a prayer for me, please? I plan the walk from 4th to 19th August, 2012.

I aim to raise £20,000.

With this money we would be giving the Ndaga orphanage not another hand-out, but rather a hand-UP. They could: build a dormitory (£4,500); a working toilet (£2,500); hook up to electricity (£2,000); clothe, feed and cover school fees for the children for a year (£1,800); buy a motorbike for transport (£1,000) and generally live a better life.

My film-making son who accompanied me to Tanzania two years ago, is working hard to produce a short informative video, coming soon...

Watch this space for more information.

Yours, in training,

Naomi aka Mama Shaw



Naomi x

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