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Nov14ThuFor one group of dedicated volunteers, their time at a Salvation Army school for disabled children in Tanzania will stay with them forever. November 14, 2013 by Carson Samson
It was 33 C in the shade and there I was atop a tin roof on teetering scaffolding, sawing, hammering, lifting—and me afraid of heights! I was thousands of kilometres from my home in Winnipeg and light-years away from my profession as a designer/photographer. My hands were calloused from hammering, my T-shirt was drenched with sweat, and I was light-headed from the furnace-like heat and the height. What had brought me here? I wondered, as I wiped the sweat away from my eyes.
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- Faith & Friends
Work Boots and Bare Feet
Just a few days earlier, 12 of us Canadians came together to travel to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on behalf of The Salvation Army. Our goal: to renovate the prosthetics workshop at The Salvation Army's Matumaini school for disabled children.
After a long flight, we arrived late in the evening and settled into our accommodations for our 16-day stay. Little more than huts, they were a far cry from what I was used to at home. Some of us slept. Others, such as myself, waited sleepless for daylight and the hard work ahead of us. All of us wondered what God had in store for us in this faraway land.
The next few days were a sweaty-hot blur of work. We'd rise with the sun, grab a hurried breakfast and get to it. At day's end, we'd snatch a bit of supper and collapse in our cots, exhausted.
After 16 days, we had demolished the existing roof of the workshop and raised it by two feet. We replaced the ceiling, rewired the electrical system, enlarged windows, closed in unwanted doorways, and painted both the interior and exterior walls.
We didn't do it alone, though. We hired a small crew of local masons and carpenters to assist us. They shook their heads at our power tools and work boots, and we marvelled at how they could accomplish so much with hand tools and bare feet.
If we went to Tanzania hoping to make a difference in the lives of others, I think we succeeded. What also happened, however, was that the children of Matumaini had an indescribable impact on us. It was they who made the difference in our lives.
Matumaini is home to some 200 disabled and albino children who all live on the compound. Some are missing limbs, or have misshapen ones. Some are confined to wheelchairs. None of them are upset or bitter that they are not like able-bodied children. They run faster and play soccer with more skill than most. Those who can walk on their own push and carry those who can't. They are filled with joy— happy to be together and happy to be children of God.
One night as I strolled around the compound, I wandered into a chapel service that the children were leading. No adults or teachers, just them. They filled a large room with songs and prayers of praise and worship.
Afterward, they led me outside into the night, holding me by the hand. They bombarded me with questions while running their fingers along the lines of my tattoos: “What's your name? Do you have children? What is Canada like?”
I taught them to sing worship songs in English and they tried to teach me words in Swahili. I may forget my Swahili by Christmas, but I know I'll never forget the children of Matumaini.
(Photos: Carson Samson)