I learned about Peter on the short ride just outside of Moshi to the Make a Difference (MAD) orphanage in Tanzania with Volunteer Project Assistant, Emmanuel Joseph. As a photographer, Peter and I would have a common interest. Peter it seems is quite an avid little photographer when visitors arrive with cameras for him to play with. As expected, he approached me quickly and I helped him strap my professional gear around his neck. He smiled as he pointed the camera at me and said, “this is heavy.” I quickly swapped it for a small point-and-shoot and he was off to make art around the orphanage.
It was Saturday so the children were enjoying a day off from school and greeted me with enthusiasm. The brightly colored walls and smiling young faces filled the small building with joy. After introductions, I spent the day with the kids playing soccer, making bracelets, taking pictures and learning about their hopes and dreams. For all of these kids, simply having a dream for the future is itself a remarkable story.
Peter was born in the village of Mamba in 2002. He is one of the youngest boys living at the orphanage. His parents both died of AIDS and are buried in his grandparent’s front yard. His grandmother wouldn’t let him go to school because she needed him to help feed the animals and do chores. After repeated beatings Peter ran away from home and raised himself by searching for food during the day and sleeping alone at night in a banana field.
Like Peter, most of the children at the orphanage lost one or both parents at a very young age, often due to HIV/AIDS, and were struggling just to survive when Theresa Grant started MAD and dedicated her life to empowering children through education. Theresa went to local villages looking for the most at-risk kids who were living with overburdened families to join her new family at the orphanage. MAD now supports 22 children with a safe, loving home and an education at one of the best private schools in the region.
It is this education that will give these kids a real shot at a promising future. Nearly 75% of children who attend a government primary school in Tanzania don’t go on to secondary school. Government schools teach in Swahili and only offer English as a course, while private primary schools teach in English. This is a critical difference since entrance exams for secondary school are only offered in English.
It was a real pleasure to begin my trip to Tanzania with the MAD children and I look forward to watching them grow and succeed with the support of Innocent Eyes Project. Theresa and her team at MAD are some of the hero’s who truly do Make a Difference.