Our Story So Far…
Research conducted in 2006, demonstrated that nearly 40,000 children living in the Geita district, population 500,000, were orphanded and vulnerable. These children were struggling to survive without access to food, shelter, health and education.
Mary Makaranga is an amazing lady who has worked for over 30 years with these children in her community in Geita, a mining town in the Lake Region of Northern Tanzania. It had long been her vision and dream to open a centre for such children where, in a safe and loving environment, they could begin to acquire life skills, have access to health care and an education.
George and Dee Smerdon went to Geita for 3 months in 2010, working on different projects. George, a retired GP, to work with Mary, the coordinator of the local newly formed Palliative care team, and Dee to teach in a local primary school, Rich Hill School. During the three months they spent there, they witnessed Mary’s dedication and commitment to care for these children as well as others in the community whose lives were blighted by poverty and illness. Sallie Hage and her husband Karl, had come to visit George and Dee and were also touched by Mary’s dream and they all offered to help Mary, supporting her in this formidable challenge. On their return to the UK they began formalising that support.
The inaugural meeting of the Charity – Friends of Malezi was held, by kind invitation to the then Head Teacher, Stuart McCarthy, in Westfield Junior School, St Ives, Cambridgeshire in May 2011, following which, Alison Counsell FCA, joined Sallie, Dee and George as Trustees of FOM.
Mary had paid a deposit on 30 acres of farmland 8 miles outside Geita some years ago, planning that on retirement she would buy the land, build a house and start farming. With funds from FOM she was able to buy the land in 2012/3 and began the painstaking and hugely laborious process of renovating and developing the land fit for farming. Mary, still working at the time, did this with the help of friends and family in her spare time at weekends. (Gallery photos of land)
The land had to be cleared of bushes/small trees/anthills and many, many rocks all done by hand as there is no mechanisation. Initially, Mary has been able to plant maize, cassava, beans, ground nuts and other vegetables. Mango and banana trees are already on the land but she planted other fruit trees. A priority was creating rice fields as rice grows well there. 6 acres have been dug out to date and Mary plants crops each year to use as food and to sell. Some years have been better than others depending on terrible droughts but Mary and her team continue to work hard on the land.
The old farm buildings were not suitable so new house plans were drawn up by the Geita District Council and building work began in October 2012. Mary made all the bricks by hand with her workers and a kiln on the land.
The house has three bedrooms. A boys room and a girls room each with bunk beds for six and a room for the housekeeper, where three girls also sleep. There are three inside toilets -squat ones with buckets for sluicing which drain into properly installed septic tanks, as well as two wash rooms,one for boys and one for girls,with buckets. There is a large sitting room and a dining room and a couple of store rooms for food. There is a separate block with two kitchen rooms, a toilet and an office, just across the yard from the house. An animal house to keep chickens and goats ,again quite close to the main house. Upgrades and maintenance has continued on the house over the years. The children are very comfortable and have mosquito nets which are vital.
The “Westfield Well”, was funded by Westfield Junior School in St.Ives Cambridgeshire, and a lot of time and effort was dedicated to its construction. Sadly the weather conditions damaged the structure of the Well and its progress had to stop. Water can be gained from the hole but it is not safe and efficient. This is an ongoing issue for the farm. It has been decided that a new well with be dug this year.
The Westfield Well was started in 2012 and dug by hand to a depth of 12 feet before they struck rock. Mary had divined the site and said water is there, so she blasted several times with sticks of gelignite hoping to get through the rocks but to no avail. Water was there but not enough so there was a need for a deeper well.Sadly in the rainy season of 2012/13, the top of the well collapsed in thus making it too dangerous to use. They still draw some with a bucket and rope but also buy in water in tankers and store it in the 200 litre JoJo tanks.They’re also installing guttering and down pipes to catch rain water.There’s a spring/waterhole which is used to irrigate the rice fields in a very simple but surprisingly efficient gravity feed, running downhill.
In October 2017 water arrived in the form of a hand pump. This made such a difference to the children and the house.
The arrival of the children..
This journey took up the first 3 years of operation. In July 2014, 12 children were welcomed into the Malezi home. Mary also founded the “Makumbwa Malezi Children’s Organistation“(MMCO)
Through the wonderful generosity of our friends and supporters FOM has been able to obtain sponsorship for all 12 children now living at Malezi as well as providing a comfortable, though still traditional, home setting. This regular income gives security to these children guaranteeing, food, shelter, access to health care, clothing and schooling at Rich Hill Primary school. FOM’s prime concern is for the safety and welfare of these children.
They all live in the house, built specially for them, along with a guardian, a cook and other helpers whose wages are also paid for by FOM. The house is equipped with beds, bedding with mosquito nets, basic furniture, cooking equipment, sterilising tablets for drinking water, solar lights, indoor toilets have also been installed with septic tanks.
Update on Education February 2016 – Mary expressed concerns over the standard of education at Rich Hill school and felt they were failing the children. She sourced an alternative school which is much closer. All the children transferred there and have since been making such good progress and enjoying school. This is no longer private education and is offered for free by the Government. More information can be found in our reports 1 and 2
Update: September 2016 – The District Council in Geita has changed the regulations around the optimum number of children Mary was allowed to have living at Malezi. Some of the Malezi children were returned home to their families or home communities and Mary oversaw their care although no longer supported financially by FOM. More children will be arriving once the new regulations have been addressed. Additionally Mary has been allowed to bring community children, mainly living on the streets, to the Malezi house where they are fed, have fun, learn life skills and enjoy being in a safe space.
The changes in the children at the house are all as a result of new President MAGAFULI who is anti corruption and scrupulous about all regulations being followed to the letter. Also the fact that Geita has become a Regional Authority has added an extra layer of administration. Whilst this has caused Mary ongoing stress and uncertainty she has she managed to maintain 5 children at the house and is working tirelessly with authorities to meet their requirements in order to welcome more children.
UPDATE September 2017 – Trustees Dee Smerdon and George Smerdon visted Malezi in Sept 2017 and their report can be found here
FOM is in regular contact with Mary through telephone calls, emails, skype and Trustee visits. Every 6 months Mary provides us with reports on each of the children for the Sponsors and also an update on the house, life at Malezi, education and any news. The history of the reports and for recent information please see all the other documents found at:
The next Trustee trip to Malezi is planned for May 2019
FOM remains committed to supporting Mary and the children through our fundraising activities. BUT larger capital sums are needed which are beyond the scope of our fundraising events. These are highlighted in our “WISH LIST “