Wednesday, March 30, 2016

“You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.” ― Frank McCourt

Some dear friends and retired missionaries from here--now living in England--have continued to support our mission and even sent money to help with my recent medical expenses.  A friend of theirs sent money for Karen’s school projects and asked how the money was being sent.  The following is the letter that Karen sent to our Anglican missionary friends to explain.

I am so excited for the donation that you sent for my seven schools.  I started the pre-schools because after studying the young children hereto see why the young child was not ready to start school as my kindergarten kids in the U.S. were, I realized that they were mostly spending their first 4 years of life with their hands tied and unable to move or even observe their world while they were tied on the back of their mom or older sibling.  Don’t blame them, for if they put that child down, they know as they crawl and investigate their environment, they will eat something or touch something that will make them sick.  
     Understanding this I started a school like my kindergarten English as a second language I taught in Arkansas.  I know now that that had to be (not five-year-olds) but third grade kids, and it had to be a program after school so as to not compete with the public schools, but supplement them.
    Another fact that I knew was that kids here do not really own anything.  For that matter no one else does.  If a child finds a toy, an older child or brother or sister can come by and just take it away from them.  If that small child could only have a safe place to play and learn knowing that no one would take things away from them.  They do not have a room of their own. A mat or a table for them to play and think knowing no one would take it away is just what they need.
     Knowing that our Methodist Churches that have buildings could be using those buildings during the week for pre-schools, I had to think of just what kind of pre-school program to use.  Reminding myself of the child that has not touched, twisted, used their fingers, experimented with objects or even matched shapes of color, I knew that we needed the Montessori method.  This allows the child to experiment on his/her own.  This might let the child catch up on his/her learning trip. The teachers here are trained to teach to the class and allow the children to listen to the teacher and copy things off the board which is traditional.   Training had to be done to both the after school E.S.L. class teachers and the pre-school teachers.  Also I had to think of the environment of each school.  These pre-schools being in the churches, school needs to be portable so it can be a church again on Sunday.  We planned to have what I call, “Montessori in a box”.  Everyday the teachers put the supplies back in the box and lock it.  We made mats out of huge plastic woven bags used to carry fruit and vegetables to market on their bikes.  We sewed a bit of fabric around it so it is a mat and not a bag.  They too, fit in the box.  I had to make all the things for the kids to experiment with.  I do not have an education supply store here.
      Now to explain where your money is being spent.  I knew by teaching English as a Second Language that my kids that knew very little English loved books and songs to help them learn English.  One colorful book that they just loved also helped them learn the letters of the alphabet.  It was “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  “  As we read it together, the teachers and the children quickly memorize it like a song and want to read it again and again.  It is about letters and a coconut tree.  We now have seven pre-schools with teachers trained in Montessori by me here at the mission. Each school has a box with supplies.  A friend sent me seven books of “Chicka Chicka  Boom Boom.”  When I visit each school (they are in villages and other towns all over this part of Tanzania) I will bring them a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom kit.  They will get:

     One Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Book 
     One set of lower case Magnetic letters
     One set of upper case Magnetic letters
     One metal board (one side painted with the coconut tree. The other side plain to use free)
     One real coconut tree to be planted at each school.
     One coconut  to be eaten as the teacher uses a Mbusi to grate the coconut.

You have provided the money to help me finish this project.

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