Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholas Children’s Center,
Heartfelt greetings on the second Sunday of Advent and belated greetings for the feast of St. Nicholas. In many European countries it is a custom to celebrate his feast day on December 6th. Children put out a shoe the night before in the hope to find a gift placed in that shoe the following morning.
Since St. Nicholas is our Patron Saint we made sure to be well prepared for his feast day. The day before the children cleaned all of their shoes. After all, it would not be polite to present a dirty shoe to St. Nicholas expecting him to place a gift inside. Afterwards the children colored pictures of the Saint and we decorated our living room with these pictures. Because we could not decide who should be St. Nicholas this year, we agreed that all the children should be a Bishop. Therefore, we made Bishop’s hats for each child and everyone dressed in red (see the pictures attached).
The children were so excited to find little tokens in their shoes the following morning. Highlight of the day was Holy Mass celebrated in our living room in the afternoon. Sisters and parishioners joined us. Father Vedastus also blessed the statue of the Blessed Mother that was given to us recently, a present from a donor in the US. The next day we had one more celebration – the end of the school year with school reports and a farewell to the older students who finished school. Every class did a short presentation of some kind. Now the kids are on holiday until January 7th.
Although we do not hear Christmas Carols wherever we go; stores are not decorated; and we do not expect to have a “White Christmas”; we are nevertheless celebrating the Advent Season and are counting the days until the Birth of Christ.
We wish you a Peaceful Advent Season, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Your St. Nicholaus Children – Christoph , Mtagwaba , Daniel , Maria , Asimwe , Stephen , Aisha , Annajoyce , Anita , Magdalena , Nazalius , Agnes , Chiara , Joseph , Anthony and Stefanie Köster
Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.
Kemondo, May 27. 2012
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center!
Today we are celebrating the feast of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church. As I am writing this, a big celebration is going on at our church in Kemondo.
Since Easter we have received two new children. Annajoyce is 6 years old. She has Spina Bifida. Because of this disability, she has no stool and bladder control but she is learning to cope with it. Together with Aisha and Anita she now attends kindergarten and is doing well there. She can walk short distances. Her mother passed away in October of last year. The grandmother took Annajoyce and her four siblings in. The family lives in walking distance from our Center and they have already come to visit Annajoyce.
The same week that Annajoyce came to live with us little Chiara came as well. The principal of the school that our children attend told me about a very sick mother and a father who is not able to take care of the child. When we went to visit the family I learned that the mother had died the previous day. Without knowing it beforehand, I came right in time for the funeral of the mother. The family lives in a mud hut between banana trees and this is where the burial was. Three children of kindergarten and grade school age cried at the funeral of their mother. Someone went inside the hut and came back with a 4-months old baby and placed the child in my arms. I learned that the child was really 10 months old and weighed only 11 lbs. The father asked me to care for his child. My suspicion that the child is sick with AIDS and that the mother had died of this disease was confirmed with an HIV test the following day. Today, 6 weeks later Chiara weighs 13 lbs. She has a good appetite. She plays and laughs and I am hopeful that within a short time she will catch up with her overall development. On June 1st we are going to celebrate her first birthday. Her older siblings who have a different father are now living with their grandparents.
We now have 13 children – 7 girls und 6 boys. Seven children have disabilities, two children are HIV positive. It is not easy to give enough attention to all of them. At present I am looking for more caretakers so that we can share the work and have more time for the children. A special needs teacher from Switzerland who lives in the area, comes several times a week and helps us. It is difficult to find staff with an education in child care and in caring for the disabled, and so I am glad about the professional help from this special needs teacher.
We also have several pets, namely two dogs, two cats, two bunnies, three chickens and one rooster. We started a banana plantation and a vegetable garden.Every Saturday morning we have an outpatient clinic for disabled children in the area. The mothers enjoy coming with their children. It is good for the mothers to meet other parents of disabled children and the children benefit from the therapy. The new building for the clinic is almost completed. We hope to move in there by July. So far the clinic has been taking place in our living room.
We wish all of you the Holy Spirit of Pentecost and we are grateful for your continued support,
Stefanie Köster and the children and caretakers of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center Kemondo
Kemondo, Easter 2012
The Lord has risen from the dead, as he said; Let us all exult and rejoice, For he reigns for all eternity.
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center Kemondo, We, the caretakers and children are sending you our Easter greetings!
At the moment the children are enjoying their Easter break from school. There are neither Easter eggs nor Easter bunnies in Tanzania, however we made little nests with margarine containers and banana leaves and filled them with sweets. After Holy Mass on Easter Sunday we plan to spend the day out at the beach of Lake Victoria.
It has been seven months now since we moved into the building and slowly we have become a family. Since January two Franciscan Sisters are working at St. Nicholaus. We have employed staff and we divide the work according to people`s skills and the needs that arise.
From February until the end of April a volunteer from Germany has joined us. She is great with the kids and the workers. She fits right in and we are happy to have her. In March we had two more young German women live with us. Both are studying occupational therapy and they were doing an internship required for their school. The children are happy about all the attention. For us the volunteers are a big help.
In December we received another child. Asimwe is 12 years old. She has a very rare skin disease that is not infectious but very disfiguring. She is also hard of hearing, had been severely neglected and had never gone to school. Little by little we see some progress. Since January Asimwe attends kindergarten at a local school. She is so proud to be in school at last. Regarding her skin condition we are trying different medicines and we also are in contact with dermatologists in Germany to look for some advice regarding treatment. However, the big miracle has not yet happened. The treatment needed is not available in Tanzania. But Asimwe is laughing again and has started to enjoy life. We just discovered that she is very good at arts and crafts.
Christoph too goes to kindergarten now. He has cerebral palsy and needs a lot of assistance. But intellectually he is very sharp. He loves to talk and to laugh and he is very charming. He too is proud to be in school.
Six of our eleven children are either mentally or physically disabled or both. We are happy to have found nearby schools for three disabled children. Only three children stay home due to their intellectual challenges. For those children we have set goals to learn independent living skills. A Swiss special needs teacher visits us twice a week and supports us professionally with her advice and teachings.
In order to support the parents of disabled children in our area we started “St. Nicholaus Outpatient Clinic“. Every Saturday a physical and occupational therapist provides clinical care. He diagnoses the disabilities, does exercises with the children, prescribes medicine etc. From time to time specialist doctors come to a nearby hospital and if necessary children are referred to these specialists. We also help the parents to find schools for their children. Since we moved into St. Nicholaus Children`s Center in September 2011 thirty three parents – mostly mothers – have come to us to look for help. Until now the clinic takes place in our living room. There will not be sufficient space in the future, which is why in March we have started to construct “St. Nicholaus Outpatient Clinic.” The building will provide space for three offices, a small bathroom and a large multi-purpose room.
We have many requests to receive children. Only those children who cannot be cared for by their families are accepted into St. Nicholaus Children’s Center. Every request to receive a child is viewed under this criterion and is presented to the local Social Welfare Office.
Last week I made a home visit. In October 2011 the mother died unexpectedly of complications during pregnancy. The father is not able to care for his five children, the youngest being 3 years old, and the oldest 15. The grandmother now takes care of the children. Annajoyce is 6 years old and the second youngest child. She has “Spina Bifida” that was never operated. Fortunately, she is able to walk but due to her disability she has no control over her urine and stool. Because of that she does not attend school. Her grandmother cares for her as best as she can. We are in dialogue with the father and Social Welfare Office what the best options for Annajoyce are.
This is only a small glimpse into our daily life. Our days are noisy, colorful, full of life and happy!
We wish all of you happy Easter and we are grateful for your continued support,
Stefanie Köster and the children and caretakers of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center Kemondo