For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
Upon his shoulder dominion rests.  Isaiah 9:6

Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center,

We are celebrating the first Sunday of Advent as I am writing this letter. Tonight we will light the first candle on the Advent wreath. The Advent Calendar is filled with 22 pieces of hard candy – one piece for each child for every day until December 24th.
A year ago our family had 18 children, now we have grown to 22 children. Maria, our oldest child turned 18. But due to her severe physical and mental disabilities she will continue to live with us until we have found another suitable home for disabled adults for her.

On Friday, December 5th the schools are closing with a big end of the year celebration. That same day our children are brushing their shoes and will line them up in front of their bedrooms so that our patron saint St. Nicholas can fill them at night. This tradition is observed in many European countries. During their school holidays many children will go home to be with their families. It is important that the children stay connected with their families. But not every child at St. Nicholaus still has extended family. Therefore, our house never closes. We expect all the children to return in time for Christmas.

Two highlights in the recent past were the baptisms of Annajoyce, Mwesiga Michael,  Kalokola Eric and little David as well as the First Communion of Annajoyce, Christoph, Anita und Aisha. Erstkommunion Nikolaushaus 2014

Taufe im Nikolaushaus 2014Of course the children only receive the Sacraments with the consent of their families and we invite their family members for the celebrations. In January Agnes and Edina will start preschool, the other school children will all move up one grade. All our other children who because of their delayed  evelopments and various disabilities are not able to attend the local schools are attending our so called  Outpatient Clinic“. At this place, two caregivers together with the help of our volunteers are teaching the children according to their abilities. This (unofficial) special school program began in 2012 and has developed greatly. In February of 2014, Mama Tito started a special class with seven disabled children. In October, Mama Lydia has joined her and we have started to include our six youngest children (ages 3-5) in the program.

In my last general letter from September I wrote about David and Safura. By now David is three and a half months old and lives with his disabled mother and disabled brother in the village. He is growing and developing well. It is amazing to see how well his disabled mother is able to care for her two children.David

Also Safura who came to us in September is doing very well. When she first came, she could only walk using a walking aid. Thanks to daily exercises she is now walking more and more on her own. She has adjusted well and she is very popular and well liked by the other kids. As soon as a child is crying, Safura is there to comfort her or him. Thank you so much for your faithful support. Without you there would be no St. Nicholaus Children`s Center because we get no financial support from the Tanzanian government. But most of all I like to ask you for your prayers for our children.

We wish you and your families a blessed Advent Season, a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!

Stefanie Köster and the children and caregivers of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center

Easter 2014

Christ yesterday and today; The Beginning and the End; the Alpha; and the Omega. All time belongs to him; and all the ages. To him be glory and power; through every age and for ever. Amen.

Blessing for the preparation of the Easter Candle
Nikolaushaus Tansania, 2014

Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center,
We, the children and caretakers at St. Nicholaus are sending you our heartfelt Easter Greetings!

Like last year we took a group picture on Palm Sunday. Our family has grown again. A year ago we had 15 children, now we have 21!
Innocent returned to us in mid-March.

Innocent 08.05.2013

He had been at St. Nicholaus for some time but then returned to his family for six months. Now his family asked us to take him again until December. Innocent is three and a half years old. He has cerebral palsy and needs a lot of care. But most of the time he is a happy child.

3.4.2014 Kalokola und MwesigaNikolaushaus Tansania, Helfen Sie! Spenden Sie!

Mwesiga (5) and Kalokola (3) came a few days later. The brothers have a mentally disabled mother. The father died last year. Since then the children lived with the aunt and uncle of the deceased father. The mother has another baby. Both children are malnourished and delayed in their development.
During the first few days the children seemed a bit lost in our big house. They spoke only Kihaya, the local language. By now they have adjusted, are learning Swahili and are happy. They already know the names of their 19 siblings and many Mamas.

Editha and Edina, our twin girls who came to us in October last year, turned five. They have developed well in the past six months and are catching up. In February they were baptized along with Mtagwaba. Editha and Edina, Mwesiga and Kalokola share a similar fate.

Helfen Sie! Spenden Sie!
28.2.2014 Taufe von Editha, Edina und Mtagwaba - Baptism of Edina, Editha and Mtagwaba

Their mothers are disabled and were not able to care for the children which resulted in malnourishment and delayed development of the children. So many times I hear that women with disabilities have been raped. At present a disabled mother with a disabled child who attends our Outpatient Clinic is pregnant. Those women can neither care for themselves nor for their children. They should be cared for in a sheltered environment. But so far we can only take in their children.

Two more requests to take in disabled children are pending. Soon we will have reached our capacity limit of 25 children.
Since Christmas we have celebrated many farewells, welcomed visitors, volunteers and new caregivers. Four caregivers left. In their place we received two new Sisters and some lay employees. Three of the four volunteers finished their time with us and returned to Germany. Katharina and Anna-Lea will stay with us until mid-August. Saying Goodbye is sad but it is part of life. Because we were short of space, we added an extension of two bedrooms. Now we can accommodate an additional caregiver and have a spare guest room.

We also cleaned out one room in the Outpatient Clinic and fixed it as a chapel / prayer room. The room is not big, but it is a haven of peace wh
ere one can retreat to in the midst of all what is going on. This is necessary because the church in Kemondo is two miles away from our center.

2.4.2014 Die kleinen Mädchen nehmen Mwesiga und Kalokola in ihre Mitte - our girls take the new boys into their midst

This takes me to the good news that our Bishop announced that Kemondo is becoming a parish! So far we were a sub parish of Kagondo, now we are “St. Francis of Assisi Parish”! This wonderful development is the fruit of the hard and tireless work of Sr. Anne and the Franciscan Sisters who have been in Kemondo for 15 years now.

Feast days, baptisms, birthdays, farewells… It is nice to take a break from the daily routine with little celebrations. However, given the fact that there are so many of us at St. Nicholaus no celebration is “little” anymore. For Easter we plan to divide into two groups of 10 children and 8 adults each. We will hire a bus because our old truck threatens to break down under the weight of this big family. We are in the midst of the rain season and are hoping not to get rained out during our Easter celebration.

In July I am planning to come to the US with my two daughters Aisha and Anita. I am looking forward to seeing many of you again.

Wishing you happy Easter, Stefanie Köster, the caregivers, volunteers and children of St. Nicholaus