Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center!
Actually I wanted to tell you only the good news from our children`s center – our 5-year-anniversary, the confirmation of our youth, our two new children – but now I have to begin with sad news:
On Saturday, September 10 at 3:27 pm we had an earthquake of the magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale. The children were off from school and all were home. Most children were outside or quickly ran outside. No one was hurt. Our house is still standing. However, we were literally „shaken up“. Many people did not realize immediately what was happening. For most people it was the first time in their lives that they experienced an earthquake. This region has never had a major quake. Most likely, there is no connection between the nuclear test in North Korea on September 9 and the earthquake in our region a day later since both countries are far apart from each other but this rather strong tremor was very unusual.
The geological fault line in the Great Rift Valley might have triggered the tremor. Around 10 pm on September 11, we had an aftershock. People responded to this with great alarm. People are tense and afraid of further aftershocks or another earthquake. The quake epicenter was near Bukoba town. The town itself has been affected greatly. 16 people died, more than 250 people were hurt. The quake could also be felt in our neighboring countries Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and the Congo. The vice president came to Bukoba for a memorial service. Because of the poor building structure, more than 800 buildings collapsed and over 1000 houses were seriously damaged. Even at St. Nicholaus we have cracks in the walls but our structure is safe. The whole extent of the damages has not been counted yet and getting help for those who lost their homes is slow to come. The local hospitals have neither emergency nor intensive care units. Therefore, any catastrophe easily overwhelms the capacity of the hospitals. The Tanzania Red Cross Society was on the ground and provided first aid assistance. In sum, we can say that after all God has protected us because it could have hit us more severely. For more information, please refer to the Internet articles attached.
But now let me tell you about the good things:
St. Nicholaus Children`s Center celebrated its 5th birthday!
On September 17, 2011 we moved in with our first 10 children. We wanted to remember this day with a Mass of Thanksgiving. We invited only a few guests: The families of our children, our neighbors, people from the parish, priests and Sisters, and supporters of our center. The invitation list grew to over 50 people, together with our almost 30 children and more than 20 employees, it quickly added up to more than 100 people. There is no such a thing as a small celebration in Africa because Africa`s greatest wealth is its people.
It was a beautiful day: Bischop Method Kilaini celebrated Mass together with our parish priest Fr. Justus Kahwa and two other priests from neighboring parishes. It did not rain (!), we had electricity, and music and good food, and our children sang and danced. Everybody was in a happy mood. It was a feast for all the families with disabled children.
It was for the first time that in August we had to say good-bye to two of our children. Maria (19) and Steven (13) had been with us since we moved into St. Nicholaus. I had taken both children away from their family because the parents could not care for their mentally and physically challenged children. I have known Steven since he was born. For the first two years of his life, he was raised in an orphanage for infants. Then he moved to a nearby hospital because at that time there was no institution who would accept him until we finally opened St. Nicholaus.
I have known Maria since 2001. She was 4.5 years old then. In 2005, the mother left Maria and her three younger siblings with the father. In 2006, Maria`s condition had worsened due to neglect and I looked for a foster mother to care for Maria. For eight years, Helswida took care of Maria. Today Helswida is one of our caregivers. Helswida, I and everybody who got to know Maria and Steven had a hard time to say good-bye to them and to let them go. However ultimately, we are a home for children and considering her age Maria is no longer a child.
For a long time I had to look for a home for adults with disabilities because, there is no such a place in our area. Fr. Biseko from the Charity Home Kigera in Musoma offered to take both children in order not to separate the siblings. Unfortunately, Musoma is far away from our place. Door to door, it was exactly 400 mi. Nowadays, all the main roads are paved in Tanzania but they are not interstates. Children, people, cows, goats are walking alongside the road. There are no sidewalks for people and many die on the roads. When I am traveling, I am grateful for every accident free mile. It took us 13 hours each way to cover the 400 mi. Musoma is across Bukoba on the opposite side of lake Victoria. But there are no ferries connecting the towns. The community of Franciscan Sisters who are working at St. Nicholaus are also ministering in Musoma and at least through this connection we get news on Maria and Steven. I am planning to visit them in November. If it were not so far away, we would have visited them already with all our kids.
In August and September, we received two new children: Both are blind and both have been abandoned by their mothers but the children are not related. Hadija is 7 years old. We first met her in 2012. At that time, her mother asked us for advice and help. We sent mother and daughter to an eye doctor. Hadija was born prematurely and her eyes had not fully developed yet. There is nothing to help her eyesight. Four years later on a Thursday afternoon in August the mother returned with Hadija. She wanted to talk to me but I was not in my office at that moment. Therefore, she went to another home for children nearby but did not meet anybody in charge to talk to either. Apparently she just left Hadija on the compound of the other children`s home and left. The night guard noticed Hadija several hours later. The next morning the wife of the director of this children`s home took Hadija to our house. I recognized the child. I register every disabled child that is taken to our clinic. I found her file and with the information we had on this file we could identify and locate her mother.
We looked for the mother, found her and took her to the small police station that we have in Kemondo. The police advised us to take her to the main police station in Bukoba town where she would be put in prison and where her case would be taken to court. Hadija`s mother was with her 3-year old daughter on her back. I hesitated to follow up with this case considering the impact it would have on the lives of a number of people. Instead, my caregivers and I tried to talk with the mother several times. Finally, she told us that she is HIV positive, a single mother of three. I presume she has been depressed, has not been feeling well physically and has been overwhelmed. Her oldest daughter is already living with relatives. For several days, I tried calling the social worker from the Department of Social Welfare in Bukoba town to ask for advice. But the social worker had no time to receive my phone calls and hung up on me, and never returned any of my calls. In the end, we decided to accept Hadija into our center. In January, when the new school year starts in Tanzania, we want to enroll her in a special school for blind children. Since Hadija has been with us, the situation with the mother has improved. The mother calls me to ask how Hadija is doing and she has visited her daughter several times already. By now, Hadija is used to us and she is a smart, happy girl. She knows how to distinguish people by their voices and how to find her way around. She is easy to love.
Atugonza joined us in September. She too is blind. Her mother abandoned her. People found her and took her to the Department of Social Welfare. This was back in March. The social worker took her to an orphanage for infants. We don`t know Atugonza`s exact age. We don`t even know her name. The caregivers in the other orphanage named her. Considering her height and her level of development, we are guessing her to be about three years old. Her behavior is alarming because she likes to bite and pinch herself and others. When talked to she does not respond but repeats the sentence she just heard. But we don`t know what she went through until she came to live in the other orphanage in March 2016. Right now she is still getting used to us. The Department of Social Welfare found her mother and she has been put in prison for one year.
This general letter has become quite lengthy and I have not even finished sharing everything! One event follows the next and life is never boring in our house.
Let me share more briefly in pictures:
In July, 96 youth received the sacrament of confirmation in our parish, 7 teens are from St. Nicholaus.
In July, August and September we four new volunteers from Germany joined us. The volunteers are playing with the kids, helping them with their homework and tutor them in math. They are a big help to us.
And finally, I have found a male caregiver for my three boys Christoph, Ashraf and Mtagwaba. Caring for them – especially lifting them – has become increasingly difficult for our female caregivers. I am happy that Eladius is a physically strong young man who has a big heart to care for the children and to be a good male role model for my boys.
We are waiting for the rain season. After four months without rain, the soil is totally dried out. Every surface that is not wiped cleaned every day is covered with a thick layer of dust. The air is dusty, we are breathing in the dust, we have dust in the ears and nose. Thanks to our new well that is 164 ft deep we have been blessed with water throughout the dry season. It is easy to understand why our neighbors have been secretly steeling water from the backside of our water tank! It is time to plant but the rain is not coming.
Thank you so much for your faithful support. Without you, we could not help our children!
Many greetings and blessings from all of us,
Stefanie Köster, children and caregivers
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus, Heartfelt Greetings for the feast of Christ‚s Resurrection!
2016 started off with good news for us: Five years after applying for an official license to operate the children‚s center we have finally secured it. Why so soon?! Different people and circumstances came to our assistance. One of the reasons was Tanzania‚s presidential elections in October 2015. The new president, Mr. Magufuli, initiated already many changes.
His campaign slogan was „Hapa Kazi Tu!„ (Here is only work!). „What would Magufuli do?„ has become another popular saying. The new president seems to be serious about realizing his election campaign promises. For 2016, he canceled all tuition and fees in public schools and prohibited private schools to raise their tuition and fees. Unnecessary government expenses such as international first class have been cut. The president is determined to put an end to corruption. He is implementing measures to curb tax evasion since hardly anyone in the country has been paying taxes. Most significantly, President Magufuli wants to improve and advance his country and I am looking forward to changes over the next few years. Unfortunately for foreign nationals the costs for resident‚s and work permits have quadrupled. If you like to read more about this topic please refer to the attached news clip.
With the new wind blowing in the country, a high-ranking government official visited us at St. Nicholaus the day before Christmas Eve. Along came the local TV station that broadcasted this visit later. We were greeted with the usual gifts every children‚s home in Tanzania receives from time to time: a goat, a bag of rice and a bag of sugar. When asked what else we need, I mentioned the license necessary to formally operate St. Nicholaus Children‚s Center. In front of the TV camera, the government official promised we would receive it before January 1, 2016. In the end, the license was issued January 6th, but after five years of waiting another week is negligible…
Overall, Tanzania has significantly developed in the past years. Many people have access to electricity. The main roads are paved which makes travel, transport and trade a lot easier. People have inexpensive prepaid cell phones and access to Internet for affordable fees. This greatly improves communication and business activities. However, health care and education still greatly lack behind. Many people continue to die of diseases that could have been treated, simply because the disease had not been diagnosed correctly and attended to properly. Public school education is free but at the same time worthless, because 70-100 students sit in a classroom copying study material from the blackboard while the teacher enjoys a cup of tea in the teachers‚ office. Public school teachers and even headmasters use their salaries to send their own children to expensive private schools. Nobody seems to notice the contradiction. In this culture, people are not accustomed to protesting and organizing demonstrations. They are unaware of their rights to question authority and initiate change.
Last year, several organizations that serve people with disabilities in the greater Lake Victoria region, formed a network organization. Goal of the „Tanzania Disability Rehabilitation Consortium„ (TDRC) is to join forces to help people with disabilities and to advocate for and strengthen their rights in the country. Of course, St. Nicholaus is a member of this new network organization that hopefully will extend throughout the country.
I have been actively looking for a home for adult people with disability for our oldest girl Maria (19). Recently, I went to Rulenge, a small village about a 6-hour drive away at the Rwandan-Burundian border. There, the Sisters of Mother Teresa have a home for infants and for elderly women. They also care for three women with disabilities. Unfortunately, they cannot take Maria. Thus, my search for a new home for her will continue. While we were visiting the Sisters, they received a distressing phone call: In Yemen, on Friday, March 4th, the Islamic State (IS) killed four Sisters of Mother Teresa along with 11 other people who were all ministering at a center for those in need.
In January, the Franciscan Sisters who work at St. Nicholaus moved into their new house. Two Sisters are working as caregivers and two Sisters are cooks at our center. One Sister is a teacher at a nearby primary school and another Sister is the teacher at the new Catholic kindergarten in our parish.
But not only our country has developed the children of St. Nicholaus are making equally great strides. Since January, 18 out of 27 children are enrolled in local kindergartens and schools, 7 children are attending a special ed class in our center and the two youngest children are actively learning how to walk and talk. Therefore, the mornings are nice and quiet. During the afternoons, they are doing their homework or run, play and make plenty of noise because they had to sit still all day long in class. On the weekends, the older ones are busy with choir practice, religious education and the Franciscan children and youth groups in our parish. Some enjoy a hike with their scout group.
A broken laundry machine has added a bit of spice to daily living. The existing laundry machine was only one year old but decided to retire early because of heavy use. There is no service shop we can call. The local electrician and a visitor tried their best. After one week of doing laundry for 27 children by hand, my caregivers were ready to quit!!! By now, we have a new washing machine. The old one is still turning but it is no longer spinning nor providing us with any wash programs…
During the Easter holidays, our five big girls (16, 12, 10 and 2×8 years old) are attending a two-week workshop on self-defense. This is an important issue given the pace our children are developing into adolescents. We want to build and strengthen the self-confidence of our girls. They need to learn to say „NO„ when someone assaults them. On the 90-minute drive home from a recent practice session, the girls were screaming „Hapana!„ (No!) at the top of their voices. They are excited about the training and we are lucky that such a program is available in our area. In the meantime, our boys will join a Franciscan Youth group for a week of volunteer work.
Agatha with her two children Mwolokozi (12) and David (1) are with us for Easter. I have told her story in previous general letters. Agatha has cerebral palsy and so does her oldest son. She conceived both children through rape. Therefore, the children have no fathers. We have known Agatha for four years and are helping her to manage life as a single mother. A guesthouse built on the property of St. Nicholaus Children‚s Center offers the opportunity to reach out to women like Agatha in times of great need and crisis. Agatha does not currently have a big problem, but two weeks of a mother-and-child-holiday will be good for this family.
We are wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Holy Week and happy Easter,
Stefanie Köster, the children and caregivers at St. Nicholaus
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;
and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me. Mark 9:37
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children`s Center!
Another year has passed – the fourth year since we moved to St. Nicholaus with the first ten children. Our family is growing steadily. Since we have moved to St. Nicholaus we have received sixteen children in addition to the first ten. We remembered this day with a Thanksgiving Mass at our center.
September 11th we received our 26th child. Mwolokozi is 2 years old. He is the little brother of Mwesiga (6) and Kalokola (4), who have been with us for a year and a half already. At that time when we took in the two older brothers, the mother was not ready to give up Mwolokozi. The father of the boys died in 2013, the mother is mentally challenged. Recently she has become the third wife of a Mulsim man and in June has given birth to a baby girl. There is no doubt that she loves her children but clearly, she is not able to care for them. Mwolokozi weighs only 14 pounds. He crawls, stands up and walks when being held like a one-year old. Like many of our children when they first arrive, his feet and hands were full of jiggers. His has a big belly full of worms and we have started de-worming him. He hardly has any hair and his hair has a blondish color – a clear sign of malnourishment. However, despite his poor nutrition and his delayed development we are positive that within a few months he will become a healthy and happy child. It is amazing how calmly he accepts his new oversized family! His favorite places to be are at the dining table in front of a bowl of food or he wants to be carried around on someone`s arm.
On September 13th Annajoyce returned to us. She had spent 6 weeks in Germany for her medical treatment. Annajoyce was born with spinal cord injury. Because of this, she cannot control urine and stool and she is walking with great difficulty. Two volunteers who were with us in 2014 felt moved by her fade. They were able to find a specialist doctor in Germany who agreed to treat Annajoyce free of charge. They could also convince two hospitals to admit her without any costs. The two volunteers started a fund raising campaign and were able to raise enough money to pay for Annajoyce`s travel expenses including a person to accompany her, for her expenses while staying in Germany as well as for all the medical supplies needed. The two volunteers stayed with Annajoyce the entire time.
Surgery or treatment on the spinal cord injury was not possible. Instead, two pairs of special orthopedic shoes were made for Annajoyce. With the support of the shoes, her walking has improved. Finally, she had minor surgery on her bladder and she has learned to use a catheter. Without this kind of treatment, she would suffer from long-term damage to her kidneys. She also has learned to irrigate her bowels. With this kind of treatment she no longer uses diapers. She now has to learn how to integrate these procedures into her daily life – at home and at school. This is a big challenge for a 9-year old but she is brave and she is doing her best. She has happily returned to us from Germany with much more self-confidence and with great joy. We too are happy to have her back!
Thanks to the new well that was drilled in March, we have made it through the long dry season in July and August. For the first time we have never been without water and even our neighbors could benefit from us.
The house that we built for the Sisters who are working at St. Nicholaus is almost completed. Soon the Sisters can move into their own house. As a new building project, we have begun building three simple bedrooms where we can temporarily host disabled women in crisis. A year ago, I shared the story of a disabled woman from our village who was raped and impregnated by her neighbor. We supported her during her pregnancy and welcomed her to our house after she gave birth until we were sure that she was able to care for the infant. Now with 26 children, caregivers, volunteers and guests our house is always full and every bed is taken.
The three additional bedrooms on our property will enable us to help disabled people in crisis-situations until a permanent solution is found.
In August two volunteers returned home and two new volunteers arrived. Katharina and Philipp are adjusting. There is so much to learn – the names of all the children and caregivers, the language, the culture, our daily schedule…
Elections are being held in Tanzania on October 25th. The election campaigns have started. Every village is covered with flags of the parties and pictures of the candidates. The same party has been ruling since Tanzania`s independence. This time the opposition parties have joined forces and have picked a strong candidate to challenge the ruling party. It is a rule that a Christian vice president accompanies a Muslim president and after the term ends, the next president must be a Christian and the vice president a Muslim. The aim is to keep religious peace in the country and so far, this has worked. Therefore, a Christian president will in any case follow the current Muslim president Kikwete.
On days where the current president, the former president or the new candidates are in town campaigning for their parties, it is advisable to stay home. However, so far the country has remained peaceful.
These were the „Habari za St. Nikolausi” (the news of St. Nicholaus) since my last general e-mail at Easter.
Those of you who are using Facebook, please look for news on https://www.facebook.com/NikolaushausAfrika or do a search with the word „Nikolaushaus”.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support of our center. Without you we would not be able to help the children!
Heartfelt greetings from all of us,
Stefanie Köster, children and caregivers
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.
Of 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 where 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.
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
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo!
On Saturday, December 7th, we celebrated our patron St. Nicholaus. Actually St. Nicholaus came on time on the eve of December 6th, but because this day happened to be the last day of school for our children including a big school celebration, we moved our celebration to the following day. Together with the Franciscan Sisters from San Damiano Mission, friends and supporters from our parish we celebrated Holy Mass in our living room. As you can see on the picture above, this year our two youngest were acting as St. Nicholaus.
By now we have 18 children. The twin girls Editha and Edina came to us in the beginning of October. Their mother is mentally challenged and could not provide for the children. The twins are four and a half years old. However, they are very much delayed in their development. Editha is more like a one and a half year old child and Edina like a 3-year old.
Together with Chiara and Agnes we now have four cute little girls ranging in age between two and four years old. They like to take control over the house in the morning while the older children are in school! The children are the best therapists for each other. Within a few weeks Editha has learned to walk because she wants to keep up with the others. Who knows how much fun she would miss otherwise?
Our nine school children are on break now for five weeks. The new school year will start on January 13th. This time all children passed their exams. Annajoyce who has Spina Bifida had to repeat last year was now awarded a gift from the school for being the best student in her class!
Overall, our children have made good progress this past year. Maria, our oldest, turned 17. Chiara, our youngest, is two. Mtagwaba who is four years old and has cerebral palsy just learned to crawl and has started to explore his world. Asimwe has celebrated her first Holy Communion.
We thank all of you for your faithful support. Without your support our work at St. Nicholaus would not be possible.
Please remember our children and caregivers in your prayers.
All of us from St. Nicholaus are wishing you merry Christmas
and God’s blessings for the New Year 2014!
our two youngest as St. Nicholaus
Happy New Year
Heartfelt Greetings from the children of St. Nicholaus in Kemondo!
On September 17, 2013 we celebrated our second anniversary since moving into St. Nicholaus. In these two years our family has expanded from ten to seventeen children as you will see in the pictures attached to this letter. The children on the bench are sitting in the same order as they did two years ago. On the floor in front are the new children who have joined our family since we moved in. Unfortunately, one child is missing in the second picture.
We thank you so much for your faithful support. Without your help St. Nicholaus Children’s Center would not be possible!
Stefanie Köster and the caregivers and children of St. Nicholaus
Understands what is said, Alleluia. (Wisdom 1:7)
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo!
Much has happened in the past 50 days between Easter and Pentecost. Innocent and Elliot came to us in April. We now have 17 children. Innocent is almost 3 years old. He has cerebral palsy and does not talk. Elliot is turning 6 years soon. She has a mental disability. The only sentence she says in the local language Kihaya translates to, “Mama, make me pancakes.” Otherwise she loves to suck on her thumb. Both children cried a lot in the beginning. How else would they express the shock about moving to a strange environment? But by now they feel at home in our noisy house. They are laughing a lot and it is easy to love them. Elliot only cries now when we bathe her, take her to the toilet or brush her teeth… Activities she obviously has not been used to.
We are in the midst of the rain season. The good news is that our well and the rain water tanks are full to the top. The down side is that in the past two weeks many of our children have been sick with Malaria and a cold. I should mention though that Malaria is as common in Africa as a cold is elsewhere. We take every child that has fever to the doctor and have the child tested and treated for Malaria. As soon as the fever is down, the kids run around again. Malaria is simply a part of life here in Africa.
Many supporters of St. Nicholaus have shown special interest in Asimwe. Asimwe is 13 years old and has a very rare skin disease caused by a genetic defect. Her entire body is affected, her skin is very sensitive and she easily hurts. It is also very disfiguring. We had her skin biopsies tested now three times by dermatologists in Tanzania, in Germany and finally in the USA. The sad news is that some medicines might improve her situation slightly but ultimately there is no cure for her. This recent news has upset us. In my Easter letter I mentioned that we had been warned against attacks on Christian Churches. We had plenty of rain on Easter but nationwide all remained calm and uneventful.
Unfortunately, on May 5th a bomb exploded during Holy Mass in Arusha (near Mount Kilimanjaro) and killed three people. The Nuncio to Tanzania was present as well as bishops, some 40 priests and more than hundred religious sisters and a large group of lay Catholics had gathered for the opening of a newly built church. The similarities between the Boston bombing and the bombing in Arusha are striking. But the bombing in Tanzania did not make international headlines (see article HYPERLINK „http://stealthconflicts.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/boston-yes-arusha-no-thank-you/“ http://stealthconflicts.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/boston-yes-arusha-no-thank-you/ ).
Since last year Tanzania has seen a rise in sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims. However, this is only true for a small minority of people in the country. In general, followers of different religions have lived peacefully together in Tanzania. We continue to pray for peace.
Right in time as we are celebrating the birthday of the church our new Bishop Desiderius Rwoma visited us Kemondo for the first time. He also came to see our children at St. Nicholaus. I was rather surprised when he expressed his wish to ride in our “Bajaja!! A Bajaj is a motorcycle made in India. It has three wheels and a bench in the back. I use it for going back and forth within Kemondo since it is very economical (see pictures).
Since the arrival of the new bishop we have experienced many changes in the Diocese. Many priests have received new assignments. Likewise we had to say farewell to Father Vedastus who has lived with us and ministered to us in Kemondo for 17 years. He has been our friend and spiritual director. Fortunately for us he was transferred to our main parish in Kagondo, so he remains close in the area. His successor is Father Justus. He is a young priest and he is very motivated. He already visited us at St. Nicholaus and promised to return with the seminarians and to work in our “shamba” (field)! We are delighted!
The picture at the beginning of this letter shows our children who are singing and dancing at the farewell celebration of Father Vedastus. Together with the caregivers they wrote a little song and made up a dance. I was very proud of them when they performed in front of the parish!
We wish you the Holy Spirit of Pentecost,
Stefanie Köster and the children and caregivers at St. Nicholaus Children’s Center
The children of the Hebrews, carrying olive branches, went to meet the Lord, crying out and saying: Hosanna in the highest.
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!
Holy Week has started. Our children are looking forward to a break from school. The last few months of school were very challenging. Magdalena is in third grade and comes home from school at 6 pm. The other children are busy in the afternoons with tuition classes to keep up with the school work. Holy Saturday we plan to color eggs with the children. Easter Sunday we will stay home. There have been rumors that Christian churches and institutions will be a target for some fundamentalists, so we decided to delay our Easter celebration for a few days.
All of our 15 children are well. We are expecting the arrival two new children in April: Elliot is five years old and is mentally challenged. Innocent is two and a half years old and is both mentally and physically affected. We still have room at our center. Most likely we will receive more children before the end of the year. The decision whether to receive a child depends on the child’s family situation.
Our work at the Outpatient Clinic aims at supporting and strengthening families with disabled children. There is a great need to help parents of disabled children. Many times, the parents do not know what is affecting their child, where to get help and if they get medical help, how to pay for it. Part of our work is to accompany parents to the treatment until they can follow up on it by themselves. Many times we help to pay for the medical bill and also for the transportation costs to the hospital. This ministry is important so that the children may remain in their families.
In March two young women from Germany visited us. They did an internship as part of their education to become occupational therapists. Our children always enjoy the extra attention they receive from volunteers.
We in Africa are excited about our new Pope Francis and the Diocese of Bukoba has a new Bishop, Bishop Desiderius Rwoma. We will officially welcome him on April 7th. Our former Bishop is going to retire in the same parish as St. Nicholaus is located.
Wishing you all happy Easter,
Stefanie Köster and Children
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
Let us REJOICE!
For LOVE has come to bring “glad tidings of joy to the poor.”
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo, Thank you for your continued support by which you have helped our St. Nicholaus Family to become possible. Be assured of our children’s prayers for you, at bedtime, every night.
We are wishing you and your families a Blessed Christmas Season
and a happy New Year 2012!
Stefanie Köster and the Children and
Staff of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo
I am your joy –be not afraid to rejoice!
I am with you in your despair; because I have suffered through it myself.
I am with you in your dying: because today, when I was born, I began to die with you.
I will not leave you. Whatever may happen to you, although your path may lead through
darkness – know, that I am there! Believe, that my love conquers all! Then your night too, will be a Holy Night.
Light your candles – so that they may brighten the darkness.
Karl Rahner (free translation from German)
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo!
Advent Blessings from Kemondo, Tanzania where we are celebrating the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence today!
This week we were visited by St. Nicholaus who is the patron saint of our house.
In Tanzania people do not pay special attention to his feast day like we do in Germany. However, the children welcome any reason to celebrate. They like the Advent wreath that we put on the dinner table every night when we light the candles. The children are also ready to raid the Advent calendar three times a day if we would let them…! The night before the feast of St. Nicholaus we did some arts and crafts and made Bishop Nicholaus out of colored paper and toilet paper rolls. I then told the children to put their shoes out. They found them filled with treats the next morning. Also the next morning, Father Vedastus and the Sisters came to celebrate Mass with us in our living room.
On December 3rd we received a new child. Asimwe is 10 years old. She is suffering from a very rare skin disease that is not infectious but very disfiguring. Her face, head, arms, hands, legs, feet, her entire body is covered with nodules. One of the caretakers took out worms from her hands, feet and other body parts. Part of her problem are the lack of hygiene and the malnutrition that she suffered from for many years. We can do something about that. There is no cure for her skin disease and the disease is far advanced. However, we hope we can improve her condition with the right treatment.
By now Asimwe has adjusted to her new surroundings. She is talking and smiling and happy. For years she lived in a hut by herself while her family neglected and avoided her. I am proud of our children who treat her as any playmate, who laugh and play with her and who do not mock her for her looks. So far, Asimwe has not attended school yet and we will wait with her schooling until her condition has improved.
The other children are off from school until January. In Tanzania, the school year ends in November and begins in January. The children are looking forward to Christmas. Like all children they have a huge wish list. So far we have received 17 requests to take in disabled children. However, we are only going to accept those children who cannot be cared for by their families.
Wishing you a blessed Advent season,
Stefanie Köster and the children, caretakers of St. Nicholaus
Prayer to St. Nicholaus
O good Saint Nicholaus, who brings joy to children, put in my heart the spirit of childhood, of which the Gospel speaks and teach me to sow happiness around me You, whose feast prepares us for Christmas, open my faith to the mystery of God made human. You, Bishop and pastor, help me to find my place in the Church. O good Saint Nicholaus, patron of this house, watch over all who come to this place to pray to Jesus, your Lord and theirs, and also, on those whom I humbly entrust to you today. From an unknown French parish
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo,
To begin with the good news: St. Nicholaus Children’s Center Kemondo was officially opened on October 13, 2011!
No, there is no bad news to follow now. However, what is quite common in Africa and what nobody wants for a celebration happened. The day before and on the day of the celebration we had no electricity which means that we had to decorate past midnight with a flashlight, we could not recharge the digital cameras and so on. Furthermore, we are in the midst of the rain season and – literally – the celebration was rained out.
It started with a light rain in the morning and we still had hope. Holy Mass was to take place in front of the main entrance. We had put up tents. However, during the Bishop’s homily heaven came down upon us. Some tents broke under the weight of the rain water and people ran inside the center for shelter. Improvising is a skill and a virtue in Africa. Eventually everyone had found a dry spot and Mass was continued in the inner courtyard. Some time after Mass and after lunch the rain stopped.
Despite the rain more than 300 guests had come including the Bishop, the auxiliary Bishop, the Vicar General, many priests and Sisters, some special guests from Germany, official representatives from the local government, directors of other institutions and schools as well as the family members of those children who live at St. Nicholaus and still have family.
Everyone was in a joyful mood, most invited guests came and the center turned out to be big enough to host everyone. In the end it was a wonderful opening celebration.
During the few days since the celebration six mothers with their disabled children have come to ask for help. This clearly shows how urgently the families with disabled children in this area need support and assistance. St. Nicholaus Children’s Center shall become a place where parents of disabled children receive counseling and where the children can be refered to therapists, doctors, schools and so on. Only those disabled children who do not receive the care they need at home shall be accepted to live at the center.
We have just begun and there remains much to be done. The caretakers need to be trained. Also we are looking for a physical therapist who can come to St. Nicholaus Children’s Center on a regular basis to do exercises with the children. In addition, we are looking for a special ed teacher who can teach those children who are not able to attend the local schools
I would like to thank all of you for your support because without your prayers and your donations St. Nicholaus Children’s Center would not be there today. In the entrance area of the center we have installed a plague in honor of all the donors.
God’s blessings be with you,
Stefanie Köster and the children and caretakers
Dear Friends and Supporters of St. Nicholaus Children´s Center Kemondo!
On Saturday, September 17th we finally moved into St. Nicholaus with the first nine children. And it is only today that I can share this news per e-mail. As it was to be expected the first week was rather tough and I had no moment to sit down. But now after the first week, the children have settled down, a routine is beginning to form and I feel that we are slowly but surely arriving at our new home.
So far we have only the most important furniture such as beds, tables and chairs and the most important household items. The workmen are still working on some parts of the center. At present, we are drawing water from two large poly tanks and are carrying the water in buckets into the house. By December or January we hope to have water piped into our house. At least, since September we are in the rain season and there is no lack of water.
At present, one other caretaker who has been caring for a severely disabled child for 3 years and I are living with the children at St. Nicholaus. Other women from the neighborhood take turns in the mornings and afternoons to help us with cooking, cleaning, washing etc. Most co-workers are new and are working on a temporary basis. It will take time until we have figured out a routine and schedule that will work best for us. The non-disabled children are attending a nearby school. The disabled children are at home because there is no special school in the area. By next year I will look for a teacher for them.
Rev. Bishop Nestor Timanywa will officially open the center on October 13th. We are expecting about 300 guests. There is lots to do until then! Attached you will find some pictures.
We also finally launched a website: www.nikolaushaus.com Make sure you click on the British flag in the right corner (top) for the English text.
Blessings, Stefanie and a house full of noisy kids
„The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world.IIt holds all things together
and knows every word spoken by man, Alleluia.“ Wisdom 1:7
Many Greetings for the Feast of Pentecost from Kemondo, Tanzania!
Today we are celebrating the feast of the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church. In Kemondo we will celebrate both to the fullest!
I am happy to announce that on May 25th Christoph joined our family. Christoph was abondoned and found about a year ago. The social welfare office placed him at a government owned nursing home. They now asked me to take the child into my care and I am happy to do so. We presume that Christoph is between 3 and 4 years old. He is bright and happy and talking. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is disabling most of his body. We have started physical therapy and I am sure he will be able do learn a lot. By now he has adjusted well to his new family and is happy to have siblings who play with him.
St. Nicholas Children´s Center is looking more homey every day. One half of the building complex is almost ready. The walls are painted, the workmen are fixing the bathrooms right now, even the beds were already delivered. Roofing is being fixed on the second half of the building.
We have electricity and are now working on our water supply. At present we are building a huge water tank to store the rain water. In addition to that we will also have to drill a well because the dry season can be long. We hope to be able to move in sometime in August.
Stefanie and the children of St. Nicholas
„Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, coming in human likeness; and found in human appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!“ Phil 2:6-11
This is the second reading of Palm Sunday. In a few but very powerful words Paul summarizes the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Last Sunday the crowd celebrated Jesus and greeted him with palms. In the following (Holy) Week Jesus shares the Pessach meal with his disciples, he is giving himself in the meal, he is washing their feet. Shortly afterwards he is imprisoned and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Today we are celebrating His Resurrection. The mystery of the Resurrection is too great to be grasped and to be celebrated for only one day. After suffering and death comes the joy of Easter in which we may live – to the glory of God!
I would like to add a report on the children and the building process of St. Nicholaus to this Easter greeting.
Anthony (8), Joseph (9), Magdalena (8), Stefan (8) and Maria (14) are still living with their caretakers on the premises of Kagondo Hospital about 6 miles away from Kemondo. Joseph and Magadalena are now in second grade. Anthony and Stefan still attend kindergarten. Maria is not (yet) going to school because there is no special school for her at this point. Unfortunately, Maria is not doing well health wise. Her epilepsy is difficult to control and she can barely walk.
Aisha and Anita (both are 3 and half) are going to pre-school which they enjoy very much. Already they can read and write some numbers and letters.
On March 18th Daniel joined our family. He was in the same orphanage like Aisha and Anita. He turned 3 this month but he is slow in his development. He is able to walk and most of the time he is in a good mood. By now he has adjusted well. Aisha and Anita take their little brother into their midst or just drag him behind. Together with the two puppies there is never a dull moment in our house. The other five children from Kagondo are taking turns to visit us every weekend.
The building of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center was going very well until Christmas. The week after Christmas people from the city’s office for land and building visited the site. They informed us that laws had changed. Kemondo is no longer considered a village but has become a township and therefore there are different regulations. The city office did not recognize the building plan that was done in Germany. A Tanzanian architect had to redraw the plans. Bukoba Catholic Diocese who owns the property had to bring more documents showing their ownership. Consequently, we were told to stop building until all those issues were resolved. It took two and half months to clear everything and finally on Ash Wednesday we got the go ahead to resume building. The Diocese supported us in this matter very much.
As of today, half of the building has a roof, is plastered inside and outside, doors and windows are in, floor and ceiling board are done, plumbing and electrical installments are underway. The second half of the center has been built in the past weeks and we can soon put a roof on that half as well.
During the building stop we were not idle. We formed a board and applied for the registration of the center which are important steps towards operating the center. The contractor used the time to do his driver’s license. Many people here do not have a license and I used to do all the driving for getting the building materials. Now I can share this work with the contractor which is a big help to me.
I do not dare to give a prediction anymore as to when we will be able to move into St. Nicholaus. But the building will be ready in about three months and we are doing everything to get the registration through in this time.
Below I have added some recent pictures.
We wish you God’s Blessings and the Joy of His Resurrection,
Stefanie and the children and caretakers of St. Nicholaus
„Today you shall know: The Lord is coming to redeem us and tomorrow you shall see His glory.“ see Ex. 16.6-7
Yes, today we are celebrating Holy Eve – the birth of Jesus and with that the Incarnation of God!
Whenever I light a candle, Aisha and Anita start to sing „Happy Birthday!“ because that is what we did for their birthdays. So when we lit the candles of the Advent wreath, we have been excited with anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child and tonight finally is the night!
We already gave the children of St. Nicholaus their presents on December 23rd. In Tanzania it is customary to give new clothes for Christmas and so we decided to give the children their gifts early so that they may join Jesus‘ Birthday celebration with new and shiny clothes.
The building of St. Nicholaus Children’s Center is progressing very well. In only 5 months the workmen completed the basic structure of the first three buildings. They started plastering building 1 (entrance, office, director’s bedroom, two guestrooms) and fixing the door and window frames. The electrician and the plumber started their work. Building 2 (3 bedrooms for children, 2 bedrooms for caretakers) and building 3 (dining room, kitchen, store, big bathroom) have a roof. The foundations of buildings 4 and 5 (more bedrooms for children and caretakers, bathrooms etc.) are finished. It is our hope to move in before Easter although the whole project will not be completed by then.
We wish you the joy about the birth of Jesus and with that the Incarnation of God in our midst! There is no greater and more beautiful gift than this!
Stefanie and the Children and Caretakers of St. Nicholaus