In January 2017, while on an Overseas Adventure Travel vacation in Africa, I met Emmanuel Boaz. He was working in a gift shop at the Ngorongoro Farm Valley Lodge in Karatu, Tanzania. I only needed to buy a postcard stamp to send a card to my dad. As Emmanuel was assisting me with the stamp purchase, I could see there was something special about him. He told me he was almost done with training to become a safari guide. However, he had to put his dream on hold and work to send money home to pay for his younger brother’s education.
Emmanuel was so friendly and engaging, but I noticed he covered his mouth when talking and would not smile with his teeth showing. There were yellowish areas on his teeth, and I could tell he was self conscious about how he looked. Like many Tanzanian people, his teeth were affected by fluorosis at a young age, causing the pitting and yellowing. At age 25, he had never been to a dentist. I had faced issues with my own teeth growing up, so I knew exactly how he felt. I decided I had to help him get his smile back.
Our Tanzanian safari guide, Ishmail Mshana, personally became involved in checking out Emmanuel’s circumstances. Two months later, I found a dentist in Arusha at the dental clinic Divinegrace. Dr. Arlene was indeed divine grace. Emmanuel needed a root canal, 2 crowns and 6 veneers, but now his smile is big and bright.
I also wanted to help Emmanuel finish his safari guide training. Instead, he asked if I could help his dad with the education of his youngest brother, Daudi. I wanted to say no, as I really wanted to help Emanuel. But I realized if I helped his brother, I was in a sense helping him. So I said yes, and his 4th grade brother, who Emmanuel describes as “clever,” is enrolled in a private English speaking school that is giving him a quality education.
As I learned more about Emmanuel and his family, he told me of his brother-in-law, Ojung’u, who inherited land from his family in their village. He had a dream to build a school or orphanage on that land. At first I thought this was more than I wanted to help with, but then Emanuel’s dentist, Arlene, heard about Ojung’u’s dream, and she wanted to help. So I decided I would help too.
I had a fund raising plant sale in May of 2017, with all proceeds going towards the start of the school. There was a wonderful outpouring of support! Between the plant sale, and a music concert two months later, we were able to send $19,000 to start construction on the first school building and washrooms. The first school building opened its doors on January 8, 2018, with three classes: nursery, kindergarten and first grade. In all 47 children were enrolled.
I believe this school mission is meant to be. Pieces keep falling into place. I did not ask for this project, and at times I feel, “I’m not driving the bus.” Rather, I was called by God to help these children. As a pediatric nurse in bone marrow transplant for 32 years now, I love children. I love seeing them happy, healthy, and enjoying a quality education. That is what I am seeing at Bethany Pre and Primary School. I also believe God’s hand is in this project and will continue to be with us as we move forward.
To make this mission even more special, Emmanuel and his family named the school after me. I did not ask for this and kept suggesting he think of other names. However, it was decided Bethany Pre and Primary School would be the name. I feel so very honored.
I am also grateful to my wonderful family! They all have taken this project to heart. My husband helped start the non-profit, helped with the plant sales, and continues to help on the business end. Our oldest son, Joseph, helped create our website. My middle son, David, helped with the July 2017 musical fundraiser. My youngest son, Eric, made a promotional video for the charity. This project would not be possible without the support of my entire family.
Written July 2018
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