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Regulation Problems

I am in Tanzania and things are going well. We have had some expected, unexpected expenses….if that makes sense. Please, take a look at the above link to see all that they are. This is a long story, but It’s hard for me to make it short!  If it’s too long, check out the link and it will give you an idea of where we are.

Some background–Hill Crest has never been a registered school/day care.. We did not meet the building requirements and, under the old presidential administration, no one cared. When the new president stepped in, the government officials had to get out of their offices and get to work–good and bad for us. When, they first started coming to Hill Crest they were quite impressed with the program and the teachers. They liked the food we served, except for the brown rice–they thought we should change back to white, but we ignored that and they forgot. 

They did required some changes. The most challenging being that we had to have an exit door to the outside from each classroom–that was something that just could not be met in that building. They let us off the hook for about a year–however, there were other changes, unrelated to education or child care, that we had to make to demonstrate our good intentions. We had to repaint all the walls pale yellow and cover up the lovely, bright walls that volunteers had created, we had to put gravel down in the compound, and Mama Yohana had to get a bright, white cooks uniform and hat. For awhile, our compliance showed our willingness to work with them. 

Then, in March, they showed up and said we had to close until we had a “proper” school. Elizabeth and Hilda found a an “apartment building” that the owner was willing to rent. However, a tremendous amount of work was necessary to  make it suitable. We were required to have 4 classrooms, an office, a new latrine, and a kitchen.  The teachers worked super hard moving rocks, building a large fence, getting the building repaired, and building a kitchen and latrine. When they were finished, it took awhile to get the reopening go-ahead from the officials. You know, they would come and say just do “one more thing” and we will give you the papers. When they returned, they would add “one more thing.” What’s cool, though, is it was done without one single bribe….it takes longer that way, but feels better.

The week before I arrived, we got the go ahead to open. We celebrated with a big party–pilau, veggies, fruit, avocado, and cake. It was great to be here for that! The building is simple, small, and beautiful. It works.

We do have more requirements that have to be met. I have listed them in the link. We are trying hard to make sure that most of what we do is transferable to another location. Why….after all that hard work, would we anticipate moving? Well… there is another regulation that we are unable to meet just yet. A private school/day care must be located on land owned by the Director–not rented. So, we know that someday we will have to pick up and go, again.

The regulators are letting us slide on that one, at the moment, because Elizabeth is in the process of purchasing land. It will take her awhile. She has a piece of land that she is making payments on. A little over a year ago, Elizabeth and I made a pinky finger promise…..if she can get the land, Sunflower Kids will help raise the money to build the school. She, in her Elizabeth way said, “Bibi, don’t worry. We will pray. We will get the land.” And she has been making that happen. Truthfully, I was reluctant to commit to the land as a project. I felt like there needed to be a financial commitment from her. When that lady sets her mind to something, she makes it happen–she said that she wants to purchase the land on her own–she likes the feeling. She “will persist.”

Hilda, the head teacher, has been the foundation for Elizabeth. She is her best friend. She keeps all the financial records and takes care of all the money. It is fun for me to see her system. Money is not kept in the bank. It is in envelopes and neatly labeled as to the project and what the expenditures have been. The two of them make a great team. They make each other accountable and each one’s strengths compliment the other. 

Right now, all the English Medium schools are closed for break. Most of our older, sponsored kids are attending Hill Crest for what’s called “tuition.” That is like summer school. The 4th form kids are preparing for their National exams in the fall. They come to school each day from 8 until about 12:30. They get breakfast, lunch, and some high-powered tutoring. 

That’s a bit of where we are now. If you got to the end of this–thank you. I know, all of you are busy and this is a long read!  Just want to keep everyone in the loop. 

Thank you very much,


Colleen Laughlin talks about her experience at Hill Crest

Sunflower kids love the volunteersMy first day walking into Hill Crest was the most overwhelming thing I have ever experienced. But overwhelming in the best way possible. As soon as I walked into the first classroom half of the kids ran up to me and started fighting over my hand. The love these kids can give to a total stranger they just met is amazing.

When I first started volunteering at Hill Crest there were over 100 kids and I had no clue how I was going to get to know all of them, let alone learn all of their names! But after my four months there, I’m so privileged to have been able to form a connection with all of those kids. Whether they were in the older class and could have a whole conversation with me in English, or in the baby class and knew little to no English, there is NO way to not love these kids. And seeing Elisabeth there everyday, even while she was pregnant, doing everything she can for them was so heartwarming and inspiring.

My first day at Hill Crest one of the older kids, Obedi, was sick. I tagged along with one of the previous volunteers to bring him porridge. After being in his small house where they cook inside, making it hard breathe, and knowing they have to sleep in there too, it opened my eyes. Even living like this, he still has the biggest smile during the school day whenever you give him a hug or a high five when he did his math homework. Moments like this made me SO happy about my decision to leave my comfort zone in the U.S and come meet these kids.

ombdi and momAfter being there for four months though and realizing more and more how amazing all of the kids are, leaving them was the hardest thing I have ever done. I knew I would cry- I even tried to prepare myself, but I didn’t realize just how heartbreaking it was. Not seeing their huge smiles everyday. The only thing that made me ok with leaving them, is knowing that as soon as I can I will be coming back!

The Sunflower Kids in the local newspaper

doc53a2637f20196360086779When Judi Davis turned 60 last year, she sold her Laramie house, traveled to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and then spent six weeks working at a school for orphaned children.

The trip changed her life, but not the part of the trip where she stood atop the highest peak on the continent. It was the part where she held some of its smallest children.

Davis encountered crushing need at the Hill Crest School in Arusha, Tanzania, but she marshalled a network of friends in Laramie and around the country that got to work last summer raising money to feed the students. She also created a fundraising pipeline involving local mothers and plans to return to Tanzania this winter to reconnect with the school’s founders.

“I think I can’t stop,” she said.

Davis, who ran a home daycare in Laramie called Sunflower Child Care, hadn’t planned on volunteer work before leaving for Africa……


Read the rest of the story in the Laramie Boomerang.

New York’s must-attend Charity Event of the summer!

Extry! Extry! Come One, Come All! It’s New York’s must-attend Charity Event of the summer!

This month, your new favorite charitable organization – Sunflower Kids – is teaming up with your old (or new!) favorite shoe designer: John Fluevog.

On Friday, June 27th, Sunflower Kids is set to throw an exclusive bash with our friends at John Fluevog Shoes New York. Between the hours of 5pm and 9pm, half of the proceeds of any purchases made at the Canadian shoe legend’s NoLita branch will directly fund our mission to keep the children at the Hill Crest School in Arusha, Tanzania educated and fed.

That’s right: get a great new pair of ‘Vogs, help ensure a brighter future for a child in need.

What could be a better way to spend a sunny summer evening? Nothing, that’s what.

So, gather your feet and your friends, and come partake in cocktails, conversation, and the most Fluevogian thing of all: spreading LOVE.

See you all on the 27th!

With Love,

Your Friends at Sunflower Kids.

P.S. Can’t make it in between 5 and 9? No problem, just give us a call and buy your Fluevogs – the kids at Hill Crest will still get your donation! 212-431-4484

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