Dar Es Salaam

After my fun-filled bus-ride, I jumped straight into FootBallSmiles mode.

This time it was the New Life Muslim orphanage with 104 children, mostly boys.

In cramped quarters they are fed, clothed (head dresses too), taught the Koran and sent to school.

As with Happy Nairobi Kids, space is a problem and their dream is to move to a new location (you will understand clearly when you look at the photos!)

Initially they were shy and closed to communication until I started clowning around, making grimaces and hand-magic while my friend Chandra (who had organised the day) began singing with the girls.

After a tour of the few rooms and inner courtyards where the women were preparing lunch, we proceeded to go to the football ground.

As we rounded the corner, our eyes nearly fell out of our heads!

The New Life is like a Phoenix rising out of…the dump!
Not just any old dump… A huge neighbourhood-size dump, complete with a flowing waste river!

The way to the field was through a poor squatter village, over the river and through some maize fields.

As the river was high, the boys fashioned a plank-bridge and held it in place while we crossed.

Everybody helped everybody gleefully. A sense of jovial solidarity and caring for each other was felt clearly.

The field, with the looming dump as back-drop was excellent, with coconut tree stumps as goal-posts and large enough to play several games at once. The girls played different ball games and jumped rope.

One of the boys solemnly opened his back-pack and offered me a pair of football boots! Some of them were barefoot and he was offering me one of the three pair they had!
I declined as they were too big and wished I hadn’t when I saw the look of dismay in his eyes.
I tried to cheer him up as we walked towards the field…thankfully he recovered quickly and gave the shoes to another boy.

We played football, everybody totally involved, a goal the largest celebration after funny falls and exquisite examples of skill.

When we were all happily exhausted and hungry we returned to the orphanage, river-crossing operation repeated, this time with one of the girls slipping and falling on her bottom to the squeals of delight of the other children.

It was not mean, just funny and happy that it was not them. She did not cry, just took it in stride as some of the others hugged her.

All very human.

Two of the boys are twins, their mother having died in childbirth… The father not able to take care of them

Jamal and Jaffary are now two years old… double trouble!

They have spent a lot of time crying and the sadness is latent in their little eyes…as it is in the eyes of most of these soulful children.

In some, there is a knowing, a sort of wisdom beyond their years, an understanding that one must simply go on…


One step at a time, the present being the only real moment… dreams and plans far away on the horizon.

At the moment, shoes for school are at the top of the list, right after food and clothes.

Step by step.

My bus-ride a joy-ride in comparison to their daily adventure.

Dimensions of discomfort dissolving in the face of other realities…

As we left, they waved and smiled…and we smiled and waved.


4 Responses to “Dar Es Salaam”

  1. karuna Says:

    Made me cry 😦 Glad you made them smile 🙂
    Abrazos hermano y fuerza para el camino

  2. Chelly O'Neal Says:

    May 27, 2010
    Thanks for sharing your incredible miles as you bring
    “outside their world” connections to all those beautiful children. Your visits will be long remembered and lovingly discussed by all with whom you’ve come in contact.

    Continued happy trails and know we’re thinking of you!
    Chelly O’Neal

  3. Chandra Says:

    New Life…
    We hope so…these kids and there were/are many of them…have a well structured life within the confines of a Muslim religious upbringing. I had decided to cover my head for the duration of the visit or at least follow what was the norm for the girls, of course Fatima our contact at the centre wore her head scarf the whole time.
    This was my first visit to an orphanage ever…and my first visit to one in Africa…let alone Africa itself…Wow Africa.. I had been there 10 days prior, waiting in Zanzibar for the FootballSmiles crew to arrive from Kenya…well only one showed up and I was the rest of the crew!
    Being with all those kids for the day was a delight to my soul..sharing smiles and deep eye contact…letting them know I was present to them and available for a hug or a tug…they loved to play with my hair…and then help me with my head scarf again!
    After arriving in the main hall with all the kids sitting in lines, the boys at the front and the girls behind, I made a bee line for the girls…they all wore uniforms made of the same green patterned material. I just sat with them and got to know some, those that spoke English, and the others I gently gestured friendly affection…
    The ones closest to me seemed the most happy to make contact, and the ones on the fringe of the circle the saddest..their eyes and body posture were telling of their inner turmoil…I did not get to know many of their stories but they told me everything just by being…
    We played a long clapping game…and they were happy to share their playtime with me…as I was with them…just being in the moment with them…present to them…meant a lot.
    Going around the corner of their building to see that they lived next to a huge rubbish dump which (in the photos) they had to walk through to get to the playing ground was a wake up call…they live in the ghetto, but are lucky to have shelter and food…
    The younger girls came alive…taking off their head scarves and skipping rope…while the boys played footie…
    I sat with Fatima and got to know her…lovely lady! We sat with a girl who had been found in sewer, and had suffered brain damage, she was a bubble of joy…a survivor…
    The way back I had two or three girls holding my hands taking it in turns…my drinking bottle disappeared with one of them only to reappear a while later…they were teasing me! They have such dignity and pride these African girls…a fine example of strong women…that they will one day be, regardless of their circumstances I am sure.

  4. Polena Says:

    I still remember this time with fondness, it was a life changing experience and for this I am grateful. Cheers :))

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