ACHOLA ROSARIO SPENDS HER BIRTHDAY AT PEACE MATUNDA CAMP
(Posted 15th July 2020)
It was October 23th 2019 when I got a phone call from my sister Ayaa Musuya at 4am, to come immediately for a relief operation 13 kilometers up Mount Meru, an hour and a half across the Namanga/Tanzania border.
It had been 6 years since I last saw her, and as a SISTA-SISTA Initiative reunion, ours was long overdue anyway. An ambitious project called the Great Africa Arts Banner was underway and they needed a coordinator for the arriving African artists. A coordinator who was crazy enough to see the grand vision, close enough to Ayaa the official organizer to know how she laterally multi-tasks, and who was childish enough for the kids at the school/orphanage to relate to. I summoned up the power of my “Rainbows and Unicorns Philosophy”, packed the backpack my Baby-Bird (mini Flight Captain) had bought me from Greece, and was ready to travel 48 hours later.
I enlisted my friend Malick Ndunda, a sweet small Swahili singer from Kilifi the coast of Kenya to come with me on a musical exchange, boarded a coaster from Moi Avenue Nairobi for 2k ($20) and were off to the Great Beyond. As the coaster was half-empty, full lounge-status was allowed, with every other passengers spreading themselves across the triple seats with headphones on, staring into the dry Savanna brush of the Masaii Mara through the large windows. In the bush would occasionally appear a red and black checked blanketed warrior in full bejeweled regalia, who would just as mysteriously disappear into the ochre yellow light.
As we approached the Namanga border, the Warriors and Amazons became more numerous, as did the colors of their traditional attire, with them posing next to their cattle, their 4-power engine noisy Subarus and rusty real iron Toyota sedans in the local trading centers. Crossing was easy enough; you just disembarked from the coaster, entered one of the brand-spanking new bungalows, scan your luggage, present your papers, declare you have nothing to declare, change your money, look for “refreshments” and “Bob’s your uncle”, you are on your way. Arusha town, only one hour away, gave way to the left to a steep incline that heralded Mount Meru, head hidden deep in a semi-permanent raincloud.
As someone who is deeply anti “savior-complex”, I was prepared to be cynical about this whole enterprise. But as we entered Peace Matunda camp, I immediately changed my mind. The kids that greeted us were well dressed, expressive, opinionated and English-speaking, who did not shirk the responsibility of showing the guests to the main house where volunteers stay. There I found my long-lost sister Ayaa, along with volunteers from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, each offering their unique brand of mentorship to the 250 children and 25 orphans that Peace Matunda looks after and teaches.
Among the teachers was a local reggae music band called W.O.T.E. (WARRIORS OF THE EAST), started by a one of the most conscious Rastas I have had the pleasure of meeting outside the Anglo/Caribbean Rastafarii Movement, and incorporating a genuine Masaaii Warrior who wails like any good Rock singer would. “Some think we will never make it but we know that we will”; that is the slogan that this band preaches, their base camp high on the East side of the mountain as a backdrop, on a plateau that is magical in its clear aired green-grass carpet energy. We sat in a circle as mentors and laid ourselves bare to each other. Nairobi’s best spray-painter, graffiti artist extraordinaire Douglas “SMOKILLAH” Kihiko made himself available, equally responding to the Batman call of artistic altruism that is a prerequisite of Pan African re-education of the “youngins”.
It was my birthday, five days into my stay, and I cried at the privilege of being useful as a human-being to children at that precise moment. Maybe because I was far away from my own. But a traditional Meru coffee brewing ceremony and several glasses of water on my dreads took care of that. Pounding the husks off the coffee beans with Ayaa and a beautiful Mexican lady with blue hair, whose first time in Africa had her squatting without a stool in front of the “jiko” like a native, was enough to shake my eye bags out of their blues. Then 16- year old Agnes, and 10-year olds’ Tom and Bobby, resident orphan prefects, led my group painting sessions in the field, where we painted the Peace Matunda Angel, and the car that was going to take us all where we wanted to go in life.
Being up in the rainclouds with a nearby waterfall as a lullaby and Swahili love songs as a wake-up call, learning to make traditional Tanzanian tangy fried onions with hot blonde Swedish volunteers, and laughing at your camera and everybody’s tent getting flooded with rain with beautiful Ebony young male mentors from the slopes of Mount Elgon in Mbale Uganda, was almost worth watching a hardy brown Kikuyu slay queen submitting to the serenades of a Congolese male feminist, who at the end of our 10 day Pan-African Mount Meru mission, gave me a t-shirt that said: “When I was young, I never knew, that eyebrows would be so important”.
16 year-old Agnes Kigotho, daughter of a stay at home single mother she respects, is looking to go to college, and Tom and Bobby, the original 10 year old Prankster Prefects, want to go to High School. Donations, teaching, healing and ART are much welcome to this lovely registered community. Only $150 (USD) per month will fully support a child at Peace Matunda and also provide a contribution to their Post-Matunda Fund, to allow the children to go to secondary school and beyond. NGO Registration: 01NGO/0088 registered on 22nd May 2006.
To reach Peace Matunda Camp:
P.O.Box 1238 Arusha Tanzania
Achola Rosario: firstname.lastname@example.org
To watch episode 20 of The F.O.M.O. TRAVEL SHOW:
Live long and prosper.