Category Archives: albinism

A Student Leaves Kabanga

Asrafil Leaves the Protectorate Center to Excel in Secondary School

I first met Asrafil in March of 2012 on my first trip to Kabanga.  Gangly with a friendly smile, we made an easy connection.  At first, I thought his name was Rafiki, which means “friend” in Swahili.  I am not sure if it was a miscommunication or simply an expression of his nature.

A photo of Asrafil Muhamed, a secondary student at Bishop Mpango Secondary School in Kibondo

Asrafil Muhamed

Asrafil told me that he was 18 and just finishing up primary school, and that he wanted to be an engineer or architect someday.  I asked him if he was going to go to secondary school, and he said he had no idea.  He wasn’t sure if his grades would be good enough to get in, and he had no idea how he would pay for it anyway.  He had been living at the Kabanga Protectorate Center for a couple of years, and was ready to move on, but had no plans.

When our team arrived in July, he was still there, and still friendly.  He helped us paint blackboards, hang artwork, and work with the little kids.  As with so many of the other kids at Kabanga, I didn’t know how to say goodbye to him.  I’ve thought about him over the last year, and was hoping to get an update on how he was doing.

I am happy to report that he is one of the highest performing students at Bishop Mpango Secondary School, and was just elected Chairperson of the newly-formed Kibondo Tanzania Albino Society! Asrafil was brought back to Kibondo because his family was there, and he found a spot at Bishop Mpango.  His studies are going very well, and he is a leader in his community, and an excellent role model.

One of our goals for the AM 2013 trip was to start new TAS chapters in rural outposts, and the people with albinism in Kibondo elected Asrafil to represent them.  Our team provided the newest TAS Chairperson with a cell phone and a resource book full of educational information in English and Swahili, and organized a planning meeting to outline some ideas for the next year.

Asrafil is doing an amazing job, and we hope he continues to be an inspiration to those around him.  Now, in a shameless plea for help, we are looking for people to help us sponsor his education through to completion.  We don’t want Asrafil and his family to stress about whether or not they can provide tuition money, or if the school is going to just float him.  We want him to know that as long as he is doing well in school, we will provide for his tuition and fees. Tuition and fees at Bishop Mpango total $500 a year, which is less that $10 a week.  If you would like to help us provide for Asrafil’s education, please visit our website, or email me at  Asante sana!

Hearing is Believing at Kabanga with the Starkey Hearing Foundation

Asante Mariamu’s mission is to serve children with albinism in Tanzania.  But sometimes, in order to do the right thing, you need to swerve from your path a bit.  When one of my best friends heard that there were over 45 deaf or hearing impaired students at the Kabanga School, she knew that she’d found a way to help.  Beth Connors is an audiologist, and she is traveling with me to Kabanga this summer.  But, like me, she was unsure of how her skills would translate on the ground.  She decided to see if there was a way to use her expertise at the school, and started making inquiries about getting hearing aids for the children.

Beth contacted the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and learned that they were organizing a mission trip to Tanzania in March.  It took a lot of emails, texts and coordination; but Beth managed to facilitate a mission trip where the students traveled 8 hours by bus to the clinic under the supervision of former-teacher-turned-audiology-student Issa Kambi (pictured above adjusting hearing aids).  Not only has Beth changed the lives of these students in a profound manner, but she has become a guardian angel/mentor to Issa.  This is all before even stepping foot in Tanzania.  For that, Beth, you are my hero!

Fingers in the dust

There are a bunch of little kids at the Kabanga School who run around just like all 3-5 year olds — getting in trouble, being sassy — and exploring and creating their world.  These kids have a wall around their world to keep them safe, with a big black gate.  On the gate is the phrase “Huruhu siw kungia ndani bila kibali” which translates roughly into “No admittance without approval.”

I don’t think the little ones can read this yet, and I am not sure they would care, even if they could.  Because in typical kid-fashion, they are using the gate to suit their own needs: as a chalkboard.  After the older kids leave the compound to go to class, the little ones write letters, numbers and figures in the dust that coats the gate (and just about everything else, too).  I can’t wait to get back to Kabanga and see them – and bring them some chalk!