Wings Of Kilimanjaro : The Adventure Of A Lifetime : Adventure Travel | Adventure Sports | Extreme Paragliding

Faraja Orphanage Children’s Home

Six months ago, I walked into one of the most under-resourced orphanages in Tanzania, home to some of the happiest and certainly most beautiful, children on the planet. Any free time I had was spent with these amazing kids, including one of the highlights of my time in TZ (and probably one of the best experiences of my life) – hosting them all (150+) on Christmas Day.
As often as I possibly could, I would call in to the orphanage, with food/med/hygiene supplies, while working on a game plan of what I could personally (and realistically) help them achieve on my dwindling savings pot. NEVER EVER, EVERRRRR in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what I was about to part of…

[So there is absolutely no confusion here, this is where I need to point out that not only were my amazing fam & friends both home/abroad donating to our Wings of Kilimanjaro (WOK) development projects– they were also wanting to do something for my new friends at Faraja.. Completely and utterly separate. WOK Funds went entirely to WOK projects; more on this to follow.]

There are literally hundreds of fabulous people I need to THANK – from those who came along & supported the wonderful fundraisers, to those who donated $5, $50 or contributed so generously towards auctions & raffle prizes, to those who simply sent the loveliest messages of support while I was in TZ  – I genuinely can’t thank you all enough. At the risk of missing someone, I am just going to make a quick mention of a few key players (organisers) on the home front.

  • My ever-supportive, Martha Stewart-esque sister Tanya Miller, who with my incredible, incredible sister in law Sarah McRae came up with the idea to host Orange’s most elaborate morning tea at Orange’s most gorgeous home (thank you Bron!!)
  • One of my dearest friends on the planet Abbey Smith, and her mum Lynnie, hosted a cheeky chicks get together in Young
  • Amelia Hull, who in typical ‘Meils’ style, unselfishly insisted on a ‘no present’ policy at her recent party in Sydney and instead handed the good ol’ Aussie hat around…
    All of this in the name of Faraja… Suddenly, it was game on!

Faraja: This guy is certainly one of a kind. Faraja established the orphanage 5 years ago with 5 incredible children, which has since ballooned to over 150 wonderful, kids each with their own moving story. The respect and love that the kids have for him is an absolute joy to watch. He has given his life to provide them with an opportunity of a future.

You probably already know the facts about the orphanage (and if you don’t, we clearly haven’t caught up lately. Let’s fix that) so what I really want to emphasise is what you have helped achieve and how your generosity has genuinely changed the lives of over 150+ orphans in East Africa and how it will continue to do so. One of my biggest gripes with donations is sustainability and ensuring that when funds are given directly to those in need, they are used appropriately – to not only provide immediate relief, but also to generate long-term changes.
With the ground assistance of Faraja, Paul (our incredibly patient driver/translator/negotiator/advisor/goods deliverer) and Abbey Smith (who arrived just days before), we were able to finalise the following while we were there. I really hope you are as delighted with the developments as we are.

BEDS – So before now, they were working on a ratio of 4+ kids per single mattress. Not all kids had beds; some were on wooden planks on the cement floor… We are so, soooo bloody thrilled (sorry Jules!) to have supplied enough beds, mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets to fill the entire space (we literally ran out of room) and give everyone a bed (now working at a ratio of 2 per bed, which the kids were just OVER.THE.MOON about).

WINDOWS WITH GLASS – Like a lot of construction works in Tanzania, many of the windows at the orphanage had been started and not finished, so we had about 12 + windows in the main areas with no gauze or glass (i.e. nothing, just a hole in the wall). We have now glassed in all of these, so they can be opened/closed. “No more Malaria” one of the local Mumma’s said to us after it was done… While I know that call might be just a little optimistic, it’s certainly going to help!

GAS COOKING – So, if you can picture this. Every day the kids & volunteers go and scout for fire wood to cook their main meal. This can take hours – everyone else in the community is trying to do the same and if it rains and the timber is damp, well, as you can imagine that just makes the job of cooking even harder.. Not any more – we have since set the orphanage up with gas for cooking. The biggest gas bottle you can buy has landed at Faraja HQ (which should last them three months), which we will restock for at least the next 12 months through your generosity.

FOOD & COOKING UTENSILS – Hundreds of Kilos of Rice, Maize, Flour and Beans were purchased and delivered, alongside new cooking pans, pots and utensils… No more one meal a day, thank you v much!

SCHOOL SUPPLIES – Text Books, Pencils, Textas, Crayons and Erasers for each child – tick, tick, tick!! We plan to work further with our investment in education – more on this one in just a bit..

SOAP, TOWELS, HYGIENE & MED SUPPLIES – A year’s worth of soaps was purchased as well as a towel for every child, and the biggest, bulkiest, hospital size bottle of Dettol you have ever seen. We also donated a bag of mixed medical supplies and with Faraja’s guidance, some required medicines.

ELECTRICITY – Before now, the orphanage ran on absolutely ZERO electricity or power. With your generosity, we have been able to have their two main living rooms connected. Abbey and I were there when the lights were turned on for the first time – I just wish you ALL could have been. It was another one of those amazing life experiences. Shock, a bit of confusion (it was a surprise) but mostly excitement like you have never seen before – when the lights went on during story time (before bed, normally just with a small lantern). We have also agreed to look after their bill for at least the next 12+ months which is again thanks to YOUR generosity.

SHOES – I would also like to use this opportunity to give a BIG shout out to Pacific Brands (Volley & Slazenger) who donated 300+ pairs of shoes to the orphanage. Every one of the children got a new pair of shoes that not only MATCHED, they FIT! Also, big shout outs to Etihad Airlines for their support in waiving any additional baggage fees to getting them over there. You guys are the goods… & of course to the legends who helped me get them over there (Tan, Ab, Jules, Greg).  Those striped bright bags have never looked so good!

ROOFING – WIP.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to see everything to completion. One of these jobs is the roofing. When we extended the sleeping area, we needed to also fix the roof/ceiling which someone had made a start on a few years ago… Once all the rooms are sealed, we will be able to evaluate what we can achieve with the remaining funds.
Our next priority is empowering all the children with improved education opportunities.  Schooling for the children is currently co-ordinated by local volunteers from the community with classes shared with kids sometimes 5+ years their jnr/snr.  Please don’t get me wrong here, I spent many hours participating and listening to these classes and I am at awe at what they are trying to do for these kids. On the other hand, I also understand the importance of giving these children a decent shot at getting a fair education. Through no fault of their own, they have already been dealt a difficult card in their early life. Improved education standards will give them an opportunity to help them overcome this.  I am currently liaising with a local education minister and will be working with the local university to recruit the first qualified FT teacher at Faraja Orphanage Children’s Home. Which is again, thanks to you!
We plan to continue our work with Faraja so we can help him build and self-sustain the orphanage for many years to come. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

I have said it before but I will probably say it again and again until the end of time. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for being part of something truly remarkable and allowing me to share the journey with you.. It is hard to describe just how much of a difference that you have made in the day to day lives of these children and the mark that you have now all collectively stamped on Tanzania. Not only for the orphanage mind you, but for the local businesses that were employed in the development/construction were all so grateful for what one man said “was their biggest and best project for them in many years.”

Six months ago, I walked into one of the most under-resourced orphanages in Tanzania and thanks to your amazing generosity, I truly truly believe this is no longer the case.. When I was saying some rather difficult goodbyes a few weeks ago, one of the young girls said to me ‘Paula, next time I think we should build Faraja Orphanage Number 2 over there’ (pointing to a near-empty paddock, with a few rows of scattered bananas trees) ‘I don’t like his bananas much anyway’ she said…  We both laughed at this crazy idea, but the funny thing is, I don’t fancy bananas much either.

BIG Asante Sana Xox

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Wings of Kilimanjaro

I couldn’t do a wrap up, without mentioning the reason I was in Tanzania in the first place…
Working alongside my brother Adrian, we have spent the last few years organising a wee event called Wings of Kilimanjaro. A world first attempt to paraglide off Mount Kilimanjaro and raise $1M for three standout Tanzanian Charities – World Serve International, The One Foundation & Plant with Purpose.

Collectively we have raised just over $550,000 (and counting) which has already funded our first (of 3) clean water projects and helped us to establish 12 micro-financing community banks, focusing on the needs of impoverished farmers. In addition to this, our WOK fundraising efforts has also enabled us to get construction underway of our first primary school project for a needy Maasai community, situated in the Simanjaro region of Tanzania. A picture below shows them drilling for water at the school site.

While the group may not have been able to fly from the summit due to a jolly-old-once-in-a-blue-moon cyclone off the coast (which pushed some dodgy cloud/wind over the Mountain), the entire team reached the summit; 95 peeps in total (world record), so we are pretty damn chuffed with that!! We did have one successful launch; our Nepalese rockstar adventurer, Sanu Babu Sanuwar (2012 National Geographic adventurer of the year – when you meet him you understand why that title was awarded) gave the flight a shot with his Tanzanian guide, Mathew. Babu you are ballsy and a bloody legend and we love you – Mathew, so are you my friend!

On the subject of legends, I can’t help but acknowledge the remarkable team of adventurers that came together for an expedition with a wonderful purpose. I feel incredibly privileged to have become friends with so many exceptional people from all over the world as a result of Wings of Kilimanjaro.

Thank you to those of you, who have supported us in our ongoing Tanzanian journey. I am blown away, not only by the unbelievable support of my close friends and family – but by so many mates I have not seen in so long/toooo long… & then there has been the phenomenal generosity of complete strangers who have heard about our projects via their neighbour’s cousin’s wife’s boss (maybe a slight exaggeration) and wanted to do their bit to help.
I genuinely, genuinely hope an opportunity arises in the very near future so I can thank you all personally and shout you a beer or two. (You should all probably go and invest in some Fosters or Lion Nathan shares as if I can pull this off, we are talking some serious beer/thank you shouts here….)

While living in TZ, I was fortunate enough to meet countless numbers of inspiring individuals who have given their lives to help create a better tomorrow, for those who might not yet have the means to do this for themselves. For me, this is simply what it is about. I have been fortunate enough to be raised with the most loving family & circle of friends, in one of the best countries on the planet. That was my luck of the draw. All I personally hope to achieve through our Faraja/WOK developments is help those who may not have been blessed in the same way, path the way for what can be a future full of possibilities.

Much love and even more thanks for your overwhelming generosity and support towards my (now rightfully ‘our’) fabulous friends at Faraja and this crazy expedition project called WOK! I am the first to appreciate how often we are asked for financial support for the many worthy causes there are across the globe and the fact that you have chosen to support us, is truly incredible and so immensely appreciated.

Look forward to seeing you ALL sometime soon.
Paula Xx

Here is the plug: If you’re on Facebook, join all the cool kids and ‘Like’ our page (Wings of Kilimanjaro) to receive regular updates on our charity partners’ developments as well as some random team banter. You can also follow us on Twitter @WingsofKili.