Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tae Kwon Do CHISWEA Fundraiser

The junior warriors of CHISWEA need training equipment! From now until August 7th I will be accepting pledge donations by e-mail to bring training equipment to former street children in Tanzania who are currently receiving professional tae kwon do instruction.

Take advantage of this terrific opportunity to give directly to those who have so little, and to see the joy (I’ll be taking pictures and video) you bring to little faces on the other side of the world.

The Children of the Street Welfare Association (CHISWEA) has for 15 years been a source of food, shelter, responsibility and family for kids who wish to abandon their “life on the street”—i.e. not attending school, either having no family home or finding it better not to live there, surviving via the generosity of strangers, panhandling, petty scams and theft, and other unsavory means. Time that isn’t spent hustling is spent just hanging out, often drunk or high on pot and glue fumes (to learn more about CHISWEA read this previously posted account).
At CHISWEA, despite minimal resources, over 70 such children have discovered a more promising and fulfilling life.  With your help, I'd like to make that life even more fulfilling.

Why Tae Kwon Do?
What They Get
What YOU Get
How to Donate

Why Tae Kwon Do?

For the past five years Ezekiel Kaswalala has served as Director at CHISWEA, overseeing day-to-day operations and developing long-term relationships with children still living on the street that may one day choose to live at CHISWEA.

Besides his passion for working with street children, which he’s done for the past 15 years, Ezekiel also possesses an impressive (you might say intimidating!) martial arts resume. He has trained in judo, karate, wrestling and his first passion, tae kwon do, from the time he was 18 years old, won second place in the East Africa TKD championship in 1985, and has served as an instructor of martial arts for nearly 20 years, primarily for soldiers of the Tanzanian military.

Since coming to CHISWEA Ezekiel has generously lent his expertise to the boys he loves so much, running full-length training sessions as often as three times per week. And I can tell you first hand, these kids are seriously into TKD. As Ezekiel has pointed out to me, TKD is a source of discipline, self-defense skills, enjoyment and exercise for the kids. Perhaps more importantly, it gives them a niche, and in a poor country during a tough economic climate a niche can be a lifesaving advantage. Martial arts training (TKD or otherwise) is not widely available in Tanzania, so even those who do not go on to become an international champion may find themselves a successful instructor in the military, at a school or an orphanage, or even in their own studio. They will also have a competitive edge in getting a job with the Tanzanian police, the military, or with a private security firm.

Unfortunately, without the proper equipment, the boys are very limited in what they can do. Training consists primarily of postures and kicking and punching the air. Given how much the kids love TKD, and what an underutilized resource Ezekiel is, I have pledged to do what I can to get the boys additional training equipment.

As you might have guessed, the greatest challenge is getting the equipment here. The Tanzanian postal service is a nightmare, and most suppliers will not even ship to Tanzania. Ezekiel has identified a source in Nairobi from which we can purchase equipment, but the import costs have raised the prices substantially. Depending on the results of negotiations with the Nairobi provider, it may make more sense to ship the equipment to my own address in the States and then forward them to Arusha (crazy, I know). Thankfully, we have the opportunity to transport some equipment via airline luggage (thanks Chris!) which will reduce the cost a bit, but apart from that most of the equipment will be 2-3 times more expensive than it would be if purchased in the United States.

But that’s Africa. And from what I’ve observed, the higher prices still do not outweigh the benefit the children will derive from this equipment. So I’m asking you to assist me in this worthy undertaking, and to donate whatever you can. If we can obtain the equipment before I leave, I will document the “christening” through photos and video.

To further sweeten the deal, I’m giving you the opportunity to get your hands on some authentic and beautiful African crafts. Keep reading!

What They Get

The prices here are based on estimates, since negotiations are still pending. This list is meant to motivate you, the potential donor, by illustrating the possibilities available depending on how much we raise—I have no expectations of raising enough to purchase everything on this list, but I am very optimistic about how close we might get! The more we raise, the more of these essential training items we can purchase.

If we raise $200, they will get 4 focus mitts (these are hand-worn targets for kicking and punching -- currently the boys just put sandals on their hands).

If we raise $400, they will get the focus mitts and one kick shield (for more forceful kick training).

If we raise $700, they will get the focus mitts, kick shield, and one punching bag.

If we raise $1300, they will get the focus mitts, kick shield, punching bag and two full sets of sparring gear, which includes headgear, chest protector, shin guards, forearm guards, and groin protector.

If we raise $1800 they will get the focus mitts, kick shield, punching bag, sparring gear and 10 uniforms (to be worn by the most dedicated warriors).

If we raise $2300 they will get the focus mitts, kick shield, punching bag, sparring gear and 20 uniforms.

If we raise $4500 they will get the focus mitts, sparring gear, kick shield, punching bag, twenty uniforms and protective floor matting (enough for one sparring pair).

If we raise $7000 they will get the focus mitts, TWO kick shields, punching bag, FOUR sets of sparring gear, twenty uniforms and enough protective floor matting for TWO sparring pairs).

In the event we have leftover funds after making our purchases, I will place those funds in a savings account in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, we can one day help send these kids to Nairobi, Kenya to participate in the East Africa Junior Tae Kwon Do Championship. With the bus transport, hotel, regional passport fees and event registration fees, the total cost will be substantial, but so will the payoff. For one thing, many of these children have never been outside the city of Arusha. But the most important reason to get them there is so they can experience a true culmination of all their training and hard work: observing and participating in official matches and meeting other TKD trainees from across the East African region.

What YOU Get

For donations of $30 or more, you get a bracelet by Izack.

These adjustable bracelets are all the rage among volunteers in Arusha. Remember when those cheap plastic yellow “LIVESTRONG” bracelets were all the rage? These are way, way cooler. People constantly ask me where I got the one I wear, and when I tell them it was made by a resident at CHISWEA they often beg me to purchase several on their behalf.

Izack learned how to make these by watching other craftsmen at work over the years. He’s a man of many talents—besides bracelet making, Izack also raps in Swahili and is a fire-eater.

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For donations of $100 or more, you get a bracelet by Izack and a Maasai blanket.

These blankets most commonly come in rich reds, purples or blues and are the traditional garb of the Maasai, the most visually spectacular tribe found in East Africa. Even non-Maasai Tanzanians can often be found with one around their shoulders.

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For donations of $200 or more, you get a bracelet by Izack, Maasai blanket, and an authentic hand-carved and painted soapstone bowl (approximately 6 inches in diameter).

Besides their trademark dress, the Maasai are known for their fine craftsmanship including painting, jewelry, footwear, and sculptures in wood and stone.

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For donations of $500 or more... well, let's just say I'll try to find something extra special for you.

* Please note: Given the limited space I have in my luggage bags, I cannot buy and transport items outside of this fundraiser.

How to Donate

Simply e-mail me, stating the amount you would like to pledge and your shipping address (to receive your thank-you gifts). I will make the purchases using my own funds and collect a check from you when I return home in September. I’m using the pledge-system to expedite purchasing and to avoid having to refund your money should things not work out. This is Africa after all.

Please help me to bring some more joy into the lives of these most deserving children, and thank you in advance for your generosity!

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