Mama Kaloleni - Clayton Frost's Time in Kaloleni

Clayton Frost, shares his life-changing experience of his time spent in Kaloleni with Team Vista.
Published on
March 13, 2024

Clayton Frost, the son of our Director Kerry, shares his story and experiences from his time in Kaloleni with Team Vista.

"For about 12 years my mum has been coming to Africa to a small community called Kaloleni in the town of Moshi near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. With the help of my brother Brendan and good friend Caroline Mosha, she has shaped a project in this community that has helped over 300 children. They have also created or contributed to a diverse range of women’s empowerment projects in the community and everything from micro business start-ups to sex education.

For the last two years due to Australia’s tight border security, it was impossible for her to visit the project. However, thanks to her team on the ground in Kaloleni and the sponsors at home, the work was able to continue.

I’ve always been a little skeptical about the project however; not about mum and Caroline and my brother, but more-so about how effective they could be about making real change and getting funds directly to where they may be needed. Mum has shared so many stories of someone doing the wrong thing, stealing something or some official that needs a bribe. And as she whittles down her remaining life savings to pick up the slack when things go wrong, I am increasingly concerned about people taking advantage of her. And to add to that, I have always worried about her safety and security while she has been traveling in Moshi.

Over the years as I watched my mum traveling back-and-forth to Africa, I came to accept that this is what she wanted to do with her life. I could see that this was something she found great meaning and purpose in. It was a lot more than just a rebound following Dad’s death. In many ways she is still mourning him, yet it has also proved to be a pivot point in her life. I have long wanted to see for myself why she was so passionate about this project. And this year I finally found some time (and some spare frequent flyer points) to book a trip to visit mum while she was in Africa.

It took 30 hours from door to door to get from Sydney to Moshi. It really is half a world away. I was carrying everything I needed in a backpack of carry-on luggage, however I also had a 30kg checked bag full of folders, Stationary, gifts, clothing and other items for the kids in the community in Moshi. And I was glad to hand that bag over to Ally who met me at Kilimanjaro airport with mum. Ally is mum’s “right-hand” man on the ground in Tanzania. A small part of me thought I would be meeting the first of the many people who has been taking advantage of mum’s generosity all these years, however I was instantly disarmed by talking to this smart, humble, educated man.

Ally began with Team Vista as an intern helping to run a hostel in town, (which at the time was a source of revenue for the organisation locally). He grew up in a poor household, and was beaten by his father more times than he can remember, yet he seems to be the softest, kindest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met. Despite his situation he was able to stick to his schooling and graduated university and obtained a CPA. He could work in any larger organisation of his choosing, but he dedicates himself to Team Vista. He is the on-ground reflection of mum’s passion and determination to help this incredibly poor community. He has a wife and one young kid and he’s building their family home nearby in a new development area close to Moshi. And as the sun went down over the Maasai countryside, Mum and Ally filled me in on many of the things that had been happening in the last four weeks.

I know mum bangs-on a lot about what she does while she’s in Africa. She’s only there for a couple of months each year, however, to be fair a lot happens in a short space of time over here. They are looking after so many people: and like all of us, everyone involved with the project has a life story unfolding day by day. So many stories of abandoned disabled children, or those whose mother has prostituted them to make money, or the abandoned kid that lives with the uncle that beats them. So many kids that don’t go to school because their parents either don’t care, are making them work elsewhere or are gone. There are very few happy “nuclear” families in this community.

Having said that, for the most part it is a community that has a kind heart. They look out for one another, and the stories of abuse and neglect are as abhorrent to us as they are to the community. They rally together when things like this happen and deal out swift community justice, and occasionally the police are involved. And Team Vista for the last 12 years has been there to help these kids in their new life situations, by helping them with counselling, a safe home, and getting them back to school

So to condense many stories into a summary, please see bullet point list of some of what happened during the short time (9 days) I was in Africa with mum:

  • Yahaya took me on a walking tour of Kaloleni. He seemed to know everyone as he has grown up in this community, has run his own micro-business there. Has assisted Team Vista with teaching during this time and now works as the school liaison officer for the project. He also measures the pulse of the community and finds ways Team Vista can help where he sees great need.
  • I saw the rubbish tip which remains a source of revenue for the Kaloleni community who still comb through it daily in search of items that may be sold-on, recycled or repaired.
  • I watched the Kaloleni community football team win the grand final football match. Not only did the team win $1million tish (around 600AUD) they get promoted in the league next year. Of course Mama Kerry and I sat on the players bench at the halfway mark. The only “Mzungu’s” among 1000’s of community crowded around the dusty uneven pitch.
  • A baby was born in Team Vista house in the middle of the night. Luckily, Said, one of mums sponsored boys who is now a doctor was staying that night, and was able to assist to safely deliver the baby.
  • I saw the emotion on the face of a grandfather who’s 8yo granddaughter was taken on by a sponsor.
  • Shungu’s Sister died sadly. He is running a great little tour agency for people looking to climb Mt Kilimanjaro or go on safari in the rift valley. He is a long time friend of mum and Team Vista, and has turned his life around during this time after many setbacks.
  • I fixed Hamadi’s bed. He is a wheelie and has cerebral palsy. But his bed was broken. Poor bugger, anyway now it’s fixed.
  • A garden was planted in front of the planned community centre/hall.
  • I designed and drafted basic plans for the community centre/hall.
  • The land was cleared on the community centre plot.
  • I met with a local fundi (builder) about the proposal. He quoted already to get the foundations completed. It is within the budget (courtesy of donations) only just.
  • I attempted to ascend and descend Mt Kilimanjaro in a single day with my running/climbing guide Marcel Sarwatt. It was really hard for many reasons. I failed and we had to turn around just 3km from the summit, but learnt a lot that day.
  • I met our sponsored kids Athulmani and Bilal. I was welcomed into their homes and we offered gifts and exchanged messages on behalf of my daughters.
  • I also met with Juma on behalf of Ali and his family who sponsor him. Again I had a chat with him and gave him a gift from Ali that I bought with me from Australia.
  • I met all of Mums Team Vista sons: Hamadi, Rama, Moses, Kibarcho, Yosiri, Lembrass, Said, Peter, Hussein, Abduli, Bakari. They all call her Mama Kerry. Many of these kids had been abandoned and living off the rubbish tip. She found ways to house them, feed them, clothe them, and get them to school. She is truly like a Mama to them.
  • I visited Team Vista’s farm in Newland. Rama lives here with his family and they are working the land to create some food and income for themselves and the Team Vista project. A bore and tank has been installed recently and the irrigation is almost completed now thanks to Camberwell Rotary. Although they didn’t have much of a crop this year due to the drought, thanks to the new irrigation they should be able to water in next years crop. Maize and tomatoes.
  • I walked the railway line through Moshi and heard about some of the fascinating colonial history of the area from Shungu.
  • I ate ogali (cooked maize starch) and maharagi (beans).
  • Visited old Moshi town and saw the site of the hanging of Mangi Meli who’s stolen head is still somewhere in a German university or museum.
  • I went on a one day 4WD safari in the Tarangire national park and saw elephants, zerbas, giraffes, lions and many other african animals.
  • And I finally saw the beach in Zanzibar for a couple of days before heading home. I dragged mum along with me for a break from the dirt and dust and cold showers. We are staying in a fancy hotel and she is having her nails done and doing a bit of nothing for a couple of days.

Tomorrow she goes back in to the thick of it for another 4 weeks and I fly away home again. I have a renewed respect for what my mum is doing here in Tanzania. She has found meaning and purpose here. So many of us live at the top of a tower. From up here it looks so far down to the poor streets of Kaloleni. We are so incredibly wealthy in comparison, and its hard to see that anything we can do could ever make a real difference. I have at times felt a little like this project is just a pointless money hole that will end when the funds dry up, (i.e. Mum’s funds). But that doesn’t seem to be true.

12 years ago Mum, Brendan and Caroline decided they would try to help this poor community. Together with around 200 friends and family making regular “dollar a day” contributions they have had a huge impact already on the people of Kaloleni. They are accountable for every dollar spent. They are a registered charitable project in Australia for the Global Development Group. Over 90% of every dollar gets to Team Vista this way so they can focus on the project without the internal administration required for an independent NGO.

In our lives we busy ourselves with a variety of things to which we ascribe value, importance and meaning. Whether we agree or not, we try not to judge others because for everyone these things will be different. However, it is not hard to see how important, valuable and meaningful the work that my mum does here is. She is Mama to me and my brothers; She is Mama to her sponsored sons in Moshi and so many more in the community have adopted her as Mama Kaloleni."

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