A few months ago when our Marketing Director, Mindy shared on our IG account that we were looking for little leaders to feature on our site we had so many amazing stores come through! We are so excited to share all of those stories with you over the next few months!
The Richardson’s story in particular really warmed my heart and quite frankly made me tear up and shed a few tears. Today, I am so excited to welcome The Richardson family to the blog today to share their amazing story!!
Our family first met Joseph in 2010, when 17-year-old Lindsey travelled to Tanzania to volunteer at an orphanage called Camp Moses for 4 months. The first child she met was an 18 (ish… no birth certificate for this guy) month old, who had the most special glimmer in his eyes. It became an apartment very quickly that Joseph had significant medical needs, and Lindsey would pack Joseph on her back to the local clinics, and eventually on busses to the hospital two hours away for eventual surgery. We were not sure if this would be the cure-all but knew we’d be back to Tanzania if he needed more help.
My mom, Sandra, is a high school administrator and the two of us along with many other teachers and an organization called Volunteer Abroad, started taking students to Tanzania for humanitarian work in 2011 and continued to do so until 2019. Over 200 students have gone on this trip and contributed to the building needs at Camp Moses and Camp Joshua, both run by Tanzanian organization LOHADA, which combined are home to over 300 children aged 0-18 who needed a place to be loved.
Joseph said when he would see us visit him at Camp Joshua, he felt really, really happy. He doesn’t remember our visits when he was a toddler, but for the last 6 years or so he remembers the work put in by the students, the music playing while the construction work happened, and cutting the ribbon to open the new library finished after 2 years of work. We had many adventures with him over the years, including going on safari, riding camels and seeing black mambas around Camp Joshua. He says he remembers being sad to see us leave on these trips, never being sure if we were coming back and how special we made him feel while we were there.
It became apparent four years ago that, in order for Joseph to reach his full potential, he needed a family, educational support and exposure to the opportunities he will have in Canada. The adoption process took our family over three years, countless serendipitous moments, and a constant reflection as to why we needed to do this for Joe.
From Joseph’s memory, when he was first asked if he wanted to come to Canada in 2017, he says he thinks he was probably excited, mostly to see snow. And see snow, he did, on his trip to Penticton from the Vancouver airport only 9 months ago on November 10th, 2019.
His friends at Camp Joshua, after this three-year wait, had told him he needed to give up on believing this family from Canada was going to bring him with them one day. Joseph says that he went through times of not being sure if we were going to bring him to Canada, but he always had some hope.
At almost 13 years old now, he recalls the three-day journey here, being able to go see the pilot on one of the plane rides, sleeping in the London airport, but mostly being very excited that he was on his way. His little face is lighting up as he is telling us this story today.
In Canada, things have not always been perfect for him. Joseph says he misses his friends, being surrounded by many people, speaking Swahili all the time (my Swahili isn’t quite cutting it… but I try). One day he would like to be able to go back and visit, and he says he would tell his friends that Canada is great and there are many mountains and trees here. He loves mini golfing, spending time with family, and having fun always takes top priority. COVID has not been easy for Joseph, as he missed the first birthday party he was invited to in Canada, and was not able to continue attending school where he was just beginning to make friends. Joseph dreams of one day singing or playing music for a living. He loves to perform, make people laugh and listen to music. He has always kept a smile on and found a way to make all of our days either good, or great.
On the phone with Mama Wambura, who runs the two orphanages where Joseph lived for the first 12 years of his life, she told us how the Camps got shut down and the schools were closed in Tanzania due to COVID. At dinner, the family discussion evolved to how this was also affecting tourism in Tanzania and that volunteers as well as their donations would stop coming to support his friends and teachers. Mom asked Joseph if he would like to help his friends, and he enthusiastically said “Yes! How can we help them?”.
When our mom offered him the fundraising idea of selling homemade banana bread, Joseph began doing the math (his favourite subject) and found the perfect profit margin would be met at selling the bread for $10 a loaf. Sharing his idea through just our family’s social media channels had 101 loaves sold in 4 days, and an outpouring of donations that showed the tremendous impact Joseph has on people. The two of them, and one of our aunts, would wake up and bake loaves at 5am until it got too hot. Joseph would greet every customer at the door and proudly hand over the baking with a beaming smile and words of thanks. Joseph was able to send $1200 to Camp Joshua, which purchased his friends chicken and beef for 6 weeks, fruit and vegetables for two months, 50 pairs of black shoes for the school uniforms, and solar power in the girls dormitory where 50 to 60 young girls between ages 5-15 sleep every night.
Now, his sights are set on the stars. He wants to be able to finish the dining hall, which doesn’t currently have a floor, add a ceiling under the roof, add toilets and windows. And “maybe they could repair the walls too”. In his perfect world, he would love to see this dining hall have chairs to sit in while they eat, some tables for lunch and dinner, and “maybe they could even have a place to study in there”. The next round of banana bread is set to go in the oven in the coming weeks, and any orders in the Okanagan can be texted to placed through his Facebook page – with pick up in Penticton. We’re still a small operation. Joe’s Facebook page is just getting up and running, but can be found here and we’ll keep updating it regularly!
More information about these Camps in Tanzania can be found at www.lohada.org. Donations to Joe’s next project can be made through there as well, putting “Joseph’s Dream” as the note.