SEARCHING FOR TANGAWIZI
Last Friday I posted about my three year-old son Lincoln’s mission to buy a little boy in Kenya a bed. After seeing a picture on the internet of a boy named “Tangawizi” who apparently had few belongings and no bed, Lincoln was convinced we needed to buy him one. Despite my efforts to talk him into a more “reasonable” approach of donating some money to an organization that could help buy several kids beds, Lincoln was stubborn about getting this boy a bed. I shook hands with Lincoln, telling him that if he could raise enough money to buy the bed, Melissa (my wife) and I would find Tangawizi. Melissa quickly sprang into action and helped Lincoln make a flyer to raise funds for the bed. I posted the flyer on the internet on Friday.
The response was immediate and surprising. Since Friday, Lincoln has received $167 in fundraising, most of which came from total strangers. As we realized that Lincoln is close to achieving his end of the deal, we knew it was time to figure out how to find this boy’s family.
Lincoln has an awesome bed picked out. He was certain that he wanted to get Tangawizi a cot “just like the one he sleeps on at Grandma’s.” So we pulled it up on Amazon, and it turns out that cots aren’t very expensive at all. Melissa and I brainstormed other options, but it turns out that a foldable, portable toddler cot is probably perfect. Not that we could have talked Lincoln out of it anyway.
So that’s the good news. People who haven’t even met Lincoln have been so helpful and kind. People are eager to be compassionate when faced with creative and easy ways to do so. But there’s also a bit of not so good news…
Melissa did some research on shipping internationally. It turns out shipping anything to Kenya is way expensive. No surprise there. She and I have both stayed in England for brief periods and knew it would be costly, but it turns out Africa is much more so. Even shipping to large cities in Kenya looks to be as much as a few hundred dollars. Never mind small villages that likely don’t have postal service. Lincoln is still a bit confused why the dollars and cents in his piggy bank can’t just buy the bed and we “mail it there.”
I sent an email to the photographer who took the photo, Gabriele Galimberti. He responded this weekend. His email was very kind but discouraging for our search:
thank you very much for this e-mail and for the post in the blog! Unfortunately i can’t help you with this. Tangawizi lives in the middle of nowhere in Kenya and it’s kind of impossible to send him something. But i’m sure you can find a lot of organizations that give help for this kind of situations.
We knew this was a possibility going into it. I guess when we made Lincoln a promise that “if he bought the bed, we’ll find the boy’s family,” we didn’t realize how tough that might be.
So next we turned to World Vision, and awesome organization that Melissa and I have both worked with before we even met. World Vision is an organization that fights global poverty and is best known for their work with child sponsorships. Knowing that World Vision has bases in most third world countries, we crossed our fingers that they might have on near Tangawizi.
I spoke with a rep from World Vision, who talked with one of their specialists. It turns out that the closest base World Vision has to Keekorok, Kenya is in Nairobi, about 150 miles away. Melissa’s research showed the same: the closest probable “touch point” for anyone who could receive mail or internet lives about 4 hours away.
So now we’re faced with a difficult situation.
Is it worth raising and spending a few hundred dollars in order to see Lincoln’s vision through? Or should we take that money and put it directly into an organization who will use it more efficiently? Is this particular boy, “Tangawizi,” so important in the grand scheme of things?
We believe that it is. Lincoln is a stubborn kid. We try to teach him that stubbornness can be good, and like his namesake said, “Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” We talk about being “good stubborn” and “bad stubborn,” and it’s hard to argue with him on this one. I admit there is a selfish desire in all this, to teach my son a powerful lesson about helping others.
We want to teach him that compassion is always worth being stubborn about. We pray that people will be inspired by Lincoln’s story, and be moved to react passionately against poverty. Through the example of Lincoln and every little kid who doesn’t understand injustice, we hope to become more connected with the desperate poverty in third-world countries. And we have hope that we can connect with Tangawizi’s family and help on a more long-term basis.
So now we are putting the word out, and asking for the help of the internet community. Sure, Lincoln needs to raise some more money to ship the bed to Kenya. But the real need now is that we need to find Tangawizi. Thankfully, this doesn’t take asking people for money, or even that much time. All it takes is a few clicks and using technology as a tool to help connect two little boys.
I realize it’s a long shot, and that the chances of someone in Tangawizi’s area having internet access are slim. But I’m asking people to share this with friends who may have contacts in Kenya or northern Tanzania. We’re willing to pay a courier or tip well for anyone who can put us directly in contact w/Tangawizi’s family.
And remember, a prayer started this whole thing. We continue to pray that we can find the family, form a relationship, and help in whatever ways we can. We truly believe that God has a big heart for the underprivileged. We know He wants to act through our hands to help eradicate poverty and drastic social imbalance. Any prayers are greatly appreciated.
Lincoln has re-ignited our family’s passion for prayer and for putting a dent in global poverty. Any help is greatly appreciated!
If you want to donate to Lincoln’s “Buy Tangawizi a Bed” fund, the easiest way to do so is via our PayPal account @ firstname.lastname@example.org. (For the sake of accountability and full disclosure- 100% of the donations are going toward the bed + shipping. We’ll post pictures and updates as we progress.) Beyond donations, we could really use: (1) spreading the word to anyone who lives in Kenya or northern Tanzania, and (2) anyone with experience in international shipping, especially to Kenya.