An upcoming mission trip will be no safari for church members.
Jamie Bees, a member of the Warren Majengo Foundation's board of directors, said nine people from First Presbyterian Church in Warren will be traveling along with representatives of the foundation to Mto wa Mbu, a village in Tanzania. In Swahili, the village's name means "Mosquito River."
"This is our first major mission trip," Bees said. "We've taken folks over, but not a large volunteer group."
Times Observer photo by Colin Kyler
A window at McKissock’s on Liberty Street contains items from Majengo.
While there, Bees said they plan to build a new Majengo Orphanage. The name Majengo is also a word in Swahili which means "Building Up."
With several buildings on the site, Bees said they will restore an existing one and build a series of several small homes for the children. They will be complete with kitchen and dining rooms, which are separate from the rest of the home in that culture.
Also, local laborers will help with work at the orphanage. The contingent from Warren will provide physical help, Bees said, as well as financial help.
First Presbyterian Church has a mission committee which has operated for years. Members heard about Majengo, Bees said, and some of them attended functions the organization had in Warren.
Matt McKissock took over the basic operating costs of Majengo following a visit there in 2009. Warren Majengo Foundation has a sister foundation called Majengo Canada which was founded by Lynn Connell.
Every few years, Bees said, the church has an international trip. They asked Majengo representatives for an informational interview and then nominated them for the mission.
"We had been planning this for a couple years," Bees said. "We knew we were going to be building a new orphanage."
There were many legal issues to clear up first, Bees said, and the foundation started the process in early 2011. Now they're ready to go and will be leaving Sept. 27 and return on Oct. 9.
A total of 114 children rely on Majengo with 77 of them living in house. The remainder come in the morning and leave in the afternoon, Bees said, in what is familiar in the United States as day care.
All children are washed, bathed and fed three meals a day, Bees said, which is unusual for many children in that community. AIDS has hit the area hard as has drought.
"Adults leave to find work, and some don't return," Bees said. "A lot of children are left as orphans."
Majengo started with 27 children and then rose to 52. Foundation members were instrumental in shutting down five corrupt orphanages in the area, Bees said, where tourists donated a lot of money but children were starved and kept sick.
After Majengo took in the children from the closed orphanages, Bees said, workers contacted their parents. Many of them thought their children had been living better lives and some of the children were returned to their families.
Those who didn't have a home to go to or parents who couldn't afford to take them stayed at Majengo. There, Bees said, parents can visit their children when they want.
People can donate at www.majengo.org and money is needed more than anything. All donations go directly to operating the orphanage, Bees said, but they can be earmarked to go towards the building project.
"It's a different fund and needs a lot of money," Bees said. "We want to get out of major housing and into more of a family setting."
The foundation will also be happy to accept children's clothing for those between the ages of 7 and 14, Bees said, as well as large suitcases. When they go on the trip, the group will be taking 24 large suitcases filled with clothing and items for the children.
Although they hate to turn anything away, Bees said they can't use small suitcases.
Directors in Warren and Canada make between three to four trips each year to Majengo. Constant oversight helps people feel comfortable, Bees said, and lets them know money is being spent well.
Employees at the back door entrance of McKissock's, 218 Liberty Street, can accept clothes and suitcases during business hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Used undergarments should not be included, Bees said, and camouflage should also be left out as it is viewed as a radical statement there and has associations with poachers and military.
Any high school students seeking community service opportunities for their senior projects can reach Bees at 723-4846. Office work needed at the foundation includes filing, donor retention and computer work in addition to sorting clothes and packing for upcoming trips.
"People have been very generous," Bees said. "We're grateful to them."