This week something completely different. My great friend Helen who lives in Tanzania sent this through to me a few days ago. I hope I can do the story and emotion behind the letter some justice.
Over the past 10 years or so Helen has established a business from scratch in Dar-es-Salaam making furniture and handwoven fabrics. She employs about a dozen local people.
We live in a frantic world of tweets, facebook posts and texts. I'm more than a little guilty of hiding behind them. Sadly it's all too easy to click out a couple of words rather than actually communicate one-to-one. As a consequence it seems we've all but lost the wonderful art of letter-writing.
My Mum on the other hand wrote every day. The bureau where she used to sit and compose letters to faraway relatives and friends stands in my hallway though I don't use it as intended. (Sorry Mum.) I can still picture her writing paper - Basildon Bond - translucent, delicate, lavender hued, and with the handy lined under-sheet to keep your words neat. In return for my Mum's efforts letters would arrive almost daily from across the globe, many to be read out in the evenings. Births, deaths, illnesses, marriage, divorce, joy, misery, hope, despair, holiday plans, shared memories, life's banalities and disappointments all spilled forth from those pages. Family discussions would take place, we'd ask questions, get answers and half-truths, be told tall tales, laugh and if there was sad news even shed a few tears together. Those letters were windows onto other worlds and lives that could only be imagined in my young mind. Perhaps it was just the mundane made marvelous but I don't think so.
And so, on to the wonderful letter Helen received. This is what she told me.
"Moody and Dan, two carpenters who work for me, gave me this letter. Moody's baby Hafsa was taken into the Muhimbili Hospital in June. Moody said Hafsa was constantly crying. People get forgotten about in the hospitals here so it's good if someone can check on them and make sure they're being looked after. Luckily I have a friend who kept me posted. The next day I got a call saying Hafsa had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and nothing could be done. She was expected to live a maximum of two to three weeks. Moody took the news very badly. When he came to see me he could hardly stand up. The decision was made to take the baby to stay with his wife's family.
There wasn't much I could do apart from give him some money to cover his expenses and plenty of time off work. After about two weeks he came back. I asked about Hafsa and he said he had taken her to the traditional Doctor and that she was now well. Three months passed and he seemed to believe she was ok. Sadly she passed away a couple of weeks ago.
What I'm trying to say, what I find incredible is, that despite the incredibly difficult circumstances people live under here and how little they have, they are so grateful.
Moody doesn't speak any English so Dan did the writing for him."
If you'd like to know more about Helen & the work she does click here: