From The Ground Up

With the purchase of the land for the Eco-Farm nearly complete, we’ve been really diving deep into planning! A few weeks back, we had a one-day workshop to flesh out our plans for the Eco-Farm. Our friends at CECI (Canada’s Center for International Studies and Cooperation) share Mama Hope’s commitment to community-led development, so they kindly adjusted the curriculum so all the parent stakeholders could participate instead of just the project coordinators.     The parents worked together to create “problem trees”–concept maps that showed how the issues affecting our society are interconnected:  corrupt government, poor schooling, malnutrition,Machismo, low income or lack of formal employment, drug and alcohol abuse. Then, we took a second look at our trees and made a new version: “solution trees”–how aspects of the Eco-Farm project will benefit each of the previously defined problem areas. I liked how this exercise scrapped top-down theory in favor of a bottom-up look at daily life and this project’s real potential for change. Listening to the moms explain the complex situation here reinforced (once again) that they are in the best position to design solutions. I was particularly impressed by Genoveva’s take on how sexism and racism keep indigenous women trapped in poverty. She explained that some men don’t allow their wives to leave their “duties” at the house, much less go out and start a business or contribute otherwise to the family’s livelihood. On top of that, he may spend the little money they have on alcohol, and further abuse her into obedience when drunk. The other moms in our group confirmed that yes, this is more common than one would like to admit. GENOVEVA BELIEVES THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF CAPACITY-BUILDING WORKSHOPS AND THE ECO-FARM PROJECT LIES IN THEIR POTENTIAL TO BRING WOMEN TOGETHER AND RAISE THEIR SELF-ESTEEM. AFTER THAT, SHE SAID, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.   For months now we’ve been talking about organic vegetables and fertilizers and beekeeping and goats milk; the moms are well-versed in the costs and benefits of each aspect. But the Eco-Farm is going to be the first project of its kind in Panajachel–and it can be hard to imagine something so new or foreign. A couple weeks ago I visited Atitlan Organics, a farm, hotel, and education center across Lake Atitlan in a town called Tzununá. It was unlike any place I had ever visited before and I knew that we would have to come back so the moms could see it. Luckily, with your support, we were able to take a trip this past weekend! After speaking so thoroughly about the project in the abstract, Ingrid and I agreed that seeing a well-established project in real life would be invaluable to the moms. Even more than providing an understanding of how to design the most useful chicken coop, for example, it gave us the chance to see proof that with passion, determination, and teamwork, you really can manifest your dreams. Atitlan Organics founder, Shad absolutely blowing my mind with ecology factoids The farm at Atitlan Organics is an impressive permaculture project nestled up in the hills above Tzununá overlooking the lake. Founder Shad left his traditional success behind in the states in search of a different way of life more closely connected to the land. Now, six years later, the farm has just turned a profit and there are exciting plans in the works to transform the entity into a full cooperative model, where Shad and his wife would own a share of the farm equal to that of each of the three Guatemalan families who they work with. The member families already share in the harvest of the farm (they take home eggs, chicken, milk/yoghurt, fruit and greens weekly), but with this arrangement they would also share the farm’s profits and make decisions democratically. Shad explains that this distribution is very in line with the one of the fundamental ideas of permaculture which is everyone having a Fair Share. We’re so excited to be connected with such a wealth of knowledge that also shares our deep respect for the environment. As Nicolas, one of the member-owners and our tour guide, explained, to have a beautiful farm that spills waste downhill to the lake or dries up the local riverbed is to entirely miss the point. While the dominant idea right now is that human beings are bad for the environment,permaculture suggests that there is a way for humans to live harmoniously with nature or even improve upon it:  that we can take care of the land and in exchange, reap the benefits of many “useful” species. Permaculture is a diverse, expansive field and this blog post is not going to do it justice but I’d like to give you somewhat of an idea of what that term means. I already mentioned two basic permaculture principles–living in harmony with the land and everyone getting a fair share of what it produces. From what I can tell, that translates into very deliberate design and decision-making that takes into account long term effects and sustainability. Farms built on these principles end up looking less like farms and more like overgrown gardens or partially-cultivated forests. Permaculturists trust that when cared for, the earth will provide in abundance. Systems integrate parts that support and better each other, much like how natural ecosystems function. Observing and mirroring these natural systems is an antecedent and ongoing process. Like in nature, permaculture systems use resources efficiently (often reusing them) and have little to no waste at all. They are diverse and integrated — which is why they look more overgrown or jungle-like. This is better for the land and more sustainable in the long term. Nicolas teaches Marina and the group about how this area integrates summer squash, lemon grass, and pigs “WITH PERMACULTURE DESIGN, WE CREATE THE POTENTIAL FOR A POWERFUL BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EARTH. WE CAN BECOME STEWARDS FOR OUR WORLD WHILST STILL MAINTAINING AN OPENNESS AND HUMILITY TO ACCEPT NATURE AS PERHAPS OUR MOST POWERFUL AND WISEST OF TEACHERS. WHAT A CULTURE WE COULD BUILD IF THESE TWO PERSPECTIVES WERE THE BEDROCK OF OUR CIVILIZATION!” –Maddy Harland’s What is Permaculture   Check out some more of our visit to the farm in the photos below: Nicolas shows us around the chicken house — since they use dry mulch and wood shavings there’s no smell! The chickens clean and fertilize the mulch with their droppings and then it can be sold or used in the garden. Norma picking some fruit-snacks. AMARANTH: a quinoa-like grain with gorgeous fuchsia flowers. Jesse and Kevin always know how to make me laugh We <3’d the fresh goat’s milk… …and yummy herbs   0 0 0 0 0 0 Thanks for reading! Make a contribution to our Eco-Farm today at classy.org/tessapeoples — For a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED! Maximize your impact by giving before I leave Guatemala on October 5. Thank you!!

A Love Story

It’s a long one today folks but I’m leaving Kenya in a few short hours and I’m feeling all the feels right now so bear with me. Since arriving in Kisumu, actually since the very beginning of my journey with Mama Hope I have been struggling to truly express the energy that has come in to my life. So today I am writing from a place deep in my heart. Today I am full of gratitude. Today I will borrow a line from a fellow global advocate and ‘tell you my love story.’ (Thanks Neale). There have been so many moments, seemingly insignificant interactions in the street or observations from a matatu that have made a little voice in my head go ‘man I love this place.’ Men breaking in to song as they hawke clothes outside a busy market, women fighting over a matatu window to sell bananas through then collapsing in laughter together upon realising no one wants to buy anything, children making me feel famous by following me on my morning runs. That little voice has always been followed by a twinge of pain in remembering that eventually I’d be leaving. But as the time is creeping up on me I am taking comfort in the connections I have made. I’m not talking about networking or new LinkedIn friends, I’m talking about real, human connection. When we travel or meet foreigners we love to make comparisons, not because we want to point out differences but because we like to find the similarities, the things that make us all human. Of course there are big differences here as well but today I want to focus on the things that have made this place feel just like home. This first thing might not be quite related to the human connection I’m talking about but it is just too good not too mention. I love a good sunset and spent many afternoons watching them at the beach before leaving for Kisumu but let me tell you, Kisumu did not fail to impress. I’ve seen colours I didn’t even know existed in the sky here. They might not have been over a beach but Lake Victoria is more than a match for that. Eva, Erick, Meggy, David, Sheila and Alyssa, now my extended family, how I have laughed and shared with you. Meggy and Alyssa are two of the happiest, brightest and loving little girls I have ever crossed paths with and that is truly a reflection of the homes you keep and your attitudes towards life. I simply can’t find enough words to explain to anyone how amazing you all are but I do want to give a special shout out to Erick for reminding me of my Dad – always watching the news and keeping me informed about the country’s political status. Obambo will always be home. More than anything I’ve found people everywhere dedicated to making the world a better place and not a single person who doesn’t believe it is possible. Neighbours helping their neighbours, families investing their money in to community run initiatives, people who dedicate their whole lives and almost all the minutes in their days to tackling the most overwhelming of problems and making real change. These things can be found all over and when we look at the entire world as our home it is not hard to feel total admiration for all the wonderful people within it.  I will always be grateful to Kisumu for showing me that connections can happen anywhere, anytime. Connection and context are what we need to find our common humanity. It’s always there but to find it we just have to open ourselves up, be vulnerable and let the light in and out! Context is what gives us that connection, so ask questions, learn from each other and be empowered by the knowledge you gain. To anyone thinking this sounds like hippy dippy bullshit, it’s not. It works. I can tell you that because I’m living it right now. Mama Hope and the global advocate program works because they find those connections. In Kisumu there is laughter, there are smiles, there are 3 men and two wonderful families behind them, driven beyond words. There is a wealth of untapped resources in the minds and hearts of these people and by making connections we can draw it out and our world will explode with all the love and knowledge that I have seen. We need to keep giving a voice to all the good in the world because that is the force that has the power to move our world in the direction we all want. Everyone connected to Akili is doing just that and I feel so lucky to have seen it in action. These aren’t just bright smiling faces, these girls are our future. They are brave, they are strong and they are smart. Akili Preparatory School is facilitating their empowerment and helping them reach their full potential. So as sad as I am to be leaving I feel like the luckiest person in the world for getting to meet such a resilient, determined and happy group of people. Akili’s success is due to the combination of these three things and there is no doubt in my mind that the best is yet to come!

Reaching Out – Maternal & Child Care Day

Dependence on bureaucratic systems anywhere can be troubling, but dependence on governmental health agencies in Uganda for the provision of supplies is maddening. Though Suubi has (a surprising amount of) enthusiastic support from the sub-county and district health offices which confer some supplies, these are not always on hand. Each month, Suubi holds an Outreach Day to expand services to outlying villages who would likely otherwise likely not visit our health center. But for the past few months, each time our director or in-charge has attempted to retrieve necessary governmental goods for these Outreach Days, they have been unable to furnish us with what we need. Nurse Bonnie opens the doors to our Maternal and Child Care Day! Instead of reveling in this frustration or spending far beyond our budget for the April Outreach, we evolved this month’s Outreach into something different. We went back to our roots—the true focus of and inspiration behind Suubi lies in improving maternal and child healthcare in the region. Though Suubi provides low-cost services every day, on Wednesday April 8th Suubi hosted a Maternal and Child Care Day offering free antenatal care for pregnant mothers, free checkups and medicine for children, and free immunizations. 63 children received examinations and medicine and 72 received a round of immunizations. Additionally, 70 pregnant women obtained free antenatal check-ups and drugs, which more than doubled the number of mothers who’ve accessed these services since Suubi’s inception. Suubi Midwife Nepoline during one of 70 antenatal visits For the first time, Suubi used strictly its own resources to mobilize the community instead of accessing the government VHTs (village health team). Each Suubi Woman rallied her neighbors, family members, and friends by giving them small slips of paper which contained the relevant information for the day. Mukisa brought announcements to local churches and mosques to publicize over the holiday weekend. Our ambulance driver spent Tuesday riding around the villages with a pre-recorded message blasting on a megaphone. These tactics were cost-effective, community-based, and brought together more women and children than I possibly imagined would come. The brains and heart behind Suubi, Mr. Bernard Mukisa. With so many young mothers together in one place we also held a forum discussion, led by two of our spirited and knowledgeable Suubi Women, for pregnant women to discuss their needs, problems, and experiences. They talked together for hours in an open and accepting environment. They expressed their desires for supportive husbands and compassionate midwives, affordable treatment and comprehensive care. After the success of this dialogue, our team eagerly brainstormed ways to continue providing psycho-social support for pregnant women in the community. With the new Budondo Community Hall set to open in the next month, it will be home to a regular discussion group for these women. Additionally, we hope to hold sensitization seminars for young fathers on their roles and responsibilities to their children and families. Forum for pregnant women, led by our amazing Suubi Women I’ve always vaguely recognized that motherhood is possibly the most thankless and demanding responsibility a person can endure. But living in Budondo and witnessing the tireless effort that women put into caring for their large families has been humbling. The work is hard, but the community here is strong and the struggle is not isolating. As mothers around the world do, they make considerable sacrifices for healthy babies and nourished children. I’m keen to watch this program grow into something beautiful and to watch Suubi more deeply develop its reputation as a hub of love, trust, and compassion for women and children.   Baby Praise is unhappy now, but this minute of pain will improve her lifelong health! 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

When Life Gives You Lemons

How one community in rural Ghana is solving complex issues with simple solutions   Originally Posted on Medium.com/@mattbautista I think it was Dale Carnegie who first publicized the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It probably seemed pretty genius at the time but now it’s just plain obvious, right? Even in the face of adversity you can create something sweet with an optimistic and positive attitude. But tell me this — when you’re stuck with lemons, have no access to clean water, and can’t afford sugar, what the hell are you supposed to do with them? Suck em dry and convince yourself it tastes just the same? Lesson one in international development: turning lemons into lemonade isn’t always as simple as it seems. Sometimes the odds are stacked against you in a way that makes even something as “simple” as lemonade hard to produce. And, in this field, lemonade takes the form of things we need a lot more than a few satisfied taste buds: healthcare, infrastructure, education — to name a few. How do you even begin to address issues that are a lot more complex than a 3 ingredient summertime brew?   What We Need Most According to a recent survey conducted in 9 nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, healthcare and education rank as the two highest priorities for improvement in every single one. In Ghana specifically, 87% of those surveyed noted that the quality of schools in Ghana was a “very big problem.”     When a problem dramatically affects a large portion of any country’s population, it seems safe to assume that the effects of these problems are bound to be even more complex in rural settings where government involvement tends to be less present. As Kwode states in his article about education inequality between rural and urban students in Ghana, “rural schools are often characterised by inadequate teachers, poor classroom structures and in some case schools under trees.” When even a rainy day poses a threat to a child’s education it’s no surprise there’s a stark difference between the two settings.   One At A Time After having spent the last two months in one of these rural communities, Bawjiase, it’s become obvious that the issue is much more complex than it seems at first glance. The biggest problem with public schools seems to be the lack of cooperation between teachers, the government that employs them, and the students left to suffer the consequences. “There’s no supervision, there’s no connection. The teachers do as they please because of an employer that doesn’t value them highly,” one former public school teacher explained. When most public school teachers show up less than their students and the cost of a higher quality private education can heavily offset the $2–3 average daily income, how is it possible to provide your children with the type of education they need to become self sufficient and, hopefully, take care of you when you’re no longer able to?   Meet Dora Abdu One of the individuals able to shed some light on the situation for me was Dora, your typical Bawjiase, badass mother. Her story starts with the sort of story I’ve heard many times during my stay here in rural Ghana — the young death of her father and only guardian leaving her to make up for the loss of income created in his absence. When her father passed away, she was taken in by her grandparents and forced to forgo her education so that she could be put to better use (read: make more immediate income) selling food in the local market. At the time, it wasn’t her choice to skip class and spend her days learning how to turn a profit, but back then, she didn’t have a choice. “I wanted to go to school, I wanted an education, but they wouldn’t help me get one. They wanted me to start earning money instead.” Although it’s easy to shame her grandparents for forcing her to miss out on such a valuable experience, let’s not forget that it’s not the fault of an individual stuck inside a system that seems to be working against them. Had the circumstances been different, had they had more support from their local government and more opportunities to generate sustainable income, her situation might be different. Because they lacked proper support, Dora paid the price of going through her adolescence without a single day of schooling. All of this results in one thing: a lack of valuable skills/knowledge people are willing to pay for. Now, Dora works selling snacks in a nearby town and, between her and her husband, a taxi driver, she’s able to make ends meet — most of the time. But, because of not receiving an education, one thing she still struggles with is affording one for her children. Eric & Beatrice have been enrolled in school ever since they were old enough to attend, but Dora was never happy with the kind of education they received for free in local public schools. She knows she doesn’t want to sacrifice her childrens’ education for extra income, but paying for it seems too difficult to manage when her income sources are never guaranteed.   Teaming Up For a Solution When Sofo Elisha, a local community member and foster parent here in Bawjiase, witnessed the lack of quality education being provided to local children he started drawing up plans to build a school to rival city standards while still considering rural drawbacks. In 2013 he started United Hearts and offered a different approach to families looking to invest more in their children’s education. The goal: to provide quality education, comparable to the kind found in urban environments, while understanding the financial constraints of families in the local community.   Sofo Elisha, Headmaster Gabi & Nana B But goals are nothing without a plan to put into action. Elisha needed staff that knew the issues his community faced and had personal experience in coming up with unique solutions to these complex issues. His first recruit: Nana B, a young and energetic local who knows this town better than anyone having spent most of his life here with his family; and his second: Headmaster Gabi, with over 10 years experience working in rural education and knowledge of urban standards. Together, they are helping Elisha change the game of education in small town Bawjiase. When Dora found out about United Hearts, she withdrew her children from public school and went straight to Elisha to see about getting her students a high quality education — even if she would have to figure out a way to afford it. Although he would charge school fees like the other private schools, missing a few payments would result in discussing ways the school could help rather than threatening expulsion, making a world of difference for parents like Dora Abdu. 0 0 0 Badass mom tip #1 — Make It Work The financial struggles still continue for Dora, but because United Hearts operates with a different mentality — one based off community support and engagement — she is able to delay payments when she can’t afford school fees. (School fees are $5/trimester, Dora’s income is about $10/month). Now, Eric and Beatrice are enrolled at United Hearts and come home in the evenings bursting with stories to tell about the lessons they’ve learned instead of pocket change to help buy the sugar they were missing. “If they go to school, if they follow what they’re taught and keep learning, they will never be able to say that someone has kept them from getting an education. For that, I’m willing to make some sacrifices.” Thanks to individuals like Sofo Elisha and his team, community organizations are being created to make up for a lack of support and are affording mothers like Dora the opportunity to find a way to make some sweet, sweet lemonade with what she’s been given. I can’t imagine what that tastes like. If you would like to make a donation to United Hearts so that more children can receive the same opportunities Eric and Beatrice have been lucky enough to receive click here. Help us invest in the next generation with one of the most powerful resources available — a quality education.

Sustainakility

GETTING TO WORK! Today I’m writing this at the beginning of my fourth week here. Four weeks already! Time is flying by and I am soaking up every minute. I still can’t flip chipatis using just my hands but I have managed to pick up a few words of Kiswahili here and there. ‘Cheka’ meaning ‘laugh’ and ‘twende’ meaning ‘let’s go’ are my favourites so far. I will also definitely be using ‘sawa sawa’ when I get home. It means ‘okay’ but I’ve noticed it is also used to end casual conversations, plus it just sounds so damn cool! Today is also the beginning of a busy week of budgeting and designing the first project that the funds many of you have helped raised will be allocated too. As you know one of Akili’s main focuses is their overall sustainability and the wonderful thing I am coming to understand is how future focused everyone involved with Akili is. While providing quality education for its current students they are simultaneously making sure they will be able to to do the same in 20, even 50 years time. As such, every project that is implemented serves a dual purpose. The first portion of the funds we have all raised together will build shower cubicles for the 30 boarding students at the Obambo campus. Currently the girls are showering out in the open and unfortunately they have reported men watching them at times. The showers’ second purpose will solve another problem – finding enough water for the 200 fruit trees that have recently been planted around the campus. Water is scarce in Obambo but David and Erick know these fruit trees will eventually provide shade and food for the future classes of Akili and provide extra income for the school. We will be implementing a grey water recycling system attached to the showers so that these trees will receive the water they need to grow. Electricity is also an issue so instead of using a pump or filtration system we will be filtering through wetland plants. Simple but effective, and in my opinion way cooler! Stay tuned for pictures as the project progresses. I also wanted to introduce you all to Dennis. He is Akili’s Sustainable Farm Manager. He is hardworking, optimistic and has been very good at putting up with my learn and teach on the go approach to google spreadsheets (why can’t it just be the same as excel?!) Together we’ve come up with a way to record the farm’s outputs and expenses and are looking forward to a years time when there will be a clear picture of the farm’s annual productivity.   Dennis showing off the impressive tomato crop at the farm inside Obunga slum   Dennis’ biggest priority each day is making sure every student can be nourished with food straight from the farm. He also takes orders from the locals and their respective markets stalls. He is looking forward to the day the farm will produce enough goods to sell at Kisumu’s supermarkets, and he is working hard to get there. Another project on the cards is increasing the depth of the farm’s bore hole to access more water and increase productivity. The tomatoes are currently the Akili Farm’s most lucrative vegetable. They started with one greenhouse a few years ago and realising they could make a profit from the produce is what spurred the idea for an entire sustainable farm. Outside of work with Akili, each ride to a new destination in the city provides new sites and scenes. Yesterday a cruise through a bustling market street, today, a bumpy journey through the streets of the city’s mechanic work shops. While some things are familiar – I can tell that man is a mechanic – there is a system of operation here that works in such a different way to home. So I observe, and to be honest, it’s hard to explain but there is a real beauty in not understanding how things work here. Every man in the street is dressed in the same blue workman’s jumpsuit. Are all the workshops owned by one company, are they freelance workers jumping on jobs where they can, or are they simply competing businesses working in harmony together? I have no idea but I do know they are getting the job done. To me it looks like organised chaos, to the locals I’m sure it is simply organised. I’m spending a lot of time here being in awe of what I don’t understand and appreciating experiencing everyday life in a different setting. I won’t lie. I’m having a mini freak out about how fast time is going already so every day I’m taking the opportunity to keep observing, keep soaking it in and keep on taking strolls in perfect settings like this. I took this on my walk home from Akili’s Obambo Campus Thanks for reading, love Jane

Mlali

Mlali is a very small town in the middle of Tanzania.  It lies on a plateau at the base of Mt. Mlali, overlooking an iconic and stunning savannah.  The roads are made of red dust, which finds its way onto every inch of my body by the end of the day.  The sun sinks down peacefully every day beyond the horizon of acacia trees, then gives way to a moon that looks red each night when it rises.  I believe it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was welcomed to Mlali by Mama Faith, who is married to Athanas Sekwiha.  Athanas’s sister, Kilines, started the Queen Elizabeth Academy.  Athanas is a teacher at the school, and Mama Faith is the school cook.  It’s sort of like a family band, except instead of forming a band, they started a school.  I live in a lovely little apartment on the family compound, which also houses Athanas and Kili’s parents, Babu and Bibi, as well as other nieces, nephews, and relatives, all of whom play a role at QEA. The Queen Elizabeth Academy is sort of like The Little Engine That Could: in spite of countless setbacks, it has persevered.  The team of people who run the school are change-makers with heart and grit that are extraordinary.  There are dozens of times when it would have been far easier for them to bow down to the status quo as something acceptable, yet their love-driven work is turning their dream into a reality, one piece at a time. In addition to the school’s strong academic standing (it was ranked #7 in the district last year), QEA is a beautiful little microcosm in its community.  The school farm began three months ago and employs a parent as the head gardener.  In addition to providing food for school lunches, the farm has already sold enough produce to pay the salary for the gardener and the watchman.  Over 2,000 trees have been planted on the 36 acres of land, which were granted to QEA by the town of Mlali.  These trees will provide additional income as the delicious bananas, papayas, and mangoes grow and sell.  Equally as important, other trees have been planted specifically to help prevent erosion. The foundation for the boarding house is coming along very nicely!  I do believe the boarders at QEA will have the nicest view in all of Mlali!  The masons are working very hard each day to make sure the kids have a safe and beautiful home. I feel happy and whole here in Mlali.  In the two short weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve had laughs that made my belly hurt and heard stories of grace and beauty and inspiration.  I am grateful to be a part of this meaningful work, and blessed to have such wonderful friends and family who have supported this project.  With love from here to there….    

Daily Life at Glorious

With 300+ students, 30 teachers and staff members, community members stopping by to meet with Alice about the community housing project or the microfinance project, the campus is always bustling with people and there is always something going on (even during school breaks!).     Over the break, the kids loved watching movies, especially Tarzan!     Rebecca, one of the three caretakers that live with and care for the kids living in the Orphan’s Home, is one of the most loving and welcoming people I know. “There are always more than a dozen extra kids at Alice’s house — from the 11 children living at the Orphan’s Home to the many neighbors who simply want a safe place to play. Everyone is welcome. So here’s to overflowing dinner tables and a generous kind of love.” – Glorious Volunteer, Erin Brennan-Burke     Ebenizer and Amar pose for the camera!  

Akili Girlz!

  Nellie, Class 4, Age 10 What is the difference you see between boarding school and day school? Because boarding school is so very beautiful. In boarding school teachers they take care of us pupils. I love boarding school. Nellie is the second born in her family, with two brothers and one sister. Her mother works as a waiter, while her father is a laundry worker in Kisumu. Nellie is one of the sweetest girls at Akili, always the first to run up to me and grab my hand! Nellie hopes to be a doctor when she grows up, and LOVES singing (I know this for fact because her voice is always one of the loudest when we’re singing). Please donate to Akili to ensure that girls like Nellie are ALWAYS able to raise their voice!     Macreen, Class 4, Age 10 Why do you like the new uniforms? Because it helps us go to school. Macreen is the oldest out of her siblings, living with her hard-working single mother in Obunga, who works in a saloon. Macreen is incredibly shy, but so sweet- you can just see it in her smile in this picture! Please donate to ensure girls’ education for girls like Macreen 🙂     Mary, Class 4, Age 10 Why is education important for young girls? I should go to school to learn. Mary lives with her mother, a vegetable vendor, and her father, a tailor in Obunga. She is one out of nine, and her parents work hard to ensure that all the kids are in school. Mary is incredibly friendly and has many friends at Akili, she also happens to be one of the sassiest girls! She hopes to be a doctor in the future, and is very dedicated to her education, ranking in the top three of Class 4. Please support feisty, funny, and lovable girls like Mary to continue their education!     Jane, Class 4, Age 10 Why do you love Akili? Because we learn. There are teachers in Akili. There are classes. Jane lives with her five siblings and parents in Obunga, where her parents work as a firewood vendor and a fishmonger. Her dream is to be a nurse when she becomes older. Help ensure a bright future for girls like Jane by donating here.

Shop Units Update

The team has made so much progress on the shop units over the past two weeks! I can’t believe that, in such a short amount of time, the foundation for the shop units is almost done! As discussed in the first shop units update, the shop units will provide rent-free space for QEA to sell their surplus from the school farm and fish pond. Not only will the school shops be income generating for QEA, but they will also provide many other benefits to the greater community. Due to the shop units prime location, they will be able to service people from all over the region who come to the area to visit the church, secondary school and hospital. Here are just a few examples of how the shop units will positively impact the community of Mlali and surrounding region: 1) Kids will be able to stop at the shop to pick up supplies on their way to school. 2) Typically, family members of those in the hospital stay outside the hospital for the duration of the patients stay. During this time, the family members are responsible for bathing them and providing them with meals. The shop units will the perfect place for families to pick up supplies and food while their family member is recovering in the hospital. 3) Right now, Mlali is going through what is called the “season of hunger”. What this means is that the community is waiting for their next harvest to be ready, which causes there to be less produce available to be sold, less food available to be purchased, and ultimately, leaves many people unable to bring an income into their home and many people searching for other ways to find work to make money. The shop unit project has employed a team of builders for this long term project which allows the builders to make enough money to provide for their families during the season of hunger. As you may know by now, today was my last day in Mlali, and I will be heading to Arusha to work with Glorious School for the next few months. Even though I won’t be in Mlali to track the progress of the shops, my fellow global advocate, Barbara Bemer, will be keeping us updated every step of the way! Stay tuned!   Take a look at all of the exciting work that’s been done on the shop units in the past two weeks!   Builders working hard to finish the foundation.     Irene and Felista showing off their dance moves!     Foundation all ready for cement!     Finished product!  As the foundation is the hardest part, now that it is nearly done, the walls and roof will go up in no time!  Can’t wait to see the progress we make in the next two weeks!     Before saying goodbye, I had to snap a picture with Babu and the head builder!

Wazee

When it comes to international development we tend to set our sights on the future. Even in my work I have always been forward focused – building, developing, educating. By investing in the next generation we are helping provide access to the tools needed to bring change to a community. There is even a very noticeable trend in international giving; supporting organizations serving children and education. While this does bring amazing opportunity for future change, we are overlooking a population that exists in every community whose needs are often being left under-resourced. Two weeks ago, during an NGO fair, I struck up a conversation with the organization African Impact. Among many other projects African Impact is partnered with Langoni Old People’s Home, locally known as “Wazee” (pronounced Wah-zay, meaning “elderly person” in Swahili), an elderly care facility based here in Moshi. Intrigued by a program outside of my usual education/child-development work, I met with Gill, the program manager, to learn more about their partnership. Here in Tanzania, it is a part of the culture that as the elderly get older they are taken care of by their children, grandchildren, or other family members. However, due to conflict, injury, death, financial strains, and many other reasons, there are a number of individuals growing old and finding themselves without a family to help support them. Wazee is a government funded elderly care facility that was set up in the late 80s/early 90s and currently accommodates 15 residents. Staffed by 1 manager and 4 women, the employees work long hours tending to the basic needs of residents: cleaning and cooking. This leaves little to no time to focus their attention on community building and daytime activities for the elderly. After years of living as neighbors, many of the elderly didn’t even know each other’s names. Gill explained to me that when they first visited Wazee it was a dismal place, a place for the elderly to simply watch the final years of their lives pass by. In 2013 African Impact partnered with Wazee. Working to fill the need for community building programs, their time is focused on stimulating the residents physically, emotionally, and mentally. While the staff continues their work of general operations, African Impacts runs daily group activities such as Arts and Crafts, newspaper reading, seated exercise, ESL classes, a variety of games (yes bingo is a big hit here too), and a community garden (helping diversify the nutrition available to the residents). This past week I volunteered with African Impacts to get a better understanding of their program and impact. Starting our day by greeting each of the residents one by one, we slowly made our way from home to home chatting, sharing jokes, and discussing current events. Through the conversations I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I was reminded of visiting my own grandfather at the home he stayed in before he passed away 2 years ago. I realized how important it was to my mother and me to choose a place for him that would exercise his mind and body, ensuring that the last years of his life were ones of value and joy. So why should this level of care be different for anyone else in the world? After greeting each of the residents at Wazee, the rest of the afternoon was spent doing seated exercise. A mix of stretches and aerobic games to get everyone moving. We were not only ensuring their bodies remain healthy and active, but also providing the space for the community to laugh, chat, and interact together.   Where before there was little to no interaction, now when you visit Wazee you will see all residents together chatting under the shade of a tree, sharing stories, and enjoying their final years together as a community. A few years ago a resident at Wazee passed away. With no funding for a funeral or a tombstone this person would have been buried in an unmarked grave, with no celebration or time for mourning. African Impact decided that they would pay for the funerals of the residents at Wazee. After this first funeral African Impacts was receiving feedback from the residents who stated, “you are here with us in life, you are also here with us in death, you are our family now. 0 0 0 Vulnerable communities come in all different shapes, sizes, and ages. When considering community development we must think of all members of the community. Yes, it is important to invest in the next generation, but it is important to not hold such a narrow focus on the future. There are individuals today that deserve equal attention. For centuries, cultures around the globe have respected the advice, wisdom, and guidance provided by the elderly. It is important we also respect their need for our support as they continue to age, ensuring their final years are ones of comfort and peace. Call to action One of the major issues found at Wazee is theft. With no wall surrounding their space, the residents are left unprotected from thieves coming to take advantage of the vulnerable residents. One woman’s three-year-old toothbrush was even stolen. African Impact is currently raising funds to help build a wall around Wazee. If you would like to support the their efforts please click here.