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 — For a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED! Maximize your impact by giving before I leave Guatemala on October 5. Thank you!!

Lessons learned from Phase 1 Curriculum

The Global Advocate Fellowship consists of 3 phases: professional training, hands-on experience in Mama Hope’s global partner communities, and the final global impact capstone. This post is a continuation of Tuesday’s post on some of the things I learned during the professional training phase aka fundraising and curriculum. Curriculum Alongside fundraising during phase 1, Advocates participate in a 10-week educational curriculum, which, for me as a micro major, was VERY necessary, informative, and eye-opening. Through reading diverse material, completing assignments, and engaging in open discussion with fellow Advocates and Mama Hope staff in weekly conference calls, I gained a more open-minded perspective of global community development and a better understanding of what my role as a Global Advocate should/needs to be to best serve the local Gujarati people. 4 learning modules in total. 4 (out of many) incredibly powerful lessons learned: 1. The widely accepted narrative of global development is inaccurate. 2015 marked the deadline for a pact of nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of eight target areas for the reduction of extreme global poverty. This 15-year ambitious effort, according to the UN Development Program, produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. That same year, the UN Millennium Campaign sponsored an “End Poverty” poster competition. The winning poster is shown above. The contrast between the world leaders of the G8 summit on top and dusty, shoe-less African children on the bottom is compelling, but the tagline is highly misleading. “We are still waiting” …. this seems to insinuate that underdeveloped countries and communities are just sitting around, twiddling their fingers, wishing for hand outs, waiting to be saved. And “Dear World leaders” …. makes it seem like only global institutions have the answers to solve the issue of global poverty. Both these assumptions and narratives are incorrect. There is so much innovation and creativity within communities on the African continent and beyond, and none of this began with waiting for the assist from government institutions. In Dayo Olopade’s book, “The Bright Continent,” she describes the ingenuity of exchange that takes place on congested roads of Lagos, Nigeria. Sitting in the middle of traffic, you can literally buy anything from mobile phone airtime to live animals. “Congested roads aren’t an opportunity for self-pity but for marketing.” Check out this Stop the Pity campaign showing the entrepreneurial spirit of tech-savvy business women in Kenya. (from International Development History & Circumstances) 2. Always accept a cup of tea when offered. An article we read in this module outlines five principles for community service that resonate with Mama Hope’s model of Human Centered Development. The first principle, Stay for Tea, resonates the most with me because the writer’s initial experience as an outsider in a Bolivian community is one I will surely relate to once I arrive in-country. I may have a sense of the community I am joining through stories and pictures, but I am still a stranger with a title and a position who has built no connections with the local people who I will be working and living alongside. “Staying for tea” is so important because taking the time to listen and connect with the community on a deeper level can be a powerful asset in collaboration and partnership. I look forward to my transformation from a community development volunteer to essentially, a new neighbor. To Stay for Tea means recognizing our place as outsiders coming in but still deeply respecting and learning from the people in the communities we serve. (from Connected Development) Originally posted by mywhisperedcolors 3. Get some perspective. Get on the balcony. An excerpt we read in this module from “Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading,” written by two Harvard faculty highlights the first rule of surviving as a new leader: gain perspective. This is not a particularly easy thing to do, especially in stressful, high-stakes situations. As Global Advocates, we sit on a tight rope, constantly balancing our servant and leadership roles. But to step back, remove ourselves from the equation, and get on the metaphorical balcony to objectively view the situation is the only way to gain a clearer view of reality and our place and role within it. Not only does getting on the balcony change your perspective on what is happening around you, but also it can make you more self-aware of flaws in your leadership. Hence, to all leaders (new or old), “get off the dance floor and onto the balcony, so you can see what is really happening around you” (from Leadership Development) 4. Even manure can be an asset. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Upon entering any developing community, your initial thoughts should not immediately jump to all the things that are lacking or need fixing. Instead, focus on the positive! I don’t care what community it is, you WILL be able to identify assets and build upon them. This model of asset-based community development works best when we view others as equals. Not only should we be connecting with our communities to assess their needs, but we must also take the time to understand what they feel their strengths and assets are. It may not seem like an obvious asset to outsiders at first, like the waste materials in a permagarden, but drawing out local knowledge will build their confidence and our understanding of how to best support a community better. (fromProject Management & Assessment) Also, I know i’m late with this post, but I hope you all glanced at the full moon last night. HAPPY MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL! Originally posted by christinaillustrates

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!

Compassionate Education in Tanzania

As someone at the beginning of my teaching career (I began teaching full time in 2010), I am always looking to other teachers for ideas on how I can become a better educator. I love observing teachers. I love learning from them, and I love witnessing the unique relationships between teachers and students. In a world with darkness that can sometimes feel insurmountable, teachers provide dedication, inspiration, and love. Around the world, across oceans and cultures, teachers shine a light that guides future generations and creates positive change in communities. The team of dedicated teachers at the Queen Elizabeth Academy in Mlali, Tanzania. It was in a meeting with the teachers at the Queen Elizabeth Academy in Mlali, Tanzania, when a teacher asked me what I do to help “slow learners” in my classes. Neale, in your classes in the U.S., how do you accommodate ‘slow learners?’ The term “slow learners” may sound offensive to you. Some people would call it politically incorrect, start a lawsuit if it were used to describe their child, be insulted or hurt or angry. But here in Mlali, Tanzania, it is the accepted term used to describe students who are significantly behind academically, many of whom would qualify for special education services if they lived in the United States. He might as well have asked me to write an equation for quantum physics, because I didn’t have an answer that would translate from my urban classroom in the United States to this rural school in Tanzania. “Oh, you know, we talk to the special education team about getting the child evaluated! They may call the school psychologist, and we might advise the parents to make appointments with the child’s doctor, and maybe consult with a behavioral analyst, and then we gather all of this information and create a plan for the student! And sometimes additional teachers are assigned to help the student, and to help the teachers create assignments for the student in each class. Does that sound like a plan?” At the Queen Elizabeth Academy in rural Tanzania, there isn’t yet a special education department. There are no doctors or psychologists or behavioral analysts who regularly visit the school to evaluate the children. There are no laws and requirements telling the teachers what they have to do, or what they should be doing, to better accommodate differently-abled students. The students don’t have access to colorful manipulatives or iPads or audiobooks. But there are teachers. Hard working, loving, compassionate teachers. Whether a school is in New Orleans or Paris or Mlali, whether it has SMARTboards or blackboards, theteachers who dedicate themselves to the next generation are every school’s greatest asset. Classroom at the Queen Elizabeth Academy in Mlali, Tanzania. Photo credit: Tom Kubik. At the Queen Elizabeth Academy, we are working to establish a special education program to ensure that all students receive a quality education. It is a lot of work, and not something that is required in Tanzania, so these teachers are putting in extra time, love and energy to make a greater impact on their community. It is humbling and inspiring. Teacher Jane is an example of an exceptional teacher. In observing her classes, it is clear that she loves her job and she loves her students. Last week, she came over one evening to do some washing. She wasn’t washing her clothes, though, she was washing her students’ uniforms so they would have clean clothes to wear to school. No one asked her to do it, and she wasn’t being paid overtime; she saw an opportunity to help and she did. As I write this, it is 8 o’clock at night, and Jane has been here for the last hour and a half because she wanted to continue to work on creating an academic plan for a student. Of the special education program, she says, I like to know how to help slow learners because it is a good step for changing their future one step at a time. I want them to feel good and to feel confident. Teacher Magomba often spends his planning periods working on the special education program, evaluating students and creating individualized education programs for them. His dedication to the special education program belies the fact that he has many other responsibilities within the school. He has become a true leader of the program, and has collaborated and assisted his colleagues to make sure it is a success. This program isn’t perfect, but it is a significant step forward in achieving parity in education. I feel honored to work with the teachers at the Queen Elizabeth Academy, who are so dedicated to their students and to becoming better educators, and I am happy to have found this kinship thousands of miles away. Because of these teachers the students at QEA will flourish and thrive in the world beyond their classroom. Students celebrating winning a game during recess at the Queen Elizabeth Academy in Mlali, Tanzania. Photo credit:Ike Edeani. Neale Mahoney is a Mama Hope Global Advocate Fellow from Vermont. To learn more about her work with the Queen Elizabeth Academy, click here. To experience life in Mlali, visit Under the Tree: Volume 2.

When Life Gives You Lemons

How one community in rural Ghana is solving complex issues with simple solutions   Originally Posted on 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.

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!

Familiar Feelings in the Unfamiliar

It wasn’t clear what exactly I was expecting to feel after landing in Tanzania, thirteen days ago, but as we sped along the dirt road, I gazed out the window into the unknown and found myself feeling comfort and certainty of a connection to this place. I woke up with a new mama and three sisters, a host family eager to invite me into their lives and kitchen (word is, best in the neighborhood)! Technically, I’m living with one family but quickly learned that everyone I meet becomes an immediate part of this inner circle, a source of constant support, unity and friendship, which makes for an incredibly strong community. This level of civic engagement courses through daily life in Arusha, building infrastructure and effective systems that I imagine, can only be seen by experiencing the relationships firsthand. Members of the community are trusted and held accountable, debts are paid, food is provided, tools are lent, knowledge is shared, education and healthcare covered, and a solid understanding of the importance for well being of all. The incentive? Survival. The most exciting way to travel through Arusha and commute to work everyday is by boda boda. Just hop on the back of almost any motorbike in town and hold on tight, not too tight because you’ll injury yourself if you don’t loosen up while on the rougher dirt roads, and enjoy the views of life happening all around you. Walking can also be extremely pleasant and at the same time overwhelming because you are greeted and acknowledged every step of the way. The eye contact and conversation are refreshing, energizing. The boda bodas may be fast but the pace of life in Tanzania is much slower than what I am used to. I have come to appreciate reducing my walking speed, staying for tea and sharing stories before getting down to business, becoming less dependent on power (electricity is not available 24hrs a day) and my regular need to check in. I have tapped into a new awareness of what surrounds me and my own participation in it all. I have spent my weekdays at Glorious, where I will be working, with the founders and most inspiring, loving couple, Alice and Julius. It is truly a dream to be able to work with this community centered organization and to be part of their future and family. Did I mention the 200 children attending the primary school who I get to spend my free time with? Well, they are ebullient small beings with a thirst for knowledge and experience who approach you with open arms and hearts, demanding your companionship throughout their school time adventures. The wealth in communities in Arusha, Tanzania is unlike any I have experienced before, yet it feels instinctual, familiar, an opportunity to explore what is foreign with a confidence that we are all in this together.