Monday, March 11, 2013

Work schmerk.

I know, I know what you’re thinking. All this gallivanting around, is she ever working? Good question, very observant. Actually, the answer is yes. You see, work and progress here happen very slowly. Sometimes, time literally stands still. Literally.

My most recent work projects are moving along nicely, slowly, but nicely.

First, my mama, who is also the head teacher at the Primary School (to which I get the ‘pleasure’ of living in front of) had mentioned the desire for a possible water project. The existing rain water catchment system at the school was in need of repair. Re-cementing, new tin roof and gutters, and new reinforcing beams. When she came to me I suggested she talk with the school committee, come up with a budget, and then have a meeting with me present. To my surprise, my mama had already made a budget. So, I went to the next school committee meeting and we schemed. Turns out, the Water Charity application was a breeze. Water Charity is an organization in the states which fund water projects around the world up to $500. I was promised the full amount in less than two weeks. I even had time to post my project on facebook and solicit donations. Thank you to all who donated! Total friends and family contributions came to $260. They appreciate it!

At this time, I was leaving for some adventures/holidays/trainings, so my mama promised they would do their part and cut down some trees, make the beams, and get the cement. When I returned with the money, I was overjoyed to see they did their part. At once I gave all the money to my mama and merely watched everything happen. The fundis (cement layer and wood worker) worked hard. It took them one full month to repair the tank. Now, the 750 children and 5 teachers can have clean water.

Since I don’t enjoy teaching (sorry Dad and Erica!), I was glad to be able to help the school, teachers, and my mama get clean water. They are very grateful and so am I, to be able to provide the means for them to finish the work and reap the benefits.

Secondly, I have written a grant (which I started in August 2012) to help the Health Dispensary get a new delivery bed as well as other smaller equipment to accurately monitor the progress of pregnancies. Now, I’m not ‘giving’ them all this equipment, that’s actually the reason it has taken so long. If I had the inclination to write this on my own, it would have taken me three months max. However, that’s not the point.

The Health Dispensary committee must be involved and invested, and they have failed to come to meetings on many occasions, delaying the process further. With the failed meetings, we’ve had many letdowns of participation and lost a lot of time, but it seems they finally got their act together. With the information we gathered, I was able to do my part (write and submit the grant). We had a meeting with all the village leaders of the surrounding villages, a total of five villages use this Health Dispensary; and they all agreed to donate their allotted portion of the community contribution (25% of the total). Now, I’m kind of putting all my eggs in the basket labeled “please follow through”; and if they don’t, they simply and sadly don’t get the equipment. They must do their part. I’m not here to give them things, I literally can’t give them things. I’m here as a liaison, a person who brings the right people to the right people.

And now, I wait. I wait for PC staff to agree with my grant proposal and fund my project. Then, the real work begins…

Thirdly, I FINALLY had the opportunity of attending a Zinduka training in late January. I had applied last year, but since my region is the furthest away/hardest to get out of, I wasn’t allowed to go. Region discrimination! I got over the insensitivity and applied once again.

Zinduka is “a program that empowers community role models and coaches (me and my two counterparts) to deliver an activity-based curriculum that uses soccer analogies to deliver key messages and start conversations that promote healthy, responsible behaviors among Tanzanian youth (age 10-19).” So, basically, I get to play games with soccer balls and tennis balls to teach about the importance of health, and HIV/Malaria prevention. Pretty sweet deal.

The kids absolutely love it. And, the two “coaches” I chose to bring with me to the training in Iringa have been more than amazing. They’ve been prepared and on time to each practice, and they’re not even getting paid; this is them purely volunteering their time after teaching in the classroom all day.

Each ‘intervention’ is 10 ‘practices’ total. I am supposed to complete three interventions before my close-of-service in November 2013. Each intervention has 30 separate students. Right now we are just over halfway through with our first intervention with the 5th graders at the Primary School. This is also a great program for me, because it’s teaching outside the classroom setting with games and analogies which are fun and entertaining.

Fourthly, the Community Based Savings Group I initially started in my village in May 2012 has snowballed. There are now 2-3 groups in EACH of the surrounding five villages. And, now there are 5 total in my village alone. These groups empower the community to save their money in a safe place so they can eventually borrow (take out a loan) for a business investment or family emergency with a three month window of repayment. It’s brilliant. Who needs a bank? This grey box with three padlocks will do just fine.

Once again, all I had to do was talk to the field officer in town, get him to come to a village-wide meeting, and boom! 30 groups! Throughout the process, I also made a really good friend. Which is always a perk


Erica Rasmussen said...

I always enjoy reading your blog, Jen...although I enjoy talking to you more! So proud of you and what you are doing for your new community!
Love you!

Erik Dam said...

Dear Jennifer
Again it is a great pleasure for me to read some of the latest blogs from you. I had a comment last year in January and now that I am writing my “Christmas letter” or is it “Easter letter” to your parents I was reminded of you and your blog again. And it is amazing to see the growth in you just through a blog and in just 1 year. As I have experienced myself being a volunteer as young it changes you for life and it is important with the obligations you have. You would never get the same out of a Grand Tour. I really feel that you are in charge of the situation. You know what you want, and you know what demands you have to put to the people you work with. But you have also experienced that it is not hopeless, things can be done, you can change things when your partners want to or you can persuade them. Probably it is easier now than 10 years or more ago. At least I see many realistic (and sometimes unrealistic) projects when I invest through the organization MYC4 on the internet. (also in Tanzania, but mostly in Kenya and Uganda). But personally I am so old-fashioned that I think that your way of collecting money in a group first, and then lend out is better than borrowing and then paying back, especially because the interest is still high in Africa.
About your water project I wonder how the town get its water? Do they not use some of the nearby mountains (have looked at Google maps). When I was in Livingstonia in 2011 I witnessed the conclusion of a good project delivering water from the mountains to Livingstonia and 32 villages only with the help of gravity and no pumps at all, and it was nice and pure water. But I must admit that it was a big project sponsored by 40 Lions clubs around the world (mainly US I think). The project involved a system of buying tokens and paying for the water to a local “seller” in each village twice a day. It was not enough to finance the support but it was important to avoid waste of water.
When I hear about your holiday I envy you that you have tried two things I never did. When I was in Zambia 40 years ago the Chinese build the railway from Dar to Lusaka but I never got the possibility to try it and when I went back (20 years? ) ago with my wife we were told: “No not this week” and we also heard about the time it took and we had a plane to catch back. Also my wife and me wanted the rafting tour near the falls in Livingstone but that too we did not have time or energy to arrange (may be too little water, I do not remember the reason)
I also remember that when I went on holiday in Tanzania or Kenya I normally had a night in Iringa. (I had a motorbike: 90 cubic Honda), and when I now read about your travel to your village more than a year ago, I remembered mine: no much difference. With bus from Moshi down south. Stopped half way to Dar because it became dark and their light did not work, arrived at a junction in the morning around 7. Got off the bus because we should not to Dar, but the opposite direction Morogoro. We waited in the ditch and from two o´clock we saw a lot of busses passing completely full, and finally at 4-5 one bus had to stop and there was just space for me and another guy to stand on one leg and keep my backpack on the knee of the other leg.(At least, that is how i remember it) So: no Africa is not moving fast, at least not till now, but it is moving. When I taught in Mwinilunga Sec School we were teachers from more than 20 nations and only two Zambian teachers. When I went there with my wife all teachers were Zambians.
So: keep up the spirit, I am sure that both the people in Newala and your self will benefit. And with that, hopefully, it will be a little corner to a better world. I still hope and believe although it sometimes is difficult to see.

Many happy greetings to you. (and your mama)

Erik Dam Denmark