SEPTEMBER 19, 2013

As I stepped off the plane earlier this week with the new Mosaic Fellow, Meghan Hussey, I noticed a difference in the air right away. A cool dry breeze was blowing, which was an added welcome to the ever present heartfelt karibu (welcome) seen in the faces of Tanzanian people and heard in their words.

I am here for just two weeks because the commitment of the longer stays over a three year period that Rich and I had with Mosaic have reached their end. Needless to say, I’m savoring every minute here. For me, springtime in Tanzania is offering some new discoveries such as local people wearing heavier clothing, different flowering plants and trees just budding out, fewer insects, new planting season underway, and generally more energy among people without the severe heat.

Having Meghan here provides me with observations through a new set of eyes. She has traveled extensively, so she is sharing information of cultural similarities that she has already noticed between Tanzania and other countries where she has spent time. Elin, the Fellow who is finishing her time with BCC has her own perspective after being in Tanzania even longer than her one year.

As with the seasons, changes are taking place within Building a Caring Community (BCC), the program in which Mosaic facilitated the start-up and continues to support. There are two additional staff, Rose and Naomi, who as field workers, are providing direct support to micro-credit loan recipients with the goal of ensuring success with their business plans.

In the picture below are Naomi & Rose with Johnson, who supervises finances and oversees their work.

By last fall (in TZ) the ProMot Health program had been operating for one year. A review of it showed many successes, but changes in the delivery of services have resulted in easier access to the medical screenings and care. I visited St. Joseph Hospital to observe a few screenings, visit with the children and their parents, and meet the hospital staff who were involved. The environment was calm and organized and the staff were caring and respectful. Children and parents from one of the eleven BCC day centers were present, having had been transported by BCC staff.

Mama Dixon with her son.

Meghan, Lilian, Salma and her mother.

This is becoming lengthy, so more news about Moshi and BCC will be forthcoming. Our Fellow, Elin who will be leaving BCC in a week, will be writing about how she is leaving a piece of herself here and also taking a piece of Tanzania with her. Meghan will be writing an introduction about herself and her early thoughts about being in Tanzania. Be sure to watch www.mosaicfellows.tumblr.com for those updates.

Barb Carman

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A young friend in the pictures below loves having the opportunity to be of help at the BCC Center in Pasua where he attends. Washing the dishes is his specialty and, according to him, his favorite thing to do. Having an audience and a camera pointed at him makes it all the better, as it would with any child.

So with great flourish, he begins by dipping each dish in the tub of sudsy water and giving them a quick swipe with his hand, which may or may not clean it. Then the dish is dipped in the rinsing tub. If it passes his inspection, it is then waved around in the air to dry. If not, the process is repeated.

Then he tries to set the clean dish on a ledge or a gravel area, but sometimes it lands in the dirt or it gets knocked to the ground by a passing chicken that pecks at it. The dirt on the freshly washed dish is then wiped off with his hand or dipped in the rinsing tub again. As for the chicken, it is shooed away by a couple of bangs on a small metal pan or throwing it at it.

Even though the whole process is not captured in pictures, try to imagine this young dishwasher adding more soap to the water after every few dishes, splashing it around with his hands, and then joyfully flinging suds through the air. He finishes by dipping most of the dishes in the rinse water again and stacking them for a staff member to take inside. Wouldn’t any child use a task like this for entertaining an audience!

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Two years ago I wrote an entry about Upendo, a little girl who was unable to walk without assistance. She crawled on the floor sometimes, but preferred to be on her feet, grabbing hold of furniture to steady herself. I lowered the handles on my walker and put her hands on it to see what she would do. To the surprise of everyone present she took off at a pretty fast pace, circling the room over and over again. Last year was much the same. I couldn’t even find a Tanzanian made walker for her to use. They are pretty scarce.

Well, today I went to the Karanga 1 center where she attends. The first thing out of the mouths of the staff after greeting me was “Upendo is walking”! Not only is she walking, she is doing a little dancing. She is so proud of herself! I also saw each of her parents because they were present next door to apply for micro-loans. Needless to say, they were thrilled!

Here are two pictures of Upendo.



- Barb

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A Reminder to Myself

During a recent visit to the dentist I was thinking of a story I was told in Tanzania, and so I shared it with him. A friend of mine had the opportunity to try out a strand of dental floss sometime in the past and liked how it felt and its purpose, but had not had any since. When Rich and I were preparing to return to the states a few weeks ago, I kept out unused supplies such as dental care items to give away. Needless to say, this particular friend was given the dental items. The reaction was one of such gratitude and happiness.

Once again, I had come across a situation which served as one of many reminders that a seemingly very small item for me may be an out-of-reach luxury item for someone else.

- Barb

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Volunteers everywhere you turn

I am sure Tanzania, specifically Moshi, is not unique, but walking throughout downtown Moshi or having dinner at an expat restaurant one thinks, “Surely all these young people can’t be climbing Kilimanjaro or getting ready for a safari.” After a while you start seeing some of the same people over and over around town. Not being one who is particularly bashful, I started introducing myself and asking what their names are, where they are from, and what brings them to Tanzania?

In my unauthorized, unfunded, and highly unscientific street level survey I estimate that 9 out of 10 are young women, predominantly from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Australia and the US. Seventy percent are in Tanzania for less than three months and their volunteer work is tied to their university studies. Thirty percent are on a “gap year,” and ten percent are trying to “find themselves.”

They travel around town in small groups and sometimes with maybe a bit too much skin showing for the local culture. You find them in the afternoons lined up at the ATMs, at Vodacom buying credit for their knock-off local cell phones, and carrying all their things in the standard shoulder bags sold on the street made of bright African prints. They also house themselves in small clusters in local hostels, ride in the local dala-dalas (very over-crowded taxi vans) and spend a great deal of time at the Kilimanjaro Union Coffee Shop on their laptops. A few even find time to buy a pass at a local high-end safari club to go swimming during the hottest part of the day.

You may think I am making light of them … just the opposite. These incredible young people, remember mostly young women, line up to volunteer at the vast Women Volunteers in Tanzanianumber of orphanages, AIDS programs, local hospitals, and in some cases our program, Building a Caring Community. We occasionally have more volunteers than children at a center. In a time when our society far too often focuses its energy on consumerism, I find these young women and men truly inspiring.

True, they have resources to do this trip/experience, but two young women we met from Norway are starting a project for street children with their own money. Neither have family wealth, but it’s impressive that they’ve chosen to invest the money they’ve raised back home on this good work.

It’s hard to tell how these young people are perceived or accepted by the Tanzanians. I know some locals see them as cash cows to be milked, some see them as a necessary diversion in their quest to find international sponsors, but often new friendships are formed and relationships are maintained over the years. It’s not unusual to find volunteers who see their work at home only as a means to earn enough money to return to Moshi whenever they can.

Most importantly, their largest contribution to Tanzania and Africa may not be what they accomplish while they are here, but what they say to their friends, families and future colleagues about their experiences and the conditions in Tanzania. Hopefully, they can be a part of the most cost effective public awareness campaign ever created, and part of a truly select fraternity.

In April, we welcomed two great young people to Moshi, John and Melissa. As our first “International Fellows” from the Mosaic Collaborative for Disability Policy and Practice, they will work with Barb for a month prior to our return to the USA.  They will stay for one year to assist our BCC project partners and we’ll rejoin them next January until they leave at the end of March.

Post script: Not everyone is under 30. Barb and I have worked with some outstanding more mature volunteers, particularly an American physical therapist from Oregon and a retired lawyer from Boston who helped us think through improvements to our micro-credit program. One caution, some young people get involved with international volunteer programs whose major objective is profit. We’ve talked with several volunteers who found that once they arrived in Moshi,  there was no hostel, no viable volunteer position or on-ground support as promised. So if you know someone who wants to come to Tanzania, please encourage them to do so since no one will regret the experience; however, DO encourage them to do their research first.


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Greetings from Tanzania!

We arrived two weeks ago from the wintery cold and snowstorms of the U.S. to the sizzling heat and dryness of the Tanzanian summer. Our friend, Kaaya met us at the Kilimanjaro International Airport and delivered us and our numerous bags to the town of Moshi, which we will call home until May. Moshi is in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania, being on the south side of this beautiful snow capped mountain. Moshi’s population is about 175,000 with a mix of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and those who practice traditional native beliefs. They live, work, learn, and play in harmony which reflects the gentle quality of Tanzanians.

A week ago we moved into a comfortable house that is in an area of mixed housing; some upscale homes, some modest homes, and many homes of poverty-ridden families. We drive through the neighborhood hearing “jambo,” and seeing waves and smiles from the countless absolutely adorable children and their adult family members.

Throughout town from early morning to sunset, the simply constructed stands (kiosks) of strips of wood and used plastic woven bags are open to sell various wares such as strips of metal, used shoes, and brightly dyed fabric or produce such as mangoes, cucumbers, avocados, and tomatoes. Mangoes are very much in season, ripening quickly, and flying from trees in a strong wind or by people knocking them down. One walks at their own risk near these trees.

It’s within this environment that we, Mosaic staff and volunteers, have spent the last three years with our partners, the Lutheran Church in northern Tanzania and IMPACT developing a pilot project called “Building a Caring Community” (BCC). BCC was created to provide much needed services to children with disabilities and their families by developing a set of holistic supports at a neighborhood level. In the early stages of the project, it became obvious that extreme poverty combined with having a child with a disability resulted in the isolation of the mother and decreased her chances to improve the quality of life for herself and her family. As a result, the project focuses on activities that address the social, educational, and health needs of children in and out of their home. This provides economic opportunities to mothers or other caregivers through training and direct employment in the program, opportunities for accessing micro-credit loans, or working as a member of a parent cooperative that is designed as a Social Business. A more detailed description of this project can be seen by clicking Mosaic International on our blog page and viewing the film “Building a Caring Community… One Person at a Time” by clicking on videos.

Stay tuned for more snippets about Tanzania, including:

  • Trivia questions

  • Education

  • Health

  • Roles of micro-credit loans

  • Up close and personal with our day centers: children, families, & staff

  • Diversity of peoples

  • BCC parent cooperative

  • Plants and animals

  • Moshi & surrounding area

  • Rich’s jazzy vehicle

  • Quotes

  • And much more….

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