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Latest news from Helen in Tanzania

Posted on 17th April 2015 at 12:10 by Kathy Lemaire in LCBC News Blog

Sorry I’ve not been in touch for a while, it’s been a busy few months since my last newsletter! I spent Christmas and New Year in Ethiopia with a friend from Uni who was working there, and guess who I bumped into… Doug and Kelly Blacksten! I knew they lived in Addis, but did not expect to see them at Church on Christmas Day, a lovely surprise! I had a great time exploring the north of the country, enjoying time away from Moshi, and came back feeling refreshed and ready for the New Year!

Things have not gone exactly according to plan in terms of work since Christmas, and we have unfortunately not been able to achieve all that we had expected. However, this is Tanzania, where progress is often slower than we might like, and we are working for a relatively new organisation, which means that we are all still learning as we go.

While we have not achieved all that we planned to during the fellowship, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the pupils and teachers in Mangoto Secondary School, and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Working at Mangoto leads me on to what I am doing next.

The plan (albeit a loose one) was to complete the fellowship and come home, but I knew that if there was a chance to stay, I would probably take it! This is exactly what is happening, as I will now be in Tanzania working with Anza until October this year. I have been offered a job to be Anza’s Volunteer Venture Coordinator!

 

As laid out in my previous newsletter, there were two phases to the Feminine Health and Empowerment Programme (FHE) that I am working on.

The plan for the first phase was to conduct a series of in school workshops in Mangoto Secondary School, in Kahe, a rural village about 45 minutes out of Moshi. The aim of these workshops was to educate and empower the participants on female health issues, which research has shown reduced female attendance in school. Since Christmas, we have been going into Kahe two afternoons a week to conduct these workshops with our local programme facilitator. We finished the last of these workshops a few weeks ago, and at the beginning of March, we held a graduation and celebration for the girls who had taken part. It was a fantastic afternoon of speeches (I attempted to do mine in Kiswahili, which everyone appreciated, whether they understood or not), food and a performance by the girls. It was really great to see the girls, teacher and parents from the Kahe community come together and celebrate the girl’s achievements, and recognise the importance of feminine health and empowerment.  

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The second phase of the FHE programme was to expand the FHE programme into the local community, and create FHE ambassadors. We planned to conduct six training sessions with the FHE ambassadors, in order to equip them with the confidence and skills to advocate issues of feminine health and empowerment. We also planned to attend community meetings with the FHE ambassadors to begin community sensitisation to feminine health and empowerment, and lay the ground work for a new social business which involves the sale of feminine health related products.

Kahe is a rural community, and therefore communication is often sporadic, meaning that coordinating the FHE ambassadors to commit and attend training proved difficult. The majority of communication was conducted through Mangoto Secondary School, which had a two month holiday over Christmas. This further hindered communication and was quite frustrating as we were not able to make solid plans for the training programme. Due to these difficulties, we have not been able to conduct the ambassador training in the time we have had. While this is a disappointment, we can take several lessons for next time. The key lesson is that in this context, we simply did not allow enough time to begin communication with the ambassadors, make, and confirm plans for training as well as conduct the training. So we know for next time that however long you think something will take, it will always take longer! Going forwards, as our fellowship finished at the end of March, there is a new FHE Manager who will be continuing the project, and making progress towards the social business model using the FHE ambassadors.

I'm excited to have been offered the job as Anza’s Volunteer Venture Coordinator.

For the first time this year, Anza is running what they call a Volunteer Venture over the summer. This is basically where students from various UK Universities come out to Tanzania for a few weeks at a time and help out on a project. The project this summer is building a new toilet block in Mangoto Secondary School. On paper this sounds like a cliché ‘go out to Africa and build a toilet block’ project, but let me explain why I wanted to be part of this project. First of all, the school is in need of a new toilet block. The current toilets have no running water, there are no doors on the individual toilets, there are only a few functioning toilets for two hundred pupils, and they are just generally dirty and run down. The local council has declared the toilet block unfit for student, and have said that a new block must be build or the school will be shut down, but have provided no money with which to build this new block. Obviously this makes no sense, but that’s how it is. Secondly, it ties in really well with the Feminine Health and Empowerment Programme we have been running to be able to provide the school with a new clean, functioning toilet block, so they can put into practice the things they have learnt. A partner organisation will be completing a boys health and hygiene programme at the school, which is also really important.

HW news 1Another major reason why I want to be part of this new project it that Anza is really involving the beneficiaries in the project. Anza is partnering with an NGO called C-re-aid (Change, Research, Architecture, Innovation and Design), which is running the architecture and building aspect. They are a fantastic organisation, and specialise in working where there are limited resources (money and water), and creating sustainable projects. So far I have attended two planning meetings at the school, which have involved both students and teachers. C-re-aid ‘s aim is to build a toilet block which fulfils the needs and wants identified by students and teachers, and functions effectively in rural Tanzania, where there is limited water.

The volunteers from the UK are raising money to pay for the toilet block, which they will then come out and help to build. My role is to organise all the communication and logistics for the volunteers stay, and I will also be living and working out in Kahe with the volunteers when they are here. I will also be helping to write the project proposal etc before they arrive and conduct monitoring and evaluation for the project.

My aim is to facilitate a really fun and exciting experience for the volunteers, and this will hopefully further their interest and passion in international development. I feel that engaging people from the UK in meaningful and sustainable development projects is important and hopefully we, as Anza, will be able to do this. One concern which has been raised is that by bringing volunteers to help on the project, is that we are taking potential jobs as labourers away from local people. This is true and there is no getting away from this fact. However I see two justifications for this; one is that while there may be up to eleven volunteers coming in one group, you cannot look at it as eleven jobs being taken away, because one young person from the UK would not be able to do as much work as a local labourer who is used to working in the heat. The second justification is that the volunteers are paying for the toilet block, so without their fundraising, the project would not be taking place at all! This means that not employing a handful of local labourers for a few weeks is worth it to be able to give Mangoto Secondary School a new toilet block.

I am really looking forward to starting the new job and I start on the 6th April, so I have two weeks off. I am going to use this time to go back to Musoma, (where my family used to live when I was younger) to visit for a few days, and hopefully I will be able to see some familiar faces!

Once again, thank you so much for those who have been supporting me by praying for my time out here! It is an absolute pleasure to be able to live and work in such a brilliant country, and I have such a good team around me. Three of the other fellows on the same programme as me have also got now jobs with Anza, so it will be lovely to have them around for the duration of my stay. I have been blessed to have made some lifelong friends in my time so far, and am excited for what the next six months will bring. I am also still going to St Margaret’s regularly, and to the weekly bible study. As I said in my last letter, this has been such an answer to prayer and I feel very at home at church. It is really good to be able to have one evening a week where I switch off completely from work and interact with a completely different group of people (as much as I love who I live and work with!)

Thank you for all your prayers and support so far; here are just a few points of praise and prayer requests for the coming months:

  • Praise God for my trip to Ethiopia- safe travels, a relaxing time, and bumping into Doug and Kelly!
  • Praise God that the in school programme went well, and we had a fantastic graduation party
  • Praise God that I have been offered a new role out here!
  • Praise God for excellent health, I have not been sick at all! May it continue…
  • The new job is not exactly well paid. I will be getting a small stipend, but money will still be very tight, considering I only really budget for 6 months and now I will be staying a full year. I know it's right for me to stay here, so I am trusting that I will be able to make it work financially, but it will be difficult. So please pray, as this is my biggest concern.
  • Finally, pray for me in my new role. Pray that I can do the job to the best of my ability and enjoy doing so!

 

Thank you again for all your prayers and support, I really appreciate it!

Helen

 

 

Long Crendon Baptist Church