I am well underway with my visit in Tanzania. Although I had a pretty complete itinerary worked out before I left, my trip has required adaptation as usual.
I left Boston three hours late on the evening of February 15–the day that Boston was under blizzard conditions–resulting in a missed connection in Istanbul. Spending a day in Istanbul should have been fun, however the day was spoiled by rain and sleet. The rest of my trip to Tanzania was uneventful and, as I stepped off the plane at 2:00 a.m., the warm Tanzanian air was a welcome relief.
My first six days were spent in Moshi, located below Mount Kilimanjaro, where I adjusted to the 8 hour time difference. My visit in Moshi was very busy. It was good to see the students, although I must confess that, given the number, I can’t associate the names and faces anymore. The first day I met all the students at the canteen for a soda and had a very pleasant conversation with them. On subsequent days I reviewed student files and spoke to the teaching staff about candidates for sponsorship.
When students graduate they typically find temporary employment while they wait for a permanent posting. During this time they earn enough money to pay for housing and to furnish a new place. I met with one of last fall’s graduates and was surprised that she was looking rather downcast. It took some time to draw out the problem, but I eventually learned that her mother had been quite ill and instead of finding temporary employment she had been providing care for her mother. Consequently, she had no money to travel and settle into her permanent position. So, the two of us spent quite a bit of time making a listing of what she needs to get settled into the job and the associated costs. After we figured the costs, I made her a personal loan. We also talked about what the plan would be if her mother became ill again. Following this we did some shopping and, to celebrate, went to a favorite tourist hangout for pizza and a milkshake. At this time she should be on her way to her posting.
Juliet Chugulu, the retired principal of KCMC, is very active in the Kilimanjaro region in addressing traditional practices. She invited me to accompany her on 2/21 with several others to meet with a group of Masaai leaders of various villages, male and female. She asked the group to list traditional practices they believed should be addressed. The group identified practices including early marriage, FGM, not sending children to school and others. Juliet then asked the participants to suggest strategies to address this traditional practices and how to reach the target audience.
I was particularly struck by the dynamics of the group, wherein Masaai tradition prevailed: men and women sat apart, the men did almost all the talking, and the women were deferential to the men. Juliet asked me to speak. I spoke about the impact I had observed with the young Masaai women we had sponsored in nursing school – increased self-confidence, ability to attain a profession and capacity to give back to the family (many times help with school fees for siblings). Below is a photo of the group attending the meeting:
That evening, I hosted a dinner with the sponsored students – all 21 of them. The group photo at the top of this newsletter shows me surrounded by these very happy students. Two of the instructors and Edith Macha (who assists us with student issues) also attended. The dinner consisted of the traditional fare: chicken and french fries with soda. Following the dinner I gave awards for academic performance to two students, then we did the door prizes (two medical dictionaries for nurses, two English language dictionaries and flash drives), this was followed by an event where each student was allowed to select a scarf or jewelry from an assortment of items. After dinner, the students went back to the dorm quite happy with their new possessions.
I will stop my newsletter at this point. I have travelled from Moshi by bus to Dodoma, located in central Tanzania. This is my first visit to Dodoma, though there are several people here who I know. My visit to Dodoma will be the focus of my next letter.
Now I want to thank all those who have supported our sponsorship program. I can tell you that students are grateful for the opportunity to study. Now my usual note, all my travel expenses and entertainment of students is entirely on my nickel.