2014 Trip is In the Books

Another year has come and we have just returned from visiting our dear friends in the Mwakaleli District in the Livingstone Mountains in Southwest Tanzania.

My traveling partner this year was Linda Carey and she was a great companion. She commented several times about the over-the-top hospitality we received wherever we went and understands why I fell in love with these ladies that One Small Drop is working with in 11 different communities. She had fun one evening teaching some of the local children the hand game “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the door, and see all the people”

Unexpectedly, my daughter, Alexandria, also joined us. She had been studying in Sierra Leone for the past 6 weeks on her Masters in public health. But due to the Ebola crisis, her university requested that she leave the country immediately. She joined us a day late, but it all worked out. I think the ladies also enjoyed meeting a member of my family.

The projects are all moving along nicely. The original 4 communities (Lusanje, Kandete, Mesebe, Ndala) each have a pig project, potato project, avocado project and orphan uniforms. They have begun to reap the benefits of their sustainable projects and have begun doing micro loans within their communities.

Mwakaleli, Luteba and Mbafwa each have one year of the potato project under their belt and Mbafwa is the first community to do a chicken project.

Mbigili, Ukukwe, Isange and Tumaini are the final 4 communities. 2 of them started avocado projects last year, and one used funds to start a micro loan project. These communities received funds on this trip to start potato and bean projects. I look forward to seeing their start-ups next summer.

We were without our special friend, Tupo, who is my right hand. She is the interpreter and was missed dearly! But in her absence we had a very fine young man named Peter Mwakatobe who was an inspiration. At 27 years old he is involved with a local non-profit that encourages local children about the importance of staying in school as well as educating the parents and community about the importance of sending their children to both primary and secondary school.

Labani is the manager of all the projects, visiting each community to provide guidance and answer questions to issues that may arise. He is a BUSY man!

We are also thankful to Mr. Mwaikuyu, our driver, who skillfully bounced us to each of our 11 communities.

I am always humbled and amazed with my time in these communities. Every year they teach me that scarcity is a frame of mind. And to spend time with them enriches my heart and soul.

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Take, Take, Take Again

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The holiday season is all about giving. Here is a twist to consider. How about if we take…

- Take action against global poverty and hunger

- Take responsibility for sharing with our neighbors and strengthen communities

- Take heart to change a person’s life

In August, we met with 4 new groups to begin conversations to begin projects that empower women, widows and orphans. This makes a total of 11 communities/women’s groups that we are working with. If funds are secured, 3 of the 4 new communities will be starting the potato project next year and one will be starting a bean project. They are all starting the avocado project this winter by planting 200 seedlings each.

Why avocados? Here are a few avocado facts:

· An avocado tree can produce fruit up to 80 years

· By age 3 an avocado tree will produce 220 pounds of fruit per tree

· Within 10 years it produces nearly 880 pounds of fruit per tree

· At full maturity a tree will produce 1100 pounds per tree.

A simple avocado is the difference between sleeping on the floor, or in a bed for a Tanzanian. This single fruit is the difference between eating a meal containing meat, fish, or poultry three times a week, or never feeling the benefits of eating protein. It is the contrast between having lamp light to illuminate a home, or fumbling through the darkness of night.

Total funding needed for the 4 community projects is $6500. We are well on our way, with over $4000 in the bank! Yay!

Charlene Reiter, who traveled to Tanzania with me in August, is spearheading a Winter Garage Sale Feb. 1, to be held at Lessons From The Art studio. If you have gently used household furniture, books and clothing please contact her directly 715-572-8855. Watch for more details!

Of course you can always send donations directly to One Small Drop, N6823 Co Rd J, Iola, WI 54945. Every little bit helps.

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Coming to a Close – this trip…

As we arrived in each village we were greeted with women in colorful headdresses and traditional kitenge skirts (cloth squares printed with bright colors and patterns). They were smiling, waiving branches and singing. They would each shake our hands and welcome us in Swahili with “Karibu”, which means “you are warmly welcome”. Smiles, hugs and sometimes tears came from friendships that have developed over the past 5 years.

Even the 3 new women groups were anxiously waiting to begin the conversation with One Small Drop. We always talk about what their strengths are and how they can use those strengths to improve their community.

This is where I stay and is known as Tammie Jo’s home. It is part of a Lutheran conference center. This is one of 2 homes that have the luxury of beds and flush toilets.

Each day our day begins with the morning sun peaking over the Livingstone Mountains and filtering through our window. Looking out our front door we already see women carrying buckets of water and huge bundles of fire wood on their heads, which they have cut with machetes. Someone was up very early heating water over 3 stones in their kitchen (which is usually a separate small clay walled building) so Charlene and I could each have our own bucket of hot water for a bath.

Carrying fire wood

It is no easy feat to arrange these meetings with the women groups. Communication starts with Pr. Andrea (instrumental in planting the seed for One Small Drop) , then dates have to be arranged that work for my interpreter, Tupo – my right hand gal and more. She lives 20 hours away in Moshi, but she grew up in these Villages and her parents are still there. Then Labani, the project coordinator is contacted to begin lining up the meetings and transportation in the mountains.

Tupo, my interpreter

I know I talk about the roads every time, but these village are very remote. Roads are more like paths – but the paths have ruts, pot holes and caverns big enough to swallow small cars – and not just every few miles…every few yards! The manual 5-speed pickup we used this trip never goes beyond 3rd gear as we go up, down and around mountain paths. The villages are all relatively close – perhaps 15-20 miles from our home, yet it takes us an average of 30-60 minutes to arrive.

Potato truck tipped over on the "road"

It has been a humbling experience again visiting with the amazing lady groups. The four original groups gave a report on their projects and what their plans are for keeping the projects sustainable. Some of the groups have even started their own micro-finance program, assisting women and widows in very small business loans.

The excitement among women and stories of how the projects are assisting others in the area is truly a representation of “One Small Drop” making many ripples.

Sometimes when I am home, I wonder what direction One Small Drop is supposed to take. Are we supposed to continue? When I see the faces of these women and their eagerness to get a chance to better their lives through their own hard work – I know it is worth it.

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10 Communities – Oh My!

Kukukwe Ladies looking at their picture

The short time we are in the Livingstone Mountains means there is much travel to take place to meet with each of the communities. From the center of these communities, the furthest one away is about 15 miles, BUT it took us 1 hour to travel that 15 miles. It has been raining and cool here, causing travel to be more, shall we say, slippery. On our way up the mountain, there was a large commercial truck hauling potatoes tipped on its side. We were able to squeeze through.

The women groups are amazingly welcome and patient, as we are often late (Africa time). We get to conversing, and sharing and looking at projects, and having tea, and then…we are late for the next town.

Charlene has commented about their extreme hospitality. Their singing feels like love is washing over us. They literally have nothing but the clothes on their back, yet are compelled to give us something, even if it is a chicken from their yard.

We have met with 6 of the ten communities and we are excited to see what the new communities would like to do for projects. We will meet with the leaders of each of the women groups on Friday.

Charlene has taken a million pictures (and I am only exaggerating a little). We are trying to get a picture of each women group and make an album for their community. The pictures are a hit with the ladies as Charlene shows them their picture on her iPad after it is taken.

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Here We Go!

Here We Go!

Charlene Reiter is my companion for One Small Drop’s 7th trip to the Livingstone Mountains in Southwest Tanzania.

We are excited to bring start up funds for the sustainable projects identified by 3 new communities last year. The projects will empower women in Isange, Mwakaleili and Mbafwa. Each of the women’s groups have chosen to start with the potato project . (See more info on the potato project under the project tab.) In addition, Mbafwa will also start a chicken project.
The addition of these 3 women groups makes a total of 7 communities One Small Drop has a relationship with. There are 10 communities in the district and we plan on starting conversations with the 3 remaining communities on this trip.
We are also trying a new transportation method. I have always said that the travel is the hardest part of the trip: 23 hours of air time, then 13 hour bus ride, then a two hour 4-wheel drive, toss & turn trek (literally) into the mountains. Ohhhh my body is tired just thinking about it!
The 13 hour bus ride is being replaced by a 2 hour propeller plane ride to a newly opened airport in Mbeya, leaving us with a couple hour bus ride before heading into the mountains. I can’t begin to explain the luxury change this will bring!!!
Stayed tuned for this year’s stories and miracles over the next 2 weeks!

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Our Driver Msifu…

Once we finally arrive in the villages of the Livingstone Mountains, we depend upon a driver to get us from point A to point B. This is no easy task for several reasons:

  1. The roads are VERY bad
  2. The cost of gasoline is $10/gallon (transportation is one of our biggest expenses)
  3. I use the term “roads” very loosely…paths with potholes that can swallow a car is more accurate
  4. Our accommodations are located a few miles from where our interpreter and manager live
  5. The Villages are in the MOUNTAINS, meaning rough terrain and very odd angles
  6. The average speed of travel is 12 mph
  7. Did I mention the roads…?

Main Road

Our driver this trip was Msifu (pronounced MmmmSEE-foo). He turned out to be quite a character.  Msifu has several jobs – driver, potato farmer, guest house restaurant & bar.  English is spoken only rarely, yet he greeted us each morning with “Good Morning!” and a glimmering smile and dancing eyes and then he went into the English slang…”whasss up…keep it cool…whass happening?” You can’t really tell by this pic that we are standing in a HUGE pothole on this main road. But to put it into perspective, the level of the car in the background is near our head…whew!

We learned that Msifu isn’t exactly a morning person (guest house bar keeps him up at night).  While we had a set schedule to meet with villages each day, we were often on “African Time”. I am grateful for the patience showed by those we were meeting with.

Me - Driving :)

One day he asked if I wanted to drive his car. I said sure! Again, we could only travel 12 mph, so the only worry I had was hoping I wouldn’t take out his muffler or something worse from under his car.

Msifu was also a hit with many of the children in town. They were full of smiles when Msifu was around.  He has that “pied piper” effect on everyone. He was charming, funny, competent and a blessing to all of us on this trip.

Msifu & Local Children

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When You Empower the Woman, You Empower the Family

As we finished the last leg of our visit with our Tanzanian rafikis (friends), I can say that our journey  was full of hope and love. The 4 women’s groups (Lusanje, Kandete, Mesebe & Ndala) were eager to share the successes of the avocado, pig and potato projects.  It has been said many times, that when you empower the women, you empower the family.  Each of the women’s groups is very committed to helping the orphans and widows in their communities.

Pictured here are the leaders of Lukamenda.

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Since Kathy is a teacher, we visited several schools this trip. Pictured here is a classroom that has no desks. The children are asked to grab a stone to sit on for class.

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Kathy also brought a couple soccer balls as gifts to the school. This was a BIG hit!

We have been invited by the district pastor to meet 3 new women’s groups in this district. This was a very scary thing for me.  I thought we could perhaps meet one or two.  When we arrived there were 3 village visits on our agenda. I asked them to please choose 2. As soon as they agreed, I had the sensation that God was speaking to my heart, saying, “Do not be afraid to add 3 communities. Remember that I am in control and you are not.” So we met with the villages of Mbafwa, Isange and Mwakaleli.

My devotion today was the loaves and fishes story, reminding me that many fear they will not have enough – enough money, medicine, food, shelter, friends, love. But I have learned that God always provides for each of us today, and God provides for others through us. I just need to trust.

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Waiting in Chicago…

Kathy and I were up BEFORE the crack of dawn to catch our plane out of Appleton at 6am. We are now at the famous O’Hare Airport in Chicago, where we do not leave until almost 3pm, so we thought we’d jot a few thoughts down.

Kathy is looking forward to making new friends and I am looking forward to reconnecting with my Tanzania families! We are anxious to soak in all the new culture and practice our Swahili words such as “asante” (thank you).

Kathy looks forward to a recommendation by Lisa Hardel (a previous traveler) to enjoy the rice! She is looking forward to experiencing the scenery. We believe that the last week of VERY hot weather has prepared us for spending a couple days in Dar es Salaam where it is tropical. Once we reach the mountains, however it will be temperate. (Whew!)

We have talked this morning how the goal of One Small Drop is to empower and enhance the gifts that are already present in the people of the Livingstone Mountains. One Small Drop strives to embark on projects that are self-sustaining because we understand that when we do things for others that they can do for themselves, this disempowers them. When they are the largest stockholder in the projects, they have ownership. We have so much to learn from each other.

When walking arm-in-arm, it provides strength to both. We are able to hold each other up.

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Heading Back…

In just a few short weeks we are headed back to see our friends in the Livingstone Mountains of Southwest Tanzania. Joining me on this trip is Kathy Meyer-Blum (pictured). She is a teacher at Iola-Scandinavia Elementary School. When the students found out Mrs. Blum was going they wanted to do something for the people. They decided to have a fundraiser selling ice cream one day at school with all the benefits to go toward orphan uniforms. One student also had a lemonade stand during the local rummage weekend to add to this cause. They raised $400! WOW! What a difference this will make in the lives of many children!

We hope to visit a few schools on this trip, but one of the main reasons we are going is to kick off the new potato project. There is a strong market for the “ground potato” in the area, and their soil is perfect. The plan involves each woman’s group starting with an acre of land. If One Small Drop provides the start up funds, they should be able to net $900 the first year, creating a sustainable project for years to come.

We leave July 8th, so keep us in prayers!
Again – I am grateful for all of your support.

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Guest Post by Nurse Katie – Limited Resources

Since coming here, I’ve had to adjust to living in a place where
everything isn’t available all the time. I’ve also had to adjust to a
work environment that has limited supplies and capabilities. So many
things I’m accustomed to at home are limited or non-existent here:
water, electricity, transportation, medical supplies.

Water: In the village I live in, most people have a tap outside that provides running water. My room has a flush toilet and water tap, but…The water only runs in the pipes for about 2 hours a day. Sometimes. Some days it doesn’t run at all. Sometimes it runs in the morning. Sometimes in the afternoon. If I hear the water running in the pipes, I stop whatever I’m doing and fill up all my buckets, basins etc. If the water doesn’t run in a few days, there are other ways to get water. But that involves a long walk carrying heavy buckets. The hospital has huge rain barrels around the buildings, a lot of people get there water from there. But it is a lot of work to do that. I’ve also learned to position a bucket to catch water that runs off my roof. I usually leave that water for when I can’t fill up my basins with tap water. I have one really large basin I keep in my room for bath water and filling the toilet tank when the water isn’t running-which is most of the time. I also have a couple more I keep filled in my bathroom for hand washing and doing laundry. I didn’t realize how much water one person needs until I have had to physically carry all my water and manually fill my toilet and do laundry by hand.
Drinking water is a whole other issue. Some people here boil their tap/rain water. Others just drink it as is. I will drink it boiled-it doesn’t taste very great, or from bottles. If my stove worked- I think I used it 3 times and it broke- I would probably boil some drinking
water. I just buy a couple of 1.5 L bottles and they last me a while. I usually drink so much tea during the day that I don’t go through a lot of water.

Electricity: Most houses in the village are hooked up to electricity (umeme in Swahili). Once you get outside my village, few people have it in the “bush”. But the electricity is pretty unreliable. There is usually some kind of blackout once a day. Most of the time it isn’t too long, maybe a few hours at most. But sometimes we will go without power for over 24 hours. When the sun is out it isn’t too much of a problem, but it’s very inconvenient at night. We have to light kerosene lanterns or rely on flashlights. Most of the people I spend
time with have televisions, so we watch that at night for entertainment. It’s pretty dull when the power is out. Televisions are the biggest appliances most people have. Almost no one has a fridge or stove, definitely no washers/dryers.


At the health center, we have a freezer for vaccines and a fridge in the lab, so when the power is out for an extended period it  becomes an issue. Also not having power when working the night shift is very difficult.

Transportation: Only a handful of people have cars here, and those are used to drive people to Tukuyu. A lot of men have bicycles and I’ve seen a few women riders. A decent amount of men have motorcycles. If someone has to go to a nearby village, or if someone from a nearby village needs to get to the health center, they can pretty easily hire a motorcycle to take them. I would never go on one unless it was an emergency, but that’s me. The motorcycles are able to get to places the cars can’t go. There are no paved roads until you get to Tukuyu.

There are a few main roads that connect some of the villages, but smaller paths are more common. These are used by people on foot, bicycle and motorcycle. There are trucks that bring in Coke and Pepsi, and the trucks that pick up the tea on harvesting days. If you need to go to Tukuyu or beyond, most likely you will get in a car around 6:30
in the morning with a bunch of other people also going there. Until the car is absolutely packed with people/things/animals, it will stop
and pick up people on the way. When I say “car” I mean super beat up white safari type vehicle. A bench seat in front and two long benches in the back. One time I counted 18 people in the car along with 1 chicken. The driver is usually the owner and he will usually have a boy working for him that hangs onto the outside of the car. The boy helps people in, secures luggage/random stuff to the top and collects the fares. It’s only a couple dollars per person. Getting to Tukuyu is not too hard, you just have to get up super early. Getting back is trickier, because once the 3 or so cars that drive back to the village are gone, you either get a taxi-which no local person could afford, or you walk and hope you can hitch a ride on a motorcycle or truck or anything. Most of the cars come back to the village by early afternoon.

Medical supplies: We face a lot of shortages at the health center. There are too few workers. I think there are about 15 staff right now, they are supposed to have close to 30. There is a lack of equipment and supplies. They have nothing modern/electronic like in American hospitals. When I first got here, the nurses would cut gauze with a razor blade. I brought some extra scissors so I gave them a pair to use. There are only 2-3 blood pressure cuffs. They use the old mercury thermometers. They ration the gauze and tape pretty strictly. For cleaning wounds and sterilizing they only have iodine and another
antiseptic. No alcohol, no peroxide. The doctor told me they are supposed to have that but they can’t afford it and don’t have it supplied by the district. They have a few surgical instruments that everyone shares and clean by hand.
A few weeks ago we ran out of a lot of medications and supplies like little pill bags used to fill prescriptions. The nurses fold scrap paper into little packets to put prescriptions in. Dr. F went to Tukuyu to try to get some from the district office but he was unable to get a lot. The next day he had to go to another local dispensary (a smaller, satellite health center) to try and get some drugs we needed like aspirin. Can you imagine running out of aspirin in
America?

We also are out of treatment cards for the HIV program. The doctor made photocopies a couple weeks ago so we hand those out instead of the official blue ones. As far as I can tell, the health center fills out a request form for supplies and sends it to the district office or the Medical Supplies Department (MSD) in Dar es Salaam. If either of those agencies have the supplies, they send them. If not, we don’t get it. Or they sendcondoms. On a television show the other night, there was a skit about a hospital ordering supplies and when they went to do inventory all they had received was condoms. Boxes and boxes of condoms. Dr F. explained that if Dar es Salaam doesn’t have what a health center requests they will just send condoms instead. A lot of our drugs have stamps that they are “Gifts from the American People” or “A Gift from Japan.” I think these are first sent to Dar then they are distributed throughout the country. I think most of the TB and HIV drugs come from foreign aid as well.

Rant Alert!

So when I hear that things like the Global Fun are cutting future funding, it makes me mad because these are the people who will suffer. They don’t use the latest drugs for high blood pressure or diabetes or erectile dysfunction. They rely on drugs like aspirin and penicillin and amoxicillin. My pharmacy gives those antibiotics out for free! It’s hard for me to see such a disparity between “first” and “third” world medicine. Just a little bit of money goes so far here, I hate to see governments and NGOs cutting it back even more. The people here deserve to be healthy just like anyone else. Fun fact: Tanzania spends about $29 per person per year on healthcare. That’s what I pay for one office visit co-pay…

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