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.
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.
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.
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.