Thank You Lego Foundation!

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They are small pieces of plastic in an array of colors.

 

 

They have taught, inspired and fascinated children in many countries for decades on end.

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Lego

We thank the Lego Foundation for generously donating a Charity Box to Maji Safi Group, so the children we work with in rural Tanzania can experience the fun of combining LEGO blocks in numerous and creative ways.

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LEGOs, as we know them, were invented in Denmark in 1958 to inspire "good play". The word LEGO is short for the words ‘LEG GODT’ – ‘play well’ in Danish.

LEGOs, as we know them, were invented in Denmark in 1958 to inspire “good play”. The word LEGO is short for the words ‘LEG GODT’ – ‘play well’ in Danish.

Siku ya Kunawa Duniani – Global Handwashing Day 2014

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Photo from Global Handwashing Day in Shirati, TZ

Hands often act as vectors that carry pathogens from person to person through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces and foods. Together, soap and water form a formidable ally in combatting a host of illnesses. Isolation and safe disposal of feces and having adequate amounts of clean water are essential to disease prevention, but washing hands with soap is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to stop the transmission of disease agents and thus prevent diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections.

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Children at the Maji Safi Group office celebrating Global Handwashing Day

Research shows that children living in households that promote hand washing with water and soap had half the diarrheal rates of children living in control neighborhoods (JAMA, June 2, 2004 – Vol. 291, No. 21). Promoted on a wide enough scale, hand washing with soap can be thought of as a “do-it-yourself” disease prevention method because it is easy, effective, and affordable.

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In 2008, the first Global Handwashing Day mobilized 120 million children in 73 countries across five continents to wash their hands with soap. Since then, every year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day is celebrated all over the world – and for sure in Shirati, Tanzania. For Maji Safi Group, this day is an opportune time to teach children and community members about proper WASH behaviors and a good reason to host a field day for children.

 

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Global Handwashing Day banner hung with pride in Shirati, Tanzania

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Teaching school children the proper times and methods of hand washing

This year, we celebrated Siku ya Kunawa Duniani (Global Handwashing Day in Swahili) in Shirati in a variety of ways. In the morning, Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) visited three governmental primary schools to teach 1,200 children about the eight steps of proper hand washing, sing Maji Safi Group songs, and test the children’s knowledge about clean and safe water and hand washing.

In the afternoon, we held a Rorya FM radio show that reached an estimated 3,500 people in the greater area (Rorya District). During this one-hour show, the listeners were invited to ask questions about hand washing, hygiene, clean water, and anything related to WASH. Two Maji Safi Group CHWs answered all the questions and gave advice to the callers. Before the show, some of the Maji Safi Group songs were recorded and then played during the radio show.

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Community Health Workers , Consol and Jacob, on the air teaching listener about hand washing

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Community Health Worker, Consol, on the air teaching about hand washing

 

 

In the afternoon, the community was invited to celebrate the day at Maji Safi Group’s office.

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Children and youth playing games that Maji Safi Group office on Global Handwashing Day

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The children – 285 or so – were taught the proper methods and critical times for hand washing, played games, built with Legos (generously donated by the Lego Foundation, Denmark), got their faces painted by the Community Health Workers, created hats and crowns of paper, and drew pictures of their hands. GHD_Susan_33

Maji Safi Group’s Singing & Dance Group performed dances and sang the Maji Safi Group songs, and the children enjoyed a small snack.

Children gather at the Maji Safi Group office to play and learn about hand washing.

Children gather at the Maji Safi Group office to play and learn about hand washing.

Children from the Singing and Dance Group preforming songs and dances about hand washing.

Children from the Singing and Dance Group preforming songs and dances about hand washing.

 

We all had a great, very constructive and fun-filled day. A huge THANK YOU to all our donors who support Maji Safi Group, so we can continue to do this important work in the community of Shirati, Tanzania.

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Becoming a Part of the Maji Safi Community

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Maria Kenney (Center) with Female Hygiene Program participants

Maria graduated from Saint Mary’s College with a Bachelors of Social Work in 2011. After graduation she spent 2 years working in Jinja, Uganda as a teacher and with Holy Cross Family Ministries. Through Family Ministries she coordinated and implemented youth activities and weekly groups at secondary schools, facilitated workshops and seminars, conducted home visitations and counseling, and contributed to weekly radio programs. She is currently a candidate for a Masters of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis with a concentration in International Social and Economic Development. Maria has been a practicum student with MSG since January 2014 working on program evaluation, and promoting US outreach and awareness programs. Maria spent the summer in Tanzania with MSG. 

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Shirati, Tanzania

As I sat across the table from two staff members from the school’s Office of Field Education and Community Partnership, I couldn’t seem to put meaningful sentences together.  I was attending the mandatory “debriefing” session for all students who had been abroad over the summer semester doing practicums, but instead of being in a group of eight or nine students, like they had expected, it was just me and the two Field Education coordinators. So I had been sitting there, for what seemed like a life time, answering questions about Maji Safi Group, what I did during my time in Tanzania, what Tanzania was like, and if I had had a “good” experience. All this was easy enough to answer, until they came to the last question, “What was the most important relationship established and what was the most meaningful part of your experience?” No pressure. I began to try to answer, but found myself only saying half sentences and words that were meaninglessly strewn together.

Community Health Workers, from left to right: Winner, Consol, Jared, Prisca

Community Health Workers, from left to right: Winner, Consol, Jared, Prisca

“Relationship? Uh, the community, well, directors, health workers, uhhh Dr. Chirangi. Meaningful well beautiful, incredible place, what an experience, learning meaningful learning, life changing… really.”

Yeah, I was sounding very eloquent and like a student who should be embarking on her last semester of a graduate program.  But how could they expect any different? How could I summarize what had been one of the most incredible learning, career defining and life experiences into a couple of sentences, especially having two people staring at me and waiting for a response after only a couple seconds to process??  While I think I was able to pull it together and say something half way coherent and reflective of my experience, I still find it very hard to put into words what it was like this summer living and working in Shirati, Tanzania alongside  the Maji Safi Group staff and leadership and what it has meant to me and my future in international development.

 

Maria at MSG outreach event in St. Louis

Maria at MSG outreach event in St. Louis

I began working with Emily Bull in January 2014, the beginning of my second semester as a graduate student at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, which is part of Washington University in St. Louis.  As part of the Master’s program, students are required to have a practicum experience, which is essentially an internship using relevant social work skills. I knew I wanted to work with  small organizations doing work in East Africa, and while Maji Safi Group’s focus on water, sanitation and hygiene was very different than anything I had done in the past, after my first meeting with Emily I knew I wanted to work with her in whatever capacity that might be.

Strategic Planning Workshop with Community Health Workers

Strategic Planning Workshop with Community Health Workers

I had a great experience during my first semester working with MSG and Emily in St. Louis, but my time spent in Musoma and Shirati over the summer was far more influential on my career path and my future in international development than I could have imagined. I found that MSG’s true commitment to being community driven and empowering women and youth, the enthusiasm of everyone associated with MSG, and the passion the leadership team shows in all that they do is what sets MSG apart from the countless other organizations in the field.

From left to right: Maria, Emily, Bena, and Grace

From left to right: Maria, Emily, Bena, and Grace

For three months I become completely immersed into the life of MSG, which meant that I not only got to know the directors very well over shared meals and afternoon Frisbee and KanJam sessions (they also graciously took me in as a summer roommate), it also meant I got to experience first hand the passion and drive that they bring to anything and everything involving MSG. I was able to get a great insight into what goes into running an international development organization, for better or for worse, and was allowed to be part of meetings and discussions that most students in my position would normally not be part of. I have such deep admiration, respect, and appreciation for all those on the MSG leadership team. My relationship with them has been one the greatest gifts to my life this past year.

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Shirati, Tanzania

But then I can’t talk about the summer without mentioning the complete and awesome love I have for all of the MSG Community Health Workers in Shirati and Mama Deborah (our house mama). While I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I had hoped, it was nothing short of love at first sight….or actually, love at first song and dance. These incredible women and men are the heart and soul of MSG, what keeps us going, what informs all decisions, the connection to the community, and drive behind the love, compassion, and authenticity that can be seen and felt through all of MSG’s programs and activities. The days spent in the office with them were the highlights of my time there. While our Kiswahili/English conversations were pretty confusing and broken to say the least, we found that there are certain communication methods that are pretty universal: laughter, hugs, songs, and dance. And every day was full of this kind of conversation.

Community Health Workers in MSG office

Community Health Workers in MSG office

Community Health Worker, Prisca

Community Health Worker, Prisca

 

 

 

The amount I learned from the Community Health Workers and MSG leaders in the short time I was there is mind boggling.  I further developed my passion for international development, especially where public health and social work intersect to make the most impactful changes. It also reaffirmed my love for East Africa, and my desire to work with community driven organizations.

Skits preformed by Community Health Workers

Skits preformed by Community Health Workers

As December nears, I find myself with very mixed emotions. I am eagerly awaiting graduation and finally being done with my MSW, but it also signifies the end of my practicum with MSG. I am so passionate about this organization and everything they stand for. There’s no way I could ever thank them enough for all they have taught me and the opportunities they have given me, and the beautiful relationships that have come from it. As I begin applying for jobs and begin making plans for after graduation it’s hard to say what the future has in store for me, but one thing is certain; MSG will always be a part of everything I do, all the people I meet, and the places I go.  Asante Sana Maji Safi Group.

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