Bikes for Clean Water

BicycleBicycles are instrumental to the implementation and growth of Maji Safi Group’s (MSG) programs. With bikes, our Community Health Workers can reach remote areas in the Rorya District more easily and teach more families about clean water and the importance of sanitation and hygiene. This year on January 25, Emily Bull, President of Maji Safi Group, and Michelle Dunajcik, a Maji Safi Group MSW practicum student, were invited to represent MSG at Trailnet’s annual Bike Expo in St. Louis. Throughout the day, they raised awareness of the critical need for bikes worldwide. Michelle started her practicum with MSG on January 12 and has already proven that she is up for the challenge of working with a fast-paced developing nonprofit. Below, is her account of her first event with Maji Safi Group.

Emily (left) and Michelle (Right) at the Bike Expo

Emily (left) and Michelle (right) at the Bike Expo

With my arms full of printed materials and a travel mug full of coffee, I walked into the 55,000-square-foot Gateway Conference Center. It was a room full of bikes and bike-loving people.

Two weeks into my practicum with Maji Safi Group, and I was already working on spreading awareness for MSG and fundraising. Did I remember all the information about Maji Safi? Did I know how to get people’s attention? What was I supposed to say to people to get them interested and aware?

I looked down at everything in my hands. Thank goodness I brought coffee, I thought.

 

Michelle at the Maji Safi Group booth

Michelle at the Maji Safi Group booth

As the doors opened, and the Trailnet Bike Expo officially began, people started to meander around and peruse the different booths that were set up throughout the Expo space. Our goal that day was threefold: spread awareness of Maji Safi’s mission and the global WASH crises, raise money to buy new bikes for our Community Health Workers, and create new connections. Our table was covered with several pieces of Tanzanian fabric and decorated with pictures, an informative trifold, a donation jar, print materials that gave more information about Maji Safi, and stickers and bracelets for the little kids. We also set up a water carrying demonstration with ‘jerry cans’ next to our booth for Expo goers to better understand the conditions the people in Shirati face when getting water.

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Girls in Shirati walking to Lake Victoria to get water for their families

Girls in Shirati, Tanzania, walking to Lake Victoria to get water for their families

As people walked by, Emily and I began to engage them in conversation.

“Good morning, we’re trying to raise money for bikes for our organization in Africa. Every little bit helps!” I chirped at the next passerby, a woman who politely declined and began shopping for bikes at the display across from ours.

Oh no! Is it going to be like this all day? I worried internally. Quickly, the tide turned, and I no longer had time for internal monologues. Soon, a steady stream of new arrivals and interested individuals stopped by our table wanting to learn more and donate to the cause.

Maji Safi Group display

Maji Safi Group display

The day went so well. We connected with several interested people, AND we ended up raising enough money for FIVE new bikes and much needed repairs on the old ones in Shirati! The people at the Expo were so generous and loved learning about Maji Safi Group and the impact we are making on WASH behavioral changes in the Shirati community. I went home that night exhausted, but smiling and excited for the rest of my time with Maji Safi Group.

Community Health Worker, Merciana, with a Maji Safi Group bike

Community Health Worker, Merciana, with a Maji Safi Group bike

For a better insight into the life of a ‘Water Carrier’ and the need for bikes in Shirati, Tanzania, check out the short video below, filmed and edited by Maji Safi Group volunteer Paul Horton.

Powerful Women

Young women of the Female Hygiene Program

Young women of the Female Hygiene Program

Maji Safi Group’s Female Hygiene Program brings Shirati’s powerful women together. In this remote corner of Tanzania, many young women live in families where female changes are a taboo subject; yet, such information keeps young women in school. Throughout the year, Maji Safi Group (MSG) enables these young women to learn about puberty, hygiene, health, disease prevention, and healthy relationships from Judith and Linda, their female Community Health Worker mentors. The goals of this program are not only to teach proper Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) behaviors and disease prevention, but also to decrease school absences and foster creative, athletic, intellectual, and leadership abilities in the participants. In addition to lessons, these young women are encouraged to take part in fun and creative activities.

Female mentor- Judith

Female Mentor- Judith

Female Mentor- Linda

Female Mentor- Linda

It is not easy for young women to ask questions about female hygiene and health when they grow up in an environment filled with taboos, cultural stigmas, and safety hazards for women. MSG’s Female Hygiene Program offers a safe environment where they can talk freely and ask sensitive questions. Program participants become young ambassadors for health and feel comfortable teaching female hygiene to their peers.

Young women of the Female Hygiene Program teaching about female health and hygiene.

Young women of the Female Hygiene Program teaching about female health and hygiene.

Women in the Shirati community learning about menstrual pads.

Women in the Shirati community learning about menstrual pads.

Three times a year, Maji Safi Group’s Female Hygiene Program includes the participants’ mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, and other female relatives in our “Dining for Female Hygiene” events. Female relatives are invited to learn about the Female Hygiene Program and the lessons that are taught, and the events give them the opportunity to ask any questions they have about female health and hygiene. On Saturday, December 13, 2014, such powerful women – 85 of them – spent half a day together, learning about these topics and enjoying a delicious lunch that MSG’s Community Health Workers had prepared.

Preparing food for 'Dining for Female Hygiene'

Preparing food for ‘Dining for Female Hygiene’

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Female elder participating in ‘Dining for Female Hygiene’

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Mothers, Aunts, Grandmas from the community coming together to learn about female hygiene.

Judith, Linda, and the regular program participants presented AFRIpads and showed the audience how to use these reusable feminine hygiene pads. Women who were already using such pads talked about their experiences in an open and safe environment. The girls also showed what they had learned through dances and skits, and thanks to Lunapads’ generous donation of AFRIpads, every woman at the event went home with a set of pads that will last them for a year.

Many women from the community came out for the event.

Many women from the community came out for the event.

Reusable pads

Reusable pads

Skits and dances preformed by Female Hygiene Group

Skits and dances performed by Female Hygiene Group

What a day this was! It was amazing to spend time with all these women, discussing sensitive topics in an open, free, and safe environment. For some mothers, it was the first time their daughters taught them something in front of an audience. There were some mighty proud Mamas in Shirati that beautiful day in December!