Bicycles 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.