Teaching Games in Shirati

Eli Horowitz is getting his MSW at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. He came to Maji Safi Group this summer to work with fishing communities in participatory learning and action, a series of group activities designed to help communities learn more about themselves and identify priorities for development. His professional background is in social work, especially working with kids in experiential education settings. He spent several summers working with camps as a wilderness professional, which included team building games and low ropes activities.

It was just before lunch, and there I was, tool in hand, sawing away at one of the yellow water buckets that are so ubiquitous around Shirati. I got more than a few confused looks and at least one, “Unafanya nini?/What are you doing?” But I was undeterred.

 

What was so important that you would waste a water jug when water storage is so precious in Shirati, you may ask. Games for teaching good water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) behavioral habits of course! Games that would entertain, engage, and teach teamwork and problem solving skills.

“Yellow Jugs” being used to store water at a home in Shirati.

As all the Mabalozi/Community Health Educators gathered in a circle under a tree in lieu of their normal Monday morning staff meeting, I was nervous. I tried to explain why experiential education is important, but through an interpreter, it is always hard to know if you are getting the right message across, and besides, these games are better understood through doing than saying.

We began with a simple icebreaker called ELECTRICITY. The participants hold hands in a circle, and everyone squeezes hands one after another to see how fast we can make it around the circle. The game is called Electricity for a reason, but this time it did not quite give a jolt. “Why are we doing this?” one participant asked. It was not an answer I had readily available, so I tried to do the only thing I knew how: facilitate another (more fun) game.

When we separated into groups for HUMAN KNOT, the mood changed immediately. It reminded me why a good challenge is important: When people are having fun and are challenged, the question shifts from “Why are we doing this?” to “How do we do this?” Playing Human Knot, the Maji Safi staff members were challenged in a fun way and even requested to play again just to finish working through the problem. By the time we finished, the groups had each given themselves a hearty applause and were eagerly asking for the next game.

Community Health Educators playing the “WATER FETCHER GAME”.

From there, things got exciting! We finally got to play the ‘WATER FETCHER GAME’! “You can’t step into the circle; otherwise; you’ll get bilharzia!” participants were warned, referring to the danger of entering Lake Victoria’s parasite-infected water. Through cooperation and conversation, the Mabalozi were able to use ropes to manipulate an elastic band around the yellow water jug I had prepared the other day (= putting on a water filter). Afterwards, they used group problem solving to flip the bucket (= fetching water) and put a ball inside (= treating water with WaterGuard). Confusion gone, the Mabalozi were all smiles. I asked who felt they could facilitate this game with kids at Maji Safi programs, and everyone raised their hands. I was all smiles, too.

MSG focuses on incorporating cognitive development into our programs through different games and activities.

We finished off with a classic game I grew up playing while attending Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: COKE AND PEPSI – a game that involves plenty of running, enthusiasm, and general silliness. The game ended with all in breathless laughter.

Today, nearing the end of the week and preparing for health screenings, the Mabalozi asked me if they could bring the game to the program they were running this afternoon. I haven’t stopped smiling since.

 

Another Spring of Kids Helping Kids

Increased reading speed, vast knowledge, vocabulary expansion, improved memory, increased analytical and critical thinking skills, better writing skills, better imagination, mental stimulation, tranquility and stress reduction, hours of entertainment – the widely claimed benefits of reading are numerous. In this year’s Maji Safi Read-a-thons, 57 Boulder Valley School District students reaped all of them and at the same time learned about global issues, empathy, social responsibility and helping others through personal effort.

The 2017 Maji Safi Read-a-thon at Whittier International Elementary School in Boulder was the fifth annual, and for Ryan Elementary School in Lafayette, it was a first. Staff, donors and many families love this recurring win-win situation that Maji Safi Group brings to the educational setting to encourage students to become excellent readers and ‘young global citizens’. This spring, the 57 participants read 650 books and raised over $8,000 for Maji Safi Group’s After School Program in Tanzania where children receive fun and interactive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education to learn how to stay healthy and succeed in school. Since July 2012, Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Educators have taught 6000+ students in 10 schools, and in 2015, the District Education Office approved Maji Safi Group to teach WASH education in all 125 primary schools in the Rorya District.

Students in MSG’s After School Program doing tooth brushing demonstrations for their peers.

Read-a-thons are especially a great fit for IB schools, like Whittier, with a Primary Years Programme (PYP) whose stated goal is the development of the whole child, preparing students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others and participate in the world around them. The Wildcat Student Council at Whittier backs the project, and members create momentum by visiting classrooms, making and distributing posters, and making school-wide announcements. At Ryan Elementary, this first Maji Safi Read-a-thon was a fifth-grade project organized by teacher Molly Hayes.

Thanks for organizing such wonderful opportunities for our neighborhood kids to grow up really seeing firsthand how they as individuals have a positive impact on the lives of others.
– Whittier parent –

This year, we honored all participants with certificates, thank you cards made by our program participants in Tanzania, ‘young global citizen’ photographs and ice cream coupons donated by Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, Lindsay’s Boulder Deli and Eats & Sweets. We also had the special honor of recognizing three ‘young global citizens’ at Whittier who have participated all five years: Amanda Kohla, Calder Leland and Sean Lewis.

 

 

I have participated in the Maji Safi Read-a-thon for five years now. It has been an amazing experience for me. I chose to do this because I love reading and I love helping people. I have always had enough of everything. Some people in Tanzania don’t. They don’t even have clean water. One of my favorite things is reading. Being able to read and at the same time help children and adults in Tanzania was cool. I have had fun getting to raise money for these people, reading books, and getting to know the people that organize this.
Amanda Kohla

This spring also included working with students in the Leadership Class at Casey Middle School in Boulder. Offering the students in this elective to do a ‘Global Improvement project’ with Maji Safi Group has become standard every semester. This time, four students participated in an art project where they made beautiful greeting cards with alcohol ink. The cards were sold at Africa Night in April and brought in well over $100.

 

 

As Whittier graduates continue their education at Casey Middle School, Boulder High School and CU at Boulder, we are hoping to create a ‘young global citizen’ trail through the Boulder Valley School System and beyond. Anyone who is interested in helping young people get involved in empowering the vulnerable groups we work with in rural Tanzania is most welcome to contact Maji Safi Group about opportunities inside or outside school. We are only an email or a phone call away and happy to discuss tailor-made projects suitable for individual families or educational settings. We absolutely love seeing kids helping kids.

A huge thank you to all our readers and their families, their teachers, their donors and our generous ice cream vendors!Young Global Citizens Maji Safi

 

 

 

The Arborloo Toilet

Elliott Skopin is a graduate of Wesleyan University where he attended school with MSG’s Executive Director, Max Perel-Slater. After working for several years after college, Elliott decided that he wanted to travel the world and made Shirati one of his stops. While in Shirati, he took on the Arborloo toilet project as a volunteer. Enjoy his blog about his experiences working with the MSG staff!

If you have passed by Maji Safi Group’s office recently, you likely noticed a few new things – the Arborloo toilet standing in the side yard and a number of freshly poured concrete structures curing nearby. These items comprise the beginnings of an exciting project that will provide an affordable, long-lasting pit toilet alternative to members of the Shirati community.

What is an Arborloo Toilet?

An Arborloo toilet is comprised of a reusable concrete base, known as the ring beam and slab, and a portable latrine structure. The ring beam and slab – simple, inexpensive and durable constructions made from poured concrete and wire reinforcement – cap a shallow (1-2 meter) pit in which human waste is deposited. The four-walled latrine structure provides privacy and is intended to be moved and reused, along with the concrete components, when the hole is filled. However, the capped pit does not simply lay fallow. The composted waste provides a fertile plot in which a tree will thrive, hence the “arbor” (“tree” in Spanish) in Arborloo.  The benefits of this system are numerous: It is inexpensive and simple to produce using readily available materials, the portable design is intended to last for many applications, and the composted human waste provides excellent fertilizer for a fruit-bearing tree or other planting.

During my 6-week stay in Shirati, I had the opportunity to assist in the design and construction of the first Arborloo toilet at Maji Safi Group’s office. We benefited from valuable feedback from our community health educators, other staff, and members of the community as we worked on this first construction. We found that the concrete slab and ring beam, which have a fixed design, are reasonably easy to produce. The design of the outhouse structure, however, allowed for greater creativity and provided more of a design challenge. I very much enjoyed the collaborative task of finding a creative and affordable solution. In the end, we opted to construct the walls of Maji Safi Group’s latrine out of a variety of materials, including one section that is comprised of hundreds of plastic bottles picked up from the neighboring streets. The design options are endless, and it will be exciting to see the ingenuity employed by those who construct Shirati’s newest Arborloo toilets in the coming months.

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The Arborloo project is in large part due to the generous fundraising by students at Casey Middle School in Boulder, Colorado (Read Blog Here). Nearly a dozen new concrete structures are finished and will be transported to the homes of our community health educators whose families will be using their new Arborloo toilets in no time! Their valuable feedback will allow Maji Safi Group to refine the design and share the benefits of this system with the greater community. Before long, healthy fruit trees will stand where these first Arborloo toilets were sited.

A big thanks to everyone at Maji Safi Group for their fantastic work in getting this project off the ground and for making my time in Shirati so wonderful.

Hello from Wash U in Shirati!

Mambo, mambo! Melissa and Eli here! We are both social work students at Washington University in St. Louis, but we will be spending our summer in Shirati working with Maji Safi Group (MSG). We arrived in Shirati two weeks ago, and within our short time here, we have already experienced so much! Initially, we arrived with a cohort of 10 other students from our university and partnered with MSG staff to study participatory methods of community development. Right from the start, we felt so welcomed by the community health educators! On the very first day, they sang us a welcome song and played some fun icebreakers with us. MSG staff took the initiative to greet us individually and tell us how happy they were to have us here in Shirati.

During the first week, we primarily focused on using participatory tools. We were highly impressed with the way the MSG staff picked up on these complex facilitation techniques and everything else throughout the whole process. We also had the opportunity to learn so much about both Shirati and St. Louis. At the wrap-up of the week, each student was paired with an MSG community health educator to spend the entire weekend at their homes and with their families. From what we heard from our classmates, everyone had an incredible time during their homestays and engaged in very unique experiences. Some classmates went out fishing on Lake Victoria, others fetched water, cooked, and even medically treated a cow – don’t worry, she is a vet! The best part of this experience, however, was coming back to class the following Monday and witnessing the relationships we had built and how close and comfortable we had become with one another.

The second week, our real work got started! We broke into facilitation teams, made up of both Maji Staff Group staff and students, and ventured out to five different fishing communities around Lake Victoria. The communities where we conducted these practices were Minigo (also known as Mombasa), Kanga, Sota, Busurwa, and Masonga. Although each place was very different and had its own set of issues, we were able to identify common problems in all five villages. Through the participatory exercises, we were able to discover that concerns surrounding access to clean water, treatment of various diseases, and sanitation practices were major challenges in all communities. This was an excellent opportunity for Maji Safi Group to begin to map out ideas on how to bring their programs, which focus heavily on health education, to these communities as a means to meeting their needs. Our week ended with a celebratory party during which all MSG staff members were presented with certificates acknowledging their progress in learning about participatory development, gifts were exchanged, and lots of dancing took place! Even though we are sad to say goodbye to our instructors and classmates, we are looking forward to continuing our work with each of these communities because the truth is, that there is still so much more to do and uncover, and we are just getting started! Stay tuned for more stories throughout the summer….

Tutaonana,

Eli & Melissa

 

 

Storytelling in Shirati

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Mambo! My name is Sarah Anderson. I am currently an undergraduate student, and last semester, I studied abroad on SIT’s Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology program in Tanzania.When I first arrived in Tanzania in January, the short rains had not come yet. Ndarakwai, the ranch where my orientation took place, was in a serious drought. What I still very clearly remember from this time is the dust. I woke up with the taste of it in my mouth. It was always in my hair, and when I wiped my face, the cloth was red. We also saw the skeletons of animals who had likely died from thirst – a perfect zebra skeleton, a lion skull, a tiny bat, wings spread. I saw the drought in the ribs of the cattle being herded by the side of the road.

A few weeks later, our program went to Lake Manyara to study. In this park, there is a steady source of groundwater. There are streams and forests. It was lush and green, such a stark contrast to the water-deprived areas we had seen. I was struck by how radically water has the power to shape an ecosystem. I knew it was what I wanted to study. I had already witnessed the ecological effects of drought, but I wanted to know more about how this issue affects communities.

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At my home university, Colgate, I am a biology major and a creative writing minor. I have always been really passionate about writing and knew that I wanted to incorporate it into my project. How could I combine water and writing?

I decided on storytelling. In recent years, especially through podcasts like The Moth and Beautiful Anonymous and the Internet phenomenon Humans of New York, storytelling has been rising in popularity. Especially storytelling in activism. When people can connect a name and a personal story to an issue, they tend to care about it more. I am a huge fan of story-based organizations. I decided I wanted to do a project like that, a sort of StoryCorps Tanzania. I would conduct interviews with people about how access to water affects their life and then make a creative nonfiction piece out of them.

When I pitched this idea to my academic advisor, Maji Safi Group was immediately recommended. Over the years, Maji Safi Group has graciously hosted many an SIT student, and MSG’s work was a perfect fit for my idea.

Community Health Worker Lilian Kayuni handing out bananas to the children after they washed their hands.

Community Health Worker Lilian Kayuni handing out bananas to the children after they washed their hands.

On my first morning at the MSG office, I was a little bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. Upon arrival, I was immediately overwhelmed by the kindness and warm welcome I received from everyone I met. Over the next few weeks, I had the privilege of going along on all of MSG’s programs. One of my clearest memories is riding in the van and pulling up to a school for the Female Hygiene Program while hearing dozens of small voices excitedly screaming, “MAJI SAFI! MAJI SAFI!” I heard them again on the community outreach programs and pretty much everywhere we went after that. It was clear to me that Maji Safi Group holds a special place in the community.

During my project, I interviewed a variety of people throughout the community, each of whom MSG helped connect me with. I interviewed some of the Community Health Educators about their role as educators and also their experiences as community members; women in the surrounding rural communities; water carriers, whose job is to bike and deliver water from the hospital and from Lake Victoria to people’s homes; the former chair of the water committee; and fishermen.

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Click above to see MSG’s video about Shirati’s Watert Carriers

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Though my goal was to collect interesting and powerful stories, I was constantly taken aback by the intensity of the stories that I got. I knew that water was a critical issue in the region, but I do not think I had any idea of the depth and breadth of it until working with Maji Safi Group. Here are some of the stories that I heard. I think they are unforgettable, and I hope you will think so, too.

One educator told me about her experience gathering water as a teenager. For six years, she would wake up at 3 a.m. to collect water for her family before school started at 6 a.m. She did not complain about this at all, only admitting how difficult it was when I asked.

Another educator, when I asked her to tell me a story about water, told me a story she has witnessed through her work in the community: A woman has her period, and she needs water to wash, but her husband wants to take a shower and get his clothes washed. The Lake is far away, and she can only bring one bucket. By the time she uses water to wash herself and the clothes, there is not enough for his shower. “So he beats her,” she said, unflinching. The link between female hygiene and water is something I had not fully considered before my work with Maji Safi Group.

I interviewed a water carrier who was 21 years old, one year older than I am, and who worked 11 hours every day, from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., biking with water. Each biker carriers five drums of water, 20 liters each, for a total of 100 liters. Such a load weighs 100 kg, or in total 220 pounds. Let that sink in. All day long, biking long distances with 220 pounds of water. The intense physical demands for this job are the reason why there are no female water carriers. I found this interesting, because in the home, it is traditionally exclusively a woman’s job to fetch water. However, the monetized equivalent of this work is only available to men.

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I interviewed a man who was a fisherman for many years. He only became a fisherman to earn money for his education and achieve his dream of finishing high school and then coming back to help his community. He and his older brother were divers on Lake Victoria. They would dive down and use nets to catch tilapia. When he was 19 and his brother was 22, his brother drowned. They both dove down together. He came back up to the surface, but his brother did not. He described it to me like this: “The loss destroyed everything.” After his brother died, he stopped fishing. Now, he is a community educator for Maji Safi Group.

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Some of my favorite interviews were with women who lived in the rural communities surrounding Shirati. Many of them walked into Kenya every day to get their water. The idea of having to cross a border into another country to get water was especially powerful to me. One woman walked about nine miles to get her water. Another, during times of drought when the nearby ponds were dried up, spent 12 hours per day getting water. Two hours to walk there, two hours to dig down until she hit groundwater to collect, and two hours to walk back. Twice a day. “When it’s dry, that’s all you do,” she said. “The whole day is just water.”

We also talked about what it is like to have your period during these times. You use just a little bit of water to wash yourself, so you do not smell, and you dump your clothes, she told me. “Do you still have to go and fetch the water?” I (somewhat stupidly) asked.

“There is no one else who will go,” she said.

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Sarah enjoying the sunset over Lake Victoria while in Shirati

Sometimes, these stories were hard to hear, but I think they are so important. In the United States, particularly on the East Coast where I have lived my entire life, water is a cheap and abundant resource. It is not something most people think about often. In Tanzania, it is something many people need to think about every single day and spend hours acquiring. It is difficult to imagine something so far outside of our own experiences, and this is why story sharing is critical.

During my time in Shirati, I was continuously amazed by the work that Maji Safi Group does – by the wide range of programs they run within the community to reach huge numbers of people, by the creativity of the programs, and by the commitment and passion of everyone working there. I had a lot of fun working with MSG, and it was an experience I will not soon forget.

I am so grateful to Maji Safi Group for supporting me throughout my project and connecting me to the community members. The work that they do every day is nothing short of inspiring. So, ASANTE SANA to Maji Safi Group! Ningependa kurudi tena.

 

Another Great CU WASH Symposium

Written by Bruce Pelz

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The Sustainability, Energy & Environment Complex at my alma matar was already filled with exciting displays and buzzing with participants when I arrived at the fifth annual Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Symposium at the University of Colorado at Boulder last month. The passionate students at the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities are the organizers of this impressive and growing conference that is free to the public. In addition to great panel discussions, presentations, and breakout sessions, the WASH Symposium features delicious food, a wonderful reception, and the great tradition of a closing happy hour at a Boulder restaurant. It is exciting for Maji Safi Group (MSG) to have this two-day conference in our own backyard, enabling us to network and discuss changes in the WASH sector with highly qualified professionals from around the world! For me, it was two days of enjoyment and inspiration.

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Professor Beth Osnes and PhD student Chelsea Hackett after a training with the Community Health Educators in Shirati, Tanzania.

This year, Maji Safi Group was excited to facilitate one of the breakout sessions together with CU Associate Professor Beth Osnes. During the summer of 2016, Beth spent three weeks with Maji Safi Group in Shirati, Tanzania, where she shared her passion for using applied theatre as a tool for women’s empowerment with our Community Health Educators. At the WASH Symposium, we presented on Participatory Methods for Disseminating Vital WASH Health Messages and taught our audience how to create “cliff-hanger dramas” that catalyze community involvement in solving difficult dilemmas. It turned out that we had some fun and quite talented actors in the audience. Laughter and applause were plentiful when the four volunteers performed an impromptu skit that examined the dilemma of a married couple wanting to raise pigs on their property to gain income and status in the community, but doing so would pollute a valuable shared water source. It was a display of personal gain versus consciousness of community health at its finest.

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Community Health Educators Lilian Kayuni and Freddy Wawa along with Female Hygiene Expert Linda Arot performing a “cliff-hanger drama” about menstrual hygiene management on the radio in  Shirati, Tanzania.

Entertaining skits aside, the WASH Symposium once again provided a high level of discussion, making it impossible to include all the good takeaways in a single blog post. Here are my “10 biggest takeaways” – summarized and in no specific order:

  1. The panel on The Past Successes and Future Direction of WASH discussed indicators of successful programs and came up with these three common indicators of effectiveness:
    • Programs identify and mobilize the local stakeholders that can empower communities to change themselves.
    • Programs work together with the government and local partners towards a long-term vision and sustainable solution.
    • Programs build the capacity of local leaders and community members to facilitate getting people to pay for WASH products and services.
  2. Improved health is not always the main motivator for an individual to make behavioral changes; it is also very important to talk about gaining prestige in the community (as seen in the skit above).
  3. In behavioral change campaigns, it is vital to identify people’s determinants relative to their social position and income level and use these to identify their main motivations.
  4. Behavioral change is not only a question of knowledge, but also a supply chain issue. It is important for the private sector to get more involved in changing the global WASH crisis through making WASH products available and affordable.
  5. It is important for beneficiaries and supporters to visit successful projects and feel the impact personally, so they can properly advocate for models that achieve sustainable change in line with their mission.
  6. iDE’s model for marketing sanitation and combining Salesforce with streamlining supply chains for latrine construction in Southeast Asia was noteworthy. This market-driven approach is innovative and effective in making sanitation more available in developing countries.
  7. PLAN International’s presentation by Darren Saywell on the implementation of Community Lead Total Sanitation (CLTS) highlighted the importance of ‘natural leaders’ in creating effective changes in communities and making those changes sustainable.
  8. When teaching about sanitation, it is important to talk about defecation in a broader sense than individual behaviors. Without understanding the effect community-wide habits have on public health, one cannot properly advocate for sanitation and get people to make personal changes.
  9. Paul Nampy from Haiti’s Water and Sanitation Authority (DINEPA) had a great quote: “During disease outbreaks, you should think like a firefighter and target the most vulnerable areas with the most effective interventions.”
  10. It is very important that the WASH sector moves towards models of self-supply, because studies have shown that giving people free products and services is not sustainable. There is an ongoing debate on the effectiveness of subsidies for products and services in WASH.

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I would like to thank the organizing committee for their dedicated effort to bring WASH professionals and awareness to Colorado as well as the CU at Boulder Engineering School for supporting this annual gathering. Since I first attended this WASH Symposium in 2013, it has been amazing to see the improvements from year to year and the increased attendance. Maji Safi Group is very excited about attending again in March 2018, and we will continue to do our part in the collaborative effort of solving the global WASH crisis and preventing disease!

A Tribute to the Community Health Educator

 

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In January, I had the great pleasure of traveling with six pastors from the Mwanza region, who together comprise our water development committee, to Shirati to tour the Maji Safi Group.

Naturally, we were drawn to the impressive results of the Maji Safi Group, and upon arriving at the MSG office, we learned that the activities and programs are even broader than I imagined, and the impacts are seen beyond the Rorya District into the broader Mara Region. Simply put, I am not aware of any other WASH project in the entire Lake Zone of Tanzania making a comprehensive impact comparable to MSG’s.

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Impressive as the scale of Maji Safi Group is, our water committee was even more inspired by Community Health Educators Consolata and Jacob, who spent the morning with us. They gave an incredibly thorough summary of ways to improve health through hygiene and sanitation; they answered our questions with confidence and professionalism; and they gave countless practical suggestions about how to best communicate these lessons to others. When our committee learned that Consolata and Jacob were not health professionals, but rather were first volunteers who had later been trained by MSG, they were first surprised and then inspired that they could likewise rise to the challenge of promoting better sanitation and hygiene.

Though my primary objective was better sensitizing our water committee to WASH issues, they took away another valuable lesson that will impact their broader ministries. Consolata shattered gender stereotypes that are common amongst the Sukuma people, and our pastors left further convinced of the necessity of providing a voice to all people in their communities, lest we lose the contributions that can be made by someone like Consolata.

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Consolata teaching interactive health education during MSG’s After School Program

Upon leaving, we had time together to process the successes and setbacks of our past year, to reflect upon what we had learned from MSG, and to make plans for the upcoming year.  Surprisingly, each member of the committee felt challenged to first implement in their own households the sanitation and hygiene practices encouraged by Consolata and Jacob, then to develop lessons that can be taught in their communities around Mwanza. In fact, they prioritized sharing the lessons learned from MSG over adding new water well sites for the next year.

In my ten years of working in Tanzania, I have encountered numerous projects, but very few make a deep grassroots impact. The impact of most projects disappears once funding and experts leave the project behind. But the grassroots impact of MSG is remarkable; they are transforming people’s understanding, their practices, and their perspectives on the future. The welcoming spirit of MSG, as well as its wonderful people and methodologies, are now even impacting our communities here in Mwanza. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate with and be challenged by the great work of Maji Safi Group!DSC_0406

Meet MSG’s new Public Health Advisor Linda Stamm

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Maji Safi Group (MSG) has been institutional partners with the Swiss organization INTERTEAM since 2014 and has benefited greatly from their Development Worker model. Their financial support has allowed us to expand our Female Hygiene Program and furthered MSG’s work administratively and artistically through the hard work of Development Workers Susan Waltisberg and Christoph Stultz. MSG would not be where we are today without INTERTEAM, and we are excited to continue our partnership with our newest Development Worker Linda Stamm!  

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Hello,

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Linda Stamm. Since 2014, I have been living in Tanzania with my family while working as a development worker for the Swiss organization INTERTEAM. Since January 2017, I have been supporting Maji Safi Group (MSG) as a Public Health Advisor. I am married and the proud mother of a beautiful daughter. I am a professional Environmental Scientist with a research background in Public Health and tropical diseases. I finished my degrees by conducting a study on dust-related lung diseases in miners in Zambia and researching the impact of waterborne and water-related diseases on people living in Indian slums.

For two and a half years, I worked for a Malaria, Sanitation and Hygiene Project in Musoma, focusing on public health in general and WASH issues in particular. By the end of 2016, my family and I moved from Musoma to Shirati to officially work full time with Maji Safi Group. I had been working informally with MSG since 2015 by supporting them during health screenings, cholera outreach, and community events and by sharing work experiences. I am very excited to work for Maji Safi Group, and I hope to be able to support the entire organization in their fight to reduce waterborne and water-related diseases in the Mara Region of Tanzania.

Sincerely yours,

Linda

MSG sat down with Linda and asked her a few questions to give you further insight into her passion for improving health in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

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What motivates you to help prevent disease in rural areas of Tanzania?

During my first two years living and working in the field in and around Musoma, I could tell how low the educational and technical standards in Tanzania can be in terms of health and personal hygiene. New technologies for treating the most communicable diseases properly have yet to reach many rural areas here. Therefore, many people have no access to treatment and proper health care. Personally, I see it as even more important to focus on prevention methods. Community-based education on how to prevent the most dangerous diseases is much needed, so local people do not get sick, or if they do, they would know how to support each other and react properly and quickly. My strong educational background in Environmental Science, with a main research background in health and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), also makes me feel obligated to let my knowledge help for example the Tanzanian people improve the current local personal health and hygiene situation.

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What lessons did you learn at the Musoma Malaria, Sanitation and Hygiene Project that you will bring to MSG?

Before you head into the field, you usually examine the topic you will teach and plan in detail what supplies you are going to need and what activities you will do in the communities. But even the best planning and the best preparation won’t be enough if you don’t calculate the worst-case scenario you may encounter out there. You had better make sure you are fully equipped when you get there.

If you think something is unclear or not planned well, make sure to talk to each other openly as a team, so that no misunderstanding or mismanagement can occur.

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Linda helping to weigh a baby during a school health screening

With your husband working at the Shirati KMT Hospital and you working with MSG, how do you think your family can influence health in the Rorya District?

Rorya is a very rural area, and I have already mentioned that so far, not much technology or knowhow has reached this part of Tanzania. With his work at the Shirati KMT Hospital, my husband tries to improve the quality of health care for patients who needs medical support at the hospital. My work with Maji Safi Group will have a stronger focus on disease prevention and knowledge transfer in the communities – empowering people to improve their health and livelihood. After two years of living in Shirati as a family, we can hopefully say: Yes, our work has improved the health situation in the Rorya District.

What excites you about working in the MSG team?

I first heard about Maji Safi Group’s activities in Shirati two years ago. While living and working in Musoma, I became more and more familiar with MSG’s programs and activities due to its connection with my past Malaria, Hygiene and Sanitation Project at the Anglican Church of Tanzania. I got the chance to get involved with Maji Safi Group’s activities several times, e.g. during their Miss Maji Safi contest, their health screening campaign, and their cholera outreach in Musoma rural as well as on private occasions. So, I got a good picture of the great work Maji Safi Group is doing in Shirati and the Mara Region. That is why I feel very excited and honored to get to work with the famous Maji Safi Group ‘mabalozi’ (Community Health Educators) for the next two years fighting waterborne and water-related diseases. I also believe that my educational background supports Maji Safi Group’s work in Tanzania, so we together can improve the current hygiene and health situation in this rural area.Mabalozi (1)

Hapana Means No

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“HAPANA!” she shouts loudly and clearly, makes a lunge, raises her hands, stays in fighting position and stares straight into her counterpart’s eyes. This scene takes place in the community room of the Maji Safi Group (MSG) office in Shirati, and Modesta’s counterpart is a friend of hers and fellow participant in the self-defense class MSG now offers. They are part of a team of 10-15 young women that train twice a week.

 

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Modesta outside the training

You have to know that saying NO (hapana in Swahili) is really important. Not long ago, a woman who sold airtime for cell phones was kidnapped in broad daylight and found abandoned, dressed in only her underwear. “Our trainers have told us from the beginning of the program that the first and most important thing for us to do is to get attention from people, as they may help us if we are in danger. If I get kidnapped at any time, there will not be people who do not know about it!” Modesta explains. She is 24 years old and lives in Shirati with her husband and two children – six and one-year-old girls.

I like this training with the other women very much. Thanks to all the push-ups and sit-ups, my personal level of fitness has already increased a lot. My husband agrees that I should take part in this program. That should not be taken for granted, and I am really thankful for his support. I also have become more self-confident – and I would like to start working somewhere soon. For sure, there are negative reactions; some people think that self-defense and things like that are not for women. But I do not care what others say.” The trainings are exclusively for women, and both trainers are women from Shirati. Besides running the self-defense classes, the trainers are full-time Community Health Educators who teach the community members about disease prevention.

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“For many generations, Tanzanian women have been taught that we are subordinate to men and that we do not have the right to raise our voices. That’s why so many women talk in a low voice – except there are some women who raise their voices at their children.” Modesta laughs with her eyes sparkling. “But I think society is about to change, young women study at universities, work and want to be equal to men. In the cities, this process of change will take place faster than in remote villages. That’s for sure. But if we learn how to generate attention, and if we know our values and defend these values, we will be able to achieve a better future for our daughters. They won’t feel uncomfortable any more walking home alone after sunset. They will say NO if male teachers want to touch them. They will defend themselves if men try to force them against their will.”

Modesta is one woman amongst many – women who will influence and change the future of their country.

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Wandering Back to Shirati

Hello everyone! Guess who is back? Yup, you got it! Dorothy is back with Maji Safi Group! After a year back in the States finishing my Master’s in Public Health, I’ve wandered my way back to Shirati!Obw8smll

Let’s jump right into what I’ve been working on! I was fortunate enough to be able to help with the second annual health screenings that took place in July-August of this year. In case you don’t remember, last year, MSG screened over 3,000 primary school students and community members for common water-related diseases, including amoeba, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, malaria, and urinary tract infections. Data analysis revealed that water-related diseases were common afflictions among Shirati residents with 81% testing positive for at least one. Of those who tested positive, 100% of consenting participants received all treatments free of charge!

Students at Obwere Primary School lining up to be registered for screenings.

This year, MSG expanded the reach of its health-screening program and screened over 5,000 students and community members for the same common water-related diseases. With support from the Tanzanian government, MSG was able to offer more malaria testing and treatment. Preliminary results indicate that 21% of those tested for malaria tested positive; however, a detailed report of all prevalence rates will be available following completion of the data entry and analysis. Just like last year, MSG gave all consenting participants treatment free of charge!

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Dorothy working with Community Health Educator Mwamvua Saba during the Female Hygiene Vocal Empowerment performance.

Additional news – I am currently involved in planning the expansion of the Female Hygiene Program! MSG’s Female Hygiene Program focuses on educating young women, ages 11-18, about female hygiene, health, and puberty. These young women receive instruction in schools and at the MSG office. Their meetings are not only educational, they also provide the young girls with an opportunity to share stories and seek advice from their mentors. The young women also get to showcase their new knowledge through interactive public community events such as the Vocal Empowerment Event, Miss Maji Safi, and Dining for Female Hygiene (keep your eyes open for upcoming details about these last two events in the next three months)!

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Young women doing a skit on menstrual hygiene management at a performance for their peers.

In order for MSG’s interactive lifesaving health education to reach more young women, we plan to increase the number of schools where we teach the female hygiene curriculum, increase the number of radio shows airing per month about female hygiene issues, and paint female hygiene murals at additional schools. To further ensure that as many young women as possible get the opportunity to learn about female hygiene issues, we also plan to begin a vocational training program for young women to learn how to make reusable menstrual pads to be sold in Shirati! As you can see, there’s A LOT of work to be done, and I look forward to continuing this journey with Maji Safi Group!

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An example of a Maji Safi Group educational mural at Tina’s Education Center.