A Model Tanzanian School Matron

To celebrate Maji Safi Group’s five-year anniversary, we are continuing our series of guest bloggers from the Maji Safi Group (MSG) community. Our second guest is Angelister Mwinuka, matron at Katuru Secondary School in Shirati. MSG has been working with Katuru for several years now, and Angelister Mwinuka has been an extraordinary partner in breaking the silence about menstrual hygiene and bringing awareness to the importance of school attendance. In March this year, MSG opened Female and Male Hygiene Clubs at the school. The clubs will continue the positive changes and the more welcoming school environment MSG’s programs have facilitated.

We hope you enjoy reading about Angelister Mwinuka’s inspiring experience and knowledge.

1. What changes have you seen in students at Katuru Secondary School since partnering with MSG?

Since MSG started, we have seen an increase in attendance rates, and the girls have learned how to keep themselves clean at all times. We now have supplies to stay healthy, like water and soap, and we have extra pads if students need them. Since MSG came, girls are in class more, and fewer girls have asked for permission to leave and go home because of menstruation. I have also noticed that more girls are passing their exams. Additionally, as a school, we have started small income-generating projects, like farming vegetables, to help pay for feminine supplies like pads and soap, so the products are continually available.

2. What changes can MSG bring to schools in Tanzania?

MSG can bring a big change. If people learn about WASH and their bodies, it will help prevent diseases. Students and parents will know more, and they will be able to work better because they are healthy and don’t have to spend money at the hospital or stay home sick.

Healthy students are also able to sit in class for longer, concentrate better and therefore, perform better.

3. In your opinion, what issues have menstruation brought to Katuru students?

During menstruation, female students are not comfortable, and they are embarrassed to be at school around boys. They have pain during their period, which makes them stay home from school. They feel even more uncomfortable when they don’t have the right supplies, and they feel more comfortable at home since there is no place to change their pads at school. If they stay at home because of pain or lack of resources, they miss the lessons. This causes women to have lower passing rates than men.

4. What are the things that schools in Tanzania really need?

There should be enough education about menstruation to explain that it is not a disease and to help young women understand themselves better. Schools should have enough supplies to enable girls to stay in school during their period (pain meds and pads), and schools should have enough water and clean toilets. It is important that the girls have a place to wash their hands and get dressed, so they look nice when they come back to class. There should also be enough education for women and parents and more attention on how to educate girls and keep them protected while they go through puberty. It is often their parents who decide to keep them at home, and then they miss classes. The parents need to help support their children, so they can reach their potential.

5. In your opinion, what are the ways MSG helps people in the Rorya District?

MSG brings new ways to spread education, so the whole community gets the necessary knowledge and makes changes to the environment. When people understand how to prevent disease, they can see opportunities for change all around the community.

It would be great if MSG could also teach outside of the Mara Region because people would live in a healthier environment, and it would help the economy. Hopefully, MSG can go to Tabora and Dodoma and even Dar es Salaam, so people can understand their own health and help build a healthier country.

World Water Day at Monarch Elementary

At Maji Safi Group, we were so inspired by the students at Monarch K-8 School in Louisville, Colorado, who walked on World Water Day to call attention to those without safe water! Kindergarten students, paired with fifth graders, wore lots of blue and carried one-gallon water containers to shine the light on the world water crisis and those who walk long distances each day for water.

How can other schools do the same? Here’s a bit about Monarch’s success.

For months leading up to World Water Day, kindergarten teacher Alison Adams sparks her students’ awareness and empathy. She teaches them about children just a bit older than them, who need to walk miles each day to fetch heavy containers of water for their families. But what if that water is very contaminated and makes the children ill?

“It’s hard for the students to imagine not being able to grab a water bottle or simply walk over to the fountain or sink. The beauty of 5-year-old children is their curiosity, innocence and untainted belief that they can do anything,” Adams said.

Alison Adams during the Water Walk.


“Our students ask why other children can’t have medicine to get better. They say things like, ‘They can have my water bottle,’ or ‘Let’s buy them bottles of clean water’ and ‘I will help them carry it!’ They genuinely mean it.




At the beginning of their year, Monarch students learn what it was like 100 years ago in a classic one-room schoolhouse with no electricity, water, computers, etc. In a make-believe play center, students have desks with chalkboards, chalk, wooden chalk boxes, a metal bucket with a cloth napkin for their snack, a pretend wood stove, and a wooden bucket and ladle for water. “We talk about not having running water in your home, so they immediately connect to going to the stream or lake. Then we talk about, ‘But what if you had to walk for hours?’”


The Monarch students watch videos with children in other countries who walk with no shoes in the mud or on dirt roads with large buckets and containers. They read books like I Walk for Water and The Water Princess. “Through both mediums, our students hear the words of children who want to go to school, bathe in a clean tub, go to a party, or do other things our kids do so often without noticing.”


Adams then talks about organizations that can help and how students can get involved, including by doing a water walk. This year, Monarch students raised $850 for Maji Safi Group, thanks to Adams’ leadership – enough to buy 28 water filters to provide program participants with clean drinking water!

Community Health Educator Caroline teaches about ceramic filters on World Water Day 2017.


How did Adams’ own awareness of the global water crisis begin? “From a combination of church and concert experiences. Our family also now sponsors five children in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Haiti and Brazil. We learned more about the struggles of our children’s families and their communities. Also, by working with several church organizations and youth groups, I was introduced to the work of Compassion International, Blood:Water, and World Vision.”

And now Adams passes her global awareness on. “This is why I teach kindergarten. This is the most important reason I teach. These students are the future, and they will not only continue to ask the questions, they’ll be the ones to find the answers.”




Interview with Craig Hafner: A Commendable WASH Career

To celebrate Maji Safi Group’s five-year anniversary, we will be featuring several guest bloggers from the Maji Safi Group (MSG) community this year. Our first guest is Craig Hafner whose successful global WASH career has spanned over five decades. Craig has always been a huge advocate for the “software” side of the WASH sector, believing that the most lasting and meaningful changes occur when behavioral change is given priority. MSG has been blessed to have Craig’s mentorship during our first five years, and we look forward to continuing to work with him. We hope you enjoy reading about Craig’s vast experience and knowledge.

  1. What are your biggest takeaways from your 40 years in the WASH sector?

My WASH career started in 1978 when I was hired as the first WASH-sector specialist for the Peace Corps. Throughout my career, infrastructure has always been the first thing people wanted to fund and the easiest. However, there are huge issues with the sustainability of projects, and they have not had any real impact. For real impact, you need to change people’s behaviors. In the 1980s, the new big thing was the ultimate hand pump designed by engineering schools with a technical mentality. Additionally, a lot more money has gone into disease treatment and drugs rather than prevention, which is much cheaper in the long run.

Another major barrier for the WASH sector has been the institutional arrangements and the challenges of the overlapping sectors that make this field so multi-disciplinary. If you want to create actual impact on health, you can’t just have the Ministry of Water in charge of WASH – you also need the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. If you don’t have this collaboration, it falls apart. This makes it difficult because it is hard to get people to communicate across ministries; there is a strong silo effect, and each ministry has its own priorities. I am proud to have pioneered some of this collaborative work through the WASH and environmental health projects I worked on with USAID for 20 years. I believe many of our projects were exceptionally good, and we were the first multisectoral projects done by USAID in 1980s. USAID has since used this model with their major grants and continues to bring professional firms on board to perform different specialties.

  1. What are some seminal moments during your WASH career that have shaped your thinking?

The first experience that got me interested in WASH was carrying water as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s at the school in Tanzania where I was teaching. After a few days, I hired a young man to fetch it for me and realized what a huge problem water was. Later, while I was working in northern Kenya on a medical mission during my master’s work on the Turkana tribe, I also saw first-hand the impact of drought on people and the desperate need for clean and clear water.

Working with Gilbert White at the University of Colorado was career changing, and one moment I remember vividly is when I was given the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn, 1962. It taught me about paradigms in thinking and how every so often, these paradigms shift when people look for new ways of approaching a problem. I always respected the interdisciplinary approach Gilbert White brought to WASH and his focus on behavioral sciences at CU. One instance that stuck out was when I was consulting for World Vision in the late 1980s in Ghana and visited their well-drilling rig. They had only done 2-3 days of outreach and preparation in the community after I had been advocating for 9-12 months of education (which was probably too short).

Two of my proudest achievements have been helping start Friends of Tanzania 27 years ago, which has been worthwhile and successful, and representing the Peace Corps when the UN launched their Water Decade in 1980 because they were going to solve the problem by 1990. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and I have seen many examples of unmet goals like that. For example, the Carter Center was going to eliminate the guinea worm disease by 1990, then 1995, then 2000, but is still working on it because of the difficulty of changing people’s behaviors.


  1. What aspects of Maji Safi Group have turned you into a supporter and advocate?

What first attracted me to MSG is the undertaking of attacking the lack of behavioral change in the WASH sector. I have thought for a long time that the fundamental issue around WASH is behavioral change, and I have not seen that much of that. Keeping in touch with various ideas and efforts has been intriguing, and I am excited to continue to follow MSG for two main reasons. One is to see if it is going to be successful, and two, are people going to look at the model and say that they need to adopt more behavioral change into WASH projects.

  1. What role do you think women play in the WASH sector, and how has that changed over your career?

This has been talked about in the sector since the early 1980s when Mary Elmendorf, a USAID consultant, was advocating for women’s role in WASH. For a long time, people have payed lip service to it. First, it was that you have to have a woman on a project committee; then, it was that a woman had to be the treasurer; and then, it was that a woman had to be leader of the committee. But it has been slow and gradual and has a long way to go as with many feminine issues in society. Having women take over more responsibilities and taking more of a leadership role is very important. I have yet to see many successful female project managers of WASH projects, but hope to see that continue to change.

MSG has always put women at the center our WASH work at every level. Over 75% of our staff are women, and as you can see they mean business.

  1. Bill Gates has referred to behavioral change as the hardest thing his foundation has tried to address. Why do you think that is?

To see how difficult it is, you can just look at issues like people giving up smoking and questions of obesity around the world. Getting people to alter their behaviors is a difficult thing to do. Lots of studies in many different contexts have gone into this for many years, but no silver bullet has been found. People have habits and are influenced by peers and society. Getting people to make fundamental changes to the way they live their lives has always been difficult.


  1. What do you think effective WASH behavioral change campaigns do?

I have been encouraged by Maji Safi Group’s progress since you started, and you seem to be making inroads, but while working in the WASH sector, I have not seen many success stories. Dr. Valerie Curtis, professor at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has done some good work over the years, but good examples and successes on behavioral changes have been hard to come by.


  1. If you could change one thing about the WASH sector, what would it be?


Rather than keeping behavioral change as an afterthought or add-on to the technical aspects of WASH projects – maybe 5% of a budget – you should build WASH projects around community education initiatives and put 25-30% of the budget into behavioral change campaigns.



  1. What do you think good projects and organizations usually do well?

Good projects I have seen were planned with the community up front and were engaged in the community. This is key, so the community has a sense of ownership in the project, which leads to sustainability. Having effective management of the projects is also critical to make sure you have systems that provide good checks and balances for the expenditure of funds. If an engineer has a salary of $5,000 managing the budget of a $100,000 project, there is a high chance of mismanagement, so checks and balances are essential. I remember meeting a paramount chief on a trip in Sierra Leone who wanted another water project for his community. I learned the history of the village from him, only to find out that his porch was made with the pipes that were supposed to be for a previously provided community system!

Successful organizations have also had good outreach and a collaborative approach to dealing with the needs and interests of others. Learning from what other organizations are doing to solve similar problems is essential as well as being open to new ideas and approaches. There is no problem with taking the ideas of others and running with them and being flexible with how you are planning things. Staying in touch with the newest ideas and models to find best practices is important.

Finally, being willing to continue doing hard assessment on a regular basis, taking responsibility for failures, learning from your mistakes and being willing to move ahead is key. For WASH specifically, it has to be an interdisciplinary effort, and if you want to affect health outcomes, you need a collaborative approach that can’t be dominated by the engineers.


  1. You have been involved with development work in Tanzania for over 50 years. What are common mistakes you have seen organizations make?

Through my long-time involvement with Tanzania, I have noticed a lot of things, but in general, I think there has been a lack of community involvement and communication, which has led to a lack of ownership. I think the book Watering White Elephants, by Ole Therkildsen of the Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1988, is a real indictment of funding water projects that were not sustainable. One major difference I saw between WASH work in Tanzania and Malawi was that the people who were in charge of building water systems in Malawi were from the Office of Community Development, so there was much more local buy-in than there was in Tanzania.

Over the years, I have also seen the perverseness of organizations paying increasing sitting fees for workshop attendees, and this is especially prominent in Tanzania compared to other countries. I see it as a failure in development. To pay people salaries, per diem expenses and other allowances to get training is inhibiting. Dealing with the levels of corruption in Tanzania has always been a challenge, and as a country, Tanzania has often had a really low international rating.



2017 – Another Successful Year of Fundraising!

Community Health Educator Caroline teaching about water treatment with a ceramic filter during World Water Day 2017.

Maji Safi Group has a lot to do with roots. In 2013, our nonprofit took root in Shirati, Tanzania, to address the root causes of preventable waterborne diseases. Accordingly, our grassroots fundraising in the US started taking root in 2013 as well. Since then, Maji Safi Group has put down deep roots in rural Tanzania, helping tens of thousands of residents understand the importance of personal and household hygiene, public health and the economic advantage of focusing on relatively inexpensive disease prevention instead of costly treatment. Good health is the root of a productive life, and Maji Safi Group still depends on grassroots fundraising for our financial health. Along the Front Range in Colorado and all around the world, we have worked had on developing a group of passionate supporters, so our fundraising efforts could develop roots like perennial flowers, blooming year after year, and we are starting to yield a sizeable annual crop. Throughout the year, our fundraising events support the work we do – work that is rooted in a deep belief that participatory development and empowering communities to address their own health issues will lead to healthier lives!

The Friends of Maji Safi Group

Maji Safi Group has developed an amazing base of about 400 loyal and very generous donors from all around the United States and six continents. Thanks to their continued support, we can trust that our funding will be reliable, and we are starting to see more donors believe in PEP – The Power of Extended Philanthropy. When donors commit to a monthly donation, they enable nonprofits to do strategic planning at a very efficient and constructive level.


The Maji Safi Golf-a-thon

On a little bit chilly September morning, 19 women from the 18-hole league at Lake Valley Golf Club and Maji Safi Group’s president, Bruce Pelz, set out to play the third annual Maji Safi Golf-a-thon. When dusk put an end to play, they had played 613 holes and, thanks to our 107 generous donors, raised $57,000. The Maji Safi Golf-a-thon has become a day of amazing camaraderie and intense physical effort to make a difference in the lives of others. It is the backbone of our annual fundraising efforts.

Maji Safi Group at eTown Hall
On Dec. 3, eTown Hall buzzed with happy Maji Safi Group supporters as we ran our second annual fundraising party. The free afternoon show featured juggling, dancing, singing and a wonderful magic show. The evening show featured great food, open bar, live music, and fundraising games. This year, we added a holiday market stocked with authentic Tanzanian art and crafts items, gift certificates and items donated by Boulder restaurants, merchants and artists, and beautiful quilted creations from the Front Range Contemporary Quilters. Throughout the night, the holiday market was teeming with eager buyers looking for holiday gifts for family and friends. After doubling our income from the first year, we have already booked eTown Hall for Dec. 2, 2018 for our third annual fundraising party!

Colorado Gives Day
For the second year in a row, Maji Safi Group received dozens of donations on Colorado Gives Day, enabling us to get part of the one million dollar incentive fund. This year, MSG raised over $30,000 on Colorado Gives Day! The donations we receive this late in the calendar year enable us to enter the new year on very sound financial footing.



Maji Safi Read-a-thons – Children Helping Children
The Maji Safi Read-a-thon at Whittier International Elementary School in 2013 was our very first fundraising effort and the start of our work with students along the Front Range in Colorado – our ‘young global citizens’. The Maji Safi Read-a-thons are a win-win situation where children improve their reading skills and learn about global issues, social responsibility, and helping others through personal effort, while raising about $8,000 for Maji Safi Group’s After School Program in Tanzania. In 2018, we will run three read-a-thons in Boulder Valley District schools: our sixth annual at Whittier International, our second at Ryan Elementary and our first at Heatherwood Elementary.

Casey Middle School
Maji Safi Group has been working with students in the Leadership Class at Casey Middle School for four years, and it has now become a tradition. After an informative presentation about MSG’s mission and work, the students can choose to do ‘Global Improvement Projects’ (GIPs) with us. The projects typically help spread awareness of WASH issues and MSG’s work – some also raise funds for our work. Each spring, Maji Safi Group is part of Casey’s annual ‘Africa Night’.


Maji Safi Women’s Days Out
Maji Safi Women’s Days Out have become a fun way of raising money. Boulder restaurants donate a lunch that is followed by a professionally taught art class. In 2017, we hosted two such days, one at The Kitchen/The Generous View Studio and one at Restaurant 4580/Shelley Goddard’s Private pottery studio. Supporting women in Tanzania while having fun together through creative art projects in Boulder is another win-win situation that is becoming a popular part of Maji Safi Group’s fundraising.

If We Dine Once, They Can Dine Twice
For several years now, a group of Boulder friends have gathered in the spring for a small fundraising dinner. The idea behind ‘If we dine one, they can dine twice’ is to raise money for the Dining for Female Hygiene events in Tanzania where participants in our Female Hygiene Program bring together their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc. for dinners that feature food, Menstrual Hygiene Management education and the sharing of stories about the female experience.


The Generous View Studio
The Generous View Studio is a privately owned art studio in Boulder with a gorgeous view of the Flatirons. Through art, the studio creates community and encourages generosity as all income from classes and rentals benefit Maji Safi Group.


Par-3 Fundraiser at Lake Valley Golf Club
On Sept. 10, we ran our first Par-3 fundraiser in cooperation with the Lake Valley Junior Golfers and raised just under $1000. Together, we invited the golfers to pay $10 to try to win fun prizes by hitting the green in one shot, getting inside 15 feet of the pin, and closest to the pin. We hope to repeat this fun event at Lake Valley in 2018 and find additional golf clubs that will host us.


As a nonprofit passes its infancy and proves programmatic success and sustainability over time, its access to grants increases. In 2017, Maji Safi Group received several grants from US as well as European grantors. We are thrilled to have reached this point in our growth and hope to obtain additional grants in 2018. Grants and donations from family foundations are also valuable in terms of proving our status as a publicly funded nonprofit.

Hopes and Dreams for 2018
In 2018, we hope to add a Maji Safi Walk as a new annual event, and we hope to move into the realm of working more with corporate donors, larger grant makers, major individual donors and crowdfunding. Please support us generously in 2018 to celebrate our fifth year of operations and help us continue to grow! One of the biggest impacts you can make is sharing your interest in Maji Safi Group with friends, colleagues and family members as well as participating in our many entertaining fundraising events. Every time you or a connection sends a donation our way, you can be assured it will improve the health of underserved populations. Maji Safi Group will always stay close to our roots, but in our fifth year and beyond, we will keep growing towards the sky.


Please contact Erna Maj at erna@majisafigroup.org if you would like to participate in one of our fundraising events, learn more about MSG’s partnership with the Generous View Studio, run a crowdfunding campaign for us, host a dinner party, etc.


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.


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….


Eli & Melissa



Storytelling in Shirati


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.


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.


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.


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


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!