#GivingTuesday

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Join Maji Safi Group by participating in #GivingTuesday. This year, on December 2nd, the third annual global giving event will be held world wide as the counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday challenges individuals and communities to make the world a better place through generosity. The simple act of giving not only helps others, but also nourishes a generous community spirit.

Every gift makes a difference and by donating to Maji Safi Group on #GivingTuesday, you are supporting disease prevention education, healthy lifestyle promotion, and female empowerment in rural areas of Tanzania.

Join the #UNselfie global community and donate to Maji Safi Group on December 2nd for #GivingTuesday! Click the donate button to make a contribution to Maji Safi Group.

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Thank you and Happy Holidays from the Maji Safi Group staff!

 

First Maji Safi Golf-a-Thon

Erna Maj, or “Mama Bruce” as she is known in Shirati, started working with the Maji Safi Group (MSG) in March 2012. She received her Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado in Linguistics and TESOL and works as a language teacher, translator, and MSG’s Board Chair. Below, Mama Bruce shares her experience of the Maji Safi Golf-a-Thon she organized and participated in. 


“Great cause! And fresh water IS the key to getting out of poverty. Big first step into the future for these villages … keep up the good work.”– Chris Squadra, Golf-a-Thon Sponsor –


It was a beautiful morning at 9:30 a.m. on September 19th when 18 enthusiastic ladies teed off at Lake Valley Golf Club in warm sunshine under a Colorado-blue sky, and the atmosphere was truly special when the last three players walked onto the 18th green at dusk with a golden glow from a gorgeous sunset over the mountains and dark clouds with a few bolts of lightning to the east. In between, we had played 474 holes, enjoyed a buffet lunch, and truly helped Maji Safi Group and its work with water, sanitation and hygiene education in rural Tanzania by raising awareness and significant financial support.

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Lake Valley Lady Golfers

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“Playing fun golf with great friends. Supporting an important mission. Beautiful weather. A perfect day!”– Jan Fincher, Golf Player –


I presented the idea of playing a Maji Safi Golf-a-thon when we had our spring meeting for our Tuesday 18-hole Ladies League. I was thrilled when my golf friends voted to pursue the idea, but little did I know that the event would grow into a significant fundraiser. In Danish we say, “Mange bække små gør en stor å” which means, “Many small brooks make a big river”. That is exactly what happened here in the best grassroots fashion. We had over 100 sponsors who pledged anything from $0.05 to $12.50 per hole; we had 18 players who played 18, 27 or 45 holes each; and we had many thankful people in Shirati.

Children and Community Health Workers thanking those who supported Maji Safi Group

Children and Community Health Workers thanking those who supported Maji Safi Group

“[I] felt like the quote below surely applies to [Bruce Pelz] and the work he is doing as well as what you are doing to help him! 

“I slept and dreamt life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy!” (Rabindranath Tagore)

– Brenda Lilly, Golf Player –

We already have plans to organize the Second Annual Maji Safi Golf-a-thon for 2015 – not just for the money, but also for the fun and the joy in giving.


“I had more straight-up FUN playing these holes of golf than any I’ve played since I’ve been at Lake Valley. People were all cheering each other on, sincerely, not just pro forma. We all played serious golf and tried to make each shot the best we could, but the camaraderie was unlike anything I’d seen here. We had a common goal, to do good for others, and somehow it translated into fun and friendship.” –Judith Shinn, Golf Player–


[vimeo http://vimeo.com/109264513]

Empowering Tanzanians through Photography

Dear Maji Safi friends,

It is the very first time that I am writing my thoughts for this blog. So first of all let me introduce myself. My name is Christoph Stulz. Soon I will be turning 33 years old, born in Switzerland, proud father of 2 beautiful daughters and working for the Swiss NGO Interteam. I am based in Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania on the picturesque Lake Victoria. My lovely wife is our NGO’s country coordinator so I am also called Interteam’s first lady in Tanzania, thanks to all who gave me this nickname!

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Christoph with Community Health Worker, Lilian

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Christoph with Community Heath Worker, Consol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I have a very interesting assignment with Maji Safi Group in Shirati as a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, and, last but not least, as a teacher in photography. I get to educate Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Workers, also called Water Ambassadors.

Teaching Community Health Workers (Lilian, Beatrice, and Winner) about photography

Teaching Community Health Workers (Lilian, Beatrice, and Winner) about photography

It has been my very first experience in the pedagogic field of teaching adults, so before my first group of Maji Safi Community Health Worker students, I was totally nervous and afraid of standing in front of a group of people, as I am a bit introverted.

Christoph teaching Community Health Workers (Winner, and Lilian) how to use a camera

Christoph teaching Community Health Workers (Winner, and Lilian) how to use a camera

But the first workshops in September and October with 3 different groups of Community Health Workers were fantastic! The students were very interested and the goal we set up was reached.

Photography is a daily occurrence here in Tanzania; people get very excited about pictures of themselves. So called “selfies” are already common in the daily lives of Tanzanians. They love to strike a pose in public places when local photographers are doing their small business. And as the smart mobile phones have gotten cheaper and cheaper, today thousands of photographs make their way through What’s App and Facebook in Tanzania.

Photo taken by Community Health Worker

Photo taken by Community Health Worker

Photo taken by Community Health Worker

Photo taken by Community Health Worker

So the idea behind educating the local staff of Maji Safi Group in photography, and later, in videography, is very interesting. The result of this activity is leading to nice pictures made by locals which are totally different photographs you would get if a foreigner makes them, even if this outsider would be the very best professional photographer. Locals see this world here in a very different way from us foreigners. They will automatically get a more sensitive and closer view or access to the local world here in the villages around Shirati, and finally Maji Safi Group will get wonderful photographic material about our different programs and activities. So, all of us are looking forward to seeing more and more photos as a result. I think some of them will turn out like artwork.

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Photo taken by Community Health Worker

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Photo taken by Community Health Worker

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Photo taken by Community Health Worker

During the past 3 workshops, I first explained to each small group of Community Health Workers the different camera types and their parts and simple procedures: like how to turn the camera on and off, how to zoom the lens, how to use the flash. Some of the students haven’t had any experiences with cameras at all before. Others got the sense of it faster, as they had already worked with photography on their mobile phones. So we decided working just with the automatic mode of the cameras because the cameras know much better which settings they should choose for each situation. After the short technical introduction we changed the subject to the even more interesting part about the creativity of photography.  We then talked about the rules which can help us to increase the quality of our pictures to attract or fascinate their future viewers.

Christoph teaching Community Health Workers about photography

Christoph teaching Community Health Workers about photography

All in all, the first workshops were very successful as you can see here a selection of photographs made by our water ambassadors.

I am looking forward to my next time in Shirati when we continue practicing and take a lot more exciting pictures.

Best greetings from Tanzania,

Christoph Stulz

Thank You Lego Foundation!

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

 

 

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

Lego3Now they have come to Shirati, Tanzania!

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

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

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

Siku ya Kunawa Duniani – Global Handwashing Day 2014

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Photo from Global Handwashing Day in Shirati, TZ

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

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Children at the Maji Safi Group office celebrating Global Handwashing Day

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

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

 

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Global Handwashing Day banner hung with pride in Shirati, Tanzania

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Teaching school children the proper times and methods of hand washing

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Becoming a Part of the Maji Safi Community

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Maria Kenney (Center) with Female Hygiene Program participants

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

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Shirati, Tanzania

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maria at MSG outreach event in St. Louis

Maria at MSG outreach event in St. Louis

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

Strategic Planning Workshop with Community Health Workers

Strategic Planning Workshop with Community Health Workers

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

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

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

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

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Shirati, Tanzania

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

Community Health Workers in MSG office

Community Health Workers in MSG office

Community Health Worker, Prisca

Community Health Worker, Prisca

 

 

 

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

Skits preformed by Community Health Workers

Skits preformed by Community Health Workers

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

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Summer in Shirati

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Grace Goldstein (Left), Maria Kenney (Center), Emily Bull (Right)

Grace Goldstein grew up outside of Washington, DC and didn’t stray far from home for college where she graduated with a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Virginia. While at UVA she studied abroad in Falmouth, Jamaica and Copenhagen, Denmark. After graduating Grace moved back to DC and worked for a national construction company for two years. She decided to go back to school and is currently in her last year at Washington University in St. Louis in the dual MBA and Master of Architecture program. She is focusing on social entrepreneurship and related architectural design. She took advantage of the travel opportunities in graduate school and has studied in Barcelona, Japan and just returned from her first experience with Maji Safi in Shirati, Tanzania with her experience described below. 

Why Tanzania?

Tanzania_Blog Post1When I introduce myself as a dual MBA, Master of Architecture candidate most people are surprised and question the combination as unusual, unique and occasionally contradictory.  It should come as no surprise then that my summer internship fell under the category “unconventional”. Washington University (WUSTL) touts itself as an interdisciplinary, cross collaborative university, and while that feels hard to believe on the 3rd day straight in studio working towards final deadline or locked in study rooms during ICE week, my internship epitomized that ideal. I took a joint architecture – social work class my first year at WUSTL and was introduced not only to the world of social work but also to my partner for the semester, a graduating student in social work focusing in international development. Emily and I ended up with a great project, a look into each other’s worlds and a connection to another part of the university. We didn’t talk until almost a year later as I was finishing up the first year of my MBA. Emily was now working for Maji Safi Group, a non-profit organization operating in Shirati, Tanzania. Maji Safi needed a designer and Emily recalled her semester long encounter with an architecture student. It’s hard to pass up any opportunity as an architect to design your own building (ever) especially before graduating from school. I jumped at the chance offering both my design services and applicable skills, like budgeting, from the MBA. Not unselfishly, this “internship” fulfilled every box I wished I could have checked on Weston Career Center but couldn’t – design focus, MBA focus, non-profit/social good, and travel.

The potential plot of land for the Community Resource Center in Tanzania.

The potential plot of land for the Community Resource Center in Tanzania.

Tanzania?

I knew very little about Tanzania before I left. The sum total of my knowledge included friends and friends of friends exclaiming, “I know someone who went to Tanzania,” an introduction to the Maji Safi and the information about Shirati Tanzania posted on their website, and a suggested dress code that included skirts below the knee and shirts with sleeves (a very different wardrobe than the one you would find in my closet).

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Pictured from left to right: Max Perel-Slater, Grace Goldstein, Emily Bull, Maria Kenney, and Bruce Pelz

Tanzania is an east African country bound by the Indian Ocean on the east, Lake Victoria to the northwest and surrounded by Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Tanzania is home to the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar Island and as a result is as much a tourist destination as an intensely local population.

An Internship in Tanzania?

Fast-forward five weeks, a safari, countless hours in planes and airports, a week with the Swiss Family Robinson exploring Mwanza and acclimating to Tanzania, and the grown up version of sleep away camp in Musoma spending days working and evenings throwing the Frisbee, gathering for family dinners and projecting movies and time to move to Shirati. It’s unfair to boil my first five weeks down to a run-on sentence. It does the experience an injustice; I would need a book or at the least a pamphlet to describe the collage of culture that I was exposed to, woven threads of conversations, people, Swahili bumbles, mundane activities turned epic in their variety, and encounters with animals, food and stories.

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I will start the summary story with our 2 hour drive from Musoma to Shirati. Shirati is a village on Lake Victoria in the Mara region, home to 150,000 people. Shirati is also the home base for Maji Safi Group and very dear in the hearts of Max, Bruce and Emily.  So, anticipation and excitement to get to Shirati was high and had been anxiously building for weeks. I heard stories about the Mamas and the Community Health Workers, the KMT Hospital and the puppies that were awaiting their parent’s return to the Shirati House. Mama Deborah, who runs the house in Shirati and kept us all fully fed at all hours of the day and Judith, the Mama of the Community Health Workers had been built up to god status in my head before getting to Shirati (the description was more than accurate). If I had a scale for “venturing into the unknown” the meter would have been topping the scale as we drove into Shirati.

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The Community Health Workers and management team

I would highly recommend when visiting a village in Tanzania to visit one where the organization you work for and the people you are working with are highly respected in the eyes of the villagers and their employees. I have never met (descriptors are accurate not exaggerated) a more welcoming and excited group of people, much less employees. I’d consider myself a pretty friendly person but I couldn’t keep up with the enthusiasm of each of the CHWs. Saying “hello” to someone is a conversation in and of itself in Kiswahli. It is one of the first things I tried to tackle in Tanzania and the last thing I managed to become passable at. There are so many different ways to say hello and each version requires different responses; it felt like an art form and certainly a window into the lost art of conversation, which in the US has been reduced to empty letters sent anonymously over text message. Maji Safi has 16 employees each of whom has been trained in community health practices and has passed tests to qualify them to go out into the village and educate their community about WASH practices. They wear their uniforms with pride, each shirt proclaiming “Niulize kuhusu Maji Safi!” ask me about clean water.Tanzania_Blog Post5 Over the course of three weeks in Shirati, this phrase would come to epitomize the spirit and dedication of Maji Safi Group and all the Community Health Workers.

Design Workshop with Community Health Workers

Design Workshop with Community Health Workers

The original premise for spending the summer in Tanzania was to design the Community Resource Center (CRC).  One of the first agenda items in Shirati was to hold a design workshop with the CHWs. The workshop was designed to introduce the premise of the CRC to the health workers and to engage them from the beginning in the discussions and design of the center. After a day of designing we had 4 unique, beautiful designs for the center. However, the true power of the exercise was in the explanation each team gave for their design: the juxtaposition of different spaces, the need for designated rooms and the potential they saw for the growth of the organization in dedicated built forms.

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Design Workshop with Community Health Workers

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Design Workshop with Community Health Workers

 

 

 

 

 

The second work driven goal of the trip was to create a budget for Maji Safi. Two weeks later and countless hours spent pacing the porch, drinking glass bottle sodas and calling CHWs to answer reference questions, we had a budget. But like the design workshop and most of our activities in Tanzania the process was arguably as important as the budget itself. I was in a unique position to participate in conversations that were refining and redefining the mission of the organization, the core values and the direction of the individual Maji Safi programs. It’s an unusual experience to sit with a dedicated and driven leadership team and debate the power of a single word in setting the course for an organization’s impact evaluation, growth trajectory and program structure.

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I still find it amazing a month later, how powerful those three weeks in Shirati were. We spent all of our time together, sleeping, eating, working and playing and the result was that three weeks in Shirati felt more like three months and made leaving a lot harder. I had become much more invested in the future of Maji Safi than I had expected and didn’t want the summer to end and with it my involvement in the organization. The result: I agreed to be the Maji Safi Group Treasurer for the next year and have received approval (officially) to design the Community Resource Center as my Masters Thesis Project. I now have the benefit of designing the CRC with the support and guidance of Maji Safi Group, my thesis advisor, my peers and the resources the Sam Fox School make available. With any luck I’ll be back in Shirati soon, meanwhile the adventure will continue from afar in St. Louis.

The educational bathroom at the Maji Safi Group office

The educational bathroom at the Maji Safi Group office

 

Young Global Citizens: Global Improvement Project

Maji Safi GIP at Casey Middle School

Casey Middle School

Casey Middle School

If you are a student in Mr. Lurie’s Leadership Class at Casey Middle School in Boulder, you know what PIPs, CIPs, BIPs and GIPs are – Personal Improvement Projects, Casey Improvement Projects, Boulder Improvement Projects, and Global Improvement Projects. The first three have existed for a long time; the GIP arrived this spring when we had the pleasure of telling the class about Maji Safi Group and our work in Shirati. Three enthusiastic students, Brodi Hawk, Jesse Bacardi, and Colton Brooks, chose to do a GIP. The three boys each made a box of math cards for the children in Shirati.

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Casey Middle School boys holding math cards they created for their Global Improvement Project.

It is one of Maji Safi Group’s goals to spread awareness about global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene issues (WASH) in the US.  Any work in schools is extremely positive because we help educate youth on how to be young global citizens. This fall, Maji Safi Group will once again do a presentation in Mr. Lurie’s Leadership Class, and we hope many more future students choose to do a GIP as one of their three mandatory Improvement Projects.

Thank you Brodi, Jesse, and Colton!

 

 

Young Global Citizens: Global Awareness through Reading

Second Annual Maji Safi Read-a-Thon at Whittier International School

Read-a-thons are a great win-win situation where the participating students improve their own reading skills, learn global citizenship, and help others. Schools or individual families can do read-a-thons.

Like last year, students at Whittier International School in Boulder teamed up to support Maji Safi Group. This year, we worked with the three 2nd grade classes. For Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15, 2013, we visited the classes where we talked about the importance of hand washing and showed the students how to wash their hands properly.

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Bruce Pelz teaching students about hand washing on Oct. 15, 2013.

After Christmas break, we visited each class with a PowerPoint presentation that took them on a visual journey to Shirati to show them what life looks like there if you are a kid their age. Their eyes went big as they watched and we compared the lives of people in Shirati to those of Boulderites. We then ran the Read-a-thon and finished with a pizza party where the students learned about their reading results. Each Maji Safi reader received a thank you card made by a kid in Shirati, a certificate, and an ice cream coupon donated by Ben & Jerry’s.

Reading log

Reading Log

The results were amazing! Twenty-seven students participated; they read 300 books; and they raised $1,955 for Maji Safi Group programs.

The children had two types of sponsors: sponsors they had found themselves (parents, grandparents, family friends, and neighbors) and our ‘outside sponsors’ who as a group pledged to pay the children $3 per book. The ‘outside sponsors’ have become an important and much appreciated part of the Maji Safi Read-a-thon because some kids want to be young global citizens, but their families are not in a position to donate or find sponsors. This year, one student had no personal sponsors, but he read 34 books, raising $102!


 

That is just amazing! Thank you for bringing this program to our children so they can grow their connections to the world and see just how their individual acts add up to big change.

 In gratitude,

Myriah Conroy (Whittier parent)


 

If you know of families or schools that would be interested in doing a Maji Safi Read-a-thon, please contact me at ernamaj@majisafigroup.org . Our paperwork is available in English and Spanish.

Thank you Whittier students, 2nd grade teachers and sponsors!

 

WASH Employment Empowers Communities

BruceBruce Pelz, a Co-Founder of the Maji Safi Movement and current Vice President and Secretary, shares his experience and insight from the Colorado Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Symposium. 

On March 4th and 5th, I had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual Colorado Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Symposium, put on by the Environmental Engineering Department at CU Boulder. 

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It was a privilege to attend and feel the excitement from students, young professionals, and professionals who have been in the WASH sector for more than 20 years. From the debates, discussion rounds, lectures and networking, I was able to glean a clearer view of the history of the WASH sector and learn lessons Maji Safi can use for moving forward. A special thanks to Rita Klees and all of the students from Engineering for Developing Communities for putting on a great event with world-class panelists and participants. As a Boulder native and CU graduate, I have always felt blessed by how much attention is paid to water in Colorado.

On my way home from the Symposium, I was listening to NPR and heard the New York Columnist Chris Hedges talk about the uprisings that have transpired since the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi ignited himself in 2010 after being disrespected publicly by a government official. Hedges concluded that the cause of these uprisings was not race, religion or ethnicity, but rather that people no longer are able to achieve upward mobility in society. Along the same lines, the recent scenes in Kiev, Egypt and Syria illustrate the dangers that high global unemployment rates among recent college graduates pose globally. Could the lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation ignite similar reactions? I think so. After all, the human right to water and sanitation is a pre-requisite to all other human rights.

During the second debate of the WASH Symposium, titled Where Should Investments in the WASH Sector Go?, Mayling Simpson from Rotary International discussed the importance of employment and building the capacity of WASH professionals in the communities that are stuck in the global cycle of disease treatment.

Current Community Health Workers

Current Community Health Workers

The Maji Safi Movement fully agrees with this perspective. We believe that quality employment for rural African mothers is critical in the development of Africa; therefore, over 75% of Maji Safi’s full-time Community Health Workers (CHWs) are women, and 90% of the CHWs have children. Having quality employment, social security, and health insurance is important to the development of healthy families, and it gives our CHWs the security to continue to send their children to school. We believe that when our employees first change the hygienic behaviors of their families and the sanitary situation at their homes, they are better equipped to advocate for what preventing disease can do for planning and maintaining a stable family life.

Along with Mayling Simpson, hygiene education consultant Craig Hafner has been advocating for the importance of hygiene education in changing the WASH norms of a community.

Mission Statement

A common WASH situation found in Shirati, Tanzania, as well as other rural and urban parts of developing countries.

Both professionals have been working in the sector for 20+ years as social behavioral scientists in a sector dominated by male engineers. They agree that listening to what the poor are saying and having them design incentives to bring universal access to clean water and waste management has to be at the center of development in both urban and rural areas.

Since Maji Safi first employed Community Health Workers in June of 2012, we have also recruited numerous volunteers who have made a diligent effort to learn how to prevent disease in their daily lives. The volunteer movement in Shirati combines the participants’ desire to learn how they can prevent disease with the possibility of transitioning into employment. Maji Safi is proud to have over 20 volunteers who have benefitted from our participatory curriculum and fun and memorable learning experiences. They passionately support our program in Shirati.

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A Maji Safi Movement volunteer teaching children how to properly wash their hands.

I believe incentives are central to all decisions in life as well as to favorable development in all sectors of society. Employing women is one of the most effective ways to improve households and their quality of life, because women are more likely to invest their income in the household than men are. Traumatic and devastating conflicts would not be as likely worldwide if women and the impoverished socioeconomic classes were empowered and employed to change their own living situations. That is exactly the mission Maji Safi Movement is accomplishing, and we hope to continue to support this movement and expand it within the global WASH sector.