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 . 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. 


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.


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.

The Inside Scoop from the Women behind the Female Hygiene Program

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A photo of Linda (left) and Judith (right)

There has been much excitement surrounding the new Female Hygiene Program in Shirati, Tanzania. The Female Hygiene Program started this summer, with the aid of Faye Phillips who was awarded a Wesleyan University Patricelli Seed Grant to provide a safe space where young women are invited to learn about their bodies, puberty, healthy relationships, and proper hygiene and care. These young women are encouraged to participate in fun activities and have an open dialogue with female community mentors. In this post, we interviewed the two mentors (Linda Atieno Arot, a professional Health Educator originally from Kenya, and Judith Mbache, one of Maji Safi’s Community Water Workers) that have made the Female Hygiene Program such a success. 

Q: What are the issues that Shirati women face? What have you heard and seen?

Linda:  As for women in Shirati, first and foremost, they don’t understand their biological features. They don’t know how bodies work, making them not understand what is happening in their own body. Young women don’t know how to prevent pain associated with monthly periods or how to go about tending to it.


Young ladies (ages 13-17) in the Female Hygiene Program

They use local materials and, sometimes, you find that they contract some viral disease or fungus from those materials. When the bleeding comes, they don’t know how to help it. They don’t know what symptoms of diseases look like, and so diseases can live for a long time without any treatment. In Tanzania, there are more male teachers than female, so little girls fear opening up when they start their period. By the time they begin their period, they are not ready because they do not have enough knowledge. They are afraid that something is happening to their body, and they don’t understand what is happening because nobody has taught them.


Judith: Some women and girls are very poor, as is their whole family, so they don’t have any sanitary materials to use. This makes them afraid as they wonder, “What am I going to use when I’m bleeding?”  Maybe a young woman lives with her father and brother, leaving her to wonder, “Who am I going to ask for help?”

Linda: The girls don’t feel free.

Q: Why are you excited about the Female Hygiene Program?


During the Female Hygiene Community Outreach event, the young ladies in the group showcased their singing, dancing, and drama skills to teach the community about female health and proper hygiene associated with menstruation.

Judith: I am happy because those girls who are nearby me, whom I live with or teach, can know this subject before they reach the day of their first bleeding. So when I teach them, I am studying who is afraid, and who is not afraid and I come to understand the family from which they come. It makes me feel free to talk with my children. I am happy to teach them how to prevent getting pregnant. I am happy to make them understand before they are in that situation so they can make knowledgeable choices and know what they are doing. From the Female Hygiene Program, they know about the changes in their body before they occur.


Community support for the Female Hygiene Community Awareness event

Linda: With me, I’m a woman, and I’m proud of being a woman. Because I was never taught how I could protect myself, I am very concerned about the young women who are attending the Female Hygiene Program. I want to help them learn how to protect themselves while teaching them about female hygiene. They can protect themselves from contracting various diseases. I’m also happy because before we didn’t have a program like this. The number of girls who are getting pregnant is so high and I think that with this program, that the number will be very low. Families can use locally available hygienic materials during menstruation in place of pads. Poor families can’t get the money for pads. Through this program, girls can also know how to tell other girls, spread the word and get others to come to the Female Hygiene Program. This way, we join hands and make the goal of Tanzania to know and create awareness about female hygiene.

Q: Describe the program and its goals.

DSC_4194 Judith:  For the participants of this program, we began working with the singing and dance girls in the office (ages 9-16) who will become junior ambassadors as we teach them about female hygiene. They were timid before, but when we continue with them, the fear disappears, and they ask many questions. When we demonstrate, they are free to ask and they can demonstrate too without any fear. Some of them already have their menstrual period, so when we ask them questions, they are not afraid to answer us. Our goal is to make them teachers themselves.


A group shot of Linda and Judith with the young ladies in the Female Hygiene Program.

Linda: We want to help the girls to open up themselves, let them know the changes that take place in their body, and to make sure they understand what is the menstrual period. They also learn the courage of not being afraid of whatever they are undergoing. With that, we hope that we will use the girls to go out to other children, so that they can be ambassadors of their knowledge.

Q: How has working with 3 generations of women been for the development of the program? Do you think each generation brings a different angle/positive aspect to the dynamics of the group?

Linda: When you find a girl who got the information about her period from her sister, she got very recent information. The one who is being taught by grandma is being taught that you shouldn’t go out of your house when you have your period, which is information from a long time ago. The different generations all have different perspectives. Even student to student can teach each other, and this is valuable. DSC_4205 Q: What do you foresee as challenges in this program?

Linda: The venue could be a challenge, because the girls are used to the Maji Safi Office. There are young children here, these girls are the oldest, and they want to be free. We can lack finances, some think they would be coming to receive something, to be given something, but maybe we are not capable for issuing them. Judith and Linda Also, you might find that with the number of children in the class, sometimes only the two of us handling a big class could be difficult. It will force us to divide the class, and with dividing it, the number will also increase. We will have to look for another person to assist. Transportation can also be a problem.  We are coming from very far, and so are the girls. That can be a problem. Some are very interested in this program, but they come from very far. It will make us to go them, which will also need to be financed for us to get there. Also, younger or older sisters could be in the class, and they won’t feel comfortable because their family member is present – this could be a problem. It depends on how old, how confident, and how free you are.

Maji Safi has been amazed by the support we have already received to keep this program running. We are excited to be the newest partner of Lunapad’s Pads4Girls program. They have generously donated 250 AFRIpad kits (reusable, eco-friendly pads) to support the Female Hygiene Program. 


Additionally, on November 9th, the Maji Safi Female Hygiene Program held its first community performance. Over 550 Shirati residents came to the Maji Safi office to view the female hygiene education presentations (songs, dances, and skits) performed by the young women of the group.

If you would like to support the Female Hygiene Program, please visit the Maji Safi website and donate or contact Emily via email at

Leading by Example: Meet Prisca

My name is Prisca Julius. Before joining Maji Safi, my life was difficult. I only finished one year of secondary school because I got married and had a child. I then lived with my husband until he passed away, after which I moved back to my parents’ house. During this time, I worked as a trainee at a tailor’s shop.


I enjoy being an Ambassador for Maji Safi because the job allows me to work for the benefit of my community. As a leader of the Singing and Dance Group, I am very happy to come to work every day. The children in the Singing and Dance Group have discovered their ability to communicate positive messages through their performances. You now hear the group’s songs all over town. The students have also found a supportive place where they can get extra academic attention. Many of the kids don’t know how to read, so we are working on that.

Leading by Example: Meet Winner


My name is Winner, and I was born in 1986 in Buturu in the Rorya District. I started school in 1995 and finished my primary education in 2001. I was not able to go onto secondary school in 2002 because my parents were unable to pay for my school fees. After this, I decided to find a life partner, and I got married. After getting married, I became pregnant and had twins in 2005, one girl and one boy. After this, I became a seamstress and started sewing clothes. After starting sewing, I became pregnant again and had another boy, so now I have two boys and one girl.


I am very thankful for Maji Safi’s education because it changed me. Before, I didn’t know the importance of a toilet, or even the importance of treating water. I used to drink untreated water, and I even had a toilet, but I didn’t use it. Maji Safi made it so I knew the importance of using a toilet, and it helped me know how to prevent disease.

Leading by Example: Meet Consolata

My name is Consolata, and I was born on February 12th, 1992 at Bukoba Government Hospital. In 1999, I started first grade at Sota Primary School in Shirati and finished in 2005. After this, I went to Katuru Secondary School in Shirati, starting in 2006 and finishing form four in 2009. After secondary school, I then decided in 2009 to join the organization Sisters of Little Servant of Mary which is in Losaka, Zambia. In 2012, I decided to return home after I discovered it wasn’t my passion.


After joining Maji Safi, I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know, for example the transmission of Bilharzia. But now I am sure of what I am doing, and joining Maji Safi helped take away my fears and build my confidence to give the community advice.

Transmission of Bilharzia. For more information visit

Transmission of Bilharzia.
For more information visit

With Maji Safi, I was able to get trained on Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST)  and Children Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (CHAST) in order to help build a better understanding in the community when I teach. My intentions while I’m with Maji Safi are to help the community be able to bring change. I am also able to follow my dream as a facilitator. I have one child named Andrew Japhat who was born on May 7th, 2013, and I am very happy to be with Maji Safi and promise to continue to enjoy myself and learn as much as I can.

Leading by Example: Meet Mwamvua

My name is Mwamvua, and I was born on July 28th, 1993 at Shirati Hospital. In 2000, I started 1st grade and finished primary school in 2006. In 2007, I was to continue to secondary school and finished form four in 2010. I was unable to continue to higher education, and I became a seamstress and also helped my mom with running her restaurant. On July 16th, 2011, I had a baby girl whose name is Vivian Benedictor.

In 2012, I was lucky to join Maji Safi and am now a full-time Community Water Worker (CWW). With Maji Safi, I have learned a lot of things that I didn’t know before; especially, now I recognize the importance of preventing disease, and I have been able to help development within families with the education I got about health and the environment.


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Working for Maji Safi, I can continue to teach the community, especially children and women, about the importance of health education and the environment, so the community can prevent disease. Women and children are able to bring a big change within their family and the community around them.

Maji Safi made me into an ambassador of education and economics and also brought change within my family and the surrounding community in general. I want to continue teaching about health education and clean environments to carry on development within the community for future generations.

Maji Safi through the Lens of a Filmmaker

Paul Horton is the Photograph and Film Director at Neue Studios in Middletown, CT. Paul volunteered with Maji Safi during the summer of 2012. During his time in Shirati, Paul, and his team, produced films and photographs for Maji Safi.

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Paul filming the Singing and Dance Group in Shirati

One year ago, I traveled to Shirati to film and photograph the Maji Safi project.  It was my intention to provide them with stills for use on their web site, and edit a few films that would describe their project.

I arrived in Shirati after spending three days in the national parks of Tanzania.  Both the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater were wonderful locations for filming and photos.

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Ngorongoro Crater

We spent our time initially at the after school program and the singing and dancing program.  Luckily, I was there for the big performance of the singing and dancing group.  It took place at the Maji Safi office/community center, and had a huge audience.  The spirit was really celebratory, and a moment that I will not forget.  After the performance was an impromptu dance party that lasted for awhile.

We then concentrated on filming the Community Water Workers (CWWs).  We visited 3 or 4 homes and filmed as the CWWs reviewed the hygiene materials with the families.  A high point for me was returning to one of the houses to play music with the father of one of the families.

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We had set aside time to film the process of collecting water from Lake Victoria, a task performed by water carriers.  We hired a pikipiki, a Tanzanian motorcycle,  to carry me as we filmed Mayanga on his bicycle.  It was certainly a new experience to ride facing backwards on a motorcycle as I was filming.  No major injuries, though.   It is hard to believe that he makes that trip many times a day.

I have posted some photos from my time in Shirati as well.

My crew was the best (thanks, Pete and Abby!), and the experience was extraordinary.  With luck, I will return next summer to update all the footage, and to report on the new Maji Safi programs in Shirati.


Leading by Example: A Latrine Story

Judith Mbache, known as Mama Mkubwa (Big Mama) by the Maji Safi community, joined the Maji Safi in March 2012 in the first class of Community Water Workers (CWWs). Since then, Judith has been an integral part of the CWWs, by acting as a mentor to the younger ambassadors. She was instrumental in developing and implementing the After School Program and is now taking a lead role in the new Female Hygiene Program for Shirati girls.

Judith + Grandaughter

Judith and her granddaughter

My name is Judith Mbache. I was born on the June 19th, 1964 in Kabwana, Shirati. I have a form 2 secondary education from Kenya, and I attended nursing school for two years. I have 3 kids, a daughter and two sons. My children live far from Shirati, and I now live with my granddaughter named Judith who goes to Tai Secondary School, form 1.

Before joining the Maji Safi Group, I was a farmer and palliative care provider. Palliative care is a service provided to the severely ill in their homes. Examples of such diseases are cancer, sickle cell anemia, TB, HIV/AIDS, and diabetics.

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Judith working with Shirati children during Maji Safi’s After School Program

After joining the Maji Safi Group, I have gone through so many changes. Firstly, the school children refer to me as a teacher. Secondly, I am able to budget my money every month. Thirdly, I was enabled to build a permanent improved latrine. Earlier, I used to participate in open defecation. So now I am able to be among the people who conserve the environment and prevent fecal-oral infection and diseases like cholera, dysentery, chronic diarrhea, and worms.

Being able to own a toilet has brought me so much respect in my community. Guests come to my house, and I don’t feel shy, and I show them the bathroom straight away.

I would like to give thanks to the entire Maji Safi community for enabling me to change some of the things in my life. It has empowered me with education, and now I have a clearer understanding, and I know the importance of latrine use, and I now have my own toilet.

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Judith’s new latrine

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Judith’s house and latrine

Thank You.


Judith Mbache

Where children learn…

Tanzania 2013_2 165 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 and translator. Mama Bruce has worked and volunteered for aid organizations in the US, Tanzania, Guatemala, and Argentina and is currently acting as the US Fundraising Coordinator for the Maji Safi Group. Below, Mama Bruce shares her Maji Safi experience and what it is like to work with the children in Shirati involved in MSG’s After School Program.
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Imagine young children who do not have the opportunity to color, to read children’s books, to play Memory and Scrabble, to play with playdoh, to cut and glue, to have their faces painted, or to do math with manipulatives. In Shirati, there are a lot of children like that. They are happy kids who can kill a snake, herd goats and dance the kuduku, but their schools are characterized by huge classes, rote learning, a lack of supplies, and very little emphasis on cognitive development. In most homes, there is no money available for art supplies or books. In Shirati, developing the kind of imagination and creative thinking western schools and parents are so focused on honing all too often becomes a dream deferred. Instead of carrying creative ideas in her head, a girl ends up carrying buckets of water on her head.

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Or that used to be the case, I should say. Now, there is the Maji Safi Group’s office which is in the process of being turned into a true Community Resource Center. Here, kids come to play and learn about personal hygiene, water treatment and disease prevention through stories, singing and dancing, games and art. In the afternoons, eager hands, enthusiastic voices and fascinated minds fill those two rooms to the brink. Health instruction is being given, hands are being washed, books are being read, pages are being colored, and memory cards with vijidudu (bacteria) in twenty different colors are being turned. And not to be forgotten, there is Maji-Maji-Vijidudu (Water-Water-Bacteria) – the Shirati version of Duck-Duck-Goose

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I have had the pleasure of working with the children in Shirati twice. In March 2012, Maji Safi Group was in its infancy, so I worked at a school. While I was there, the idea of an afternoon school program, based on children’s literature and art, was born. We wanted to see if the children would come. They did – dozens, often walking several miles to participate. In March 2013, Maji Safi Group had become an established and highly respected organization with its own After School Program taught by the Maji Safi Community Water Workers (CWWs). I was asked to help add art projects to the children’s curriculum. Minyoo (worms) were created as reverse paper cuts, syllables of hygiene content words were matched, word search sheets were made and colored, paper scraps were used for math, board games were created and played, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar came to Shirati in Swahili.

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Mama Bruce, as they call me there, cannot wait to return to work with the Maji Safi CWWs and the children they teach. My suitcase will be filled with homemade teaching materials and children’s books and my head with ideas. If you have ideas or materials to share, please contact me at I cannot wait to see kids as fascinated as the one below again, fascinated by a children’s story.

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