Hello friends! I crossed the border into Tanzania on February 16th, and I have been thankful to be back to work for the last three weeks.
I have also been thankful that the United Methodist Committee on Relief has sponsored a major scale-up of our savings and loan groups. We had been working on starting them at five Churches in the Mwanza region and seven Churches in the Mara region. Since receiving the grant on January 15th, we have expanded our work to seven Churches in the Geita region and eight in the Dodoma region as well. I couldn’t find them all, but this should give you a general picture of where we are working:
(Yellow markers= Churches we are working with)
As I have tried to start these groups over the last eighteen months, the Churches have resisted, reluctant to participate in a program where they don’t receive money, Church buildings, or other resources that they expect missionaries to bring. Once the groups are started, they have expected me to make a large contribution. We have managed to get four groups started, but it has been rough going. We’ve compared our rocky start with the more successful savings group programs of other Churches in the area, and have seen how valuable it would be if we could hire Tanzanians to do the on the ground work that I have been doing. Good news- this grant has done that (the title means, “Let’s get Tanzanians to empower Tanzanians”). My role in the savings groups is now only to supervise the monitoring, and supervise the statistical evaluation of the groups’ success.
You may remember Mzee Steven Baruani from previous updates. He really took advantage of our program and expanded his hair dressing business. Upon seeing that he had really learned to focus on the resources he had, (instead of what he didn’t have), we hired him a few times to do some on the ground work. With the grant, we have now been able to hire him as coordinator for all five Churches in the Mwanza region. It’s been encouraging to see him go all the way through the program, from mired in the dependency mindset, to leading others into a new way of thinking.
Quick update on the brick project- while I was away, the Tanzanians I left in charge were able to sell 300 of the 350 bricks that we had made, for 400,000 TSH ($176). More customers were interested, but we did not yet have enough bricks to meet their demand- a good problem for a business to have. Over the last three weeks, we’ve been working on getting up to the speed necessary to meet this new demand and make more sales.
Thank you for your kindness to the people of Tanzania, friends.