Monday, December 15, 2008


Not Some Distant Other.

A few days ago, I was reading about the Millennium Development Goal progress Tanzania. The reports were filled with statistics – numbers, percentages and graphs about people living here in Tanzania. And I found myself struggling with disconnection between the information I was reading and my experiences here. Who were the people referred to in this report, and so many reports like it?

And then, it clicked.

The people in these reports are not some distant ‘other’. They are not the people that perhaps I had once imagined when thinking about poverty in Africa. They are not stereotypes, they are not statistics. They are people – each one with a unique story, a unique struggle. People doing the best they can to care for themselves and for their families. They are...

Saimon, our 29 year old Maasai night guard, who left his wife and baby boy in Ngorangora in order to find work in Mwanza to support them. In addition to working, Saimon goes to English class every weekday evening. Afterwards, he sits on our porch studying, singing, and guarding our little house.

The women who we buy avocados and bananas and tomatoes from at the little produce stands on the way home from work.

Jesse, a young man who just finished his 4th year of secondary school. If he passes his exam and can find money for school fees, he will continue to finish the final two years of secondary school next year. Jesse left his only parent, his mother, in a village “a long way” from Mwanza to come and live with his older brother to attend school here.

The women with babies strapped to their backs and buckets of produce or rice on their heads.

Denise, the beautiful woman who owns the little store where I print and photocopy materials for work. She’s had her store for two years, calls me friend, and gives me free photocopies every now and then to say thank you for my business there. Business is hard, but she has big hopes for her store.

The women living with HIV who are waiting for BCDSA to find more funds for microfinance loans. When BCDSA explains that they are still looking for more funds for the project, maybe next year – the women lament that next year may be too late. They may no longer be alive. And, they need to provide for their children before that happens.

Iman, the Dala-Dala (public transportation van) driver that Eric keeps running into. He works in one of the vans that comes to our neighborhood, and seems to be working all the time. He says that sometimes he takes some time off on Sundays.

The women running little cafes out of their homes, cooking delicious rice and beans and bananas and serving those passing by.

Sophie, the 20 year old who is about to begin secondary school. She tried once before, but her English was not at a level where she could keep up in her classes. She has been studying hard, and is ready now. Sophie helps her mother in the house every day, and enjoys playing sports (football, frisbee, volleyball, yoga) in the evening when she can.

The women working, everywhere working, to carry water and care for children and cultivate small farms and wash clothes by hand and sell their fish/peanuts/produce and sew and go to the market. Everywhere, always working.

[[ I am so honored to have met these beautiful people, and so many more. And am grateful to carry their stories with me from this place. The statistics will never be the same. ]]

Dancing Rock.

A Moment to Remember.

I was walking down a path near my office last week when a 3 year old boy that I’d never met came running towards me and proceeded to give me a full-crash-into-the-legs hug. When his friends saw that I hugged back, they followed suit. I need to walk down that path more often.


[ Some of BCDSA’s clients with HIV/AIDS held a meeting recently to share their situation with BCDSA and with me. Elly, the man in the back row of the photo, read the following outloud... ]

First of all, we take this opportunity to thank Busega Organization for reorganizing us and noting that we need assistance, we also thank them for welcoming us to work together. Initially, they used to assist us with soap, sugar and beans once a month. This service has not stopped due to lack of funds. If possible, may this service resume.

We also thank the government of the United Republic of Tanzania for serving us with drugs (ARVs), but it doesn’t provide drugs for diseases which accompany HIV/AIDS. So, we request that they aid Busega to provide us with such drugs.

We are very grateful that Busega helps us in the fight against discrimination.

Due to poor economic conditions worldwide, our standard of living has dropped drastically. As a result, we are requesting for loans which should be channeled through Busega. Right now, we receive very small amounts which cannot help us to stabilize economically, since we need to pay school fees for our children which forces us to engage in manual work. So, may your organization assist us or request other organizations to assist us.

We request to receive food (nutrient boosters) at least twice a week, for this will improve our health conditions faster.

We need regular seminars to equip us with new ideas on healthy living with HIV/AIDS. This need s a lot of funds which we don’t have. Please remember us on this.

We also need to educate the community surrounding us in order to avoid segregation and to know how to deal with AIDS orphans. They also need to know what to do whenever they test HIV positive.

Out of our 65 members, there’s a group of about 20 people who are Partner Clubs. These clubs are very essential in educating the general public on how to be patient whenever they realize that one has tested positive. This has usually brought a lot of problems in various families. Many families have broken up, leading to a lot of suffering by children who are always innocent. This group needs to meet at least once a month. We request that they be given fare to enable them to attend the meetings. They also need seminars on how to counsel the community about HIV/AIDS and AIDS orphans.

Lastly, we pray that God Almighty grants you health so as to keep the good work in Africa. Please pass our warm greetings to our fellows in your country USA.
Busega Oyeee....
Busega Juuu....