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  • Writer's pictureLaurel Werner

Boots on the ground!

Today, we go to three villages, which I am looking forward to, and will take many photos. The East Kahe ward has six villages and I have been to two, Majengo and Soko. There are nine primary schools in the ward, covering 1st through 6th grades. Tomorrow I

will visit Soko, where we just ran the water to the school, solar power, and where we are rebuilding the septic tanks and a new kitchen. We are then going to Ghona where we have the family planning an anti-FGM/Child marriage campaign. Then a new village Kiterini, which none of us have visited. We were going to visit the other three villages on Friday but I decided it is more important to take care of administrative responsibilities to ensure we are compliant with Tanzanian requirements to run an NGO (foundation) and we have a lot of documentation to put together. On Friday Thadei and I are meeting with an attorney to work on the agreement for the health center. I keep telling them we cannon provide funding until we have the agreement done with the government, albeit, not sure how enforceable it will be, but it will define roles, responsibilities and expectations, budget and funding requirements. We plan to break ground as soon as we have the agreement in place.

The family planning campaign is off to a great start, there has been one or two meetings so far, with large turn out. They find that the older men are the ones wanting the FGM of younger girls and so we recognize the importance of having the men come to the meetings so they learn how harmful FGM is to the girls. Recently, one woman had her breast amputated by her jealous boyfriend. Fortunately, the authorities did get involved although I do not know the consequences for what happened to the man. The village and the ward counselor are discussing the possibility of opening a small police station in the ward, which would be terrific. The only law and order is village law and community enforcement.

The village elders and leaders are very supportive and want us to continue. I told Thadei this has to be a ward program, not KiliTech, although we will fund it. I just don't want KiliTech to be the target for encouraging girls and women to have rights.

This is something new to the country. Some girls marry as young as twelve because her parents approve the marriage, the parents cannot afford to raise the girl and the older man has the money to pay for the young girl. There are articles in every day’s paper where the government is implementing programs to ban childhood marriages and FGM so we are not doing this alone. We want to bring education to the villages to let them know they have the ability to choose opportunity and growth over harmful tradition. It’s just a totally different culture and environment here on what is “good” versus “bad,” or in most cases, “bad” versus “worse." Photo from Wildaid

KiliTech is meeting with Honeyguide, check out their very cool website, to collaborate on GIS mapping and also help women in their project areas with the vocation training. Honeyguide protects wildlife against poachers and educate the villagers how to co-exist with the elephants. The elephants invade their crops, which of course causes a lot of damage! They have these took kits that have four items : Punctured condoms fill with chili powder and launch at the elephants and explode on impact, Roman candles they shoot at the elephants, air horns, and highly intense flash lights. When I asked them about using dogs, they said the villages have dogs that alert them that the elephants are near but if the dogs chase the elephants the elephants get angry and chase the dogs, then the dogs get scared and run back to the village, and the elephants trample the village!!! Honeyguide does use dogs though to chase down the poachers, which is very cool! Tony has a friend from Jerusalem visiting in November, same time we are there, and he may help them with some application development for their smart phones. They use their phones to collect data on how many elephant invasions, how many of the above tools they use and which are most effective, and locations where the incidents occur. There are lion incidents as well but they are mostly concerned about the elephants because of the crops. Other than feeling fat because I don’t get much exercise as no gyms or yoga studios here, I am well and delighted with our progress! Oh, I almost got ran over by several cars today because there was a starving puppy running down the middle of the highway and I pulled over wanting to help it. It at least ran away off the road and I’m glad it wasn’t friendly because I would now have a puppy, probably full of fleas and mites, and no way to give it a home. They do not consider dogs here as pets!!



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