2017 Reflection and 2018 Year Ahead
Greetings and happy new year!! As I am about to embark on my first 2018 visit to Tanzania, I am reflecting on our progress in 2017 and especially of my time working with the women in Majengo village and the things we have taught each other. They have come so far in being independent and strong! We now have about 100 women working in decorating, sewing, and catering and they continue to grow. They are always so proud to tell me stories about their jobs and show me materials they have purchased from their profits. The village truck has been a blessing and life saver, literally, as it is used to take expectant mothers, sick babies and elderly, and those hurt, sick, and injured, to the infirmary. The clergy also use the truck for funeral processions. It's had a tremendous impact on the community and they are proud to have it and they take good care of it. During my last visit we had a blessing of the truck!
I am so incredibly proud of the women! They have such strength, patience, and stamina and it's a harsh environment so they can be beaten and abused but they are survivors. It's interesting, the village communities have their own justice and they handle their issues, and they often do arrest the men that abuse the women, and when I know of challenges and ask them how they are doing, they tell me they have "worked it out." This has sort of become my mantra even in my own life, I work it out!
In 2017, we put ten women through mountain guide training school and they are now certified mountain guides working on Mt. Kilimanjaro and making significantly higher wages, but as women in an male dominated work force they face sexual harassment and there was an news article I sent earlier on FB that you may have seen, but here it is again, so please take the time to read. Nature Discovery donated the rain suits to the girls so they also look very respectable and with good gear!
This year, 2018, we are already in full swing installing a 10,000 liter water tank and water lines for the kitchen and hand washing station, and a water filtration system for drinking water, at the Kisimani School in Arusha. There are over 700 children at this school and they have only one water tap so they fill buckets every day for washing and cleaning, boil water for drinking water. Can you imagine using buckets of water for seven hundred kids? These women are super women! Their backs are breaking but they don't complain, they are overjoyed that the children have a school to go to where Leah Wagner Leonard and Friends of Kisimani teach them English and primary education and they make sure they have at least one meal in their bellies every day. We hope to begin phase II of installing eastern style flushing toilets (squat toilets but they flush) and a septic system because they only have pit latrines now and this presents significant health risks as you can imagine. This is a big project of about $50,000 so when we had the "Giving Tuesday" and we raised $14,000 and Tony and I matched everyone's donation, we have paid for over half of the project. THANK YOU!!
Aerial photo of Kisimani school and local community
The men with the beekeeping are doing well and have twenty hives in production but they need more training so we are working with Nick Mao, Bee Dev., Ltd., to come in and help them and we are purchasing more bee suits and equipment as they are producing more honey than they know what to do with! Here they are checking on the hives and extracting the honey into buckets.
Another cool project that is in the works for 2018 is forming an all female wildlife ranger unit and we are excited to be working with Pasiansi wildlife institute to get ten women trained in anti-poaching and weapons training, wildlife tracking and certification as fully trained rangers. We are trying to think of a name for the group so if anyone has ideas please share! There is a similar group in South Africa called the Black Mambas :) We have some interest with one of the African wildlife foundations helping with the project and with some movie makers in LA to do a story on the women so I pray that we can put this together and have an elite all female anti-poaching squad that we can tell their stories and share with the world!
I am SO EXCITED to head over to Tanzania now for two weeks, my first trip in three months, and I am so excited to get back there and work with the people, have my Kili boots on the ground, enjoying lots of heat and humidity! I love to see all the smiling faces of the people we are helping. I also miss my monkeys that I have in my yard every morning and I feed them bananas!
To the left is a photo of Tony's and my little girl, Elizabeth, but we all call her Ide. She is five years old now and enjoying boarding school at St. Constantine. She is one of the youngest boarders but she is so fiercely independent that she can hold her own with the older kids and she's made lots of friends!
I hope you enjoy the occasional news letters, I try to do once a quarter so as not to annoy anyone! Thanks for caring, thanks for sharing, and thanks for your love and support! Wishing everyone a healthy 2018 full of growth and opportunity!!
Laurel & Tony