Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This past week was busy, but that is a good thing! I’ve been talking with my supervisor here, and Maguy, the MCC rep for TZ, came to Dar to assess my situation and also to check out one of the projects, the OVC program in Nyantira, in order to set up the criteria for funding from MCC Global Family.

Before Maguy came, Migire, my ‘supervisor’, came into the office and we had a talk. I told him flat out that I am not really doing anything because it’s hard to just come into an office and “plan projects” for the Diocese. There is nothing really substantial for me to be doing in the office other than secretarial/ computer things for the others at the church. I’m not really being put to use. He agreed, and said that we are going to change the situation before Maguy comes so that I could have something to report about to her. I thought that was a good idea. We decided that since Isack and I can’t do much good for the Diocese just sitting in the office here in Upanga, we need to learn about the other congregations. We formulated an action plan to do a feasibility study/ survey of the whole Eastern Diocese by visiting each different congregation. Then, once we learn about what each specific area wants and needs, then we can better help them to plan economic and development projects.

I feel good about this plan—doing a feasibility study is what I have been suggesting since I’ve been here. The first and main project that I helped plan in the first few months I was here ended up failing because I had no idea about the situation of the area and we went ahead and planned a project without even talking to that specific community first. We had a great project planned to promote agricultural activities among youth, but when we introduced the project to the area none of the youth wanted to participate because they already had a business driving motorcycles. If we would have done a feasibility study first, we would have known this.

Development assistance can’t work well when you try to impose a plan on the people receiving assistance. It needs to come from the individuals themselves. It’s really just basic supply and demand—if there is no demand, there shouldn’t be any supply or else it will go to waste. On the other hand, if there is a demand for something, an appropriate supply can be provided and put to use. Not working from the bottom up is the main reason why foreign aid has largely failed because donors set criteria that they see fit, rather than finding out what each specific area needs and wants. I’m reading “The White Man’s Burden” by William Easterly right now and he interesting explains this failure of foreign aid.

On Friday when Maguy came, we met and talked about what my options are for the remainder of my time here. As things are right now, I have not really had much to do on a day to day basis (or even weekly basis). So we decided that MCC could send me to other areas for a few weeks at a time to do random assignments or check out other projects, or here in Dar I could continue to help Isack and work the new project that we have planned. After I go to Nairobi for the micro-credit conference, it’s also possible that I could go to other areas to see if I could somehow help start micro-credit programs. So, as of right now, nothing specifically is changing for me, but I think that I will find myself being more busy for the next 4 months.

On Saturday, we well went to Nyantira so that Maguy could survey the OVC program there. MCC has agreed to support a three year program that will help about 50 orphans and vulnerable children through helping to pay and provide for school expenses, including school fees, uniforms, books, pens, etc. It also will support a Saturday program that has been running for a while where the kids come and have some class sessions, are given a meal, soap, and play games. When we came on Saturday, we played some games with the kids, handed out some treats, listened to them introduce themselves in English, and ate a meal with them. Right now, the evangelist at the church has been running the program mostly out of his own pocket (which is very small). His wife and a few other women are in charge of the meal and watching some of the younger kids. These women also go into the community to find OVC and promote them to come to the Saturday program.

These are some of the kids, happy after eating lunch and curious about mzungu with camera

This is a picture of the evangelist and the women who run the OVC program

We started our feasibility study and visited our first congregation on Sunday. Migire sat Isack and I in the very front row and gave a special introduction for us explaining that we are the Economic and Planning Department for the Diocese and made us sound all important and official. We each introduced ourselves, and as usual people were surprised that mzungu can speak Swahili kidogo! After a three+ hour service, we met with a small group of people to talk about what their current projects at the church are and what ideas they have. They already have a choir for the youth, and a women’s group that does palliative care, but they said that both of those programs could be improved. They also had a few ideas for other projects, such as starting a fish farm or used book store. It’s going to be a challenge visiting every church and trying to help every area… I am worried that when we come, people will automatically assume that we have money to help them and will expect fast results, both of which I’m afraid are not true. I know KMT doesn’t have money, and I really don’t see fast results happening. I just hope we aren’t a disappointment, and can actually be effective in helping them realize their demands and plan development projects.

Sometimes I get tired about only blogging only about myself, so on a completely different note I have some family updates: My oldest brother, Danny, just completed his Masters!! My other brother and his wife just celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary! My mom just got back from Haiti visiting my cousin with her two sisters, all 4 of them are nurses (I’m the only female on that side of the family that isn’t a nurse, actually…). My cousin is working at an orphanage for babies, so my aunts and mom spent a few weeks helping take care of some of the babies. My dad just arrived in Uganda, so we’ll be neighbors for a few weeks (unfortunately his assignment leaves no room for him to fly to see his daughter…). And, I just found out that my aunt Dora, who is now working for CDC in Cambodia, is coming to Tanzania in May so I will get to see her then! These are all very exciting updates—I am so very proud of each and everyone in my family and I love them and miss them lots :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Been a While!

Sorry it has been so long since my last update. This is due mainly to the fact that I have not been up to much lately and the Internet here continues to be spotty.

The other week I was in Arusha with the other MCC team-members for meetings and a little break from our positions. It was so great to reconnect with familiar faces and be able to spend a few days not sweating continuously! I made good use of my free time there by drinking iced coffee, eating ice cream and buying ripped DVDs where each disc has about 15 different movies. I figure that will keep me entertained for a while, even if some of the movies are terrible quality or have Chinese subtitles… One night I even made brownies (thanks to my wonderful mom who sent the mix) with Cara, which was such a treat!

The meetings that we had together went well, and it really helped me to reflect on what I am doing here. To be honest these past few months have been really hard on me, mostly because I haven’t really been involved with much at work. It’s been difficult reasoning why I should travel such a long distance every day when I end up doing nothing significant at work… I’m afraid that I have lost a lot of motivation and have been questioning the significance of my service.

I talked with the MCC staff a little about my challenges and how I feel like I am not contributing much, so they are going to re-evaluate my position. I might end up relocating somewhere for last months, or if I stay here in Dar they are going to make sure that I have something to keep busy with. I’m not sure what this will lead to, but I’ll be sure to update more when I find out.

I think I am realizing that serving for only one year I will not be able to “change the world” like Phil Dog (SPU’s President) inspired all of us SPU students to do (I think I am definitely “engaging the culture” though). I am seeing that my time here will end up changing me more than anyone/ anything else, and this has been hard for me to admit since I came here to “serve others.” As challenging as it is to live and work here, I know I will be grateful for the experiences I am having but it will be a lot easier to fully respect this afterwards! Thanks everyone, for your support and encouragement:)