I have been in Dodoma now for over a week, and I have decided that this is a much nicer place to live and work than in Dar es Salaam. The climate here is actually pleasant—it is cool at night and in the mornings, and even during the day when it is sunny it is not too hot. It also helps that it is not humid at all. I no longer have to commute 2 hours on daladala to get to work, instead I only have a five minutes walk. (This also means that I can sleep in a bit and take time to enjoy my mornings). Since I live so close to the church, I also don’t have to worry about leaving work before 4pm to get home before dark because it is safe here, especially since I have people to walk home with. I also am really enjoying living with Leah and Leisha, two Americans who are also volunteering here at the church. I like living with them not only because we play games and watch movies together, but also because we can relate with each others’ situations. I forgot how beneficial it is to be able to debrief and reflect on a day verbally with someone else. At the church here in Dodoma, there is a real sense of community and everyone is very dedicated to their work. I’ve only been here a little over a week, but I already feel like a part of this community. I think the hardest thing for me living in Dar was not the hot climate or the daily 4 hour commute, but rather the fact that I was often on my own and had one to really talk with or just hang out with. I’ve really appreciated how welcoming everyone here in Dar has been to me. (And I guess it’s cool that my new housemates like guacamole and playing Dutch Blitz!)
MCC decided to move my assignment to Dodoma because although there was lots of potential to be involved in Dar, I wasn’t actually doing as much as I had hoped. Now that I am here in Dodoma, I have a specific assignment that hopefully can be accomplished in the remainder of my time. Throughout the past few years, the church has loaned small amounts of money to about 60 people. However, after loaning out the money, no one has really done a follow up on what has been done with the loans, and most people haven’t bothered to pay back their loans. In January earlier this year, the church hosted a training session about how to start a microenterprise with the hopes that the people who have taken loans would benefit from the extra training. Once again, not much analysis has been done to see if this training session was beneficial. So, my task is to find out what all these people who have taken a loan and received training have been up to, to see if they used the loan for income generating activities, and if further training is needed or wanted. I have already made a survey and had it translated into Swahili, so my next step is to go out and visit with the borrowers. I will be working with a volunteer from Kenya who will help me translate, and sometimes various social workers from the church who know where everyone lives. I am hoping that after I do this analysis, someone else from the church here will be able to continue evaluating this program so that it won’t just be a one time thing.
So far, I have been very impressed with the church’s outreach programs. They are partnered with Compassion International, which sponsors 350 kids (soon to be more) and Lahash, which sponsors 75 kids (soon to be 100). MCC has funded various projects in the past, and continues to partner with the church. Besides me, there is another family here who is doing a three year term with MCC. The church also has an extensive home based care program that offers palliative care services to people suffering from HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases. There are a few social workers and counselors that regularly meet with desperate people and check up on the sponsored children. It has been very encouraging to witness the extent of this church’s outreach to the local community.
(I haven't had the chance to take many photos, but I will upload some soon!)