Arusha Project

The Grant Program
September 3, 2009, 7:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of our projects this summer is a grant program to which our partner organizations apply to fund their project.  The grant program is new this year and so far has been a great success.  We began with a call for proposals and invited local organizations to participate, then conducted a seminar on how to write the proposal, a bidder’s conference to ask questions, and finally received the applications. The volunteers were then assigned in pairs to represent the organizations with project proposals best aligned with our mission statement to promote gender equality and sexual health.  The volunteers were then instructed on the information they were expected to collect to clarify questions or discrepancies within the project proposals. Each site visit is different, some last only a half an hour, some for 3 hours with varying amounts of welcomes, translations and clarity.

I accompanied Mya and Kathleen on one such site visit to Kituchabamo, a vocational school in Kijenge, near Arusha town. Awaiting our arrival was the entire school, students, teachers and most of the administrators.  We sat down in the office for introductions, and were told that the students were ready to be interviewed first.  Mya and Kathleen weren’t expecting to interview the students, but because they had waited for us we felt obliged.  We filed into the classroom with the 40 students sitting at their desks and about 6 teachers and administrators standing on the sides-all trying to translate and clarify the resulting confusion. Language is sometimes difficult here, as most everyone speaks Swahili except in the rural areas, and those with higher levels of education and those who work with foreigners speak varying levels of English.  The staff was a bit shy in translating, so although they could speak MUCH better English than I could Swahili, I ended up helping to translate a bit, which also perhaps added to the confusion.  Through this mixture of translations, Mya and Kathleen asked the students what they thought the most important needs of the school was so as to contrast that information with what was listed on the grant application.  The proposal focused on building new classrooms, increasing the number of teachers and materials. The students identified three major issues: insufficient number of teachers, classrooms and especially the lack of supplies. Also school fees were a major issue, for many of the students couldn’t afford to go to secondary school, which is more expensive, and come from economically disadvantaged families.  This was also partially addressed in the grant, for it included a stationary stipend that would in tern reduce the student’s fees.  There was some apparent confusion about what the grant entailed, and why we were asking these questions, so we reintroduced ourselves and explained the grant application process and how the volunteers would be representing their project to the board of trustees (Tanzanian heads of our partner NGOs).  The students looked satisfied with our explanations and thanked us.  They also mentioned their struggles even with daily survival in addition to school fees (80,000tsh, ~ 61USD), and were interested in having a playground or sports facilities.  These last requests were outside the grant proposal, which the school’s director mentioned and clarified again for the students.  The questions and translations continued for about an hour, after which we took pictures together and the students were dismissed. 

After interviewing the students, the teachers and administrators gave us a tour of the school, and then we all sat down in the office to go over Mya and Kathleen’s questions.  The biggest questions centered on an evaluation process, how exactly they would measure the effectiveness of this project after it was completed. This was especially difficult to convey both due to the language barrier in addition to the concept itself, it seemed they weren’t very familiar with the evaluation process.  They also clarified questions regarding the budget because some salaries were larger in the project budget than the organizational budget, the later expected to include the project budget as well.  After completing their list of questions, we asked the staff if they had any questions for us, which they didn’t.  We then agreed to meet again a few days later so they could have some time to create an evaluation process and reorganize the budget.  Overall the experience was incredible to learn about the inner-workings of this non-profit, as well as to see the passion and commitment they each had to their work.  It was truly educational and inspiring.


Third time’s the charm
August 21, 2009, 8:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

For every program we travel to Moshi or Marangu, cities located about 2 hours away from Arusha towards Kilimanjaro.  Each time our task is to find a waterfall AND a hike, but up to this point, he had only found the waterfal and had to make our own trail.  THis time, we came prepared.  We actually got directions (always a plus) and hired a guide.  With his help we reached the trailhead, and had to use the restroom.  The guide escourted us to a Mama’s house to use her toilet, which was a wide but shallow pitcovered by wooden planks with a space between to relieve yourself and surrounded by a tarp for privacy.  This was a bit of a shock, because most toilets we’ve used here are pit latrines made of  mud, stone or porcelain, while the toilets at the house are porcelain thrones.  So after that experience, we continued on, walking through a green valley and reached the waterfall.  There we crawled around the mossy rocks to sit behind the waterfall, taking careful pains not to fall in. By the end of it, we were pretty wet from the mist, so us four women adventurers decided to go for a swim.  So we convinced our male counterparts to hang out for a bit while we swam in our underwear. SO FUN! The water was ridiculously cold, and it took a lot of screaming, wincing and mutual support to go all the way in.  As we swam under the waterfall and reached the rock face for a rest, we saw it was covered in crabs! RETREAT! filled the air and we swam back to the other side of the pool, to safety.  The hike back was as beautiful as the way in, afterwhich we enjoyed some rice, meat, vegetables and orange slices all for a dollar a plate and drove home content and happy. What a day:)

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
August 15, 2009, 10:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is located in Arusha town.  The Tribunal was created in 1994 to prosecute government officials, local leaders, religious leaders, citizens and media operators for acts of genocide and crimes against humanity during 1994 in Rwanda.  Later in 1996, the United Nations detention facility was created in to hold accused persons from the tribunal, and was constructed especially for this purpose about 10 km away from the center of town.  Among important precedents set by the ICTR including designating rape as a method of genocide and prosecuting a ruling head of state.  Both of these precedents have impacted other UN tribunals around the world.

Our visit to the ICTR began with an hour visit to view the court in session – and the experience was not what we were expecting. The prosecutors spent a half hour discerning the correct spelling of the defendant’s name, then argued over correct procedure, and at one point realized 10 minutes into a new session that the witness was missing.  The visit was an interesting lesson in the efficacy (or lack there of) of the court, as well as all the (un)necessary jargon and proceedings.  Afterwards, we watched a film on the history of the court, followed by a briefing by the office of the prosecutor.  Rashmi, one of the volunteers, asked what affect if any the court had on Arusha town.  The prosecutor responded that it had brought jobs and a cash flow to the area from the 100 or so employees stationed at the ICTR, which had a positive effect on the local economy.  Another question was how Rwandans responded to the court, what they thought of its efficacy in the reconciliation of their country.  The prosecutor answered there were both positive and negative reactions, some appreciated the intensity and passion of the court to bring justice, but there was also a lot of frustration and confusion in the aftermath.  For example, while many of the top administrators or leaders were brought to trial, many citizens were not and remained free in the community.  And as this genocide included most of the population as alternating perpetrator and victim, the line of justice is muddled.  Specifically, it was mentioned in our later discussion many people who had carried out the genocide were still living in the community of the people whom they had killed, fostering local unrest and unease.  Overall the experience was eye-opening and provided interesting insight into the workings of an international court.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the ICTR website (

Yullensoni Health Program
August 6, 2009, 8:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last week Emily, Chen and I traveled the 8 hour bus ride to Singida, a small city in the middle of Tanzania.  Singida is a really wondeful place, known for the large boulders interspersed throughout town, and often serve as canvases for advertisements.

Group photo at dinner

From left to right: Volunteers Emily and Chen, Doctor Makala (Head doctor at Yullensoni and Singida clinics), Dr. Makali (Executive director of New Dimensions Ministry) and Volunteer Coordinator Jessi

Our first day we went to shadow Dr. Makala at the Kiboni Dispensary in Singida. The clinic was small, with a reception and medicine dispensary, two doctors offices, a laboratory, a minor surgeries theatre, storage space, pit latrines and 4 shared rooms for patients.  The dispensary was well stocked, and followed a sliding-scale payment plan so that no one was turned away who couldn’t afford the care (a source of genuine amazement for us Americans). Most of the cases there were malaria, of the ~12 patients we saw, 10 were on quinine drips for malaria.  Malaria is a leading cause of death on the continent, and most people know the symptoms to self-medicate with redily availiable quinine tablets.  When the symptoms persist, or get worse, then they come into dispensaries for a 24 hour IV drip of quinine followed by various other antibiotics for a week or so period. We also saw other cases including severe abdominal discomfort possibly from a bacterial infection of the fallopean tubes due to unavailiable clean water for hygiene, low blood pressure due to stress after one woman lost 5 of her 6 children 7months to 1 year after they were born for unknown reasons, a male circumcision, some parasites and a case of worms.  It was a phenomenal experience in learning about tropical diseases, and what that actually looks like on the ground.

The next day, we went to Yullensoni, a really rural village located in a valley surrounded by fields and agriculture.

Dr. Makala's doctor's office in Yullensoni

Dr. Makala's doctor's office in Yullensoni

There we saw the New Dimensions Ministry clinic, with male, female and children’s wards, a small shop and kitchen area, a few doctors offices, nurses and watchmen’s rooms, a supply room, pit latrines, a reception and minor surgery room. There was no electricity nor running water, the source of water was bottled from town for us visitors, and water from a well.  New Dimensions had recently received a grant for solar panels, and has recieved another grant for a refrigerator for medicines and other neccesary supplies.

After our tour, a pair of male muslim friends came in for an HIV test.  The test is very simple and simular to a pregnancy test, a sample of blood is placed into the collecting well and bars appear on the reading screen for a control, HIV1 and HIV2.  The main problem with these type of antibody HIV tests is that they are only correct up to 3 months prior, so any action taken in the last 3 months would not be reflected on the test.  There are tests that directly measure the virus, but they are very costly and complicated, so they are not widely availiable.

After a short night in Yullensoni, we returned to Singida the next morning because one of our volunteers got a bit sick.  This gave us the opportunity to see medicine from the perspective of the patient, although the accelerated version because Dr. Makala practically flew us past any long waits with his connection with the doctors there.  After recieving some antibiotics, we continued on our way back to the Kiboni Dispensary for another few days of shadowing.

Overall the experience was incredible, it was really eye-opening for all of us and instilled a new passion and interest for medicine and infectious disease.

Aang Sarian
July 20, 2009, 6:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
CBO working on FGM in rural Masai communitiesCBO working on FGM in rural Masai communities

Aang Sarian works to prevent female genital mutilation in rural Massai villages through education and  creating alternative rights of passage.  heir organization is comprised of women who have been circumcised, ex-circumcisers, women who have run away from their homes to avoid circumcision, and concerned community members.  There are 5 common reasons for FGM in the Massai community found by Aang Sarian, which are the focus of their educational campaigns.  They are: provides a common challenge for young girls to attain womanhood, purification (prevention of lao lao, vaginal bacterial infection), faithfulness (control of women’s sexuality by taking away pleasure), education about womanhood, and as a ceremonial graduation of celebration for these young women.  Aang Sarian has worked through all of these, although the first still provides a challenge.   They have a secondary school for the young girls who have left their homes to avoid circumcision, peer educators who conduct seminars to combat myths related to FGM, provide alternative income generating projects for ex-circumcisers, promote and create modified rights of passage where the entire ceremony is the same, but the cutting does not occur, and members to patrol FGM ceremonies to ask that the cutting doesn’t occur.  They have been successful in eliminating FGM in 11 villages thus far, but face serious funding challenges that halt their ability to expand.  Today we have the honor of attending a modified right of passage ceremony, we’ll let you know what it’s like later on in the week.

Hatuchoki Waterfall Hike
July 20, 2009, 6:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Hatuchoki Waterfall HikeThe waterfall

Hatuchoki Waterfall Hike

Hatuchoki means “We will not tire”, and is the name of our partner organization working to promote education and schooling around HIV/AIDS affected communities. Some of their members are involved in the microcredit program, and we also have had volunteers placed there.  On this cultural excursion, we enjoyed traditional Meru food, local brew and a beautiful waterfall.

The Dala Dala: An Adventure
July 15, 2009, 1:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Here in Arusha, the dala dala is the form of public transportation.  It’s physical appearance is a white van, with a specific color stripe distinguishing what direction it’s heading.  Each has it’s own name and/or theme.  Favorites have included “In Da Club”, with 50s painted on every window, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, “Cupcake”, etc. There are anywhere from 12-16 seats inside.  Certain seats fold down to allow the brave traveler to move to the very back when “muisho!” is yelled at them.  For a muzungu (foreigner), the adventure begins before we even step inside.  Dala dala drivers and conductors fight to lure the volunteers into their dala dala, believing they might pay a higher fare.  Tactics range from arguing with other drivers, blocking entrances to other dala dalas so you’ll climb in theirs, or trying to be friendly.  Once inside, we hope to get a seat.  Tanzanians do not have the same concept of personal space as Americans do, we’ve discovered. Especially when everyone wants to get the same place, what’s one more person?  So typically a dala dala ride results with you half sitting on someone else, or someone half sitting on you.  Often if you look up, there will be someone’s face smiling down at you, because they’re standing and leaning over the people lucky enough to have seats.  When you wish to exit, you must tell the driver your stop and hope they understand you, or just bang on the metal interior long enough that they realize you wish to exit.  After climbing over everyone (if they don’t have to exit too so you have enough room to manouver out the door), you hope both feet hit the ground before the van starts moving on swiftly to the next destination.