Arusha Project

What my experience means to me
July 15, 2009, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

by Veronica Fuog

I have only half a week left here in Arusha, and I cannot believe how quickly the other 31/2 have flown by! This experience has been more than just working with an organization and attempting to learn Swahili as quickly as possible. Being in Tanzania has made us question the things we take for granted, left us in awe of the generosity of the people here, made us laugh as we tried a new style of dancing, and led us to funny and deep conversations in the house in the evening after the power has randomly gone off.

For the past 31/2 weeks I have been working at an organization called Faraja Women Empowerment. I have had the opportunity to work closely with the organization’s director, Sister Felly, who is one of the most driven and generous women I have ever met. I got to meet about 30 women who invited us into their homes and told us their family history, about their hardship, their business plan, and why they want a microloan from Faraja. I’ve also visited women who are requesting their 4th loan from Faraja, and the visible difference of their standard of living is astounding. Loan distribution days were some of my favorites. After the entire application process was completed, the groups of 5 women each who were accepted into Faraja’s microloan program all gathered at a church, a central location. After each group recieved their money, they often yelled or sang with excitement. It’s so wonderful so see how grateful they are, and know how big a difference a loan could have. These women have such determination to expand their business and pay back their loan themselves, with interest. It’s really inspiring!


Faraja’s Goat Ceremony
July 6, 2009, 8:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Faraja means consolation, and is the name of  our partner org here in Arusha.  Faraja also works to promote gender equity by working with women who are HIV positive and negative, and is a community organization. They are one of the orgs that we conduct our microcredit program through, and Sister Felly, one of their directors, is our chief loan officer. She had recieved ~10 goats from a government program she had applied for, and held a ceremony at their church, wherein members of Faraja would receive these goats. She invited Arusha Project volunteers to attend, so we did!

After the long wait (Swahili time is like Indian time which is like many other folks’ times which means anytime within 20 minutes to an hour late is still on time), the goats finally arrived (they arrived by public bus, escorted by the government officer), the goats were fed and the ceremony began. A social welfare officer was the primary guest of honor, along with the village chairperson, directors of Faraja, and of course the women of Faraja. There was soda and water for the guests of honor (us, and the aforementioned folks), and a representative from each entity made a speech, as is also customary (the more important the folk, the longer the talk). The social welfare officer talked for a while, of course this is all in Swahili and there was no translation, so we were kind of guessing, but a few pieces that were translated went as follows; first that these goats are not handouts, they have been worked for and are for the benefit of these women as members of the community, and second that the virus (HIV) doesn’t deserve respect, and it is everyone’s problem. Then each of the women went up to receive their goats, among lots of cheering.  Afterward, the welfare officer symbolically  fed the goats, so that they would never be hungry. There was a lot of beautiful singing and dancing, and afterward we went to the priests house to have another soda and then said our goodbyes.

Summer 2009
July 6, 2009, 8:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello Friends and Family of Arusha Project Volunteers!

My name is Jessi Ristau, I am the Arusha Project Volunteer Coordinator
for this summer.  I will update the blog at least once a week with stories
and information about our experience.  The current volunteers are welcome
to participate in writing the entries as well.  Its taken me a while to put up this first week’s entry, so here it is at the beginning of our 3rd week! I’ve enclosed some background information about the project and the volunteer’s
schedule of activities.

We are staying in the Arusha Project Center, a house we rent in a
neighborhood on the outskirts of Arusha proper. The house has 3 rooms, with
bunk beds for the volunteers, a few bathrooms (complete with porcelain
thrones:), and showers (although the power goes off frequently so cold
showers are frequent). We have our “green room”, the living room with green
couches that gives the room a green glow, with a projector for presentations
and movies, and a chalk board for Swahili classes for the volunteers. There’s a dinning room
area in the kitchen, and a pantry area with a refrigerator. Nick (Director),
Stephanie (Project coordinator) and I sleep in the “annex” which is
disconnected from the main house in close proximity.  Outside we have a lot
of fruit trees, a chicken coop with lots of chickens, a fire stone for
fires, and a cat. We are surrounded by other gated houses (all houses
and some apartment complexes are gated, other apartment complexes and
houses are not in rural areas).

Our general weekday schedule goes as follows:

7:30 am – Breakfast (mangos, avacados, peanut butter and toast, oogi
(cornmeal), chai/instant coffee, eggs, bananas, watermelon, and other

8:00 am – Leave for placement in the Arusha Project dala dala or
public dala dala (local buses), Stephanie, Chahe (Country Coordinator)
drive the volunteers to their placement, introduce them to their org
directors pick them up at around 12:30pm.

1:00 am – Lunch at the house

2- 6:00 pm – Varies from day to day, for example;

-Cultural excursions to other CBOs (community based organizations)
such as BOSI, a
support organization for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), and
includes an orphanage,
choir, support group, home based care (HBC).  BOSI is founded by Anna
Yoeza, an incredible woman who is HIV positive herself.
-Discussions about reading material regarding international
volunteering, visits to CBO’s, and HIV/AIDS.
-Free time for the volunteers to use the internet to contact home,
work on things back home, check out town and prepare for the next day.
-Swahili lessons 3 times a week for the first week, 2 times the second
week (we work on a three week reoccurring schedule, as each
program is in a 3 week blogs at which time we get new volunteers, some of
the old leave and some stay).
-We will also be doing site visits for our grant program, and have
information sessions about our micro finance program as well.

6:00 pm – Dinner

7:00 pm and on – Down time, can include group outings to local hang
out spots, or cultural programs.

Weekends are always different, this weekend we had our grant program
orientation, where the volunteers learned about the program, and will
prepare them to conduct site visits and their presentation of the
organization to the grant review board (all tanzanian). The grant program is
new this year and the process has begun before the volunteers arrived.

The participants have been trained through a weekend seminar held by
the Arusha Project and have submitted their proposals.  The proposals
were then separated by topic and distributed over the next 12 weeks (4
programs of 3 weeks each). The volunteers are assigned to a proposal
in pairs, and will be conducting 3 site visits to verify, clarify and
ask questions about the proposal.  The purpose is for the organization
to show how they have started  preparing for their grant project
according to their proposal to see if they
should get the funding. This summer we will fund about 4 project
proposals, each $5,000 USD.

Our first project funded this last year was for a solar panel project
for Yullensoni Health clinic, and we hope to fund projects relating to
microcredit, peer education and other empowerment programs that are
related to gender and HIV/AIDS. The volunteers will present the
information collected from the site visits to the Board of Trustees,
all of whom are Tanzanian and community leaders in Arusha.

In addition to the grants, we also have a microcredit program.  Whole
organizations apply for grants, teams of  5 people (mostly women  and
members of our partner organizations) can apply for the Microcredit
program. These loans are smaller, and are conducted by our grant
officers (community leaders) and Nick (director). In the past we have
funded a chicken project for a local CBO that provided schooling and
social networks for the HIV positive community in our neighborhood.

Next weekend we will go on a short day safari, and the next day to
Moshi, Tanzania and the last weekend will be the volunteer’s proposal
presentations and announcement of loan recipients.

A note from Lizzie
September 5, 2008, 8:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I can’t believe my 3 weeks in Arusha are already over and that I’m heading back to the US tomorrow. This has been a jam packed, amazing, exciting trip and it’s hard to pick any specific experience that will explain how much I loved my time here. Two things that really defined my time here were the strong women and children I met at placement and in the community with the other volunteers.

Some of the best adventures were experiencing the natural beauty of the country, we all felt in awe on many occasions. Like on the last night of safari I think I saw more stars than ever before in my life and that was right after watching a beautiful sunset. The Hatuchoki waterfall hike was really amazing also. The whole area was so lush and green, I had such a fun time climbing under the waterfall with the other volunteers. We all had a really good time with the billion course meal of traditional Meru food and the signing with the women after.

With my volunteer work at Faraja, I was able to go and visit women in their homes that are applying for microfinance business loans, women that the loans might really help. One woman’s, Selena, story really stood out to me when I visited her. Her home was the smallest I think I saw, like most it was a cramped one room, mud wall

Lizzie and the children of Faraja Nursery school

Lizzie and the children of Faraja Nursery school

house with a door that would barely open to let us in. She and her two children shared on bed, getting by with little food and clothing. Her husband died in a car accident, he was HIV positive and so is she. When her husband was alive they had more money and a nicer home. I knew that with a loan, she might be able to afford a nicer home again and not be uncertain about her ability to afford secondary school for her children. Meeting Selena made me feel really excited about the microfinance program and the good it is doing.

This has been such an amazing trip for me and I feel so thankful for everyday, every person and every experience that has filled the past three weeks.

Lizzie D.

Craft Fair
August 31, 2008, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This past Wednesday was the Craft Fair, a big party that the Arusha Project puts on during every volunteer program. The Craft Fair was created so that our patrner organizations can get together and not only be introduced to each other and create partnerships but also so that they can display their crafts from income generating projects. The party starts at 3 pm and goes allnight. We invite the neighboorhood kids and our friends from the area for the entertainment provided by local artists including Warriors from the East, Acrobats for change and the African Traditional Dance group.

Group photo... Craft fair atendees (volunteers, artists, friends, ect)

Group photo... Craft fair atendees (volunteers, artists, friends, ect)

The Warriors from the East (with Volunteer Daniel on the guitar)

The Warriors from the East (with Volunteer Daniel on the guitar)

Wadogo Fire, prbably some of the most talented artists in Arusha (and they not even old enough to drive)

Wadogo Fire, prbably some of the most talented artists in Arusha (and they not even old enough to drive)

Modified Right of Passage Ceremony
August 18, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Abroad Program, Women

Last Sunday, the Arusha Project volunteers were invited by Gemma from Aang Serian to witness an alternative rite of passage ceremony for two Maasai girls in the village of Eluwai. The people of Eluwai have completely given up the traditional practice of female circumcision as a ritual initiation of girls into womanhood, deciding that it is harmful and unnecessary. As an alternative to the cutting, the girls are symbolically washed, dressed in special black fabric and blue beads, and reintroduced to the community as women in an extravagant and joyous celebration. Such a unique experience- and an incredible second day for the new volunteers! The previous week I had lived in Monduli Juu among the Maasai, 3 days of which were spent with the warm people of Eluwai, at their beautiful boma in the hills overlooking the Rift Valley and Mountain of God. I was very happy to return to the Maa greetings of ‘Supai! Ipa!’ and ‘Takwenya! Eeko.’ The journey to Monduli Juu was a typically mad adventure; 45 minutes on the public dala dala to Monduli Chini, a small town in “lower Monduli”, where we haggled for 2 four-wheel drive cars to transport 40 wazungu, Maasai, and Swahili up and over the mountain range. Spilling out the backside of our pickup truck, inside or on top of our Land Rover, we bounced and sang and yelled ‘Meeti!’ (Tree! A warning cry for the long-thorned acacia trees we crashed through as we rumbled across the plateau for our 2 hour trek across Maasai land). In Eluwai, we greeted our host with a gift of sugar, flour, and rice and made a round of bowing to the village elders before hiking to the ‘party grounds’. Hundreds of Maasai from the surrounding villages had gathered, the men clothed in red and purple robes, their faces and hair accented by red and white paint, and carrying long wooden spears, and the women glittered with their beaded and metal earrings, bracelets, anklets, and large flat neck disks which they rhythmically dipped while dancing. The men gathered in a huddle, encircled by the women, chanting and stomping a beautiful, highly-stylized dance. Younger warriors, displaying their machismo, competed to show who could jump the highest. In groups we squatted around communal plates of browned rice, roasted goat meat, and delicious stewed, green bananas. Cameras were a huge hit with the kids, who posed shyly and then burst into giggles when shown the replay. Just as the party was getting into full swing, we unfortunately had to leave in order to make it back at least to Monduli Chini before night fell. We were very lucky to have a taste of the real- not packaged for tourists- Maasai culture. Poa sana.


August 12, 2008, 7:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Was it cold out there? Well, yeah, sort of—but not the coldest I have ever been. We were a ragtag team of little engines that could with our rented gear, borrowed and used clothing, and absolutely no training at all. If anything attests to the amateur nature of our trip, the fact that we planned it a week in advance should.

Despite what seemed like an obvious recipe for disaster our “I think I can “ attitudes paired with our sheer happy-go-lucky-ness dragged us to reach the ultimate goal-Uhuru Peak- or for those of you with no Swahili, Freedom Peak. The reward a beautiful sunrise, huge muscle aches, for some a headache like a hangover, and we all got a golden ticket! It is something I will never forget and an accomplishment to always be proud of.

We started our journey on Sunday (Max and I just after returning from a 4 day Safari, and Tim halting work on AIDS education and presentations). Our travels to Moshi were easy enough and we arrived at Mauly Tours to find the building closed and locked. No problems for our fearless travelers- we simply enlisted the help of the locals and found that even though it was a holiday someone would come to open the office for us. That someone was a man named Genesis. What better way to start a journey then with a man named Genesis? He assisted us with planning our route, finding our gear, sending Max and Tim back to Arusha and taking us to the hotel. While Tim and Max went home to Arusha I held down the fort, room 3C, and made friends with the bartender, Lucky—see, good omens all around. Max and time returned later that evening and after an excellent night’s sleep (Tim woke at 5 am because he was anxious) we were on our way. We met our guide Robert and our team Jerome (asst. guide), Diplo (cook), Jomo (waiter), and Hansi, Simon, Rashidi, Micahel, Nelly and Jumo (our porters….I remembered all their names woot!)We left that morning full of optimism, stocked with chocolate, and ready for adventure- we headed for the Machame Gate.

The Machame gate as our guide explained to us is the whiskey route of the mountain. It is a more difficult hike but because of all the ups and downs in the elevation climbers usually get acclimated more easily and therefore have better success at reaching the summit. After the porters had weighed our gear and began ahead of us…we waited at the gate playing cards. We signed the registry to make sure we didn’t get misplaced along the way and FINALLY when it was time to go, we began our ascent. The first day our trip was spent in the rainforest. The shades of green and the mist in the trees that surrounded us was peaceful and exciting. We were three children on their first day of school, filled with anticipation and curiosity; we stopped frequently to ask questions. Why are the clouds so low? What kind of tree is this? Are there leopards here? When will get to the summit? It was a beautiful, muddy and slow climb to first camp. When we finally reached our camp we had a wonderful view of the Western Bridge. We enjoyed Kilimanjaro beer with our dinner. This journey would not be complete without enjoying a Kili beer on Kili mountain.

The two boys had a tent to share affectionately called the gas chamber, and the lone female was left to her peace in a separate tent. We dined like kings that night and went to bed early anxious for the next day to begin. The second day we were in the morelands and headed for Shira Peak Camp. The moorlands know for their ghostly trees and everlasting flowers are the third highest zone on the mountain. Our lunches along the way were packed in the morning for us and we ate them either along the trail or at a small lunch site. I over came my fear of peeing in the open, I abandoned toilet paper and made sure that I was as low maintenance as possible. Temperatures were cold in the morning but the skies cleared and the sun came out later in the day. We made it to Shira camp with no problems and after a short rest we went out to explore the area with Robert. Shira Camp is home to a small area of grasslands where it is possible to go on Safari if you choose. The Peaks in the distance are jagged against the billowy clouds and Robert was kind enough to show us how things used to be while climbing Kili. There are caves at Shira camp and if you were a lucky porter you got to stay in one of them. By lucky I mean sleeping with 40 other men, stinking, tired, and sore in a small cave no higher then 4 feet tall. We began the short hike back to our camp to have tea and dinner and then off to sleep. Typical Americans.

Day three began and it was cold. We were icy from sleeping through a small rainstorm and after an amazing breakfast of porridge, tea, eggs, veggies, and hotdogs we were on our way. On today’s schedule was lava tower. As a volcano (either active or inactive the poll is still out) Kilimanjaro is home to amazing rock formations left from the combination of lava flows and wind power. Starting at 3900m Lava Tower rises to an elevation of 4600m. Our day began with a three hours trek through the moorlands and after a short break for lunch our amazing daredevil crew decided it was time for a little rock climbing adventure. The rocks were steep and there were no spotters to help but when given the opportunity to climb higher, one must take it. When we reached the top of lava tower, no casualties had happened and celebration pictures ensued. Reaching our maximum elevation of 4600m, watching other teams pass us with their marching band style approach, we began to descend to finish the two hours hike down to our camp at 3850m. On our descent to camp we began to see the Giant Sinesea flower/tree/plants. Ranging from 4-12ft tall we paused to catch our breath near them. We took some photos and compared them to Pokemon characters. Our camp that night was in the clouds and with small glances of the western bridge looming over we could feel that were almost there and yet we knew that the most difficult part was still to come. We went to sleep, it was cold, we were in the clouds and so the haze only lent to the darkness. We slept with ravens stalking our leftovers in the misty dark going hungry “Nevermore”. Tim began feeling the effects of a headache most likely brought on by altitude sickness but after a mixed chlorophyll drink and so Dimox he began to feel better. Clouds were frozen to our tents in the morning and after finding our ascent route over the Baraka Wall we timidly began. The wall was a direct ascent for 500m straight up a rocky terrain. Ever impressed with the porter’s strength, resilience, and apparent relations to mountain goats… we thought if they can do it carrying 45 kilos surely we can do it alone.

Our day 4 ascent was tricky and cold in the shadow of the mountain but we reached the top of the wall to find we only had two hours to go…. until lunch. We then descended a ways and then ascended again, only to find ourselves descending in to another valley and finally stopping for lunch a top another ascent. We were behind so slower climbers at this point and our hunger and frustration were adding up. Everyone was feeling much better knowing that many of the climbers would be left behind at our lunch camp as we continued hiking for another 4 hours until we reach Barafu Camp- otherwise know as Ice camp, at the base of the summit circle. We strapped on our hiking gear after lunch of chips kuku (chicken and fries) we made another descent into the lava flows of the great Kilimanjaro. We found some slate and took time out to do some quick shot games learn some IMPORTANT Swahili from Robert. The day was getting longer and warmer as being above the clouds tends to increase your chances of sunburn and dehydration. We pressed on only 4 more hours to Barafu, yes that is right about 8-9 hours of hiking today. By the time we reached Barafu camp we had time to get settled in our tents, change into warmer gear, and watch the sun set. The sunset was a wonderful blend of pinks and oranges dancing in the cotton candy clouds. We had a wonderful view of the mountain in Arusha, Mt. Meru, and the watching the colors of the sunset almost brought me to tears. We finished dinner as the temperature continued to drop (they don’t call it ice camp for no reason) and after dinner we went straight to bed. We were to begin our summit climb at midnight.

Midnight came much too quickly for me. Luckily I was already dressed in order to sleep I had to put on all my clothes. After an energy snack of chocolate and tea we began our climb into the night. The sky was clear and the night was mild. We could see billions of stars; more stars than anywhere for there were no lights or clouds to get on our way. The night was beautiful. We began our ascent to the summit only focusing on the feet in front of us not realizing how steep we were climbing. All of our light came from our headlamps. I was fortunate to have mine quit about two hours in to the climb. The ascent to the summit was a never ending pathway of soldiers marching with their own motivation, their own light, and their own inner conversations to ensure that they continued onward and upward the 70 degree incline (at least) of sheer faced frozen rock. As we continued marching on in the night seemingly never nearing our goal, my legs got tired, Tim’s head hurt, Max’s situational questions lingered in the air unanswered. Robert kept going pole pole (slowly) the African way. You learned a lot about yourself on the way up. I was reduced to the high school version of myself always pushing myself to the limit is soccer practice. Knowing that no matter how hard I kicked myself I could always get up. There were times when I almost gave up too. I cried, I threw my pole… it was really upsetting me that morning, and then I kept going. Tim and Max had headaches to make Jack Daniels jealous. Then out of nowhere we made it to the first real rest we had all night at 5:45am we reached the top of the climb, . The sun began to rise and although my heart was set on watching the sunrise over Kilimanjaro we still had to make it to the very top, another 45 minute hike away. Now to all of you out there who may be thinking that a 45 minute hike may not be that far… let’s keep in mind that we are tired, exhausted, dehydrated, delirious, and just plain at the last our wits. Nevertheless our attitudes kept us going and although I was a little behind the boys we all made it to UHURU PEAK by 6:35 am. The sunrise at the peak was gorgeous. Sandwiched between to oceans of clouds the most beautiful sun was filling the sky and land with light. The most beautiful early morning light you have ever seen, untouched by pollution, tall buildings and other man made creations.

Little did we know at that point that we also had to get down the mountain. Personally I was spent. My body was intoxicated with lactic acid and although my brain was functioning well… my feet and legs would not listen to it. My journey down the mountain was as simple as being dragged down a sandy slope by Jerome our assistant guide until we reached about 2000m from camp and I was rested enough to continue to walk the rest of the way. Max and Tim both ran/fell ahead of me trying to get back to camp as quickly as possible. Their heads were not feeling well, and sleep was the only much needed remedy for all of us. Unfortunately our day had only just begun. After a two hour nap and a nutritious meal we were on the road again. We had to hike to the next camp a 5 hour trek through extreme mud, blinding cloud cover and mind altering exhaustion. At least we were going downhill. We were back in the moorlands by the end of the day and after dinner we all turned it. The mud was inches thick but surprisingly was the most comfortable bed we had had all week. I slept from 8:30pm until 7 am then next morning at wake up call, through the rain and the wild dogs. My body was grateful for the rest.

The next morning was our last day of hiking… to say the least we were ready to go home. We were ready for beds with warm blankets, hot showers, and food that could be eaten and enjoyed not just used for energy. We took photos of our last day, our crew and our guide and began our final descent off the mountain. The rain had proved an equal opponent and made the path a complete mud bath. Mud that in some places went up to our ankles… or knees depending on how lightly you stepped slowed our journey down to the gate. What was supposed to be a two hour journey turned into a 5 hour precision work out. Muscles that were already sore groaned from the concentration and intensity. Max and Tim raced ahead; I was too tired, or too intelligent not to torture my body further. We reached the gate around 11:30 and proceeded to go to the registration to get our golden tickets. “I got a golden ticket” played on in our heads as we drove back to Moshi to unload or gear, say goodbye to our new friends, and finally get a bus back to Arusha. After a two hours bus ride mostly passed by napping and minor conversations with our neighbors we arrived in Arusha. We returned home to an empty house… and proceeded to take showers. I realized in the shower that I was in fact a real girl. We ate like no tomorrow, and then after a day’s rest decided to share our photos and story with the group. We three had accomplished what very few do, we climbed the 4th highest mountain in the world, we conquered our inner ghosts, pushed through an extreme challenge and we will always have the memories.