We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up

“The rains came down and the floods came up.” As we continue to bail out Tim’s study downstairs, I wonder if we should start building an Ark. The heavy rains that are continually destroying the road outside our house despite our attempts to keep building it back up, have also caused havoc downstairs. Getting out of our house has been obstacle course recently with a huge tree down one day, a power line looped down dangerously across the road another day (I should have taken a photo … talk about health and safety!). The driveway eroded away and was completely impassable one morning (we had to call a friend to get the girls to school!), the thick mud made it impossible to get home one day, which meant abandoning the vehicle round the corner to walk in on foot.

And inside isn’t much better as we are valiantly battling the rising water in Tim’s study every few hours with towels and buckets. It has been a constant job for five days now keeping the level of water manageable. As I was restoring the mess of the partially defrosted freezer to rights this morning, after the three day/night power cut, we then discovered that the water problems were spreading and the store room floor was covered in water. So we continue to mop the rising floods, attempting various solutions outside with channels and morum, but are losing the battle and exhausted! Other things are piling up and going wrong and in the midst of it all, Louisa came down sick on Thursday night which turned out to be her first case of malaria. Poor Louisa has been through it a bit with sickness and made the comment today that at least when she gets to heaven, she won’t be sick! But we said we like to keep her with us for a while yet! 
Mopping up Operation
But although everything seems to be against us getting on with things here, we do have lots to be thankful for! And on a positive note, I wanted to explain a bit about what we are doing with the fuel efficient stoves project. As you have probably picked up, we are back in the clay again, but we are doing things rather differently to before. This time we have trained (with Mendriad and Hosea’s help) a small group of seven people from an area on the outskirts of the city very close to a brilliant clay source. Two other women, Mama Abigail and Mama Meshak, from the other side of the city joined as well and will form their own group, training others with them. The plan is that this small group will make quality stoves to sell in the city area, building up a business and gaining experience. And then our hope is that some of them will be able to work with us in rural village projects (similar to what we did in Iringa), assisting us and training others. We are really trying to build up quality teams and individuals that will work the different projects that we are doing.

The Mwanza Stoves Group
(Mama Georgina second from right in front)

Tim handing over the "Exercise Book" to elected Chairman Wilson

The newly elected chairman, treasurer and secretary (Mama Georgina)
Daudi (right) the new kiln builder trained by Hosea (left)
Chatting to Mama Georgina during the stoves training, I was actually surprised at how great the need and desire for these stoves in the city! The monetary benefit of the stove is far greater here than in the villages we have worked in, as the cost of firewood is so great. In Tambukareli, where we ran the training, Mama Georgina uses firewood every day to cook. She pays 1000 Tsh for five sticks which will cook one meal for her family. I asked about cooking beans; she said “Oh no! We can’t cook beans. That would cost 5000 Tsh!” By reducing the amount of wood used by 50%, the fuel-efficient stove will make huge savings for her. And the word is spreading very quickly! Even by the third day of training, many people had come to see what was going on and were very interested. Some have already put in their order for a stove!
So, in that we will be encouraged! And one other reason to be encouraged is our rice sack. We had a big sack of rice on the floor in the store room and that was the first thing I thought of when I heard the floor had flooded. I was so gutted as I so didn't want to lose all that rice and knew I should have moved it earlier. But do you know, there was water all over the floor, over a centimetre in places, with bags and boxes completely soggy. But there was a small circle of dry floor - just surrounding that sack of rice! I couldn't believe it! The rice is fine! And now that dry patch is gone. It was a reminder that in the midst of the storms, we can find that dry place of shelter or calm or safety and, as the old Sunday School song finishes, “give God the glory!”

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Cross-Cultural Lenses: Through Someone Else's Eyes

At the moment, things are a bit of struggle ... nothing major, just the cumulative stack of lots of small things. And this blog, which I wrote some days ago but couldn't post with internet and power problems, is now a good reminder for me! How easily I forgot.
Do you ever look at the world through someone else's eyes? For over a week, I have enjoyed again just looking at the ordinary which makes up everyday life through someone else's eyes. It made me appreciate things I take for granted or fail to observe. It caused me to think about and question my own priorities. It challenged the way I look at things. It's enlightening! 
We have had Mendriad and Hosea staying with us since last Monday. Over the years, we have spent many hours in their homes in Magozi (the village where we started the first fuel-efficient stoves project) and they in ours there. (The other evening I enjoyed a read from those days when we moved into the village ... those initial thoughts as we entered a different world!) And then, Mendriad was always staying with us in our village house in Kimande, and Hosea also stayed while building the kiln. But it is very different when living together in the village, as we are adapting to their life. Staying here in the city, Mendriad and Hosea were adapting to ours! Sure we ate Tanzanian food and supplied plenty of sugary tea, but we had light switches and showers and toilets to explain. I never really thought before about how complicated we make even making a bed! They had no idea what all the bedding was for (bottom sheet, top sheet, duvet, duvet cover, pillow, pillowcase and all on a mattress on a frame...) and I realised after they left, it was all untouched! In the village a foam mattress is a luxury and then all that is needed is a khanga. But they entered our world and tried coffee and hot chocolate and developed a taste for zucchini muffins and spaghetti as well!
It was incredibly exciting to see Mwanza with them! To peer up at such tall buildings! The sight and sounds of so many vehicles driving on so many tarmac roads! To satisfy their interest in the reason for green and red lights; waiting for the green light to go, while incredulous that if the light was red and there were no cars waiting, we would still have to wait (mind you, I think there are plenty of drivers in Mwanza who don't get that!) Seeing the long straight tracks for trains, with the thought of where and how far they stretch ... and the thrill of a train thundering past! That caught all of us, as well as all the people selling their goods on the tracks by surprise! Scary!
But most exciting of all was, by far, Lake Victoria. They couldn't take their eyes off the vast expanse of water. Magozi is usually such a dry and dusty place; the most water they have is the small brown river nearby (except for the puddles in the rainy season!). But it wasn't just the water. There were boats on the Lake; small boats floating, boats with engines chugging out, large ferries carrying cars, even busses and trucks and lots of people! The thought of being "in" the water was terrifying; the sight of the small waves on the lake gave rise to nervous laughter!
On the shores of Lake Victoria

As we sat on Saturday and drank sodas right beside the Lake, talking about boats, Tim and I looked at each other and thought "why not?"  We headed over on foot through the fish market at the lakeside to the ferry. We waited over an hour for the next ferry to Kamanga and hopped on. We made the 45 minutes crossing (all for a grand total of $3 for the six of us!) and came straight back! Conversation throughout the rest of the day between all of us, and the many friends and family they phoned in Magozi, often reverted back to who of the two was more scared! But they loved the adventure and how amazing and fantastic it was to appreciate the beauty of the area, the vastness of the Lake and the distant views, the feel of the wind and the waves below, with them. Wondering how it felt to be landless for the first time?   

Mendriad boards the ferry

On the ferry!

Getting off and getting on (all at the same time!) 
They came to train a group here in Mwanza how to make the fuel-efficient stoves out of clay. They did a great job and I'll tell you more about that later! We also took them to see the agricultural work going on in Kayenze and Kisesa ... and there is more about that later too! But going to Kayenze with them on Sunday was great. We were glad that Hosea was able to preach. And after the service we walked down to the lake shore, just 100m from the church building. They saw the fishing boats, the fishing nets and the vast expanse of water before them and were keen for lots of photos! But unfortunately they didn't seem to care about what I was seeing ... lots of naked men washing in the Lake! I turned away from the sudsy bodies, protesting ... but I wondered if they even noticed! They kept asking to come back with the camera! So averting my eyes, I did my best to get a photo avoiding any naked men in the lens!
Carefully Cropped Photo: Posing in a Fisherman's Boat

It has been a very full week with all the outings, training days, and lots of extra cooking! At times it seemed so easy to look at it all through the wrong lenses. But when the power keeps cutting out, I remember that no electricity is everyday normal in Magozi (and you can still play crazy card games by candlelight!) When I completely burn the beans on the gas and the rice is uncooked, why am I worried? They are so grateful and appreciative for everything! Putting on the appreciative lenses makes the view so much brighter and exciting! I am so thankful for these guys! Living with them both in the village and here in the city has taught us all so much! We are so much richer for entering their world and experiencing them enter ours; we can appreciate that there is so much more out there for all of us than our own comfortable "normal."

Friday, 21 November 2014

To Do or not to Do? Is that the Question?

I love that life here is never dull. But every now and then, I just get a little overwhelmed and crave a little bit of a "normal" ... although, what really is that anyway?  I'm not sure there is such a thing, but it exists in my head as all the "good" bits of the life that once was normal (for the majority of my existence thus far), and I think that I want it. I'm sorry to say it often revolves around incredibly selfish and unimportant things ... things like relaxing in the evening watching TV and eating chocolate or going shopping for quick and ready food in a big supermarket or shopping for new clothes (which I never used to like doing anyway!!) and doing it all without power cuts.

The reality is I'm far happier here doing what we are meant to be doing, or I should say being who we are meant to be here. I naturally gravitate to (and thrive on) doing and constantly need to be reminded just to "be." Sometimes it is easy to get carried away by the doing, and forget to just be. I think this is when getting overwhelmed comes into play! Sometimes the frustration of trying to "do" just gets too hard. Especially when the power is out, when the bricks don't arrive again and again, when there are no bees in the hive, when I just don't have enough Swahili or there is no money for the "good" things I want to do! Then I have to remember to be. Be who I am. Be a wife and mother. Be a good host. Be a servant and friend ... being these things not based on what I do but who I am!

Sometimes I struggle with the tension as I write this blog! The purpose in writing is to let you know what we are doing ... particularly for you friends and family that we are far away from, those of you who are supporting us, encouraging us and praying for us! We want you to feel involved in what we are doing as you are such a big part of it. But at the same time, sometimes I feel I am just writing a long report of things we are doing which doesn't really relate to anything in your life (and doesn't seem particularly "normal"). It really isn't all about doing here, but that is what often seems to come across!

That said I am now going to tell you more about what we have been doing ... oh dear!

Everything (in terms of projects etc.) we are doing here suddenly seemed to all happen at once this week (which probably explains my inner turmoil and overwhelmed reaction!). On Friday night I arrived back from the Bee symposium, my head full of all things bees and all the things possible to do. Saturday morning was a quick change of gear as after getting the girls off to early morning football, I was with the Upendo wa Mama group. We chatted and made beads. We continued with our reading through Genesis, finishing chapter one while talking about how we are all made in God's image, whatever colour, tribe, size, background ... It was lovely to welcome a new mama, Fatuma (who has albinism herself) to the group. Then another gear shift. Later in the day (after the school fair) we had a very good meeting with Dr Makori and it was exciting to talk about the potential health projects on the islands.

After meeting with a great church group on Sunday, on Monday, our good friends Hosea and Mendriad arrived from Magozi, the village where we first started the fuel-efficient stoves project. On Tuesday we took them to Kisesa to see Pastor Baraka's family and see how the agriculture project is doing (see the good progress with the new methods, particularly in comparison with the old method maize in the photos below). And on Wednesday with Mendriad and Hosea, we started the training for the new fuel-efficient stoves group in Tambukareli. See the great stoves they are making in the photos below! (I will explain more about what we are doing here later when things are a little quieter!) Everything is very interesting and exciting, and after each day I was left wanting to focus all my thoughts and energy on that one thing ... but in the end with time so short, found I had to focus any spare thoughts on just having rooms and meals prepared for guests and clean school uniforms and packed book bags with completed homework. What to do?

At the end of the day, I can rest in the fact that what I do comes out of who I am in Christ. Doing is still important. But I know that who I am does not depend on what I do. In fact, not a lot depends on what I do! Even being a mother! And there is rest in that. There is no need to be overwhelmed and no need to crave anything else.

Farming Photo Update

With Mendriad and Hosea sorting out the trees to plant with Pastor Amon
It is easy to see the difference that the new techniques make when you compare the maize
in the background with the foreground maize which was planted at the same time!

Training for the Fuel-Efficient Stoves Group

Day One: prepare the clay, make the body of stove and turn out

Mendriad teaches our Mwanza trainees come trainers!
The clay is the best we have ever worked with!
Click here to see the source in the Toilet Seat Tale!

Tim recaps after Day One
Day Two: Cut handles and pot rests


Finishing touches after Day Two
Day Three: Cut the door and finish with smoothing and decorating

Beautifully decorated!

Making the kiln (yes, the bricks finally arrived!)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Bee-ginning on a Bus Before Buzzing about Bees

Buzzing about bees, I have returned from Arusha, from the first bee symposium in Tanzania! It was fantastic! But really I should start at the bee-ginning...

I was left in the dark at the Nyegezi bus stand on Sunday at 5:30am and with my bags, I pushed through the throngs of people shouting and selling, pushing and pulling. "Come here, my friend! This bus, rafiki! Buy this, my friend..." Horns honking, buses noisily plowing forward as people desperate run and jump to get on. One lady trying to get her whole bed on the bus. A heavily veiled Muslim lady trying to keep her two chickens inside a ripped plastic bag and get them on the bus (throughout the journey, there were constant squawks as they continued to attempt escape). Large loads on heads, goods on hand-held boards, selling bread, sunglasses, sandals, hair combs ...

It was crowded and hot on the bus. Temperatures were rising into the mid thirties and with a broken seat in front of me, my knees were up against it (and you know how short I am!) and the head of the man in front was almost in my lap as I barely had room to hold my book against my chest! The benefits of being short ... I can't imagine how anyone over 5ft2 would have managed! But thirteen hours later (with a quick 10-15 minute squat break in Singida after 6 hours) we arrived safely in Arusha, almost 750km away!

Bus stand chaos

The chickens that kept trying to escape on our bus

"My friend, my friend .... you buy, buy"
The Apimondia Symposium on African Bees and Beekeeping was a huge event, the first Apimondia event in all Africa, with almost 600 participants, and over 200 from all over the world. We had a wide spectrum of people in attendance (keeping the translators busy!) with rural traditional beekeepers from Tanzania, local entrepreneurs, foreign professional commercial beekeepers, researchers and NGO's. It was a full three days from 8:30am-6:00pm of paper presentations, beekeeping seminars, roundtable discussions and a commercial exhibition. The objective of the conference was to improve the beekeeping industry in Africa and developing countries for the welfare of rural people. The Prime Minister of Tanzania (himself an avid beekeeper) was there to encourage beekeeping, he clearly presented the need of the nation for bees for development, for business and commerce, for forestry and agriculture and he assured Tanzanians in particular of his support. We were honoured by his presence at the welcome Reception at the Mt Meru Hotel on the first evening.
The Prime Minister (second from left) seated next to Gilles Ratia, the President of Apimondia
A toast to the Prime Minister (centre right in red tie) at the Reception Evening
It was fascinating to learn so much about beekeeping in Africa, to meet so many interesting people in the field and just exciting to see how beekeeping ties in so neatly with the other things we are doing here in Mwanza. I attended several seminars and paper presentations on the importance and methods of beekeeping for pollination and the role of beekeeping in conservation agriculture and forestry. Seeing the dots join together for our agricultural and tree-planting work here was inspiring and encouraging as well as practically informative! Amazingly, it was reported that for a beekeeper offering pollination services to a farmer, what is 500Tsh benefit for the beekeeper is 10 000Tsh for the farmer! There is a huge potential in Tanzania for entrepreneurs in this area!

Conference Hall

Bee-keeping Seminar
I also attended sessions on the business side of processing and marketing honey, and on getting started with small scale projects in rural areas while factoring in value addition with other bee products for further income generating. The potential opportunities for our farmers groups and also the Upendo wa Mama group are great. And we also already have a group in Malya, keen to start beekeeping training and get started. I learned a lot about stingless bees which are apparently remarkably prevalent here in Tanzania! In addition to other benefits (particularly the fact that they don't sting!), the profit from their honey is double that of stinging bees. A great project for children, I'm thinking! Another lecture on honey for wound healing was fascinating and the material will be a great addition to community health work, particularly when working with rural beekeepers groups! And the benefits of honey for skin problems is inspiring me with ideas for the mamas of children with albinism group ... making honey creams would be greatly beneficial for the skin problems of those with albinism. See how all the dots connect?!

So buzzing excitedly with ideas, I am now keenly looking for bee swarms! I think we may have found some at the girls' school, but how to get them without disturbing them or, more particularly, all the students is the problem! But hopes are high and we are excited to start the process of how we might invest somehow in beekeeping training and projects. There is a great need for education and training, for investment in technology and equipment and an opening up of market channels and networking. But as a rural income generating venture, as a sustainable livelihood, the potential of beekeeping is ripe in Tanzania! Are you buzzing too, yet?

Honey Exhibition (see the traditional log hives)
And I must finish by saying that when I arrived home on Friday night, I was so thankful for my amazing husband who made it possible for me to go ... and did an amazing job taking care of the girls and so many things at home on top of everything else he does!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Toilet Day

So do you spend a penny, water the flowers, have a jimmy or just relieve yourself? Or as we've heard here in Tanzania, go to make a report? Do you go to the john, the WC, the loo, lavatory or latrine? Did you know that Wednesday, November 19th is WORLD TOILET DAY? It sounds a bit funny, but it's no laughing matter and definitely a message that needs to go out. The aim of World Toilet Day is to draw attention to the fact that billions of people in the world lack access to good sanitation. And this huge sanitation problem is causing thousands of deaths. According to WaterAid, around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that's almost 2,000 children a day.

Now, I can't say that I really think that people all over the world participating in a Big Squat at noon on Wednesday is going to completely solve the problem, but it can't be a bad idea to let people know about the situation.

Louisa "squats" in a toilet seat!
Many of you who read our blog know about the sanitation situation as we personally have seen it here in Tanzania through the work that Emmanuel International has been doing in the Iringa region with the WaSH projects and also through the fundraising that Amisadai and Louisa did earlier this year for the rural island community health projects. We see firsthand the sad effects of poor sanitation here. And we also see the wonderful results from improved sanitation!

Poor Sanitation ...

It's easy to see here how poor sanitation breeds disease
Village school toilets
Village home toilet

Improved Sanitation ...

New toilet blocks (EI Iringa)

Inside cubicle
New concrete toilet blocks, with hand washing similar to the tippy tap idea
Outside the new toilet
Last week we were able to attend a volunteers' meeting of Dr. Makori's organisation, (Rural Island Community Health). It was such a delight to report to them on the money raised through the SODIS Shake and Water Walk Fundraiser for healthcare on the islands! They were extremely grateful and send their thanks to all those who generously gave. We are excited about working more with Dr Makori on community health projects. As well as medical care, community health education is something so desperately needed as a means of preventing so many of the problems and illnesses and deaths that we see here. Basic education in health and sanitation. Basic things like toilets and hand washing. Basic things like drinking clean water.
Volunteers Island Community Health Meeting
It was exciting to hear from Dr Isaac at the meeting that people on Kome Island are latching onto the idea of SODIS-treating their water. People have been coming to the clinic to find out how to do it after the word has been spreading since our teaching on it in the health clinic back in March. Dr Isaac was curious to find out for certain for himself and tested some of his own treated water at the clinic - the result was pure water! He now has bottles being treated on the roof of the clinic! Quite a number of people have come to tell Dr Isaac that treating their water is working and their families do not have so much sickness now! That was so encouraging! Prevention first is better than needing a cure later! It is so simple and so basic, but the effects are amazing!

So thank you! And if you would like to further support the health work on the islands, or raise some funds in a fun way in honour of WORLD TOILET DAY, let us know and we can put you in contact with Dr. Makori! Please help us share the scoop on sanitation!

A few more facts from WaterAid. Did you know that... 
Every year, around 60 million children are born into homes without access to sanitation.
More people in the world have a mobile phone than a toilet.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

DANGER! Cross Bridge at Your Own Risk!


This is the sign on the road to Kayenze. It's interesting because it is written in English as well as Swahili! Actually it is not as bad as it looks, as there is an alternative to this dilapidated bridge. And I think except for Louisa (and I would never admit it) the rest of us have a little bit of a secret desire to try the bridge ... just to see if it is really so bad! But we don't. There is probably an important and valuable parable lesson here. But even the alternative route leaves much to be desired and the road deteriorates into what can best be described as moguls without the snow. Sections of road have eroded rather dramatically in places on both sides, leaving a narrow space to pass through and in a couple of places, the culverts have collapsed leaving holes in the middle of the road, so it's good to keep your wits about you when driving!

We drove to the village of Kayenze on Sunday and joined the small group there for the service. After the 3 hour service, we went to check out the shamba (crop fields) of a farmer interested in what we are starting. By half past two we were more than ready for some lunch with the teacher and his family and a sit down in the shade.

The simple act of eating lunch makes me realise the importance of this and similar agricultural projects. These are not "hobby farms" for fun. There is no big Sainsbury's or Save-on-Foods supermarket down the road where the regular job pay can be spent to buy groceries. A year's worth of eating depends on a crop. What people grow, they eat. Conditions are harsh here; rainfall is low, deforestation and failure to care for and manage the soil has led to consistently poor yields and Mwanza region is now reported as being unable to feed itself. The Canadian government is actually currently making huge moves to help Tanzania in promoting conservation agriculture. Through the improved techniques, farmers can harvest not just enough food for their family to eat, but also to sell. These farmers can teach their children, their neighbours. With the extra capital, they can start other business, pay school fees for their children, improve their homes, build toilets. The knock-on effect can be huge! They can know the sense of satisfaction from enjoying the fruit of their own labour; with no shame of a handout, they can provide for themselves and help their community. And that is our desire here, to see lives transformed!
Through the farmer's maize fields
Checking out the farmer's zucchini
After lunch we hopped back in the car with Pastor Amon, Pastor Zacharias, a school teacher and a farmer and went to check out some more shambas. It was very encouraging to Pastor Amon's field which we planted a few weeks ago (see the Back-to-front Thanksgiving planting post here). The maize and bean plants were looking good! It was especially encouraging to see how much difference the mulching has made. It was initially very hard to convince farmers to cover the soil with dried grasses after planting the seeds. They thought the little shoot would never make it through the mulch. But those little shoots poked through the mulch just as well as they poked through that soil! And the benefit of the retained moisture was evident in the healthy plants and visibly better in comparison with the other half of the field we didn't mulch!

Mulched maize in the distance compared with the uncovered in the foreground
Looking good, maize

Bean Rows
Then we were back in the car to the next shamba. We didn't realise it was in another village and we kept going on, assured all the way that it was just ahead! 6km later, the road got increasingly worse and to the point that we had to abandon the vehicle and proceed on foot! Louisa, with her slightly dodgy tummy and lack of energy, had been a trooper through the long service, traipsing round fields in the sun and eating a big plate of rice and beans she really didn't want to eat, but I felt she had reached her limit now at 4pm! So Amisadai stayed with her in the car while the rest of us walked on ... as they said "It's just ahead here!"

Vehicle Abandoned
It was at least another kilometre walk! When we did finally arrive at the field, I have to admit my heart sank. They had obviously skipped some of the steps of the new conservation agriculture techniques we are teaching. It was so dry and there was no mulch. Rather than dig small holes to plant in, they had turned over the whole plot. It was discouraging, but as Tim reminded me, we didn't expect it all to go according to plan, and it's good to have a comparison! And the other good and encouraging thing was that we didn't have to say a word to the farmer; Pastor Amon and others were now convinced and they were firmly asserting the need to mulch! We trekked back to the vehicle and were glad to make it home by dark.

Tim and Pastor Ammon in the distance, continuing on foot

The dry unmulched field
There is so much more I want to say about this agricultural project, which is a key foundation for further community development. It links together so many other things. The tree planting is moving ahead and I'll save that for another blog post. The fuel-efficient stoves project is also gearing up with clay pits dug and some clay about to be collected. We are so excited about about Mendriad and Hosea coming up from Magozi (Iringa) in a week to train the new Mwanza group! More about that in another blog too! And lastly the bee-keeping. I am off very early in the morning on a terribly long bus ride to Arusha, to attend a Bee-Keeping Conference until Friday. Exciting! But that too will have to be another blog post!
I wrote this blog earlier in the week ... and am happy to say Louisa is doing much better now! Thanks for your prayers!