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

Monday, 28 January 2019

Our Girls: Growing up Fast in Tanzania

This weekend I thought yet again how incredibly thankful I am that our girls are growing up here in Tanzania! The experiences and adventures they have had exploring cultures and languages; the opportunities to learn to be flexible, to deal with difficulties, to try new things, to make so many interesting and wonderful friends; the way they have been able to work out their own faith and build their own relationship with God. I really couldn’t be more thankful!

We blog about a lot of things and a lot of project news. And although the blog might not always show it, the fact is that Amisadai and Louisa are always so much part of everything we do! They share our heart for the work here. They delight in all the guests that come to our home. They love people and love helping. They have often given up their own personal desires to do some of the things we do. But they have gained so very much! And really, they just simply love living here in Tanzania! 
Playing about by the Lake
It is a wonderful thing watching them grow up here and I just wanted to share a little of what they have been up to this weekend! 


Yesterday morning we left bright and early to catch the ferry to get to the church in Nyamililo. We always love being with these lovely and lively people! We had chai (hot and milky lemongrass tea with chapatis) when we arrived. It was great to be back with Pastor Tito and his wife … but it did all mean we were a little late into the meeting!

Now Louisa is a particular favourite of Pastor Tito, who has a very soft spot for her! Last time we were with the church, he put Louisa on the spot asking her to preach! She agreed with him to preach the next time we came. And so yesterday, she went prepared! While she has been up at the front and said a few words to many, many churches over the years, this was her first time to actually bring the Word of God! And this of course, in Swahili too. She was nervous, but quickly got into her stride as she preached on the church as God's ‘chosen people'. The congregation was with her in true African fashion with "Amens" called out throughout! You can listen to a little clip of the beginning and the end of her sermon here! Pastor Tito was so happy to have Louisa in his pulpit and called her Mchungaji (Pastor) Louisa after that. Tim followed on from his daughter and then there was much singing and dancing! The whole service was 3 ½ hours!

After the service, many from the church came back for lunch at the Pastors' home. We had some time with Phoebe, the pastors’ daughter, with her growing son, Elisha. It was 3pm before we started the journey home … and with the long wait at the ferry, we didn’t get home until 6:30pm. It was a long and very hot day. But oh so thankful for it!

On a side note … we are well into the conservation agriculture project with the Nyamililo church now! It was good to see how their demonstration plot is coming along this year … even with the drought. 
Maize intercropped with soya and the pigeon peas flourishing behind
Here you can see how poor this neighbouring shamba is,
with the Church and its green flourishing plot beyond it


And now for Amisadai! She too has been putting her language skills to good use! She has been teaching a weekly English class to the women in the Upendo wa Mama Group (all Swahili-speaking). And they are just loving it! She started back in October, helping Tim’s mum teach the first class. And she has carried on and is doing such a super job! She has the women in several groups on Saturday mornings and is coming to them where they are at and working forward with them! She had felt a little frustrated and discouraged, but on Saturday, it was amazing to watch them all set up a “sale table” of products and interact in English with greetings and sales talk! Lots of laughter! One woman can’t read or write, but Amisadai is writing out notes from each lesson that she can take home and work through with her child at home! It is so wonderfully encouraging to see the confidence building, the skills growing and the especially all the joy they are sharing in it!
Starting with Grandma back in October!

Practicing the "sales" in English
The women in the group all secretly planned together to get a gift to express their thanks to us all as a family. Last week ,they came to our house laden with so many beautiful khangas. They are colourful cloths (which everyone here wears and uses for everything!), printed with wise proverbs. They had khangas for me and both girls and a monetary gift for Tim. With a card they had made and written with such love, it was just a beautiful expression of thanks to us all as a family. Which is just simply what this is all about. We are working here together as a family. We are learning and serving together. It was a word we believed from the beginning, that we would be a family amongst families and it has been our prayer to be on a mission as a family together! And we certainly couldn't do it without Amisadai and Lousia!

I feel I must make the absolute most of it now before these gorgeous girls grow up and go!

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

What are Kitenge BeesWraps?

People have been asking me just what these Kitenge BeesWraps are that the Upendo wa Mama Group are making! So I thought we could explain!

Kitenge BeesWraps are an eco-friendly, reusable alternative to plastic wrap. Handmade using local cotton material, pure local beeswax, pine rosin and coconut oil, they have natural anti-bacterial properties that help to keep food fresh. Perfect for wrapping snacks like fruit, veggies, cheese, bread and over bowls in the refrigerator. You just seal with the warmth of your hands! They are easy to clean; simply wash with cool water and a little soap and hang to dry.

Every few months you can refresh your wrap placing on baking paper in the oven at 130C for a minute to allow the wax to redistribute. Remove and hold out until dry.
So many wonderful colourful prints!
There you have it! They are such a great idea and so useful for packed lunches and covering food. They really do keep food fresher longer … we love how much longer an avocado or banana keeps without browning in a BeesWrap! And being waterproof and antibacterial, they are also great for packing your toothbrush or soap when travelling! With the huge push for no more single-use plastics these are a great solution! And with the FlipFlopi Expedition setting sail today, raising awareness for finding solutions for the problems with plastic pollution, we are rather proud to have our Kitenge BeesWraps on board!
The Big BeesWraps for the FlipFlopi Expedition
It really is just so super being in on the excitement as the Mamas proudly keep up with orders! For the beeswraps, they cut the various sizes with zig zag scissors and templates, the fabric is then coated with the beeswax mixture and placed for a few seconds in the oven. It is then brushed smooth and hung up to dry. Then they must pass inspection before being folded and packaged.  It's funny, they were incredibly sceptical about selling them in the beginning … they really thought I was crazy. Then they thought that all these people buying them were crazy. But now they are taking some home to use themselves! 
The Upendo wa Mama Group in Dar es Salaam are also producing BeesWraps!
Mama Monika inspects a wrap

The Christmas orders!
We have been sending them across Tanzania and now also to Nairobi. Bees Abroad are selling them online in the UK and if you attend a UTSS event in BC, Canada, you may well find one there! They are available at a Fair Trade shop in Norrkoping, Sweden, and soon will be available online with Tentmakers Together in the US. You can get in touch (and Like us!) through our Facebook page @upendowamama.tz. The mamas are so delighted with the business which is making such a difference for them at home!

And that is the Kitenge BeesWrap and how it is helping women and children with albinism!

Bhatendi Joins EI Mwanza!

Some exciting news from Emmanuel International Mwanza...We have a new team member!

Her name is Bhatendi Mwandandila.

The past few weeks have not been altogether easy for various reasons. One reason was the departure of John, our Beekeeping Trainer and Agricultural worker. It was a disappointing shock to the whole team when he decided to move on to take up a new agricultural job with the government in another town. And so we have been looking for a replacement. Today Bhatendi came for an interview with Tim, Peter and Pastor Zakayo and we are so delighted now to welcome her to the team. She comes from Mbeya and has graduated with an Education Degree from St. Augustine University here in Mwanza. She is a member of BMCC (the church Elisha also attends) and comes highly recommended by Pastor Mbuke!

Her role will include working on the beekeeping projects. She will work alongside the existing groups in Kayenze and Malya and a big job for her will emerge as we start the new Beekeepers group this spring in Ngudu. So you see she is brave! Later in the spring (hopefully before we harvest this season's honey) we are planning to build and launch our Honey Processing Centre and so she will have much to do helping with that.

She will also be working with Peter and Elisha on the conservation agricultural projects. They are currently working in seven villages (Chabakima, Igumumoyo, three Kayenze villages, Nyamililio, and Kisesa) with numerous groups. So she will have plenty to keep her busy!

And now as I go to post words only, I realise with Laura and Bhatendi joining us, we really must have a new EI Mwanza Team Photo taken!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Our New Teammate ...and Three Goats Go to Malya

With all that has been going on in recent months, we have missed communicating some fairly significant things! One such wonderful significant event was the long-awaited arrival of our new EI team member, Laura! After a long wait for her working and residency permits, Laura Kelly joined us from New Brunswick, Canada in November and already is much at home and a part of our team!

With our new teammate, Laura on Lake Victoria
We are enjoying having Laura live with us for now until she finds her own place. As well as getting acquainted with the numerous goats, rabbits, chickens and dogs (maybe less so the bees) around here, she has had to learn rather a lot of unexpected British English being with us! Now she knows what faffing is, what a jiffy is and if something is pear-shaped or skew-whiff!  But far more importantly, she is also now settled into three months of Swahili classes, building relationships and looking forward to what is next … her hope is to be working alongside women and young women. 

We threw Laura straight in the deep end when she first arrived! A few days after arriving, she and I went with John to Malya to work with the women's group and beekeeper group (and then on to Ngudu the following day to meet with the new beekeeper group there). It was a fairly good initiation to life here, with the hot sun, different food and new language, add in the bumpy treks out in the landcrusier to beehives in the dark and losing the beaten track, throw in some angry bees, and of course the added palaver of getting three goats all the way there for the Mamas' group… and then figuring out how to get them, along with all the village people wanting a lift, and all the beekeeping gear, to their final destination! She also saw first hand how challenging and tough a project can be, and all in all, coped admirably!  
How many people, babies and goats can one actually fit in a landcruiser?
(I lost count!)
The women enjoyed meeting Laura and we made batches of beeswax lip and body balms for the upcoming Craft Fair in Mwanza. They had saved their profits to buy a goat, and now with the male and a female are hoping to grow that project! Their income-generating garden was off to a good start and it was encouraging to see how they were getting on! The Beekeepers' group was more challenging, but that is whole other story!

Laura meets the latest arrival in the Mamas' group!

Making beeswax balms
Love these mamas!

Friday, 11 January 2019

Giant Kitenge BeesWraps for FlipFlopi

Great big Kitenge BeesWraps are being crafted in the workshop! Upendo wa Mama are helping the FlipFlopi Expedition demonstrate that "single use plastic doesn't make sense"!

Check out the website of the FlipFlopi Project which has made a boat out of 100% recycled plastic and old flipflops! They are to set sail on January 28th, travelling the 500km from Limu in Kenya to Zanzibar, while raising awareness along the East African coast about plastic pollution. And during their 2 week journey, the team will be keeping all their food fresh with great big Upendo wa Mama Kitenge Beeswraps! We are looking forward to following their journey and it is exciting to be involved in a small way!

With a few of the big wraps
The past few months have been busy and exciting for the women! It was wonderful to be selling at the Mwanza Charity Craft Fair back in November and then busily re-stocking products to sell at the Iringa Craft Fair in December. I will write more about our time in Iringa in another post, but it was so special to be selling at the Craft Fair on the table next to Mama Lucy (read here...) selling her yummy cinnamon buns and breadsticks!
With Mama Lucy in Iringa
We had so many individual sales in the run-up to Christmas, it was hard keeping up! One hundred gift bags were also sewn for Manji's, a local Mwanza company. The Kitenge BeesWraps are proving really popular in the UK and are available online through BeesAbroad (more headed that way on Monday). The group is now also supplying Standing Voice with cooked peanuts for all the patients at their Albinism clinics which keeps more work coming in. We are grateful to have so many wonderful organizations and individuals supporting us with their business! We are eagerly anticipating the start of renovations on our new Bakery/Shop which will be most exciting (and terrifying).

And finally, next week we are very excited to be connecting with students at Cardiff University who will be working with Upendo wa Mama as part of their Project called "Tipping Point: How to be an Agent of Change." This is based on Malcolm Gladwell's theory that "a curiously small change can have phenomenal effects". The students will be challenged to come up with ideas to help us as a group raise awareness of albinism issues through our marketing and products. I am so interested to see what they come up with and how they encourage social impact through the arts. I am presenting the project to the students via skype on Tuesday … more on this to come soon!

Busy in the workshop

Beeswraps in the making
Inspection time is important!

Mama Monika makes Nyuki Stix

Selling at the Mwanza Craft Fair 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Picking Tractor Fruits off Trees in Magozi

This time of year always feels so poignantly significant. As Christmas approaches I find myself reflecting back on years past, and then as a new year is ushered in, I am anticipating a future yet unknown. This year as Christmas approached we were reflecting particularly on seven years past, as we went to visit Magozi, the first village we worked in when we arrived in Tanzania.
Now (2018)
… and then (2011)
We first went to the village of Magozi back in early 2011, with plans to start a fuel-efficient stoves project with the Anglican church there. We set up our village home in July of that year (you can read about that here!) and started on an incredible journey. I have recently been reading past blog posts of those early days, such precious memories of our struggles and joys! Building relationships, learning a culture, learning to cook on a jiko, learning so many things! A group was formed and named "Ebenezer Jiko" and stove-making training began. We worked in the dirt; people in the village laughed at the members of the group for playing like children with dirt and clay. I think even people back home doubted our sanity, giving up our jobs and nice home in the UK to come and make pots in the dirt in a small, far away village. But we did. 

We made so many mistakes. We stumbled and struggled, continually helped and forgiven by kind neighbours! And yes, the group learned how to make clay stoves. They started to sell them. They learned how to use them to cook efficiently and maybe even learned something about healthy cooking as well. Piglets were given to start pig projects, money was invested in rice, where the rice acquired at a low price was then held until the price became high. We taught on clean water and sanitation, we planted gardens. But more significantly, we lived life together, we read the Bible together (and made sure people had one to read with their family). 

After a time, we left. We left the group with their own chairman, secretary and treasurer, with nice red T-shirts and pits of clay and ready stoves. Things went on well for a while. But the group began to struggle to sell the stoves and interest began to fade and one could wonder why we did it.

But then old seeds sown were watered and new life sprouted! The group elected a new leader, Lucas, and a new secretary, Marko and with Meriziana continuing as treasurer, they "re-grouped" with a bigger vision, a vision bigger than we could have imagined! They started making stoves again and now have 69 ready to sell and the rice business is growing. As they have worked together, they have raised significant income, enabling them together to purchase a plot of land for a workshop and kiln and another plot to open a shop. They also just purchased a power tiller (kind of tractor, at a cost of over £800) which will be used to generate income as well as collect clay and transport stoves. 

The power tiller
When we went to Magozi just before Christmas, we were amazed again by God's faithfulness. His plan and His timing we often don't understand, but He gives us so often in His Word the picture of a garden and this can be rather helpful! 

We arrived at the church in Magozi and were met and embraced by the Ebenezer Group! Oh joyful reunions! We sat down for the customary greetings. It was so beautiful to hear them all share. So humbling to hear them thank us for teaching and giving them a foundation, when they taught us so much and gave us a foundation for living in Tanzania. Mama Rose, our closest neighbour, shared how the project has produced much fruit and now much is ready to be picked. She talked about how the group has just picked the power tiller "fruit" and how they will look for the next fruit which is ready to be picked! Our friend Yuda shared his gratitude for the education we had given that has stayed with them. He made the point that had we just given money and "things" (which is so much asked for and which is easily done), it would just have disappeared and produced no lasting fruit. Lucas shared about the physical and spiritual help that was given through the group. He brought his miracle child to meet us. Seven years ago we prayed with him for a child for him and his wife who was unable to conceive. Little Kathryn is now five years old! A father shared about the learned importance of family and teaching children, a wife celebrated how now poverty has gone. Ezekiel read from 2 Corinthians 4:7, sharing how people had mocked them in the beginning for playing with dirt, but in truth, God has made and moulded each one of us as clay. And we have a treasure in jars of clay that is shining out and he said how now people in the village see that this clay has led to other things. 

The Ebenezer Jiko Group

New stoves waiting to fire
We were then taken to visit the plot of land where they plan to build a workshop. At the moment they are working under the shade of the tree, but already have their kiln in use there and their clay pit.

Tim inspects the kiln

The plot for the workshop
We then walked back through the village to the other plot of land they have purchased near the main road. This is where they are planning to build a shop which will sell all kinds of things, including stoves! It is right by the spot where the buses stop, so a prime location. 
The land for the shop (with the bus stopped at the main road)
We were then escorted to our old house (now lived in by Bibi, our dear old neighbour) where we had lunch with the group leaders and church pastor. They treated us royally with heaps of rice with meat and beans. 

Lunch in our old house
After seconds of lunch, we were then walked to our good friend, Mendriad's home where we met with his wife, Lucy and Ezekiel's wife, Bora. They had also prepared lunch! So we sat for a second lunch with friends; as well as Mendriad and Ezekiel we were joined by Yuda, Marco and others. Feeling quite full up now with more rice, meat, beans as well as fizzy sodas and fruits, we went to greet another good friend, Kalista. And yes, you guessed it … she also had prepared lunch! She also had rice and meat ready for us. Knowing how important it was to eat, we were able to sit with her and said we would share a family meal together and managed a plateful between us! It was so lovely to see her and her now big twin boys, but so sad to hear about her husband who died a year or so ago after an illness. 

Three lunches in, we left the village and I felt rather emotional. So many deep and meaningful memories. So much to learn about ourselves and our God. We have such small things to offer. Small seeds that we don't even know or recognise. We don't see anything when they are planted... only the dirt.  We may never see anything more in some places. We may be scorned for playing in the dirt. So often today people want instant transformation, but gardens take time. Forests take even longer. Project donors (needing their promotional material) often ask for stories of transformation, even after just six months! But most of the time, true transformation takes time and it is in God's hands, not ours. We must plant the small things we have been given, wherever we are, and God does the rest for His glory. It was so encouraging to see what He has done in Ebenezer Magozi. He has truly helped them. Out of the dirt comes plants and trees, and in time, fruits. Picking power tillers off trees is a rather humorous picture, but it carries an encouraging truth.

Please come back to the blog soon … I am hoping to do better on the blog posting this year! We have been rather out of touch recently! And please do get in touch and let us know what is new with you too!