Hujambo! My name is Dorothy Ochieng and I am a Global Health Master’s in Public Health student from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. I have been in Shirati, Tanzania since May 22, 2015. I was first introduced to the Maji Safi Group (MSG) leadership team, Max Perel-Slater, Bruce Pelz, and Emily Bull, by Maria Kenney, an alumni of the Brown School and former practicum student with MSG. MSG is a disease prevention and health promotion organization located in the rural fishing and agricultural town of Shirati, close to the border of Tanzania and Kenya. They employ local Community Health Workers to educate the community about proper water treatment and prevention of common water-related diseases through different interactive programs.
Upon meeting with Max and Emily late last year, I was informed that MSG has been interested in performing health screenings to detect and treat common water-related diseases that affect current program participants, such as bilharzia, intestinal worms, amoeba, malaria, typhoid, and urinary tract infections. The screenings will allow MSG to track whether their health education leads to a reduction in disease rates within their target populations. Since certain program participants have received health education pertaining to water sanitation and prevention of water-related diseases and others have not, the comparison of the disease rates between the two groups will be very useful in guiding future MSG educational programs. The goal of the MSG health screenings will be to screen and treat current and future Maji Safi Group program participants for the above mentioned water-related diseases. With my nursing background, I thought this project would be a very interesting experience and I jumped on board!
Since my arrival here, we have hit the ground running with implementing the health screenings. In fact, on my second day of my practicum experience in Shirati, Max and I met with the Malaria Hygiene and Sanitation Project in the nearby town of Musoma (nearby as in a two hour drive away) to learn the steps we would need to take to create and run successful health screenings. We were able to meet with the leaders of the organization and received helpful information about how to conduct well-planned and effective screenings. This advice included which authorities to contact, how to involve the government, and how to deal with budgeting issues. We were also able to shadow their team the following day to see them in action performing health screenings at a school located in rural Musoma.
Health Screenings in Musoma with the Malaria, Hygiene and Sanitation Project
Health Screenings in Musoma with the Malaria, Hygiene and Sanitation Project
Health Screenings in Musoma with Malaria, Hygiene and Sanitation Project
Currently, we are still in the planning phase for the health screenings. Letters to the District Medical and Education Officers have been sent informing and requesting assistance with the health screenings. We have heard back from both authorities which are overwhelmingly on board with the screenings. We have also moved forward with speaking with village leaders and headmasters of schools, purchasing medications, training the Community Health Workers, figuring out logistical issues, and so much more!
Health Screenings with Malaria, Hygiene and Sanitation Project
Health Screenings with Malaria, Hygiene and Sanitation Project
Oh, and did I mention we intend to screen about 4,600 individuals? All but about 384 will be children and adults that already participate in various MSG programs such as the Afterschool, Female Hygiene, and Singing and Dance Programs. It will be interesting to compare results from the existing program participants with the new individuals; this will allow us to learn the effectiveness of our education programs.
In addition to working on the health screenings, I get to interact daily with various MSG programs that the Community Health Workers are involved with, such as attending the Disease Prevention Center at the hospital, the Afterschool Program, Home Visit Program, store visits, and the Female Hygiene Program. I have seen how each of these programs educate the Shirati community about the importance of practicing good water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviors to prevent water-related diseases using creative and culturally relevant materials.
Outside of MSG, my practicum supervisor, Dr. Chirangi, is the Chief Medical Officer at the Rorya District Hospital and has been very generous in allowing me to watch interesting surgeries at the hospital! So far, I have watched simple operations such as removing a benign arm abscess, to more complicated procedures such as an emergency C-Section.
I look forward to the next several weeks as the health screenings unfold and the MSG programs progress. There is a lot of work still to be done, but the opportunity to participate in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of such a huge project is very rewarding and exciting!
For the third year in a row, Maji Safi Group teamed up with the Wildcat Student Council and students at Whittier International School in Boulder to run our annual Maji Safi Read-a-thon – and what a success! The Read-a-thon is truly a win-win situation. The students find sponsors who pay them for reading books at their current literacy level, so the children greatly improve their reading skills, and the money helps Maji Safi Group run its on-the-ground programs in the remote and impoverished area of Shirati, Tanzania. In addition, the project helps children grow up with a sense of social responsibility and the desire to help those in need through personal effort. We call them Maji Safi Group’s ‘Young Global Citizens’. With support from Whittier’s principal, Sarah Oswick, and the teachers, the annual Maji Safi Read-a-thon is becoming an increasingly popular Whittier tradition with both students and parents.
Once I watched the video about how kids in rural Tanzania have to miss school sometimes to gather water, which often isn’t even clean, I knew I wanted to do something to help out. I love to read and was really happy to raise money for the Maji Safi Group to support the work they do. — Logan S., 2nd grade
Whittier International School
Since 1882, Whittier has provided quality education to the children in the heart of Boulder. With its International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, it has an international focus and serves students from more than 20 countries. Led by former Whittier teacher John LeClair and kindergarten teacher Megan Proctor, the Wildcat Student Council is a force to be reckoned with.
Every other Wednesday at 7:15 a.m., the students meet to tirelessly pursue their four goals:
Take action in the world to help people in other countries.
Take action in our community to help others who live in the Whittier community and the City of Boulder.
Take action to help save endangered animals and their habitats.
Take action in our school and inspire a feeling of community and happiness.
For the 2015 Maji Safi Read-a-thon, Student Council members debated, voted, made posters, made announcement on the school speakers, and read books to pursue their first goal with gusto.
This Read-a-thon really got Alakai encouraged to read to and for us.
– Parent-Amber Garst
John LeClair is an amazing educator who taught elementary school students academic skills, personal and social responsibility, and a love of life, literature, music and art at a level I wish all children would have the chance to experience at an early age. Bruce Pelz, co-founder of Maji Safi Group, had John LeClair in first and second grade. For years, John enthralled his students on a daily basis, not least at Halloween when he came up with amazing costumes to entertain his students. Now retired, John LeClair continues to run Homework Club and Student Council at Whittier on a volunteer basis. A true giver with a huge heart – always has been, always will be.
This year was the most successful Read-a-thon ever at Whittier in terms of participation, books read, and money raised. The reading logs were abundant, and the sponsors were generous!
Books read: 750
Money raised: $5,191.60
Most books read by one student: 98 (kindergarten)
Most pages read by one student: 4,790 (fourth grade)
It is worth noticing that we have two kinds of sponsors. Most students find personal sponsors – typically, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends, neighbors – but we also have our ‘outside sponsors’ who sponsor the readers as a group, paying them a certain amount of money per book. This component especially benefits children who want to help, but are not in a position to find personal sponsors. This year, ‘outside sponsors’ opened their wallets with $2 per book and thus contributed $1,500 of the $5,191.60 raised.
Thanks for such a wonderful opportunity to help! -Parent-Kirstin Jahn
Honoring the Students
The week of May 15, all Maji Safi Read-a-thon participants were honored at an all-school assembly, and each students received a certificate along with a coupon for a free ice cream cone donated by Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
Our After School Program in Shirati
In Shirati, Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Workers provide Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) education to schoolchildren in our After School Program. Since July 2012, MSG has partnered with nine schools and has directly taught 1,000 children about disease prevention, while also allowing them to have a creative, fun experience. By learning how to properly care for their own health, students stay healthy, remain in school, and can therefore achieve their full potential. Using the students’ creative, artistic, and critical thinking skills, Community Health Workers teach disease prevention education about waterborne and water-related diseases, proper water treatment, sanitation, hygiene practices, and the fecal-oral disease cycle. MSG also donates hand-washing stations and ceramic drinking water filters to enable proper WASH techniques at the schools. Finally, as a reminder of the lessons learned, a local artist paints a WASH-related mural to teach future students about proper disease prevention. Recently, we received approval from the District Education Office to operate the After School Program in all 125 primary schools in the Rorya District.
I had such a great time doing the Maji Safi Read-a-thon at my school! It was such a cool experience! I read so many fascinating, captivating books while I knew all the money would go to the charity! I think the charity is an amazing cause that is more urgent than we think! It felt so good to know I was part of helping an organization that really made a difference in so many people’s lives! Because water is SO important, and it is really vital that it is clean and people are educated about hygiene and being sanitary! The Whittier Maji Safi Read-a-thon is such an amazing, caring thing, and I would like to thank the people that made it happen.
— Sydney F., 4th grade
It costs approximately $15,000 per year to run Maji Safi Group’s After School Program, so the Whittier students just enabled hundreds of children on the other side of the globe to learn how to stay healthy and have a better chance of succeeding in school!
Young Global Citizens
It is our goal to expand our ‘Young Global Citizen’ program in Colorado. So far, we have worked with students at Whittier International School, Casey Middle School, Alexander Dawson School, Fairview High School, and CSU. We are currently working on connecting with other schools, including offering practicum opportunities for CU and DU students. In addition, we intend to add extracurricular activities, especially art classes and the opportunity for Boulder youth to help create learning materials for the children in Shirati.
To participate in our ‘Young Global Citizen’ program as a school or on an individual basis, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also do a Read-a-thon on an individual basis; we will gladly provide a reading log, a sponsor sheet and a presentation (PDF format) about the children and Maji Safi Group’s work in Shirati. It would be the perfect way to keep your children reading over the summer!
Thank You for Making a Difference A huge thank you to everybody who participated in and supported the 2015 Maji Safi Read-a-thon: students, parents, sponsors, teachers, volunteers, etc. Thanks to your support, the people in the rural community of Shirati can continue to improve their public health situation and learn how to be healthy to reach their full academic potential!
Martina loved reading the books and participating in the Read-a-thon. Thanks for having it. -Parent-Arsen Kashkashian
Mambo! I am Sarah Muskin, and I have been in Tanzania since January 2015 as a study abroad student at the School for International Training (SIT) in Arusha. As I am an Environmental Studies major at Vassar College and interested in water issues, my program’s academic director introduced me to Max Perel-Slater and Bruce Pelz. Both Max and Bruce were SIT students in the Arusha Program in 2009; since then, they have co-founded Maji Safi Group (MSG), where I completed my SIT independent study project. MSG is a disease prevention and health promotion organization located in the rural Rorya District of Tanzania.
After working with Max over the phone for a few weeks, I decided to collect data on the perspectives of community residents, hospital employees, and the MSG Community Health Workers on the effectiveness of the Maji Safi Group Disease Prevention Center at the Shirati KMT District Designated Hospital. I arrived in Shirati on April 8, looking forward to nearly three weeks of learning about Maji Safi Group, the hospital, and health care in Tanzania, meeting people in Shirati, and running under the sky of this northwestern Tanzanian landscape. However, beginning my own research proved trickier than expected, because the day after I arrived in Shirati from Arusha, the first case of a cholera outbreak was confirmed in the Rorya District.
The first thing I needed to do when I heard this news, embarrassingly enough, was google “cholera”. While staying with Maji Safi Group, I had the luxury of having access to satellite Internet. Although I often had to wait up to a few hours for the Internet to work and be patient as pages loaded, the information about this disease was easily accessible to me. I was able to learn quickly about the symptoms of cholera, how it is transmitted, and how to treat it. I learned that I was not at a high risk of getting the illness since I drank filtered water and used a toilet. In contrast, people in the Rorya District are at risk of getting this disease because they do not know what it is, nor do they have information about the disease or basic hygiene and sanitation available to them. In fact, during this outbreak, the only people or organization doing any sort of education about this preventable disease was Maji Safi Group.
Just days after the first cholera case was confirmed, every Maji Safi Group Community Health Worker had been trained to educate the community about cholera (kipindupindu), and thousands of illustrated pamphlets were ready to be distributed. In the following weeks, most of the Community Health Workers, along with Maji Safi Group’s directors, traveled to the areas where kipindupindu cases were most prevalent and had claimed the most lives in order to educate in public areas, conduct home visits, and give out information about kipindupindu.
Personally, I spent most of my time gathering data for my own project at the Shirati Hospital, which currently does not have any cholera patients. However, the hospital center, which I was told would have about 6-10 drop-in visitors a day, had 55 visitors stop by the first day the Maji Safi Group Community Health Workers began educating about kipindupindu. What I found is that Maji Safi Group plays a crucial role in doing exactly what they are trying to do: promote health and empower communities to fight waterborne diseases like cholera.
As for my research at the center and in the hospital, I had fun and learned a lot. I roamed around the hospital with Bena, who was my interpreter, my friend, and a Maji Safi Group volunteer, finding medical staff to interview when we were not at the disease prevention center. At the center, we had our laughs with the MSG Community Health Workers, primarily Aska and Mwanvua, and filled out as many of my study questionnaires as possible. Though I have yet to study the data in detail, I am excited to see if my research shows any trends, and hopefully my work will turn out the way I had hoped and will be useful for MSG!
Being in Shirati has been a great experience. Though I have heard people say it is in the middle of nowhere, to me it feels like it is the center of everything when I run down the dirt roads with the sun reflecting off Lake Victoria before sunset, when clouds and thunder are rolling in, or when I see the Kenyan hills in the distance. The image I have in my head is beautiful with the people shouting “Mzunguhowareyou!” (white person how are you) or “kimbia kimbia haraka haraka!” (run run fast fast!), and the cows and the sheep butts only add character to the landscape. I have learned about global public health and gained so much perspective on what is really lacking in a place like the Rorya District in Tanzania. I feel so lucky to have spent my time here with Maji Safi Group, an organization dedicated to filling the gaping holes in health care in the form of disease prevention, particularly for waterborne and related diseases. I can only say asante sana (thank you so much) to the entire Maji Safi Group team for making me feel so welcome and helping me with my independent study process. I will miss this place a lot. So, asante sana!
If you are interested in getting involved with Maji Safi Group’s fight against Cholera, please contact us at email@example.com and consider donating.
Max Perel-Slater, Maji Safi Group Co-founder and Tanzanian Executive Director, grew up in Berkeley, California, and graduated from Berkeley High School. He received his BA in Environmental Studies & Earth and Environmental Science from Wesleyan University. He also studied abroad with the School for International Training in Arusha, Tanzania, where he did an independent research project about the water situation in Shirati, Tanzania. He continued this research the following summer as part of his Senior Capstone Project at the Wesleyan College of the Environment. Max has worked on water projects in Shirati since 2009. He was selected as a World Learning Advancing Leaders Fellow in 2013 for his work with Maji Safi Group.
In early April, Maji Safi Group began hearing rumors of cases of cholera in the Rorya District. As a public health and disease prevention organization, we took these stories very seriously and started to contact the district health authorities, including local government officials, health officers, officials from the district hospital, and the district medical officer. Unfortunately, at this point there were no clear answers regarding the situation.
What is Cholera?
Cholera is a type of acute, watery diarrhea and vomiting caused by a bacterial infection. In its most severe form, cholera is one of the swiftest lethal infectious diseases known – characterized by an explosive outpouring of fluid and electrolytes that, if not treated appropriately, can lead to death within hours. In places where drinking water is unprotected from fecal contamination, cholera can spread with stunning speed through entire populations. These two characteristics of cholera have yielded a reputation that evokes fear and often panic. However, with prompt and appropriate treatment, mortality can be kept low. Furthermore, cholera outbreaks can be prevented or controlled through a combination of public health interventions, predominately through disease surveillance and early warning, safe water, adequate sanitation, health and hygiene promotion, and education campaigns on the use of oral rehydration solutions. (UNICEF Cholera Toolkit 2013)
Due to the severity of a potential cholera outbreak, we readied our team for a large-scale response, if needed. Although cholera awareness, prevention, and treatment are part of the MSG Community Health Workers’ standard training, we felt it was important to conduct a short refresher workshop with our staff to discuss the specific characteristics of the disease, methods of prevention, and home-based rehydration and care for people already suffering from cholera infections. We also found that there was a serious need for learning tools and handouts about cholera in Swahili. Consequently, MSG’s Community Art Coordinator, Jacky Lucas, and the team began developing a pamphlet on cholera prevention and rehydration of patients.
On April 15, we received word from the District Health Officer that there were 30 confirmed cases of cholera in the Rorya District. Cases had been reported in seven villages, which led to markets and public gatherings being prohibited as a precautionary measure. MSG had not previously been active in the villages affected by the cholera outbreak. These villages are about 30 km from our office and center of operations.
Cholera in Tanzania
While cholera has been eradicated in many areas of the globe, countries with poor sanitation and hygiene conditions are still devastated by the disease. In fact, cholera is known as the sanitation disease. Tanzania is an endemic country, meaning that over the last five years, one or more cholera outbreaks have occurred each year. Official numbers report that there have been over 9,000 cases of cholera in Tanzania in the last 4 years, with over 160 deaths. However, some community organizations suggest that these government figures may be significantly underestimated.
Due to understaffing, the Rorya District government did not have the capacity to operate a cholera education campaign without external help, so Maji Safi Group was asked to mobilize our Community Health Workers and step in. Rorya District Head Health Officer, Mr. Maimbo, commented, “Maji Safi Group has a very important role in teaching the community how to protect their families and neighbors and how to get treatment for sick people. People need to know to treat their water, wash their hands, and use a toilet.”
In cooperation with local government officials, MSG developed a plan for providing communities with crucial information about the outbreak, teaching students at primary and secondary schools, visiting families, and making public announcements in the affected villages. Our CHWs were also available at the MSG Disease Prevention Center at the KMT District Hospital to provide information and teach families of patients. Additionally, our hotline and radio program supported our on-the-ground initiatives with updates, allowing community members to ask questions and discuss the outbreak.
Local government officials in the affected villages were very supportive of MSG’s work and frequently wanted to walk with the CHWs to direct them to the families in the greatest need. After spending the day visiting families with the CHWs, Utegi village leader, Mr. Odhiambo, said, “It went well. It is helping us prevent the spread of the cholera disease. The community said these lessons had not been available before. They want you to come back and teach them and their neighbors more.”
Since the start of the cholera outbreak…
MSG has conducted home visits with
22 cholera patients
MSG has taught
at local markets about cholera prevention
MSG has aired
8 radio shows
about cholera with
24,000 estimated listeners
MSG’s Hotline has sent disease prevention text message alerts and lessons to hundreds of community members and has had
interested in learning more about cholera prevention
MSG’s Disease Prevention Center at the Rorya District Hospital
has been visited by
136 patients, medical staff, and community members
MSG has taught
at primary and secondary schools in villages with cholera
MSG has learned that only
of the community members taught by MSG
had previously received education on cholera
MSG has learned that only
of the community members taught by MSG
already knew all of the symptoms of cholera
CHW Winner teaching about personal hygiene and cholera prevention at primary school
CHWs Jacob and Merciana announcing the cholera outbreak on the MSG radio program
CHWs teaching at a local market about cholera prevention
The village of Nyanduga has been devastated by the cholera outbreak. During home visits in the area, we found that in certain neighborhoods, nearly every family had someone who was currently sick or had been sick within the last two weeks. The recurring risk factors with these families are no treatment of drinking water, no access to toilets, and no knowledge of disease prevention. As MSG Director of Operations, Bruce Pelz, said, “I sat with two 80-year-old women while Community Health Worker Prisca taught them about cholera prevention. I realized that this was the first time in their lives that they had ever received education about preventing disease.”
The lack of knowledge about disease prevention in villages like Nyanduga has devastating consequences. This became abundantly clear while CHW Jacob and I visited a large family in a neighborhood devastated by the outbreak. A neighbor told us to visit this family because at least one person had been sick. The family greeted us warmly, and they all stopped pealing cassava to gather around and listen to what we had come to say. They told us that their seven-year-old son, Peter, had started to have watery diarrhea and vomit three weeks ago.For two days, he got worse and worse until he was no longer able to get out of bed. They took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with cholera and given an IV and antibiotics.
Two days after returning home from the hospital, Peter’s four-year-old younger sister, Linda, also began to have watery diarrhea. She was still recovering from a malaria infection and quickly became very weak and dehydrated. Her parents rushed her to the hospital on her father’s bicycle. She was given an IV to rehydrate her and was sent home. Linda’s diarrhea continued, and the next day she passed away. The night before the funeral, Linda’s 17-year-old aunt, who lives with the family, began to have cholera symptoms. Linda’s parents said they felt terrified and helpless – they did not understand why people in their family kept getting sick and felt powerless in preventing cholera.
As Jacob explained the methods of preventing the spread of cholera (treating drinking water, hand washing, toilet use, etc.), the family looked relieved to have the disease demystified, but at the same time frustrated. “Why did we not receive this information before? We went to the hospital three times, but no one told us about the disease.”
One person being sick with cholera can lead to many family and community members getting infected. The spread of cholera can be stopped at the household level, but families need information on how to do it. It is clear that while sick people are getting treatment at the health centers and dispensaries, there is also a huge need for prevention information.
The next day, we visited the Utegi Health Center, where the majority of the cholera patients had been treated. The staff was very happy to see us. They talked about how understaffed the facility was, and that the cholera outbreak had stretched them to the limit. The MSG Community Health Workers began a discussion about cholera and the challenges the community had expressed. It became clear that the staff knew about the disease and how to prevent it, but did not have the tools or the training to teach people how to stop the disease from spreading. We did a role-playing exercise where staff members played both community members and health care providers. We empowered the health center with pamphlets and asked them to inform us if a new patient arrived and needed additional prevention education.
Further Need of Support
The Community Health Workers’ efforts have been truly inspiring. Early in the outbreak, it became clear that Maji Safi Group is the only organization providing disease prevention education. The CHWs have worked tirelessly to reach as many community members as possible in the affected villages. The CHWs have consistently looked for ways to improve our intervention and to target the groups with the greatest need.
MSG will continue to work in the villages affected by the outbreak to gain ground in preventing future outbreaks. The community continues to embrace our message. MSG is also working to make WASH products more accessible by making agreements with local agents to sell these items at reasonably rates. Additionally, we are creating a plan for future outbreaks, including having a network of health providers in villages, so MSG can get quick alerts about developing situations.
As Maji Safi Group and the CHWs continue the cholera education campaign and develop an early warning system for future outbreaks, we need your support! We have set a goal of raising $10,000, needed to offset the costs of this response and prevent future outbreaks of this dangerous disease. To date, we have raised $3,500. If all of our 550 e-newsletter recipients and other supporters donate $10 or more, we will be well on our way to the goal! Please consider supporting MSG’s important work, so that more than 7% of the local population will have education about a disease that takes their friends and family every year!
The day started off cold and cloudy, but shortly after unloading the car and setting up the table, the sun came out, and April 26 turned into the most perfect spring day imaginable. On this particular morning, Maji Safi Group was a vendor at the St. Louis Earth Day Festival at Forest Park. St. Louis is known for having the second largest Earth Day festival in the United States, which made it a prime location to interact with people from the Midwest region and educate them on the work MSG does in Tanzania.
More than 250 vendors participated in the event and drew a festival crowd of more than 50,000 people from all over Missouri and Illinois. With three different types of handmade soap for sale, visitors flocked to our table, and MSG informational brochures disappeared like hotcakes. Furthermore, festival-goers were able to learn about the current cholera outbreak affecting the Rorya region and how their donation or soap purchase would make a direct impact on the work MSG has been doing to combat the spread of waterborne diseases in Shirati.
Festival-goers visiting the Maji Safi Group booth
Handmade soap for sale
The Maji Safi Group booth
Overall, more than 200 bars of handmade soap were sold, and many more informational conversations were had throughout the day. This event was led by practicum student, Michelle Dunajcik, who will continue to work with Maji Safi Group in Shirati, Tanzania this summer. Additionally, MSG was able to partner with and recruit volunteers from the “Global Health at the Brown School” student group at Washington University in St. Louis. Without these volunteers, this event would not have been possible. What started off as a cold, dreary day turned into a fun and impactful day for both the visitors and MSG staff at the event!
If you are interested in getting involved with Maji Safi Group’s fight against Cholera, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and consider donating.
It was a warm, beautiful day under a cloudless Colorado-blue sky when a group of women met in Boulder, Colorado, on the morning of April 29 for the first Maji Safi Women’s Day Out. Thanks to their interest in supporting Maji Safi Group’s work in Tanzania and the generosity of the Boulder business community, we exercised, enjoyed lunch, and participated in a fun art class.
The day started at 9:30 a.m. with an hour exercise class at One Boulder Fitness, arranged by General Manager, June Lantz. Our instructor, Rhiannon McClatchey, led us through a multi-faceted workout where experiencing the fun of TRX equipment was the highlight. Apparently, the military invented the concept of ‘suspension training’, and while we were hanging in those straps, it definitely felt like we were ready to be the next group of female recruits for the US Marines. But alas, it did not quite feel that way the next day when muscle soreness had set in.
Having worked up a nice appetite, we continued to The Kitchen, where Manager Geoff Barrett treated us to a delectable lunch made from fresh local produce. We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and community spirit of this popular downtown Boulder restaurant. Delicious food filled our stomachs, and a glass of wine released our creative talents.
Basking in the warm midday sun, we then moseyed down Pearl Street to Two Hands Paperie where the owner, Mia Semingson, hosted a four-hour ‘soul collage’ class taught by Rosemary Lohndorf. Two Hands Paperie is a mecca for art and especially paper lovers in Boulder. Engulfed in hospitality, art, color, paper, and beautiful art books, it was virtually impossible not to feel just grand. Many of us were new to the medium of soul collage and realized what fun it is! Rosemary shared inspiring poetry with us and taught us how to make soul cards from magazine pictures. We were hardly professional by the time we left, but each one of us went home with a treasured card that expressed a little piece of our inner self.
Mia Semingson, owner of Two Hands Paperie
Rosemary Lohndorf, art instructor
Synergies and enthusiasm characterized the entire day. We shared as women can share – our thoughts, our concerns, our dreams, and our desires – as well as our involvement in the nonprofit world. At the end of this first Maji Safi Women’s Day Out, together we had made an impact on each other while supporting women in Tanzania to change their communities’ public health situation.
Wende, Women’s Day Out participant
Paula, Women’s Day Out participant
Krista, Women’s Day Out participant
Delyn, Women’s Day Out participant
Breida, Women’s Day Out participant
Alice, Women’s Day Out participant
There was a distinct call from the group for more days just like this! Those will come – as an integral part of Maji Safi Group’s efforts to spread awareness of and raise funds for our important work with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in rural Tanzania. If you are interested in participating in this kind of experience and meeting some wonderful people in the process, please watch for announcements in our monthly newsletter or contact:
“Thank you for such a memorable day, Erna! It was so meaningful from start to finish. I feel so lucky to have gotten to know each of you and to have the opportunity to laugh, stretch and grow together. I look forward to keeping in touch, continuing to support Maji Safi, and to getting together again! Hugs to you all!” — Wende
“What a delightful day this was. Thank you so much, Erna, for creating such a diverse, bonding, interesting and rewarding day. I enjoyed meeting each of you and hope to see you in the future.” — Alice
From March 18-22, Maji Safi Group represented the Tanzania Water and Sanitation Network and the Lake Zone WASH Forum at the 27th annual National Tanzania Water Week celebration, which was held in Musoma this year. The Tanzania Water and Sanitation Network (TAWASANET) was founded in 2008 to create a network of Tanzanian civil society organizations that work in the water and sanitation sector. It strives to increase sharing between civil society organizations, promote partnerships between civil society and other sector stakeholders, build the capacity of civil society in the water and sanitation sector, and strengthen the voice of civil society in national policy debates. Furthermore, TAWASANET is promoting the formation of local WASH networks to strengthen impact and efficiency. Maji Safi Group serves as the representative for the Mara Region in the Lake Zone WASH Forum.
The MSG team that traveled to Water Week included three Community Health Workers (Diana Nguka, Mwamvua Saba, and Jared Owaga Ongati), MSG Community Arts Coordinator (Jacky Lucas), MSG Programs Manager (Susan Waltisberg), MSG Director of Operations (Bruce Maj Pelz), and MSG Executive Director (Max Perel-Slater). The team was busy all week teaching lessons on how to prevent disease and giving practical demonstrations on AfriPads, hand washing, and household water treatment methods like chlorine, Solar Disinfection (SODIS), and ceramic filters.
As always, MSG made disease prevention very engaging by combining creative and artistic activities with our health education. Jacky created an amazing banner for the Maji Safi Group tent that depicted possible contamination routes of water sources and potential treatment options. Throughout the week, Tanzanians from all over the country stopped by to check out the artwork and even take pictures! The CHWs and staff also used songs and interactive art projects to make our message resonate with our young visitors. Children of all ages waited, sometimes in long lines, in front of our pavilion to get the chance to draw and paint with Jacky and the CHWs. Meanwhile, the other staff members were teaching adults about water treatment and disease prevention. During Water Week, MSG’s booth reached 2,013 adults and 1,799 children from all over Tanzania who were thrilled to receive our health education.
The CHWs and Jacky also took many pictures of Water Week. It is great to see how our staff can now transfer the knowledge they get in our workshops to their photography. Our CHWs took all the pictures in this blogpost, except the group picture.
Water Week was also an amazing opportunity for the MSG staff to network with other organizations in the Tanzanian water sector and learn about new household water treatment methods. One organization that MSG had particular synergy with was the District Council of Temeke who does disease prevention work similar to ours in the Dar es Salaam area. While the two organizations work in very different settings (urban compared to rural), we were able to compare experiences with teaching the community and make plans to visit each other’s programs.
Furthermore, the MSG Community Health Workers and staff were able to check out new products for household water treatment. We heard about a new ceramic filter design from Davis and Shirtliff that uses low-cost filter elements. Additionally, we learned about a new type of chlorine tablet that uses sodium chlorite and does not leave a taste or smell in the water after treatment. The MSG staff took home samples of these products for testing to assess if we should integrate them into our lessons.
On World Water Day (March 22), the Vice President of Tanzania, Mohamed Gharib Bilal, visited our booth and commented that our work is crucial for the health and development of Tanzania! Overall, the week was an amazing opportunity for MSG to teach community members from across Tanzania, get significant exposure in the water sector, and create opportunities for cooperation with other WASH organizations.
Bicycles are instrumental to the implementation and growth of Maji Safi Group’s (MSG) programs. With bikes, our Community Health Workers can reach remote areas in the Rorya District more easily and teach more families about clean water and the importance of sanitation and hygiene. This year on January 25, Emily Bull, President of Maji Safi Group, and Michelle Dunajcik, a Maji Safi Group MSW practicum student, were invited to represent MSG at Trailnet’s annual Bike Expo in St. Louis. Throughout the day, they raised awareness of the critical need for bikes worldwide. Michelle started her practicum with MSG on January 12 and has already proven that she is up for the challenge of working with a fast-paced developing nonprofit. Below, is her account of her first event with Maji Safi Group.
With my arms full of printed materials and a travel mug full of coffee, I walked into the 55,000-square-foot Gateway Conference Center. It was a room full of bikes and bike-loving people.
Two weeks into my practicum with Maji Safi Group, and I was already working on spreading awareness for MSG and fundraising. Did I remember all the information about Maji Safi? Did I know how to get people’s attention? What was I supposed to say to people to get them interested and aware?
I looked down at everything in my hands. Thank goodness I brought coffee, I thought.
As the doors opened, and the Trailnet Bike Expo officially began, people started to meander around and peruse the different booths that were set up throughout the Expo space. Our goal that day was threefold: spread awareness of Maji Safi’s mission and the global WASH crises, raise money to buy new bikes for our Community Health Workers, and create new connections. Our table was covered with several pieces of Tanzanian fabric and decorated with pictures, an informative trifold, a donation jar, print materials that gave more information about Maji Safi, and stickers and bracelets for the little kids. We also set up a water carrying demonstration with ‘jerry cans’ next to our booth for Expo goers to better understand the conditions the people in Shirati face when getting water.
As people walked by, Emily and I began to engage them in conversation.
“Good morning, we’re trying to raise money for bikes for our organization in Africa. Every little bit helps!” I chirped at the next passerby, a woman who politely declined and began shopping for bikes at the display across from ours.
Oh no! Is it going to be like this all day? I worried internally. Quickly, the tide turned, and I no longer had time for internal monologues. Soon, a steady stream of new arrivals and interested individuals stopped by our table wanting to learn more and donate to the cause.
The day went so well. We connected with several interested people, AND we ended up raising enough money for FIVE new bikes and much needed repairs on the old ones in Shirati! The people at the Expo were so generous and loved learning about Maji Safi Group and the impact we are making on WASH behavioral changes in the Shirati community. I went home that night exhausted, but smiling and excited for the rest of my time with Maji Safi Group.
For a better insight into the life of a ‘Water Carrier’ and the need for bikes in Shirati, Tanzania, check out the short video below, filmed and edited by Maji Safi Group volunteer Paul Horton.
Maji Safi Group’s Female Hygiene Program brings Shirati’s powerful women together. In this remote corner of Tanzania, many young women live in families where female changes are a taboo subject; yet, such information keeps young women in school. Throughout the year, Maji Safi Group (MSG) enables these young women to learn about puberty, hygiene, health, disease prevention, and healthy relationships from Judith and Linda, their female Community Health Worker mentors. The goals of this program are not only to teach proper Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) behaviors and disease prevention, but also to decrease school absences and foster creative, athletic, intellectual, and leadership abilities in the participants. In addition to lessons, these young women are encouraged to take part in fun and creative activities.
It is not easy for young women to ask questions about female hygiene and health when they grow up in an environment filled with taboos, cultural stigmas, and safety hazards for women. MSG’s Female Hygiene Program offers a safe environment where they can talk freely and ask sensitive questions. Program participants become young ambassadors for health and feel comfortable teaching female hygiene to their peers.
Three times a year, Maji Safi Group’s Female Hygiene Program includes the participants’ mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, and other female relatives in our “Dining for Female Hygiene” events. Female relatives are invited to learn about the Female Hygiene Program and the lessons that are taught, and the events give them the opportunity to ask any questions they have about female health and hygiene. On Saturday, December 13, 2014, such powerful women – 85 of them – spent half a day together, learning about these topics and enjoying a delicious lunch that MSG’s Community Health Workers had prepared.
Judith, Linda, and the regular program participants presented AFRIpads and showed the audience how to use these reusable feminine hygiene pads. Women who were already using such pads talked about their experiences in an open and safe environment. The girls also showed what they had learned through dances and skits, and thanks to Lunapads’ generous donation of AFRIpads, every woman at the event went home with a set of pads that will last them for a year.
What a day this was! It was amazing to spend time with all these women, discussing sensitive topics in an open, free, and safe environment. For some mothers, it was the first time their daughters taught them something in front of an audience. There were some mighty proud Mamas in Shirati that beautiful day in December!
On September 3, 2014, I arrived in Shirati, Tanzania, to join the Maji Safi Group team. I am a Swiss citizen, and I am working for INTERTEAM, a Swiss NGO. Guided by the motto, “Sharing knowledge – Relieving poverty”, INTERTEAM fights for better living conditions in poverty-stricken countries while increasing Switzerland’s solidarity with people in the southern hemisphere. At the heart of the commitment, is the transfer of knowledge, skills and experience to partner organizations. To this end, INTERTEAM organizes work assignments for qualified Swiss professionals who carry out development work in Africa or Latin America.
Being born and raised in Switzerland, I automatically had privileges many people around the world can only dream of: education, free choice of work, ongoing education as an adult, self-determination, having insurance for nearly everything, etc.
As a young girl, I received vocational education and worked as an office clerk for my first job. While working, I studied different fields. Today, I am a Specialist in Business Organization. I am also a certified vocational trainer for apprentices. While working for many different organizations, small and big Swiss companies, as well as different international organizations, I gained a lot of experience in various fields of Business Organization – such as process, project and change management, accounting, human resources management, and facility management.
Looking for a new challenge in my life, I decided to work for INTERTEAM and to share my knowledge with people who do not have the advantage of being born in a society that provides all those opportunities I took for granted. I will work with Maji Safi Group until summer 2017. I will support the team in strengthening structures and making sure that Maji Safi Group can grow sustainably on a stable foundation. While in Shirati, I will help implement systems for accounting, human resources, and compliance, help strengthen the evaluation processes, and coach staff members. As the Maji Safi Group works in a participatory way, we will do all these steps together as a team.
Actually, after 3 months of being a member of a team of highly motivated people, who work in the community with passion and profound skills, I am of the impression that it is me who needs to be taught the most!
I arrived in Tanzania in July and had one week of introductions in Mwanza about Tanzanian culture and the work of INTERTEAM. I spent the next seven weeks in Dar es Salaam to learn basic Kiswahili, the national language of Tanzania. So, I thought I would be prepared for living and working in Shirati, but life in a rural community like Shirati is completely different from being in a city like Mwanza or Dar es Salaam. In cities, you feel like a stranger, and you have to learn many things about behavior. Living in a village is completely different.
The most important thing in the village is to be part of the society and the community. Compared to the lifestyle in places like Europe or the USA where we live as individuals, people in rural Tanzania are closely connected. So for me, living in this environment means being observed nearly all the time, being asked where I am going, asked whom I am going to meet, and when I will be back home. There are irritating situations, like visitors showing up at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, while I was still in my pajamas and drinking coffee on my terrace. That being said, I am slowly getting used to being visited without calls in advance or invitations. I will get used to my landlady knowing that I will leave for a few days – even though I have not yet told her. And, I already enjoy being welcomed by all my neighbors when I return.
To finish my work and be useful, I have to learn many things about “Tanzanian work flow”. For example, accounting is a completely different task here in Tanzania. What makes the difference so glaring is the fact that accounting in Tanzania is much less computer-based than what I was used to in Switzerland. It seems to me that for every step in the process, I have to fill in at least 3 forms in 3 copies. And usually, you need carbon copy paper – I think the last time I used carbon copy paper was 20 years ago!
What I really appreciate is the motivation, kindness, and patience of my colleagues at Maji Safi Group. They help me, teach me, and support me in getting used to the new ways of doing daily business. I also have support from external specialists; for example, the head of the accounting department of the KMT Hospital here in Shirati. He gave me the first introduction to the “Tanzanian way of accounting” and will help me if I struggle.
I experience a lot of support at work and also in my daily life. My landlady explained my electricity bill to me (yes, even if the bill was written in English, I had no clue which figure meant what on the paper or how to pay it!), and we have an agreement now that whenever agents from the electricity company are in town to collect the money, her son pays the bill for me, as I am usually working at that time. And one of my neighbors helps me with my household chores. I am so glad to have someone who is doing the laundry for me. I don’t know how much time I would need to wash bed sheets, as I have never done it, and I already know that task takes experience!
As I have started to feel more at home in Shirati, I now wake up every morning looking forward to new challenges and surprises and to learning from the Watanzania (the Tanzanian people).