This is a series of notes to home, written by ETI staffer Sheri Krumm on a recent visit to Tanzania. We hope it will give you some picture of what we do.
This trip had four participants:
Phil Latessa: Board President, Palliative Care Program Coordinator, and coordinator of the construction of the Pangaro Women’s Health Clinic
Dr. Jeff Carithers: Women’s Health Project Manager, major funder and coordinator of the Pangaro Clinic
Susan Stocker: Involved in the Nanny Goat Project and interested in the Women’s Health Project
Sheri Krumm: Development Coordinator and current board member for ETI, manager of the Nanny Project, and coordinator for the Gunge Safi Project
We were there three weeks, so posts will occur as a series over a few weeks. Our original intention for this trip was pretty clear:
- Work on the Palliative Care Project, especially some training with Nurse Supervisors and site visits.
- Do the Grand Opening of the Pangaro Women’s Health Clinic
- Do the Dedication of the recently completed Gunge Safi Project
- Visit the Nanny Goat Project for an update
- Begin organizing the newly funded Women’s Health Project and possibly hire the staff for it
Only a few weeks before leaving, there were some complications at the CDC with our approval of funding for this trip. The majority of our planned activity was based around the Palliative Care Project, so when it became clear they were not going to approve funding for the trip, we decided to go anyway, scrambled for alternative funding, and completely changed both the dates and the focus of the activity.
Kudos to Tanzanian staff, Pastor Mpinda, Elibariki Kisimbo and Mr. Chambua who turned on a dime and completely reorganized our schedule with less than a week’s notice! It was a massive undertaking, and they did a fabulous job!
Oct 26: We’re Here!
It’s 10:00 pm, and I am sitting under a tent in a place called El Rancho that is run by Indians and serves the greatest Indian food in Tanzania…or so I’m told. I think we are officially here! It was an easy trip, I sat by a French couple that didn’t speak English who let me practice my very rusty French, which was fun, and I slept.
We have almost nothing in stone here concerning our schedule, so hopefully tomorrow the details will work themselves out. It’s confusing.
Dinner is on the way, so I’ll write more tomorrow when I’ve slept.
Oct 27: Tembo
Tembo means ‘elephant’ in Swahili…check out the architecture!
I am sitting here in the dark at the Tembo Hotel with no electricity, and feeling very lucky. I slept very badly last night, so at 4:30, I got up and made hot water in our electric hotpot for coffee. Within a few minutes of finishing, the electricity went off and hasn’t been seen since…. so we are counting our blessings with every sip!
Things are going well and I don’t have much time before bkfst, so I’ll just give you this…as we sat in the dark at 6:00 am, watching the sun rise, a gecko ran through the house, a monkey ran across the roof (very loud!), a bright red bird spent 10 minutes trying to peck through our window (a distant relative of that woodpecker who tries to peck our siding at home), and we heard a bunch of wild dogs or something howling and hunting off in the distance. This hotel is a fabulous place to stay and we have so arrived in Tanzania!
The view from the patio at the Tembo, looking out across the Mkomazi Game Park, is STUPENDOUS!
The owner of the Tembo was out of town, so Susan and I got to stay in his home, which was beautiful. I’m looking down the very long flight of stairs from the patio area above, where Jeff and Phil stayed in the guest rooms.
This little guy sounded like storm troopers running across our roof at 5:00 am!
Today after church, we will meet with women about gender based violence issues that will be part of the Women’s Health Program Jeff is starting. It should be extremely interesting. I’ll let you know.
List of forgotten items so far…
Battery charger for waterproof camera
Sunscreen, bug spray
Black capris in the hotel in Moshi last night
Should I get this memory thing checked out when I get home???? Good grief!
Ok, I’m off! I love you, and I LOVE the note and chocolate in my suitcase. Good job, Dave!
Oct 28: GBV
Today, we went to church in Maore, and then came back here to meet with 8 women about Gender Based Violence (GBV). Jeff is leading this program as part of the Improving Women’s Health Program that was recently funded, and Susan is in love with it, so they are pretty much spearheading things, but as it develops, there are a few more people who will also be involved. Phil and I were primarily observing, and throwing random questions in.
Phil, Jeff and Susan listening to the women talking about GBV
The point of the day was to sit down with women, chosen by a nearby pastor, who have experienced GBV. This is a real taboo subject, and we wanted to learn what the situation was, and then what their ideas were for addressing it. We didn’t really have specific questions, although we had brainstormed a few before we came to try and work in if possible. We weren’t sure where it would go, and it started predictably slowly. The women were uncomfortable, and not really excited to open up, although they were willing.
They tested the water with things like drunken husbands who didn’t help support the kids, and how could we make sure the kids are eating breakfast. To learn more effectively in school, you ask? Oh no, because they don’t get lunch at school, and by the time they get done, they are so hungry, they are willing to prostitute themselves for a bite to eat.
It was a start.
Pastor Mpinda and one of the participants….he was immensely helpful in working with these women, and is clearly Tanzania’s biggest feminist.
This went on for more than an hour, as they gradually warmed up. We gave them cokes, which helped, and then Jeff asked the ever so inspired question, “What does Gender Based Violence mean to you? Give me examples of what that means. 1,2,3,4”
It was like a floodgate opened! We went from abandonment to being chased out of the house and left to sleep outside in the night with the kids, to him taking on another wife and stealing the older wife’s grain from the field. We then descended into beatings and rape, followed by three cases of attempted murder with large knives. Finally we heard about 4 women whose husbands had left, and the husband’s families had taken all the women’s possessions and sold their houses, leaving them homeless and starving.
This was all among 8 women.
There are no words for what you see in the eyes
They were sobbing and holding hands and it was simply stunning to realize that there are virtually no rights for these women, they have no property rights, and they cannot get any enforcement of what laws are on the books. They are like property.
We asked about the percentage of men like they are describing, vs men who protect and care for their wives. Among the 8 women and one pastor, they could come up with three examples, not including Pastor Mpinda, of men who were kind to their wives.
The rest of the men they know range from indifferent to violent and cruel.
- They have never heard of the idea of a women’s support group, but thought it was amazing.
- They think economic strengthening is the answer, because educated women don’t have to marry unless they really want to, and women who make money can pay for school to educate their girls.
- They agreed that that this generation would probably not change, but if we can reach the women, they will raise their children, and especially their boys, differently.
- They all agreed that this project would be for the benefit of their children, which of course, is the most powerful motivator in the world for women.
Pastor Mpinda, Susan and Jeff, and Pastor Rose with the first support group of the Improving Women’s Health Project
In the end, someone finally told us that none of the women knew any of the others were coming, and in fact, none of them had ever told anyone that this was happening to them. They had no support from peers at all, and decided that this would be the first support group of our project. They hugged and cried and hugged some more, and just couldn’t believe this was happening to them.
Jeff had a friend, who had sent some t-shirts over to give away, and we happened to have exactly 9, so we decided to give them to this group, plus Pastor Mpinda. They were so excited to have a “uniform” for their support group! Imagine how stunned we were when they put the shirts on, and written on the back were the words “Ask me why”. We hadn’t looked at the shirts, and as you can imagine, it felt just perfect.
It was just meant to be!
So, that’s what I did today. Once again, I went another layer deeper in my understanding of just how much is SUCKS to be among the poor in a developing country. It is so much more than not having enough food or stuff. Oh so much more…..
Now, in the interest of perspective and fair play, I feel like I have to insert one thing here. This is not a country of cruel horrible men who hate their wives. In fact, the irony is that many of the men they are talking about would say they love, or at the very least like and need their wives. They would tell you there is nothing wrong with what they do, and disciplining your wife is one way you show her you care. They would say it, and they would believe and mean it, because that is what they were taught by their fathers, who were taught by their fathers…
This is a deep deep cultural issue, and while westerners are appalled by it in some cases, we have to admit we also see it in our own communities at home. It is also OUR history. If we are going to be effective as change agents, we have to be careful not to judge, but to understand the situation and look for ways to help the Tanzanians change attitudes from within, just as we did in the west.
I hope tomorrow has something a little more upbeat! We leave for Mwanga in the morning to attend a meeting of a group of Health Organizations, and do…..I’m not sure what. Then we check into the Elephant Hotel in Same, and settle in. The Tembo has been ok, but it’s not home, and I’m ready to get to the Elephant.
Oct 29: 3rd Day Meltdown
Oh my gosh, I was so glad to see your note this morning! I don’t know if you realize how much I count on those notes, so don’t stop writing. Sometimes it is the thing that most holds my entire day together. Even if it’s just stories of deer and birds.
So….I’m sort of ethically opposed to sleeping pills, as something that treats the symptom rather than the problem, but there are times when I can easily throw all ethics out the window and there is nothing better than 8 hours of sleep!
As you know, yesterday was more than a little challenging. The church service was HOT, dinner was heavy, the meeting was even heavier, and the staff here at the Tembo is trying hard, but is kind of new at their jobs. They were struggling to figure out how to deal with our group, I think, and are accustomed to very late dinners here….which we didn’t want. We were tired and hungry at 6:00 pm, and I had had about 5-6 hours of sleep in 3 nights. I really hate jet lag! I reached that magic “cry, scream, or sleep” place, and you can just imagine the rest :0) At least I had the good sense to sit quietly and only swear at the world in my little inside voice.
I finally left without dinner, ate a power bar, took a sleeping pill, and went to bed early. 8 hours later I feel magnificent, but I think I left Phil and Jeff a little uncomfortable. Susan, on the other hand, knows me, and was not shocked or even concerned. She is doing very well on this trip, and fitting in beautifully.
So, with minimal damage done (ya, I’m feeling pretty proud of my self-control) I’m once again sipping coffee in the dark, thinking about today. We take off at 7:30 to go meet the DMO’s (district medical officers) of Same and Mwanga, and probably the District Commisioners, plus a bunch of other local medical people. We are going to pitch our Women’s Health Program to them, now that it is funded. It should take a few hours, we’ll eat lunch in Mwanga, and then we head to Same to the Elephant. Hallelujah! Eli Kisimbo will be by tonight to say hi…we haven’t seen him yet….and I can finally unpack, do some laundry, and settle into my little home away from home.
Did I mention it is hot as Hades here?
I just went to the bathroom, and my friend the redheaded gecko was in a race to the death with a big brown cockroach. The cockroach won this round because I interrupted by turning the light on, and he ran for the blue bucket, but I have a whole new reason to love geckos. Anyone in the natural order of the universe that eats those huge cockroaches is surely a gift from God.
Forgotten item report:
The pants are in Moshi…. never getting them back
Found the black t-shirt. Score!
I have one charged battery for that underwater camera, so I’m good, and brought the other camera as a back up. The taped broken one. We’re all good there.
I used up all the sunscreen on vacation, and forgot to reload. Duh. It’s ok, between us we have a lot.
I’m off to the shower. I feel like I’m wearing an entire body suit of old sweat, covered by new sweat, and just for 10 minutes today, I would like to feel clean. I’m sure I’m going to get used to this heat soon, but jeeze!
Ok, seriously, I need to get moving. I love you!
Oct 30: President Kikwete
Good morning Dave!
Ah, the joy of electricity. It went off yesterday morning, came on for about 3 hours last night, and then was off all night. At 5:00 am, it came on, and Susan and I both leaped out of bed and ran for the hotpot to turn it on for coffee before we lost the electricity again. Now we know where our priorities really lie, huh?
The good news is that in that short period, I managed to get 70% power back in my iPad, and it is charging as we speak. Phil has yet to get his modem to work, so once again, iPad is the hero of the day here, the only one with a dependable connection all the time, and moderately good speed most of the time. Go Apple! Expensive, but it works!
You know that meeting with the DMO’s and medical people in Mwanga? Didn’t go so well. We got as far as Kisiwani, and the local police pulled us over and told us to sit and wait, President Kikwete was coming through, and they had to keep the road clear. Now, sitting in the sun for a couple of hours waiting to miss a meeting is not really good news, but you know? President Kikwete did turn up, and not only did he come through the village, but he even stopped and spoke briefly, and I got pictures! It was kind of fun, and I was pretty impressed that the President of Tanzania stops in little villages to speak to people when traveling. He’s not even up for re-election!
President Kikwete stopping to talk to crowds in Kisiwani….which is indeed as small a village as it looks here!
President Kikwete, promising to add a dining room to the secondary school, pave the road, and end world hunger….or something….
Hopeless Kikwete groupies!!
Of course, we were late the Mwanga, but it didn’t matter, because President Kikwete was visiting them later in the day, and they were not that interested in talking to us. They had things to do. We met very briefly, graciously let them get to their work, and went on down to Same early.
So it’s turning out that this trip is almost exclusively about Gender Based Violence at this point, which is both extremely interesting, and extremely difficult to process. We are seeing so many different sides of it; it’s kind of mind-blowing.
– The ladies at the Tembo who confessed all the things from beatings to being thrown out either into the night, or being just thrown out permanently from their homes, and even murder, was our first taste. They all knew it was happening, and of course, they all knew it was happening to each other, but they never actually spoke to each other because of the shame. They believe it is both their fault, and their lot in life. Forming that group was huge, and Pastor Mpinda told us yesterday that they are talking about it all over Maore, and calling Pastor Rose to find out how to form other groups. Wow.
– The staff at the office at Care, Intl, here in Same, where we talked to several people. They told us about a lot of programs they do, and then went on to describe more.
~They talked about house girls of 10-14 years old that are regularly raped by the men of the house, and then are thrown out when they get pregnant.
~ They said that they felt virtually every woman in TZ is raped on a regular basis, because it is not the woman’s right to say no to sex. Especially in marriage, she is expected to serve him with sex at any time, and has no choices.
~ They spoke of girls being sold as wives for cows. (haha! I just realized what that says! no, they are wives for men, exchanged for the price of cows) The standard price is 4 cows, so one reason they don’t like to send the girls to school is that they lose the bride price if she is self supporting and doesn’t get married. This is not just Maasai, this is many many people in many tribes.
And so it went on and on. They also talked about the programs they have to try and help these people, but it was clear that one thing we will need to deal with is lowering our expectations. These beliefs are so deep in the culture that it will be generations before there is any real change, and we need to be realistic about which pebbles we can drop in the pond that may lead to change in 30 years, not tomorrow. That was a good insight for a bunch of “we can do anything” Americans.
– Finally, the last little piece was when an old friend came to see me yesterday. We had a fabulous visit, and then I told him about what we’ve been doing. Interestingly, as I described it and used statements like “it is NOT ok to be beaten, and there is no shame on the part of the woman. She did not cause it.” it was clear he disagreed, and was too polite to say so. He is a product of his culture. We later were talking about his daughters, and I told him the reason I am willing to support girls through school is because I want them to be educated and self-sufficient so that they can marry because they love someone, and find a guy that will treat them well. They should not be part of this system; they should be an example to change this system. Immediately, it struck a chord, because he was now thinking about his own daughters. He loves them very very much, and clearly he agreed with me. Ok, so it’s a small awakening moment, but he got it. I think that is the kind of thing that creates the change….just small glimpses of insight that maybe a life-long belief structure is not the only way. Maybe there is another way.
We finished the day on a much more hopeful note. Pastor Mpinda invited us over to his house to meet with his wife and a few friends who have formed a group called “Vukasi” to micro finance themselves. It’s like a club, and they each donate a small amount when they meet weekly so that if any one of them has a family emergency, they can borrow the money to pay for it. It was mostly designed to pay for unexpected funerals, which is a pretty big deal here with these enormous extended families, but they are using it for other things too. What an amazing and creative thing!
The Vukasi Group
After we met with the group, Pastor Mpinda gave us a tour of his farm, and especially his cows, and his biogas plant which is using the cow manure to produce methane gas that powers the gas burner his wife cooks with. This is HUGE in a country where nearly all cooking in rural areas is done by three-stone fire. This is a concept that is taking Tanzania by storm right now, and saving women many hours per week in gathering wood, not to mention saving the landscape from deforestation.
These cows are good for more than milk and meat!
The biogas unit is underground, producing gas that is piped to the house, and waste (background) that fertilizes the gardens.
Pastor and Mama Mpinda – it’s good to be married to Tanzania’s #1 feminist!
So, today is a new day, and we are off of GBV and on to opening the Maasai Clinic at Pangaro. I think every official from the entire area will be there, and the Maasai, known far and wide for their punctuality and keen sense of time (insert eye-roll) are in charge of the schedule of events. That means we’ll be there for at least 5 hours, and it’s going to be hot as blazes. I’m well armed with electrolytes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a lot of water in me. It should be a ton of fun, and a welcome break from GBV.
Keep writing, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!
Oct 31: Pangaro Hoye!
I’m not sure what that means, but I sure did hear it a lot yesterday! We went out to Pangaro, which is a Maasai area made up of three “villages” which I assume are large groups of bomas, typically far out on a bumpy rutted road, in the middle of the desert. Unlike most of the others around here, it is in the desert area between the N and S Pare mountains, not out by the Pangani River, so if you can believe it, it’s even drier than usual. I know, what is usual around here? To my knowledge, there is no water for at least 5 miles. What the heck? I don’t know how they even live. They showed me a bottle of their water, and it looks like a puddle from a sandbox was the source. Yuck.
A Maasai woman showing me the disgusting orange liquid that passes for drinking water in this area.
After we finished building the Nadururu Safe Motherhood Clinic last year, Todd suggested we put another one out here, because it is in the Mwanga District (politically a good thing) and because he had been trying to rehabilitate their well unsuccessfully, and loved the people. Phil and I spent a day here last year negotiating with the leaders, and then in January Justin looked at their well and tried to figure out what could be done, which is nothing. It’s toast and just needs to be plugged up to prevent groundwater contamination. Jeff Carithers did most of the fundraising for this clinic, and it was very gratifying for the four of us to come open the clinic. It is nearly identical to the Nadururu Clinic; other than we fixed a few of the things we made mistakes on the first time around.
The brand new Pangaro Clinic
The Rotary Clubs of Des Moines and Same put in a rainwater harvesting system, which is much needed for the clinic.
The Maasai planned the whole thing, which means it was bright, colorful, loaded with music, we ate several goats along with many intestines and other parts I won’t even guess at, and we all came home dressed in Maasai garb and carrying sticks.
Jeff, Sheri and Phil, decked out in our Maasai robes
The women who received training to be birth attendants at the new clinic
A bunch of people from the District Government were there, the Diocese was very well represented with an entire car of staff, there were numerous pastors, Mary Jo Maas and Judy Langholz from Usangi (and Iowa) were there, and a fair amount of staff from the local hospital in Mwanga as well as Gongja Hospital. There must have been an hour of introducing guests….50-60 of them maybe. A lot of white skin too, which was cool. We even had two media Land Cruisers, and there were people with cameras and lights and sound pushing in front of everyone all day. I’m sure we were on national TV last night.
Susan with one of the officials from the Mwanga District Government
The brass band added so much to the celebration!
My favorite part of the day, though, was when about 8 or 10 young ladies from maybe 13 down to 7 years old came dancing in, and did a short skit. They thanked ETI for building this clinic, and then proceeded to say “Mama sabine, come work out here now!” and then one would say “Mama Sheri, we still have no water, come work out here now!”, and “District Commissioner, our road is terrible, come work out here now!” and so on. It was hilarious, and when it was done, everyone started running up to the little one and handing her Shilling bills! I have no idea what that was about, but it was cute, she looked confused, and everyone laughed. Ok, must be an inside cultural joke. Anyway, I videotaped the whole thing, and it is pretty impressive. The point, I learned later, was that none of those officials had ever been to Pangaro, and most of the others hadn’t either. The road doesn’t really go anywhere, and they have completely escaped any form of development other than the one well from the Germans in the 70’s, which is now dead. They thanked Eli and Mr. Toddi (who was not there, but is not forgotten) over and over again for all the work they did to bring these VIPs out here, and are hopeful that development will continue.
The girls dancing in to ask us to keep working out at Pangaro
This man never spoke a word, but it was clear that he was a strong leader in the community, and his influence mattered. He seemed pleased.
Dad was there too, with the Mwanga crew, so when it was done, Jeff had spontaneously seen a patient for a consult, and we had received a marriage proposal for Susan, which Dad thwarted by saying this was his daughter, and swooping her politely away, we all came home. We were filthy and dusty, but it was seriously fun, and I’m now sitting here with a rumbling belly, thinking maybe that Masaai food was not a good idea, but was worth the price! Go Cypro and Immodium!
So, it was a great day.
Today we go meet the Same District Commissioner for a short time this morning, and then we will have our first seminar with the Nurse Trainers. It’s going to be a fun day. Time for a shower and to get this day going. Take care, and keep writing! I love getting news.
I love you,