We at Empower Tanzania are CRAZY about stories!  Statistics are an important part of what we do, but the truth is, we are completely motivated by the relationships we build, and the stories of the people whose lives are changed by the work we do together.  It’s why we get up in the morning.

The following is a letter from Dr. Jeff Carithers, and Empower Tanzania volunteer, and coordinator of the VERY successful Improving Women’s Health Program.  I loved reading it, so I thought I’d pass it along.  Enjoy!

Habari yako! (how’s it going?) I just returned from my fifth trip to Tanzania this year, spending a total of more than 70 days there.  Ali is starting to grouse a little about how much I am gone so I thought I would tell you the story I tell her about my activities.  This trip centered on training the community health educators (CHEs) who are doing public health presentations to their communities.  The program expanded by adding 7 new CHEs and who were brought in first for training on the original topics (Safe Water, Hand Washing, Nutrition) so they would be caught up with the existing 26 CHEs.  The existing CHEs then joined the training and new topics of HIV/AIDS, Malaria Prevention, Gender-Based Violence, Family Planning and Albinism were taught.  They were excited about the new topics, which are much more engaging than talking about safe water and hand washing.   The new CHEs included five Pare tribe women and two from Maasai tribes.  They needed to be taught how to use the rechargeable picoprojectors, used for presenting the videos.  During past trainings, I realized some of the CHEs had little experience using electric devices.  So, in quizzing these women, I found out six had experience plugging a cell phone into a charging cord but none had ever put a plug in a wall outlet.  The seventh woman had no experience with electricity at all.  Instruction was needed so they wouldn’t wrap their fingers around the plug and touch the metal prongs as they inserted it.  Not a good idea with 220 volts.   Two of the topics (family planning and HIV/AIDS) involve teaching about condom use.  I like to have a demonstration segment with each presentation to engage the audience, and demonstrating how to use a condom seemed to be reasonable for these topics.   However, buying penis models would have exceeded our budget since even a Styrofoam penis is over $50.  I consequently found myself making 37 penises on my wood lathe to save money, a life experience that I never foresaw.

 The CHEs received the penis models with much giggling and some good jokes.  The technique for demonstrating condom use was presented by Pastor Mpinda and he handled it with humor and skill.  I have attached a photo showing the CHEs with their new penises.   My days in Tanzania start early.  Many Tanzanians go to bed early because of the unreliable electricity (if they have it) and they also get up early.  I am routinely awakened by the Muslim call to prayers at 0500 every day.  The three mosques within earshot of where I stay seem to have their schedules coordinated so their amplified singing and prayers follow one another for the next 20 minutes.  The roosters then realize the equatorial sun is about to rise so they set to crowing.  Christian church bells follow the roosters so 0500 ends up being the time to get up.   While there, I had a large ring-shaped rash form on my back.  I thought it was Lyme disease so I started myself on Doxycycline.  I seemed ironic to carry over an infection from the US when I was in Africa with all its diseases.  It turned out it was probably an insect bite rather than Lyme Disease.  Perhaps one of the insects in the photos below was, the culprit! Yours, Jeff