Note: We often ask our volunteers and supporters who travel to Tanzania and observe the work we do to share a bit about their experience. This reflection comes from Frances Murray Taylor who traveled to Tanzania as part of a small cohort in March of 2017.

I observed the training sessions for the women of the Improving Women’s Health Program. It was uplifting to see the more than 30 women who came, some with young children, to attend the training sessions. As each woman was introduced to the group of us representing Empower Tanzania, she gave us a snapshot version of the progress made in her community. The areas mentioned included family planning, money management, improved health, and enabling programs in the schools. I was told that two years ago, about half of the women were involved in community organizations but today more than three quarters raised their hands when asked how many were ward councilors in their communities. Because of this effort, almost 700,000 people had attended the training sessions they conducted using the information that they had learned. Malaria has dropped, more babies are being vaccinated, and hand washing has become a priority.

After traveling to some of the villages where these women come from, I am even more impressed by their willingness to walk to meeting places. Although they must have been tired, they paid strict attention to the videos, which focused on prenatal care, maternal care, and infant care. They had a lively question-and-answer period that showed the attention they had paid to the videos and how the videos prompted questions from their own experiences in the community.

On the second day of training, after an oral assessment of their understanding of the five videos used in the training, the group broke up into smaller groups to discuss the challenges within their communities for using supplies that would benefit the communities. Again, their enthusiasm showed a knowledge of issues as well as an understanding of how certain items, such as water filters, would be of benefit to everyone.

I came away impressed by the women themselves, their intelligence, their thirst for knowledge and their desire to improve the health of their communities—especially their children—and their gratitude for Empower Tanzania for giving them this opportunity to be of service to their country.

Frances Murray Taylor is a semi-retired pastoral associate at two Catholic parishes in Lynn, Ma. She is active in both ecumenical and social justice groups in Lynn and works part-time as religious education director in Chelsea, Ma.