Thursday, July 30, 2009

"We are together now"


Dear Friends of Mama Hope


For the past two weeks, I have been living in Moshi, Tanzania, working with Nyla and Bryce on Mama Hope’s most recent project, the new St. Timothy’s School in honor of Vince Mulroy. How this whole project got propelled into action, I am still unsure, but I am going to do my best to try to explain.


Three months ago, I sent Mama Hope an email asking if they could help to build the new St. Timothy’s School. My email explained that a few summers s ago I volunteered as a teacher at the St. Timothy’s school. Currently St. Timothy’s rents their facility, and due to a Tanzanian law they must build a school of their own. In my email, I emphasized the sense of community that I felt in the Newland community. Before I knew it, Mama Hope had agreed to take on the project, I had a plane ticket to Tanzania booked, and the rollercoaster of a ride had officially begun.




Last Wednesday was the community meeting with the Newland village leaders. It was in a small one-room school. We squeezed onto about 5 benches with 16 village leaders. At one point in the meeting, almost every single village leader had their hands up with ideas and suggestions about how to get the community involved, using local labor and the most cost-efficient materials.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Minja (the village chairman) said, “We are together now.” He then explained that the village leaders had decided to hold another community meeting on Saturday where they would invite all of the surrounding villages.

That following Saturday, over 200 people crowded outside in a makeshift arena. Nyla and I sat with the women against a wall in the back (they tried to get us to sit in the front with the men and we said no way jose!). Bryce sat in front with the men.


video


Throughout the meeting we could hear a man going around the village announcing the meeting on his megaphone, and soon enough people started arriving from all corners; men on bicycles and women with babies on their backs. For 3 hours there was a lot of back and forth in Swahili, and then all of a sudden, we were being taken to look at a plot of land the village had just given for the health center (phase two of the project). I’m going to be honest. To me, this was a plot of land---no different from the next plot of land. But when we turned around and smiled, the whole place erupted in cheers, laughter and clapping. To them, this land was the best of the best, more so, it was the future site of their health center, and very symbolically, they were entrusting this land to “us” as their partners.



It was humbling. It also once again emphasized that these communities are far stronger and more united than anyone gives them credit for; they really do know what is best. We couldn’t help but laugh and dance along with them.


As you can see, this whole project is progressing at a very fast pace and it is definitely taking on a life of its own. We will break ground in a short while, and I look forward to keeping you updated!


All the best,


Lucia Crenshaw

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