Paper snowflakes and alterations

As the western world scurries about preparing for Christmas, life is moving along here in Karatu. But despite the very slow nature of life in Tanzania, the past month has been a bit of a whirlwind.

New staff arrivals, old staff departures, program rearranging, prolific social invitations and a little white kitten have all contributed to a generally transitional time for our organization.

Mbekure and his wife, Mama Melami, stand with their sons in their boma in Alcheniomelock.

Founder Judy visited for two weeks in November, in order to check in on and connect with both local people and Kim, our director of Tanzanian programs on the ground. In addition to meeting with her ever-expanding group of friends here—including one politician who refers to himself as her husband—she and Kim also spent several days in the Maasai village of Alchaniomelock in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The two stayed with Mbekure Metemi, outreach coordinator of NCN’s partner AMSO (Alailelai Maasai Sustainability Organization), got to know his family, and connected with program participants in the village.

Judy’s visit ended as I (Jaime) arrived to begin my position as assistant director, but we were able to overlap for several days.

Judy checks out beads before buying gifts to sell at craft fairs at home, in order to support local Maasai women.

Though I spoke with Kim extensively before coming to Africa, it took actually being here and spending time with her, Judy and the many locals we work with to get a true understanding of how everything works.

In a nutshell, Judy established Ngorongoro Community Network (NCN) to partner with and support local grassroots efforts. Our main goals and projects give microloans to vulnerable women, provide goats for Maasai families in need, offer school scholarships and continue basic health education.

Poverty is widespread here and stems from myriad, complex factors. In the short time I’ve been on the ground, I’ve learned just a few causes of extensive unemployment such as increase in population paired with poor education. Additionally, many established tribes are not allowed to practice traditional methods of livelihood. As their homes have become part of a conservation area, they are no longer allowed to cultivate crops and have restrictions on how many animals they are allowed to keep. They therefore struggle to sustain their families and survive.

We aim to focus more on working with these people within the conservation area, who are undergoing a similar situation to Native Americans a century ago. However, as we are partnering with sister organization, Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI) based in Uganda, much of Kim’s time has been focused on the loan program in the greater Karatu area.

While the women—especially leaders Josephine, Levina and Eliminata—are working to grow the project here, it still has a ways to go to align more with the WMI model. So in order to create a more self-sustaining program, WMI has recently decided to send a fellow here; a young woman named Jess will join us next month to continue this effort.

Kim works with Eliminata, Josephine and Levina in a typical spread of papers at our office in Tloma.


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