The Journey Ends … The Experience Stays With Us…

Our immersion trip for our team of 4 ends today Thursday, July 26. It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 1/2 weeks. We have learned so much, met so many interesting people, and deepened the relationships with our BUWEA (Tanzania) and WWANC (Kenya) Partners. We have put plans into motion, provided much training, and seen the progress of many projects over the past 2 years. We will be reflecting and processing for quite awhile as well as following up on various initiatives. We are so looking forward to sharing our experiences and our learning about the global realities with you. A big thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey!

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Last two days of work in Kakamega

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The last two days in Kakamega have been filled with emotion to say the least. Yesterday we had the opportunity to go visit the school which WGC had donated a rainwater harvester to. This is also the same school WGC helped WWANC build the bathrooms, or pit toilets. There are about 600 students at this school with about 35 faculty. Today we also went to school in Kakamega but it was in a very impoverished region. Rose informed us that WGC has helped the women from the Matoyi Vision group build their confidence and start their businesses. We were very impressed with their hard work and progress! It was an emotional day since none of us want to leave but we can’t wait to continue to monitor their progress!

AS of today, WGC interacted with the BUWEA women, WWANC, Heikima School. There was a total of 16 groups, 43 workshops, and 1,560 participants (and hundreds more kids). This number does not reflect all the projects and parishes visited. What an incredible trip!

Women’s Empowerment Kenya Style

We’ve had 2 more days of workshops with a total of 70 plus women in 3 different women’s groups being assisted by WWANC and WGC. Each day we start with a 90 minute super bumpy ride to reach our destination which is often a church who provides the space. The houses are much more spread out than in Bukoba so it’s easier to find a more centralized venue. As always the women greet us with singing and dancing, deep appreciation, and their hunger and thirst for knowledge they can use to improve their individual and group businesses. Our BUWEA co-trainers add a lot to these workshops. The face of poverty is very real here, yet the women and their families are benefiting so much from their own hard work and the training, microloans and other support they receive. Here’s the quick version of one group’s business. From farm products to funds set aside to buy chicks – sell the chicks that survive – buy goats – sell one to invest in a farm – harvest and store Maize but it was a bad year so they had to sell the Maize (corn) at a loss. Now thinking about planting sugar cane and are raising chickens again. Phew! But they never give up and some of their projects do pay off. Their record keeping training from WWANC along with the WGC training, BUWEA and other partners are making a difference!

Moving on to Kenya

Yesterday was a travel day for the Immersion team – the highlight was seeing glorious Mt Kilimanjaro from the air between Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi. We also had multiple chances to practice our networking skills as we met with various other women doing work in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. Every day brings something new! It was wonderful to see all of the people from the Women’s Water & Natural Resources organization that we worked with before. We, along with 2 BUWEA leaders who are conducting workshops with us, spent today July 19 with the end group, a women’s empowerment group that started in 2009. Almost all of the ladies attended. We shared knowledge with one another in the workshops and we learned about their business projects and loan fund. The ladies fed us a wonderful traditional lunch and then we had to say our farewells for now.

WGC’s last day in Bukoba

yesterday was WGC’s last day with the BUWEA women. We went to Kumono village to and met a group of about 15 women there to do a workshop on leadership, led by Tamarra, and starting a business, led by Barb. We then went back to the BUWEA office and had lunch with the BUWEA leaders. Tamarra then introduced the Ruby Cup to them and distributed a few so that they could try them out and advocate for them within their communities. Natalia later led a strategic planning workshop with the leaders. After that, Tamarra, Alison and Natalia tried on their new Bukoba dresses and then we had a lovely goodbye dinner with them all. It was a very bittersweet day for us all as we will miss all these ladies very deeply. We can’t wait to see what they will do in the future!

Milling Machine and New Charcoal Machine in Kitwe

The BUWEA milling machine area has really developed with activity generated by the machine. This is one of the few milling operations in the area that has done well … due to the great management! Glad to see the workers are now wearing the ear protection and face masks. Learned this time that one of the first BUWEA members, Theodicia, provided the property for the machine. Many people come to grind soy, corn, bananas, and cassava into flours. The new charcoal machine, donated by WGC supporters, is near the milling machine. Ground up paper is brought from the BUWEA office here. The machine makes charcoal bricks, they dry for 2 days and then are sold in small bags. Fires from charcoal are not only cheaper than using firewood but also much cleaner. We were honored to meet Joyce Kayoza, the Executive Officer of this Ward. She thanked WGC for supporting BUWEA and asked us to continue and we asked her to continue with government support. To be continued on Monday and then Tuesday we head to Kenya!

Sister Dorothy Ettling Revolving Loan Fund Meetings

Had a great day yesterday – Saturday. We were in 3 villages – Bukugo, Itahwa, and Kitwe. Of course, we exchanged warm greetings in each place. In the first two we attended the monthly loan fund meetings. The Bujugo Zone has 128 BUWEA members in 28 groups and 70 of these women were there. In Itahwa 54 women from 25 area groups were there. Both groups have their meetings in parish churches. Coordinators Adventina and Consolatha collected payments from women with loans and also processed new loan applications. Their record keeping is very detailed. A Group (4-5 Women usually) attends together. The Group applies for a loan as a group; the Group leader gives out the funds for each of the women’s business projects, and when all in the Group have paid off the entire loan, the Group can come together and apply for a new loan. The money is constantly circulating. Women hold each other accountable and help each other Pay if need be. It’s a really amazing system! The loan interest is used partially to grow the fund and partly to pay for coordinator expenses. The women are learning so much in this process and their families benefit greatly. In Itahwa we met Father David – this is another parish now partnering with BUWEA for mutual benefit. In Bujugo it was wonderful to see some of the women on their bicycles from a US Embassy grant. It is unbelievable how life transforming a basic bicycle is here. Many many more are needed.

Hekima Girls’ Secondary School

The girls greet us with a song as we arrive to their campus in the morning. “Good Morning to you, welcome to Hekima” 🎶🎶🎶

Laughing and smiling for a photo, the girls wait patiently for the Stress Management and Leadership workshops to begin.

We squeeze in for a selfie after a tour of the Hekima campus, dancing, singing, and outdoor yoga.

A Day in Katoke Village

How do you sum up an 8 hour day filled with a beautiful drive into the hills, Lake Victoria views as we drove to our destination where 96 women from villages throughout the hillside waited anxiously to welcome us with open arms, song and dance? We later found out that several women and their church priest paddled a boat for 1.5 hours from one of the 11 islands tucked out in the Lake Victoria, to spend the day with us listening to our workshops on stress management, leadership, networking, and menstrual cups. This audience sat quietly for more than 4 hours with their full attention on our presentations. They are among some of the newer BUWEA members from outlying parishes whose priests are collaborating with BUWEA to support the women.

Wrapped up the long day “in the “field” giving out certificates and celebrating with the women who individually one by one showered us with gifts of home grown produce. Later we enjoyed some down time having fun meeting some of the locals.

WGC visit house projects

WGC spent all morning visiting the Katerero and Kanazi villages to see some of the BUWEA member’s projects, including a member named Sophia; as well as the new rainwater harvesters they have built.

Fun fact: these medium sized harvesters reach an average of 10 families!

We also had Barbara present her workshop on “How to start a business” and the importance of networking. “I have seen the economic impact empowering women has in our villages, therefore I understand the importance of women’s empowerment and education” as stated by a BUWEA husband present at the workshop. WGC also spent some time in the afternoon exploring the Bukoba market and meeting an old friend, Jessica, who came to say hello.