Regina took us to the new Catholic church in Bukoba this morning where the beautiful mass and singing were in Swahili. Then we had a brief planning session to prepare for the week and to present Regina and Buwea with two VERY special publications. Both detail the strategies and successes by women members of the Buwea Women’s Cooperative here. The first is the PhD dissertation by former WGC executive director Tere Dresner Salinas on African women and access to water where she highlighted the water harvesting building project directed by Buwea. The second is the Reach Out Africa book headed by WGC cofounder Sr. Dorothy Ettling and Dr. Kevin Vichcales of UIW and several other San Antonio authors/researchers, including UIW Dr. Neeta Singh. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of a WGC women’s empowerment project in either Zambia or Tanzania.
One of the most important lessons Sister Dot Ettling, co founder of WGC, taught the Tanzanian women of Buwea was transparency in all things, says Regina, it’s leader. She showed us the fruits of that lesson today on a trip to the rural village of Itahwa. Women of Buwea living in various villages travelled there for their twice-monthly meeting with Buwea leaders about the status of their individual micro loans for their small home businesses, made possible through partnership with WGC. In fact, the entire enterprise – now called the Ettling Revolving Loan Fund in her honor – began from only $100 in proceeds Sr. Dot sent to Buwea after she organized an artisanal sale several years ago in San Antonio of the women’s African handmade baskets. The fund has grown significantly over the past few years — last year, Buwea provided loans averaging $50 to its 580 women members and the interest proceeds built a new bakery on the Buwea campus that is producing products made from the soy, cassava, and banana flour the women make. Friendship can flourish into amazing things!
After many hours of travel, the WGC immersion trip travelers to Bukoba, Tanzania have finally arrived!! Elaine isn’t pictured here because she fell a day behind the rest of the crew with a series of unfortunate travel glitches. Nicole, Jonathan, and Neeta came through Tanzania’s Dar Es Salaam, while Elaine was routed through Istanbul. Ever the world traveler, she is here now and arrived with grace and aplomb! Bukoba is simply beautiful this time of year – cool and lush and green!! The flight from Mwaanza to Bukoba in the small, 12-passenger Cessna was particularly fun as we glided above Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria. A grant surprise was Regina, the leader of the women’s cooperative we partner with, picking us up today from our hotel in the truck that was purchased by donations from University of Incarnate Word’s students of Project Africa group! Stay tuned for more stories of our adventures coming soon.
The WGC Tanzania Immersion Trip takes off tomorrow! We can’t wait to share details of what the women of the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association have been up to, as well as the progress at the Hekima Girls School. Stay tuned for updates and please keep our team of four in your thoughts and prayers!