YES, WE DO WORK!

From the outside looking in, it may look like I’m on a vacation but I have come to Tanzania to work through an internship with Education for Better Living Organization. Zola and I have had a lot of fun exploring and experiencing Tanzania but we’ve also dedicated many days and hours to our deliverables with EBLI. I can truly say that the work we have done with EBLI has been highly enjoyable and rewarding in every aspect. Keep reading to learn about the details of my internship and the deliverables completed thus far!

On June 30th, Zola and I completed the business proposal and financial budget we have worked diligently on over the past month. The business proposal pitched the idea of an alternative cooking fuel social enterprise as a solution to climate change and deforestation in Mwanza City, Tanzania. Collectively, we titled the project, “Teenage Mothers as Drivers of Renewable Energy in the Mwanza region of Tanzania.” The business proposal provides a solution that simultaneously addresses deforestation and women empowerment by the implementation of a biochar system: a readily available knowledge, which effects carbon and energy agro-ecological flux with synergistic benefits for energy, soil, productivity, farming economies, climate, environment, human health and well-being. The core of the project is the production of biomass pellets using agroforestry waste- specifically rice husk pellets as a source of renewable energy. Upon completion, we sent the proposal and budget to Bread for The World; we all put our hands on the mouse and sent it off. The proposal was truly a collaborative work of hope. Zola, Makachia, Mussa and I all cared deeply about the proposed project’s mission and the ability it had to change the lives of many. I felt honoured to be able to work on such a vital and critical deliverable, that not only has the ability to scale EBLI to increase their reach, but to help women become economically self-sufficient while preserving the environment. If this project is approved and is able to obtain sufficient funding, it has the ability to be repeated across Tanzania, which currently has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.

On July 3rd, Zola and I facilitated a menstrual hygiene session to 30 women enrolled in EBLI’s academic program. During this session, we administered the Day for Girls kits and conducted a tutorial on the reusable pads’ use and maintenance. The kits provided reusable pads that could be used for 3 years with proper maintenance and care. These kits are economically feasible for the young women and allow them to use the money saved on needs that may be more important. Throughout the session, we stressed the importance of changing and cleaning the pads religiously, to prevent bacterial infections. The women were genuinely interested in the session, as we tried to keep it lighthearted and relatable. At the end of the session, one of the female staff asked us if she could have 4 kits as she had family in her village that were not able to afford pads, which made their daily tasks during their menstrual cycle difficult. At that moment, I truly realized a privilege that I often take for granted, my ability to have access to pads and tampons and my ability to conquer any tasks during any time of the month.

During the second half of my internship journey, Zola and I have begun teaching Form 2 and Form 4 (high school students). I am currently teaching Economic Geography three times a week under the supervision of Mr. Joshua (a teacher at EBLI). I have noticed the inefficiencies in Tanzania’s education system through teaching and preparing lesson plans. The curriculum is from 2010 and the textbooks are from 2003, which is highly outdated. There is little to no studying culture, all national exams are in English although English is only introduced in middle school and Tanzania’s education system lags behind the countries that surround them. This is frustrating as I truly believe education is the key to living a better life. Change in this system can only change through education policy which I believe is currently a result of Tanzania’s government priorities that have trickled down to the most vulnerable individuals which are also the majority of the Tanzanian population. Zola and I will also categorize and research funding options by creating a spreadsheet using the text “Agencies for Development Assistance”. This spreadsheet will benefit EBLI and future interns greatly, as it will serve as a funding database that can be referred to, modified, and extended, to help with other future ventures.

Today, Zola and I began a two-week assessment and evaluation of businesses founded and owned by former EBLI students. EBLI’s entrepreneurship program focuses on equipping young mothers and vulnerable youth with business and computer skills training. The program has empowered countless individuals to start their own small businesses, which include businesses such as hair salons, restaurants, and retail stores. Through our visits, we’ve had the chance to survey the business owners and provide recommendations based on our evaluations. This task is very beneficial in my opinion as we get to physically interact with past participants of the entrepreneurship program and monitor the results and effectiveness of the training. This deliverable also allows us to explore the many beautiful regions of Mwanza.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next blog post which will overview my experience visiting Cheka Sana Orphanage and Foundation Karibu Tanzania. The blog post will be centered on the theme of gratitude. So, I’ll open up about my personal life challenges and how gratitude has helped me become the individual I am today.

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Zola, Mussa, Bernard and I, after sending off the proposal!
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Zola, Mussa, Bernard and I sending off the proposal. We all clicked the send thumbnail together!
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Day for Girls Kit Hygiene Session
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Me personally demonstrating the use of the menstrual pad kits!
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A panoramic view of Capri Point: the highest lookout view of Mwanza
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A picture of me at the sunset view from where we live. We are truly blessed to have this view right at our fingertips at any time of the day! Stay tuned for more fire pictures and videos in my next blog post! I promise you don’t want to miss them!

Asante Sana (Thank you so much) for reading my blog!

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Tanzania feels like home: 1 month down….3 more to go

Dear Readers,

I hope you can accept my sincerest apology for not posting my first blog sooner. Naturally, I avoid using technology when experiencing new environments. I love to fully submerge myself in the new environment’s culture and savor the moments without my phone and laptop. For example, I’ve been here for almost a month and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve used my laptop. This is a habit that I need to improve on, as writing blogs is a requirement of my internship and the benefits of blog writing are endless and allow you to reflect on your experiences with a tangible source. Moving forward, I hope to blog at least once a week while I’m in Mwanza. To compensate for my lack of posts, I’ve kept a personal journal which I write in every night, and in my first post, I will share some excerpts from this journal. Brace yourself as this is a lengthy post but I promise it will be worth every minute you spend digesting it.

 

Tanzania feels like home

The date is May 3rd and I have finally arrived in Tanzania. It took two long days to get here; which included an adventurous layover in Abu Dhabi but we are finally here. This is finally real. When traveling to a new environment I rarely experience feelings of nervousness or excitement. I’m usually really calm and filled with optimism. I literally have to get out the plane and smell the fresh air until I’m finally hit with excitement. As soon as I got off the plane and shuffled into Mwanza’s airport I could not stop smiling from ear to ear. I was filled with excitement attached to what the next 4 months would entail.

We were then greeted by Alan, Mathias, Happiness, Hamisi, and Thomas; hospitality students from SAUT. After a 30-mintue drive we arrived at our accommodation, Lavoie. Lavoie was situated conveniently on SAUT’s campus. We were each given our individual rooms which were spacious to say the least. Shortly after I went to eat dinner with the hospitality students. At the beginning, it was Alan, Hamisi and I, but shortly after 10 more hospitality students joined, which made me extremely ecstatic. The students were so kind and welcoming. We talked about Canadian and Tanzanian food, music, school, siblings, tribes, languages, and faith. I’m so happy they were so open and comfortable around me, it truly made me feel like I was at home. I couldn’t believe I had just met these students as we were conversing like we knew each other for ages.

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Facilitating not Teaching

Today I facilitated my favorite group yet which was Group A. The students were so creative, enthusiastic, and eager to start a dialogue. I was nervous at first but quickly warmed up to the class due to their eagerness to participate. Throughout the class, I truly feel like I did an efficient job at relating the analyses back to the overarching theme of Milango Financial Services. I felt like I delivered a lot of useful information and business tools and I truly hope the class felt the same way. After class, many students approached me and praised the lesson plan and complimented me on my teaching skills. In every scenario, I exclaimed that I was not a teacher but a student just like everyone else in class. I also reminded them that the class went well because of their participation and that I was just a facilitator. I believe it is so important to diminish any power dynamics that may exist but also to personally acknowledge that this dynamic is present and therefore try to minimize it. I find that letting the students debate and present their own work/group work is a way to shift the power dynamic back to the students in the class.

Overall the business case classes have been going great and based on feedback the students find they are effective and informative. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the classes and the rest of the amazing students I will meet over this program’s duration.

 Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater: Truly Grateful

 I’ve been in Tanzania for approximately a week and I am privileged and lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go on a SAFARI. George, Yvonne and I decided to explore the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater for 4-days and 3-nights. We were referred to an amazing company called Little Adventures, ran by two amazing guys, Innocent Sr. and Innocent Jr. (these inspirational guys need their own blog post which is soon to come). Little Adventures is one of their many business ventures, where their mission is to make safaris affordable and educational for all. On Day 1, we entered Serengeti National Park through the Ndbaka entrance and enjoyed a scenic drive through the grasslands and scattered forests. Almost immediately, we witnessed gazelles, impalas, and wildebeests, and zebras. It was truly amazing to witness the animals’ behaviours in their natural habitat, untouched by human interference. For example, we witnessed a lone elephant that was injured as indicated by its’ broken tusk and mannerisms. It was the closest animal we encountered the whole day and the only animal that interacted with us. The elephant showed us signs that indicated it wanted to be left alone and would attack us if we did not follow orders. In that very moment, I felt connected with nature and respected the elephant’s signals. We also ended up seeing lions towards the end of the day. We literally spoke the sighting into existence. As we were driving to our accommodation we were sure the day was over but behold the lionesses appeared. This sighting reminded me to be hopeful in times of pessimism as you never know what will happen or what you will experience. To end off the day I witnessed the most gorgeous sunset I had ever seen in my life. The sunset turned into the night sky shortly after, and then I witnessed the most beautiful star-filled sky. Both sights were truly breathtaking. I thought to myself “I must be in the most beautiful place on earth right now, and this is exactly where I am meant to be”.

On the third day, we drove through Serengeti National Park to the Ngorongoro Crater located in Arusha, Tanzania. I was truly not prepared for the beauty that lied ahead. I thought Serengeti’s beauty could not be triumphed but the Ngorongoro Crater’s beauty was on another level. The amount of animals we witnessed also multiplied exponentially. The crater was truly a vast world wonder, filled with lush forests, beautiful flowers and almost every animal you could think of. As we descended from the crater we got stuck in a mud hole in the middle of the crater. I immediately started laughing, as animals surrounded and I had no idea how we were going to get out. I really felt like the safari experience could not get any more genuine than this. With the help of our guides and the park rangers we managed to escape the mud hole and leave the park on time. On our way out we witnessed three rhinos, which is the rarest animal in the Ngorongoro Crater. I realized that everything happens for a reason and if we did not get stuck in the hole then we would have never witnessed rhinos. Throughout the whole entire day, I kept on reminding myself how lucky I was to be able to live my life to the fullest. I am truly so lucky to have seen the most beautiful sites this world has to offer at such a young age. I am truly lucky to have done it pretty much solo and therefore fully emerge myself in the experience.

Overall Serengeti National Park/Ngorongoro Crater has been one of the best trips in my life. It has reminded me how amazing the ecosystem we live in is. It has reminded me that some places are not meant to be interfered with by humans. This trip also allowed me to shift away from an individualistic mindset and it reminded me that this world belongs to animals just as much as it belongs to us. Therefore, we should preserve it at all costs.

 First Meetings with Mr. Bernard Mackachia

So far, I’ve had two meetings with Bernard Mackachia, who is the founder of Education for Better Living Organization (EBLI). I’ll be interning at EBLI for 3 months starting in the end of the May. The Mission of EBLI is working with young people in Mwanza, Tanzania to reduce the rate of school dropout using behavior change process and economically empower those who do dropout of school to live a life free of coercion, discrimination and violence. I am truly looking forward to starting my internship term as I hold EBLI’s mission close to my heart due to my ability to relate with individuals EBLI targets. Recently, we conducted an interview with Bernard to gather information for a business case that I will write on EBLI. I asked Bernard “sum up EBLI’s mission in one sentence”, in which he replied “giving women a second chance at life”. This really hit home for me as I personally believe I was given a second chance at life and I also know many women in my life who could have benefited from EBLI’s services. I’m ecstatic and passionate to work under Bernard’s supervision this summer and really have an impact on the future of EBLI.

Bernard seeks to enter into the renewable energy market so I’ll be doing tons of preliminary research and I’ll also be responsible for developing funding proposals for his new venture. I’m looking forward to applying my skills to the required deliverables. I truly believe that this venture has the power to change many lives and do so sustainably.

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 Black is BEAUTIFUL

 Classes have been amazing so far! SAUT’s students are heavily engaged and passionate about exchanging their ideas. I’ve had the privilege to connect with many students further during my consultation hours and also after classes. After every class I have taught or been present in, I always have at least 10 students approach me after class to compliment me on the class, ask questions, and ask to keep in touch. I have realized through many conversations that students admire me greatly due to my physical appearance. On several occasions I have had students ask what my background is, I usually respond by saying “I was born in Canada, and my parents are Jamaican and Chinese”. The response is usually “Oh, that’s why you’re so beautiful, you’re not full Black”, this really saddens me as my mother and all the women that raised me are Jamaican and their skin pigment is much darker than mine. The fact that I am seen as more beautiful because I am not full black and therefore I am treated better and seen to be more attractive than someone who is full black, screams colourism to me. I have always been aware that my ethnicity has allowed me to “pass” and not be associated with many stereotypes that African/Blacks have been labeled with. I have realized this privilege and try to correct students by saying “Thank you, but Black is beautiful and there is no one more beautiful than a full black woman”. I know this is subjective as all beauty is, but I truly believe that Black people need to be reminded that Black is Beautiful. After all, the media and history hardly portrays this message because beauty standards have always been skewed to European definitions of beauty. Whiteness has always been desirable and I strongly believe that people of colour need to be proud of their beauty, no matter what the pigment of their skin or the texture of their hair is.

Now when I get comments on my appearance I remember my privilege, I can realize the colourism ideologies behind the compliments. Therefore, I try to emphasize the blackness in my beauty. I also compliment black woman on their beauty as often as I can as I truly feel like they have been forgotten by society in the narrative of what beautiful is.

On the other hand, at Ivey, I am seen as a black woman by my peers and have been labeled with many stereotypes usually given to black women. I am automatically labeled as the “radical black woman” if I choose to address someone’s ignorance. Surprisingly even one of my colleagues on this trip told me that that was their first impression of me during the week long pre-departure class we had at Ivey. I even had someone write feedback on my micro-teaching that stated, “voice is monotonous, comes across as aggressive”. I have realized that being strong and confident as a black woman in our western society is associated with negative labels. There have been so many times that I wanted to disassociate myself with the black side of me at Ivey and Western University in general. I tried to speak differently to sound more articulate, I tried to hide from the sun so that I could maintain my fair complexion. After years of battling these insecurities I am proud to say that I love who I am. I am very proud of my Jamaican, Chinese and Canadian heritage. I am proud to be seen as a black woman, even in spaces that it is disadvantageous. I am able to realize my privilege in being a bi-racial woman and therefore embrace both sides including my blackness and help other women of colour realize the beauty in being black and combat the daily struggle that results from embracing one’s blackness/colour.

My sister’s once told me that they wish they had my hair because it wasn’t so “black”, by this they meant that my hair was not kinky or coarse. They also told me they wished they were half Chinese as it would make their hair nicer and therefore they could be more beautiful. Now every chance I get I tell them about how beautiful I think they are, how beautiful their hair is, and I remind them to be proud of their blackness and to embrace it. In conclusion, this trip has reminded me of one of my many privileges, which is being bi-racial. I am reminded that I must acknowledge this privilege and help others realize their own beauty despite the colour of their skin and features.

 NEW Friends

 I am a huge believer in the laws of attraction. I truly believe as human beings we attract the energy we emit. Therefore, I have always tried to live my life emitting positive radiant energy. As a result, I’ve met amazing people with genuine hearts and souls. In Tanzania, my philosophy has held true so far and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing like-minded individuals. These friends have shown me the beauty of Mwanza and have helped me adjust to Tanzanian culture quickly. They have accepted me with open arms and have made me feel like nothing less than family. They’ve introduced me to the best Tanzanian food, Bongo Flava music, Mwanzan nightlife, Konyagi, market bargaining, and entrepreneurship in Tanzania to name a few. Whether it’s clubbing until 6am or watching the sunset over Mwanza over silence, I’ve enjoyed every second of my friends’ company. S/O George, Cynthia, Zola, Kajan, Saidi, Orined, Julius, Amani, Inno Sr. & Jr., Mathias, and Samwel for taking care of me and welcoming me with kindness and love always. I genuinely hope the relationships I build in the next three months will turn into life-long friendships and partnerships.

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Amani, Zola, Kajan, George and I

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