What a wonderful year 2015 has proved to be.
Isn't it amazing that in the year that the UK sent an astronaut to the international space station, that most of the villagers helped by us have never seen an aeroplane?
Call the Midwife Tanzania is very thankful for all donations received this year. Having money in hand gives confidence that when a project is initiated, it can be seen through to completion in good time. This lifts morale in the villages and brings hope to some poor people who would have had no hope of a better future. Very few of this group of villagers has ever seen an aeroplane and some shudder when Liz talks about it. Liz always remembers affectionately that one older Maasai woman said, 'You came from London, you flew in the sky, you dropped down here to help us. Oh God is good to us !
The website went live in March and has proven to be a very important form of communication. Call The Midwife Tanzania.com is easier to remember than an email address. It has been a joy to be in contact with people who are so genuinely interested in the work with these lovely Maasai people. To Liz all of the work feels like 'it's just what I do' and 'not rocket science' so it is amazing to hear positive comments such as, 'We are confident that every penny that we give goes straight to the people who need it and not to pay heavy overheads of buildings, vehicles and staff like big charities.' (Liz pays all of her own flights and accommodation expenses) 'It's great that you know all the recipients personally.' People also say that 'knowing you personally makes us feel close to the people being helped.'
For two years now Liz been working on a way of responding to a request for women to rent cows. It has taken a while to build in the the common principles of our other projects.
1. Among these are sustainability i.e. Initial funding is lent and paid back over two years. Sustainability ensures that more people can be helped as money is recycled back to the community.
2. Benefit to the community without favouring any individual. This means that everyone who registers must be prepared to work hard to make the most of the initial investment.
Sadly, pride and jealousy are two emotions lying just below the surface of many hearts. As everyone has the same entitlements to register for a project, this helps to prevent the sense of pride of being selected above anyone else. It also helps to prevent jealousy. There are absolutely no favourites and nobody who is already living above the poverty line may apply. Liz is not afraid of insisting on this. So far, so good. Everybody seems to be happy with how all of the projects are being run.
How does it work? Liz came up with what the Africans call a Memorandum of Understanding for the cow project.
Together, it was agreed that this should be a project for women who normally are not allowed to own property. To be eligible, the women must have young children and must be willing to save profits in a village bank out of reach of their husbands and to pay their children's future secondary school fees. From their profits of the first two years they will pay back the cost of the cow and keep or sell any calves as they choose. When the time comes, they will have the dignity of sending their children to school and paying the fees themselves. There is a waiting list. As soon as enough 'rental payments' are received into the community fund, we can buy more cows to benefit other families.
It was fun going to a huge cattle market with the aim of buying cows. (see our Facebook page for photos).
Liz has been one of the ten thousand attendees several times but had only ever bought a coca cola and a Massai blanket for a young man. (He had come to help to deal with an intruder during the night and looked cold in his scant Maasai robes). As it is not culturally acceptable for women to buy and sell, Liz watched from a reasonable distance as the two church leaders negotiated cattle prices. Also if traders saw white skin, the costs would soar. We bought cows that had calved last year and were in calf again. In total we bought 15 cows. About £30 per cow was paid in the costs of getting permits, paying tax and driving the cows home. Call the Midwife was able to absorb those costs thanks to generous donations so women pay back only the basic cost of the cow. As news of the project spread round the village, a waiting list of eligible women has been formed.
For Liz, the greatest achievement is that more than 75 children will go to secondary school and the parents will have the dignity of having paid the costs.
Women's Health and Safer Delivery Kits
Every year, Liz meets with everyone who is part of any project. This is always a joyful time of hearing detailed reports of how so many have benefited from such small investments. Amidst this there was a heartbreaking moment when the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) or auxiliary midwives gave their reports. Within the astonishing good news of no deaths in childbirth for several years now, they reported that as they have only one set of clothes and as they don't want to get them spoiled, they take them off for each delivery. They say that being naked, because they don't wear undergarments, makes them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Liz was shocked. Of course Liz knew they don't have another set of clothes. She has been to their homes many times and has seen the empty piece of rope that serves as a wardrobe in most homes. But thinking it through is another step....Thankfully a friend had donated £50 to spend on midwifery so an email asked if it could be used for uniforms. That afternoon we went into town and bought wine coloured poly cotton to make simple shift dresses. These were made by the village tailor at a cost of £2.50 per dress. They were joyfully received. Sometimes investment has to come before sustainability. The TBAs went on to tell me that they are totally committed to hand washing with soap and using gloves but they have failed to convince the mothers to be of the value of hygiene. It means the TBAs are paying to keep the women safe during delivery. In response, Call The Midwife Tanzania has introduced Safer Delivery Kits.
The kit will include
·Measures to aid hygiene such as clean water, hand washing bowl, soap and a hand towel. Disposable gloves.
·Safety for the baby with a sterile cord clamp and cutter, baby towel, nappies, baby clothes, hat and baby blanket.
·Dignity-enhancing plastic sheet, to cover the cow hide on the floor where the baby will be born, a rubbish bag and sanitary towels.
·Health enriching supplements to combat life threatening anaemia.
It is possible to sponsor a kit at the cost of £10. These have been popular Christmas gifts with a photo card of mother and baby and a certificate saying what the kit contains.Many agree with Call the Midwife Tanaznia's view that this makes a better gift than buying socks or chocolate for the sake of it. (more detail on Facebook page)
While Liz was in Morogoro, there was a cholera outbreak which sadly has continued to spread throughout the year. Liz decided that she must increase the number of 'stations' where people can collect harvested rain water from our 5000L tanks. While most would baulk at using our garden water butts for a source of drinking water, this is so much cleaner than water collected from a lake 3 miles away. There has been great excitement and chatter as the workmen have moved in to implement two further water collection points. Collection from all stations will be on the same day at the same time so that every family has its fair share of clean drinking water. When the tanks run dry, they can be refilled with clean water brought in by tankers.
School girls; avoiding forced early marriage
Last but not least, Call the Midwife Tanzania is paying girls' school fees to reduce the distressing incidence of early teenage forced marriage. Four mothers said that their daughters would most certainly be married already if we ad not provided school fees. In years to come, families enrolled on the cow project will have the means to pay the fees themselves. In the meantime Call the Midwife Tanzania is very grateful for all donations generously given to enables this investment in the lives of young women. Liz met with every parent and guardian during her last visit. All were so proud to say for the first time In many generations that they had a girl in school. Because the women have been earning money though our micro-finance projects, each mother has bought her daughter a solar lamp to aid night time study. Many will be starting their fourth year and probably final year in early January. Sadly by learning from experience, we have to ask each girl to take a pregnancy test. (Schools cannot support pregnant girls.) This year all of the tests were negative. We will then talk with the village leaders, students and parents about how to help another group of potential students.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for all of the interest shown and thank you for your generosity that is so gratefully received by these wonderful African people.