*Below are blog posts from a blog project I had to do while in Tanzania for a class. The original content came from the blog title called A Red Bird In Africa.
Convoy of Hope: Building Sustainable Lives Through Community Development
When I first heard what Convoy of Hope wanted all of us in the group to put fresh eyes into helping them draw up a plan for sustainability of their feeding, and women’s empowerment programs, I had a nightmare flashback to one such plan Samaritan’s Purse had done a few years ago with a church group. Yet here I was again staring at Daudi (program director of Convoy of Hope) and trying to quell my panic (introvert panic) and keeping from running back to the airport. What I didn’t know at the time was Convoy of Hope would embody the principles of a book read in class about community development.
Throughout this trip, I learned how Convoy of Hope operates, and this insight stuck with me that I never encountered with Samaritan’s Purse. Convoy of Hope enters into partnerships in the community with a goal of eventually leaving them to self-sustain. They come into situations providing relief freely through programs for feeding, agricultural education, girls and women’s programs. For a short period of time they give unsustainable, then offer education, training, assistance in building income for women and establishing groups for community support. When their partners reach a point where they can sustain themselves, Convoy steps out of the situation. Exactly the approach in Toxic Charity in transitioning from relief to development. “First stop relief, second stop rehabilitation, and third stop development. From witnessing Convoy at work over the week, I could see Convoy has mastered the art of community development and it is seen in many of the communities around Tanzania. True community development in a nutshell.
Lipton writes the first goal is to alleviate suffering, followed by increasing the capacity for community and finally long-term improvement of the standard of living within the community (p138). A lot of the discussion during the week centered around the last stop of long-term improvement of the community and what are the assets in the community needing to be taped to reach this goal of sustainability.
Since I did not run for the airport but stayed to do my best, I started seeing every situation with fresh eyes in community development. As we all gathered around a table in the hotel conference room, we all came up with assets needing to be tapped by Convoy of Hope. Employment opportunities for adult disabled people in the school, water runoff from the hand washing stations being diverted to the gardens at the school, kitchen ventilation for all the smoke the fires put out, and develop land around the school for income base businesses. Each of these assets embodies what Toxic Charity states “no matter how desuetude the situation maybe, [there is] enormous untapped capacity within the community” we as helpers have the capacity to find, be inspired by it, build upon it and utilize it” (p 191). Daudi and the whole Convoy of Hope team affirm this again and again when interacting with communities.
Culture Wrapped In Tanzanite
Clang goes the bells as I am awoken from my sleep by sounds of the local Lutheran church calling the masses for service. Then moments later the local masque’s call to prayer follows along with some weird noise no one can explain. All before 5 am on a Sunday.
After stumbling out of bed and getting ready for the day, I could hear faint singing in distance. Across the red dirt road was a church and people were inside sing hymns. There was no loud worship band playing, just a piano and voices. I was captivated by the peaceful sound of nature’s song mixed with a song of people worshiping the Lord. Though I couldn’t understand what they were singing, I was uplifted by it. I wished we all could have experienced the rich unique blend of Christianity by attending the Sunday service with the locals, but we had to make our long journey back to Arusha.
When in Arusha we had the time to do some shopping before our flight back home later in the day. With the obscene amount of Tanzanian shillings in my pocket, I set out to find things to bring back home. This is where being culturally unconformable I became. Bartering is not my strong suit, and just the thought of having to haggle with someone over the price of a wooden giraffe was ridiculous to me. Then again what are $20,000 shillings to me? $10 USD. When put into perspective, The Bottom Billion author Paul Collier respectfully outlines traps these small store owners face in Tanzanian economy. Tanzania is caught in a resource trap, and trade restrictions imposed on them. The driver of our jeep pointed out the large shopping mall like structure where all the Tanzanite transactions in the world are carried out. No wonder the shop keepers are aggressive in haggling. Even aggressive in getting you to buy something you really don’t want either. I must have offended a half a dozen people all because I was put off by the aggressive tactics and just felt intimidated.
The culture experienced while on this trip was as vibrant and vivid as the precious gemstone Tanzanite. Like Richard Stearns says, “moving a mountain, one shovel at a time” (275), so every interaction I had with the Tanzanian people was a shovel unearthing brilliance facets of their culture, and their lives. Through Convoy of Hope, these “stones” are polished even more brilliant and worth much more.
One day I will return to Tanzania.