The Opportunity to Return
This summer, I would like to gain hands on experience with organizations that work to alleviate poverty through resourceful design and local entrepreneurship. From May 29thst until August 7th, I plan to return to Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer with three organizations. The first two I will be working with are engineering based organizations, Twende and Global Cycle Solutions (GCS). Both work to explore and develop local technologies, with a focus on agricultural products. They also encourage Tanzanians to turn their own ideas into reality by providing resources and guidance for development. The rest of my time will be spent with Faraja, a vocational training center that works to rehabilitate young female victims of human trafficking. Faraja offers women and their children a place to live for a one year period while providing cooking and sewing classes along with tutoring in several academic areas. With these skills, the majority of the women who leave the center are able to find jobs or start their own businesses.
The Engineer My work with Twende and GCS will focus on running needs assessments and designing and testing new technologies for rural communities in northern Tanzania. Some of the technologies they are working on currently include: an electrical generator utilizing draft animals, solar water heaters made from waste materials, and bicycle powered maize shellers. Along with ongoing projects, one of their biggest combined efforts at the moment is building a workshop that will serve as a home base to both organizations. With this new space, locals will have an opportunity to share and develop their own ideas. One of my main goals is to expand use of Global Cycle Solutions’ maize sheller product. Traditionally, when maize (the main staple of Tanzanian diet) is harvested, the ears of maize are placed in a large bag and are then beaten with a stick to loosen the kernels for use in cooking popular local dishes such as ugali and makande. To ease this labor intensive task, the maize sheller attaches to most bicycles and can fill a 90-kg sack of maize in 40 minutes by stationary peddling. This design is a perfect example of an innovative yet simple solution that turns a labor intensive task, found all throughout sub-Saharan Africa, into an efficient, self-employing opportunity. By increasing market awareness through village demonstrations and community outreach, I plan to spread the word about what both organizations have to offer. I will document my efforts and analyze what product introduction methods have a larger impact on the spread of the designs. After exchanging multiple e-mails about my interests and past experiences in Africa, the founder of Twende, Jim Elsworth, as well as the founder of GCS, Jodie Wu, were delighted to have me join their efforts and agreed that my time will be valuable asset to their team.
The Cook Along with gaining engineering experience, I’d like to spend three days a week working with the women and children living at the Faraja center. Here, I plan to tutor the women in mathematics and evaluate what else is needed within their present curriculum. My main project with Faraja, however, is one of learning and observing, rather than teaching. Since I’ve fallen in love with Tanzanian cuisine, I am going to create a cookbook to display all of the wonderful dishes the women are taught to make at the center (from basic local traditions to upscale restaurant recipes). With this project, I will be actively involved with the daily cooking classes the center offers. From picture taking to recipe writing, I plan to describe many of the dishes that define Tanzanian cuisine. Faraja’s creator, Martina Siara, and her assistant, Mike Sanders, replied to my inquiry about this project with enthusiasm, saying it was an excellent suggestion that they are happy for me to pursue. I am still looking into getting the recipe book published upon its completion and I plan to sell them upon my return to continue supporting the women of Faraja. Faraja is in the process of building a second classroom, so any funds raised through the cookbook will go directly to furnishing their ever-growing facilities. Currently, I plan to ask local New Orleans restaurants to support my efforts. Any businesses that support my cause will be listed in the sponsor pages at the end of the book. All supporters of my trip will also receive a complimentary copy upon its completion. I hope that the cookbook will provide a permanent source of income, increasing sustainability and growth at the center.