Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Traveler's Philanthropy Conference Dec 2008

Two weeks ago I attended the Traveler’s Philanthropy Conference here in Arusha. The Centre on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (CESD) hosted the three day event, in Arusha at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge. At the core of Travelers Philanthropy (TP) is the idea of “giving back” of time, talent and treasure to tourism destinations, with Arusha being the gateway to Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Northern Safari circuit in Tanzania, it provided an ideal venue! TP is slowly gaining ground as an important form of development assistance flowing from tourism businesses and travelers into projects that support local communities, our focus however, was on giving a hand up rather than a hand out.

There were two key note speakers:
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, Ph.D.
Maathai founded Kenya’s Green Belt Movement planting over 40 million trees and becoming a leading force in Kenya’s pro-democracy struggles. In 2004, when Dr. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, she became the first environmentalist and only African women to receive this prize!

David Western, Ph.D.
David Western is the former Director of the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), and founder of the East African Conservation Centre and founding President of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). Western’s particular interest lies in pastoralism and community participation in conservation.

I attended a number of different workshops, from “the rights and wrongs of Philanthropy” to “Using the internet and media to promote and solicit donations”. What came up again and again was the need for community ownership, and the importance of the process of engaging with the community.
One company that stood out for me was The Intrepid Foundation, which highlights the importance of income generating projects, to foster empowerment, and develop self-reliance. This I believe the first step towards TRADE NOT AID.

Wangari Maathai’s Key note speech was focused around the need for sustainable management of our limited resources, and the promotion of equity in the distribution of those resources through good governance. Very much tied into this is the culture of creating capacity and to what extent an organization can answer the question-has your project empowered a community? To what extent are we creating ownership? So that we can move from dependency to becoming a partner in development, where there is no sense of entitlement in the relationship.

For me one the most interesting workshop was about moving from Charity to Social Empowerment. The speaker that stood out for me here was Trisha Barnett from Tourism Concern, UK,
who again highlighted the need for community empowerment, but not through Philanthropy or aid, but through trade, ethical tourism and enabling entrepreneurship.

I took a great deal from & Beyond (formerly CC Africa) about the importance for working with communities and not for them. Accepting that respect takes time, relationships need to be nurtured.

How does all of this relate to TFFT and the valuable work that we do with orphans? I have a few ideas that I came up with from the conference:
Full Circle After school Program: Have the older children tell us what they think they need to learn , and what they would like to learn after school!
Developing an income generating project, that empowers our students and teaches them the basic principles of running ones own business.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feeding Table for Nkoaranga Orphanage

Nkoaranga Orphanage, a partner orphange of The Foundation For Tomorrow, has recently received a very useful and helpful donation from the Bianucci Family. The Bianucci family spent some time this past summer volunteering at Nkoaranga Oraphange and helping out in any way possible. They have become very involved with various projects to help improve the facilities and way of life at the orphanage.

The Bianucci's realized the need for a safer and more managable approach to feeding time. On an average day, there are two to three Mama's working at the orphange with the 25 children, all who are under the age of five. As you can imagine, every day is quite an adventure... especially when it comes time to eat. The older children have got it down, they all sit at the miniture table in their miniature chairs and are able to feed themselves for the most part. You will have the occasional fast eater who will have finished their own food and try to snatch someone else's but for the most part it all goes pretty smoothly. The infants and toddlers are were it gets a little tricky. There are 8 of them right now and with only a few adults, there aren't enough arms for everyone to be held and fed at the same time. The orphange does have some smaller high chairs for this age group; however, they tend to be a little topsy-turvy.

After a visiting Cradle of Love, a local orphange for infants to two year olds, the Bianucci's had the perfect solution. Cradle of Love uses a feeding table for all of their meals and it works brilliantly. I arranged for ADRA, an organization working on a variety of development projects across Tanzania, to build the table for us - they did an awesome job! The table is high off the ground and shaped like a horse-shoe, allowing for the Mama to stand in the middle to easily reach all the children facing her. The table holds 6 children at a time, who are all securely seated in individual seat holders from which they can't fall out or escape from. It has been an amazing addition to the orphange, everybody seems to be really enjoying it....

Mama Pendo serving lunch

The boys hanging out & loving the table

Thanks so much to the Bianucci family for this generous donation!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December is Hot in Tanzania

December 11th – Not that the title has anything to with this blog, but it’s been a busy past two weeks here on the ground in Tanzania (notwithstanding the fact that it really is just really hot in Arusha right now). Starting at the end of last week where TFFT exhibited at the Traveler’s Philanthropy Conference hosted here in Arusha, there’s been a lot of busy work to be done (including having a banner made post haste and printing out some pictures of the kids to decorate our stall). While there were some very interesting people presenting – including Wangari Maathai who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, in part for her work founding the Green Belt Movement which plants trees to combat soil erosion – I can honestly say that a majority of the stalls were focused on selling kitsch to the visiting conference attendees. In one case, a Tanzanian man asked me if he could get a job with TFFT – though he hardly knew what we did. Then, when I informed him that there were currently no positions open here in TZ he seemed completely baffled, spelling out the name on our banner saying “This is ‘the Foundation for Tomorrow’, right? Well, what about my tomorrow? Aren’t you concerned with my tomorrow?!?” Mayhaps we should change the name of our foundation to ‘the Foundation for This Particular Guy’s Future’ (TFFTPGF).

Then, on the Sunday after the conference I was invited to attend a baptism ceremony for Emmy and Ndemno’s granddaughter Deborah, as well as for Omari – a worker at Matonyok who converted from Islam to Christianity. Technically, I was invited to the party after the actual ceremony – but it was quite the experience nonetheless. Imagine – a tent in the middle of the brush, Omari, Omari’s wife, and Deborah at the head table all dressed in their Sunday best. Then the Matonyok gang all done up in matching orange and white baseball shirts, singing and dancing all the while. Then Omari’s (though now called Emmanuel) extended family, occasionally ululating whenever someone took the podium to extol Emmanuel’s virtues. Let me tell you folks, Emmanuel’s grandmamma can really cut a rug even though she must be upwards of seventy years!

It was quite the experience and one which I can honestly say was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. Between the boldly colored dresses, the dancing, the singing, the cake – there was an almost palpable feeling of community to this occasion. One quick note about Tanzanian parties in case you ever find yourself attending one. Whenever there’s cake, the person for whom the cake is made is served last. In fact, the quest of honor is obliged to feed everyone else before he or she can even begin thinking of chowing down on some cake. So make sure to get your cake beforehand if someone throws you a party here in TZ. That’s all I have for this Thursday. Hope everyone’s looking forward to their respective holidays (though, yes I know that Ramadan has already past – BUT Eid al Adha has just taken place, so that counts).

Monday, December 1, 2008


12/1 – Hello everyone and happy December. I must apologize for my delayed blogging… I’ve been through about three computers this month as well as two power bricks and all of this technological difficulty has taken its toll on my ability to write for an extended period of time. So here it is.

As always, Matonyok is proceeding nicely. Aside from the workers’ wages and some incidental materials that seem to always pop up at the end of a construction project, it looks like the sanitation facility will be completed under budget and close to two months in advance of schedule. I say this as the short rainy season begins, but the roof has been up for about three weeks and has already weathered some heavy storms (most notably last Friday night where it rained torrentially for close to three hours. The local authorities advised people with goats and sheep in their yards to take them all inside, as the rain might be too much for them to handle).

But the structure held up and should be good to go. The electrician has already come and gone, and the plumber is back this week to connect the bio-gas tanker to the sanitation facility. After this, there should be only minimal work to be done – though the electrician has left wires available for the installation of a solar panel system (more on that later).

As this project comes to a close, I can’t help but look back at the expediency with which the workers executed their responsibilities. Everyone, from the timber man to the hardware store to the electrician to Emmy and Ndemno have been completely dependable and have worked diligently to see this project to its conclusion. I now know that since I’ve put it in writing that something will come up. But we’ll deal with as best we can, as always.

It’s actually been a busy month for teachers’ training. Beginning with meeting with the US consulate staff in Dar in early November, the wheels have really got going – and I think that going back to the drawing board and reinventing the program is a great idea. I’ve been able to meet with some leading educators in Arusha, and they all agree that working on a smaller scale closer to home is a much better idea (and much more marketable since it undercuts the need for six $3,000+ flights to America) and some have even advocated keeping it within Arusha, while working with the international schools. But I’ve been able to get some contact and have gone back to revise the proposal time and again. It’s currently known (rather aptly) as ‘Work in Progress’.

However, I’ve gotten some good feedback and will have something tangible to offer by mid-December. Even if we start the program in early February, there’s still much time to work out the kinks and select motivated teachers from our affiliate schools. Most recently, I met up an ex-pat who operates a teacher’s college in Magugu (yes, that’s a real place) and has been a great help on this project. She thinks that it’s a much better idea to streamline the program to include only one academic field per year – starting with maths, then science, then English and so on for an extended period of time.

Needless to say, there’s been a lot of editing and re-editing which I believe is for the best, since I’d like the program to be implemented as effectively as possible. Though, there’s still the question of quantifiability – something that I’m currently working on this month. So, that’s all I have for now. If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! I’ll try to be more diligent in writing.