Yesterday the students went through their annual health screening. This is a general physical exam, height and weight to check for malnutrition, vision and hearing tests, blood test to screen for common problems and so on. Over decades of research Dr. Heck has arrived at a short list of essential screening tests for children in developing economies. When we shared that list with Wema at the Compassion center, she showed us the chart of one of the children, demonstrating that they routinely administer all of these tests. Just one more way Compassion is an amazing organization.
Jordan is working in timber production. He is an expert but works part time. He is happy saying that here in Mtwara there are only a few people capable of producing timber with a chainsaw. He is not the owner of the chainsaw, but the boss who bought the tree rents the chainsaw to him. He carefully sharpens the saw to ensure clean cutting.
The challenge is that there are few trees for timber production. This leads them to find any trees they can, even if they are not hard enough for timber, such as mango tree or coconut tree. They are forced to use these though they are not preferred.
He mistook me for a government officer and asked me to please tell the government “we need to work. We need the government to bring varieties of trees for timber production.” He means, they need to hire an agriculture expert to research the best kind of trees to grow in Mtwara for use as timber.
This post is part of our series on Work In Mtwara, to accompany the sermons on "The Other Six." Video above and narrative below by our friend Daniel, from his interview with Mzee.
Mzee Ahmad is an entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience. He is very happy and he is a charming trader who makes his neighbors happy. I asked him why he is happy and he said to me, "My grandson, I like jokes, my business pays, I am running my life without being dependent on anyone.” Again he mentioned many positive contributions which emanate from his business: he has built a good house and owns five acres which are planted with cashew trees (korosho).
Almas and Joshua have been trained as mechanics by their brother who works about an hour north of Mtwara in the city of Lindi. Having many customers makes it possible for them to run their life here in Mtwara town.
Here, their origin story doesn't begin with capital but with an investment of time from a brother willing to share marketable skills. Motorcycle taxis, called boda bodas, are the cheapest form of point-to-point transport. Their work keeps the boda bodas running, which enable many people to get things done. But in telling their story to Daniel, they emphasize it is their customers who make possible the lives they live.
This picture is of James. He is working as a machinga (street vendor.) He got his capital from his Uncle and started this business long ago. The business of selling books is very important during the beginning of the school year. Many schools open on Monday (January 8) and many students need exercise books, pencil, pen. This is a good month to sell things for school. He is trying to get more capital so can expand and get a shop of his own. In other times of the year he sells clothes, mirrors, combs, handkerchiefs, dolls, watches and other commodities.
The equator passes through Tanzania, but most of the country is in the southern hemisphere so our winter is their summer. For primary and secondary school, the new year beings in January. (For college, they follow the European model of school years starting in September.)
In many of his interviews people share with Daniel 1) what they do, 2) where they got a little bit of money to get going, and 3) what they hope to do as soon as they can get a little more. In this economy, getting a job often requires starting a small business.
I had a conversation with four women, dealing with fish selling. This is Halima, Sophia, Mwanagulani, and Subira. They buy from the fishmongers and prepare by removing the hard skin cover of the fish and roast in cooking oil. Then they put into basin ready for selling.
Mtwara is a coastal city, and boats arrive each day with freshly caught fish. A few miles from Mtwara's big fish market, these women are selling cooked fish near the main bus station.
The row of sellers in such bright fabrics reminds of the salt sellers in the Kenyan movie Queen of Katwe. I love that this brief video provides a glimpse of the community among the sellers, as well as a couple customers shopping for fish. The shoe salesman that comes by represents yet another part of retail commerce in Mtwara.
Daniel narrates the video. A transcript follows:
Hi my friend. My name is Daniel. The person to whom I have sent you a picture, his name is Hassan and he is a builder. The owner of this guest house (hotel) is fixing it up. Hassan mixes the mortar out front, then he carries it in the bucket to the worksite. This toilet in the guest room drains here to the septic tank. He was hired to build the chamber for the toilets. Hassan is building to cover the pipes. This job will take him almost one week.
Our next trip to Mtwara is set for June 12-21 (click HERE to learn more about this trip). Much preparation is going on right now; check out how you can get involved without needing to travel!
On the June trip we hope to lay the foundation for a future Medical trip to Mtwara. Part of laying that foundation is getting a sense of the current medical services in the area. We’re not the first to have this question and it appears to my uneducated eyes that there are relevant journal articles available sharing the results of recent efforts to understand this region. We are looking for someone with the ability to conduct a lit review of medical journal articles to help our doctors, nurses, and PAs better understand conditions in this region.
The cornerstone of our June trip is hosting workshops with the Nehemiah Project on starting businesses. The workshops make extensive use of workbooks which we have been working to get translated into Swahili. These workbooks have graphics which need to be redesigned with Swahili text. We need help with graphics ranging from flowchart style illustrations to icons to a cover.
Business Mentoring: Moris
Moris is one of the business owners we are encouraging in Mtwara. He currently runs a shop selling carvings which he buys from craftsmen in surrounding villages. He’d like to expand that business to help tourists see the best of his region. This tour business could benefit from a stronger web presence, some Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and clear offering of services.
Gifts for the Compassion Center
We asked Wema, the center director, what kinds of things we could bring for the children. She was very humble in offering a few requests:
- soccer balls
- sports pinnies
- drawing colours (colored pencils)
- tailoring machines
- a projector
A few of these we can take with us (e.g. pinnies) but the rest we should buy there if possible.
In addition to helping us meet these needs, you can give financially. You can give by cash, check or online by designating your gifts to "Global Missions". Any monetary gifts designated “global missions” in the month of May will go straight to a small budget to help Wema purchase these things while we are there.
For more information about how you can help or to volunteer for these things, please email David Lindrum.
We’re booked! Sabrina McDonald, Thomson Meeks and David Lindrum are heading to Mtwara June 12-22, 2017.
We are working now to make the connections and preparations needed to:
Love on Compassion
- Provide the center with some tangible sign of our love and support for them.
- Visit the Compassion center on a Saturday to see it in full-swing, something we couldn’t see last time.
Support the Church & Provide Training for Pastors
- Find Swahili books for the pastors while in Dar Es Salaam.
- Worship with Pastor Sylvester’s church.
- Lay the foundation for a potential medical trip from Missio in December.
- Connect with Benjamin in the village to learn if and how MDC could best assist in evangelism.
- Support the Nehemiah project workshops and encourage Godly businesses to serve the commity
- Connect with the entrepreneurs we are mentoring now, and meet those we’ll advise in coming months
- Visit with the translators helping us and look for ways to strengthen and streamline the process.
- Meet with community leaders to encourage connecting business people and sharing success stories.
If you’re interested in supporting any of these efforts, or have questions we might be able to get answered while there, please contact David Lindrum.