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You all know about the Women’s Empowerment Projects that we have been doing since 2008. We did this in conjunction with the Diocese of Central Tanzania and have pretty much covered the area, it continues to grow as loans are repaid and new groups formed. Next on our itinerary is going to those villages we have come to know so well and meeting with the women.

Starting in 2017 we have expanded by joining up with CCT, Christian Council of Tanzania, headed up by Rev. Canon Moses Matonya, whom many of you have met. CCT is an NGO and because it is country wide, works with the government of TZ in improving the lives of Tanzanians, Christian and non-Christians. How this has affected Karimu, is that CCT has to get permission to work in the areas, coordinate with the District Commissioners and follow Government guidelines, even for such things as taking photographs. Each village we visit, we sign guestbooks at the Commissioner’s office for that area, and Ruth files a report on what we have done there.

The biggest focus is on Female Gender issues, mainly Female Genital Mutilation, or cutting. They go out to rural areas and speak with people, including the women who perform this circumcision. They teach how there is nothing sacred or good about this age-old practice and how dangerous it is for the health of the woman. This program is called “Women in the Light” because as they “see” a new way of viewing this custom they are seeing the light. This is where Karimu comes in by providing solar lights to those individuals who are embracing the changes and helping to stop FGM.

This is why we have been traveling so far and long these past 10 days! From one end of the country to the other. I don’t know how Ruth manages this year round. She is an amazing woman! Right now, 50 solar kits are waiting to be distributed in support of this stopping FGM project. We also will start some Women’s Empowerment projects where women can earn income. AEG also provides solar kits which are Pay-Go kits. I mentioned those in an earlier post. Men have been supporting this, especially some of the village elders and they have solar kits as a way of thanking them . As Tally wrote, they help in so many ways.

Will close for now, we left Tim at the Mwanza airport, as he goes for a holiday in Zanzibar, and will continue our journey of 12+ hours in the vehicle to get to Dodoma and the Guest House!!

Thank you all so much for your support of this wonderful work. I so wish you could meet the women in person and see what I am seeing. We will have videos and photos taken by Tim, thought it will be awhile as he has so much footage to go through.

I hope I can figure out how to post photos on the blog. The format is new and a mystery to me right now.

Goodnight! Jessie

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Here is another photo of Jessie with Emmanuel  Petro, an Anglican priest whom we first met at Msalato.  He recognized her in Dodoma town.  I once stayed at his house and was so happy when they greeted me in the morning with a basin of hot water to wash my face.  The most I can tell you is that Jessie is as happy as a clam.

In 2008 Jessie and I were in Richmond, Virginia having lunch with my Virginia bishop, The Rt. Rev. David Jones.  I had recently returned from my sabbatical in South Africa and had lost my heart to Africa.  Jessie’s heart was already there as she had traveled to Africa many times on the tourist track.  On this occasion, she said to the bishop:  “I now want to go back and make a difference.”  It was David who sent us to Buck Blanchard, the global mission’s chair in the Diocese of Virginia.  That is how this all got started.  Let me assure you, Jessie is making a difference, a huge difference.  Her wish has been granted.  As we have both written, she is there now and often without Wi-Fi.  I receive snippets from her on WhatsApp, something we downloaded onto our phones just before she left, so it is pretty new to us both.  We are communicating but I’m still having trouble posting her pictures.  With a new hip my doctor would not let me make this trip ~ we were both heartbroken but the more I hear  from her, the more I know I could not have done all that she has done.    If you look closely at the photo you will see her long white hair blowing in the breeze on the motorcycle; it was the only way they could get to a particular village.  She has had as much as 14+ hours in a Land Rover, some on dirt roads, what she calls African massages!  What she is doing through Karimu is going to the most remote places and installing solar lights and visiting villages that have already gotten the kits.  She is hearing testimony after testimony on how lives are being radically changed by having light now.  Their animals are safer because the Hyena’s will not come out if there is any light.  These lights are saving the tribesman their goats and cattle.  In Africa a man’s wealth is measured by their animals.  She is most enthusiastic about the village women who have given up FGM.  They have been rewarded with a Fire Fly kit.  Even the village elders all men of course, are admitting that it is a brutal custom.  She visited a clinic where a solar kit had been installed.  Tragically, a young woman had given birth to a severely deformed baby.  The doctor simply told the woman that her baby would die and then he left.  We know that this young woman had no prenatal care and nothing for the pain she was in.  The baby died that night.  I wonder what is next for this young woman who weighed only 90 pounds Jessie guessed.  Another pregnancy probably.  Ruth Mbennah who is traveling with Jessie is doing a lot to educate the women.  My hat is off to Jessie and Ruth.  Currently, they are in the north of Tanzania near Lake Victoria and the Kenyan border.  She says it is quite lovely and green, something we don’t see in Dodoma.  Tomorrow they head to Mwanza, a port city on Lake Victoria ~ I had to Google it; it is lovely.  They are seeing the best and the worst of Africa.  Knowing Jessie as I do, it is the positiveness and the joy of the people that will remain with her.   Even with so little they dance and sing and rejoice.  Jessie and crew are weary but soon they will return to Dodoma and visit the women involved in the goat and pig projects.  She will see old friends and all the fatigue will melt away like snow in the summer. There will be joy in her morning

Up in the Serengeti region, we went to a village that has progressed from favoring female genital mutilation to preventing it. To praise the village elders (men) for stopping this and protecting young girls from this practice, we have brought solar lights for their homes. Not all have them yet, but listening to the testimonies of those who do was heart warming. In this region, being on the border of the Serengeti Game Reserve, Hyenas come and take their goats and calves. With the solar, they light their yards where the animals are kept at night and the Hyenas don’t bother them. The other benefit is children can study at night after dark.

Thank you Tally, for keeping the information flowing.  This morning, we leave for a village near the border of Kenya to visit women who have stopped FGM.  Hugh still has a wonky stomach, Ruth has made a potion of sugar, salt and water for him.  This has been a tough trip with so much driving.  Tim, Hugh and I are active people and not being able to walk or exercise is hard.  We were 14 hours in the car yesterday!!!  Musa and Ruth don’t seem to mind, but we do.  Am getting used to it and after coming so many times, find it easier to “go with the flow”.  Tim and Hugh have a harder time and remind me of how we were when we first came to Africa.  Appointment times are vague to say the least.

 

Will write when we return from the village this afternoon.  Again, thank you Tally.  You are missed and in every village your name is given along with mine. There is a red kanga waiting for you too.

Asante Sana, Jessie

Dear Friends,

Jessie seldom has the internet, however she sent a couple of messages to me via WhatsApp today and asked me to share some of her adventures and news with you.  The first message simply said:  “Leaving for 12 hour car ride, must rush.”   They all sound road weary with sore bottoms and muscles, but what they are seeing and doing is mind-boggling.  Yesterday they drove to a “cutters” house.  That is what the women are called who do FGM (Female Genital Mutilation).  Even though outlawed by the government some women have continued to do it ~ it is their way of earning money and  as Jessie writes, changing customs takes time.  Karimu has installed solar lights in some of the cutter’s  homes which allows them to make a few shillings charging phones and hair-clippers.  With the lights some of the women are learning English and how to read.  Jessie talked to some of the women last night and said the women are trying to convince others how wrong this is.   They are gradually making headway in making it a gender crime.  

Her next message said they are one-third of the way to the Serengeti so the boys can see the Big Five.  It will be good for Tim and Hugh to have the joy of the Serengeti.  They have seen some very sad things; it is time for them to see the majesty of Africa.  On the way Hugh had some intestinal  problems  from eating a goat kidney at the cutter’s house where they installed a solar kit.   Wherever Jessie and I have been they want to feed us and we have had some rather interesting things. You have to accept their hospitality so I commend Hugh for his bravery and willingness to give it a try.  The last time Jessie and I were there we were served grilled goat livers that were black as tar and hard as rocks.  Today (yesterday?) they encountered  six dead donkeys on the road.  She said it was a gory sight.  Musa, their driver, said they had probably come out at night looking for food and were mowed down by a big truck.  On another trip they blew a tire.  That too is not unusual. 

Jessie says there is no time to rest, read or process all of this.  So, I am trying to process it here in Whispering Pines.  We both know that we cannot change the world but we do know that Karimu with the help of our many donors is making a difference in lives far far away from Pinehurst, North Carolina.  I try to remember that Mother Teresa said:  “If you cannot feed a hundred people, feed one.”  That is what we are trying to do.  

The time difference is 7 hours, so by now it is 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and I haven’t a clue where they are now.   Jessie will have some wonderful experiences to share with us when she returns home.  One last thought ~ as tired as we have always been we almost always cry when we leave!  That’s how much we love Africa.

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