Reflections

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” — Napoleon Hill

2018 was a tough year for Africa Bridge.  We discovered that some of our staff in Tanzania used Africa Bridge funds to benefit themselves. We lost more than half our employees. The remaining staff and board members accepted the challenge to learn, lead and grow. The next 18 months was about recovery and strengthening our processes. We emerged stronger and more focused.

2020 was the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Africa Bridge. It was to be a year of celebrations and we had many exciting plans. Then along came the pandemic and everything changed. Far from celebrating, we realized that by September we would be running a deficit. Folding up our tent and leaving, after transforming the lives of thousands of vulnerable children, was not something any of us wanted to consider.

We had to refocus our efforts. We strengthened our financial systems and improved our model. We knuckled down and transformed our board from Portland-centric to international, with board members from Oregon, New York, California, Texas, Washington DC, Tanzania, Ghana, Doha and Singapore. We learned how to raise funds from other sources and ended up the year with a surplus. We developed a plan to grow the organization to enable us to deploy our model across Tanzania, and in time to other countries. We want to alleviate poverty and transform the lives of thousands and then millions of most vulnerable children and their families.

We have so much to be thankful for. The most vulnerable children and their families remain our inspiration. It’s what puts the fire in our bellies. Our staff has worked incredibly hard. Our board has been courageous. And you, our donors, and supporters have responded with love, support and donations.

I cannot thank you enough. It is amazing what a small group of people focused on a mission can do. What we saw in the early part of this year was a dark cloud. Today we see the light shining through.

Thank you so much for being part of our journey.

Barry

Pay It Forward by Barry Childs

Mary Kipesili is an elderly granny living in extreme poverty who care for her 3 orphaned grandchildren in the Masoko Ward located in South Western Tanzania. Masoko is a collection of 7 villages set in the beautiful foothills surrounding Mt. Rungwe, the third highest mountain in Tanzania. In 2008 the village Most Vulnerable Children’s Committee nominated Granny Mary to became one of the 10 founding members of the new village cow co-op.

She attended all the classes such as how to run a co-op, pasture management, building a cow shelter, lactation management, ideal cow diets and hygiene. Mr. Noel Mshua, the Africa Bridge Livestock and Agriculture coordinator together with the local government agriculture officers were her teachers. Noel informed me that Granny Mary does not speak Swahili the common language in Tanzania, she only speaks Mwykusa her tribal language, nor can she read or write. So, her eldest grandson, who was a student at the local Secondary School accompanied her during the training sessions. Her grandson took notes so the family would have documentation on exactly what she needed to do to become an excellent cow keeper. Mary listened diligently and asked numerous questions to ensure she understood what her trainers were telling her.

The results speak for themselves. Mary’s cow is named “Job”, produces 14 liters of milk per day. A local village cow will only yield 1 to 2 liters per day. “Job” has delivered numerous calves. The first calf Mary donated to her co-op. The second calf she reared for 6 months and sold, this enabled her to send her eldest grandson to a highly rated school in Arusha, in the NW of Tanzania. The third calf she donated to her local village Most Vulnerable Children’s Committee to enable them to make material interventions for vulnerable families not yet in a co-op. The fourth calf she kept in order to increase her milk production. The proceeds from the sale of milk has helped her to improve the family’s diet, to purchase a healthcare plan and improve her house. In addition, has also started a small business of rearing and selling chickens.

All the founder members the Lipa Mbele co-op donated their first-born calves to other families caring for most vulnerable children. Those new members have done the same and within six years the co-op grew to 27 members.

Also, the Lipa Mbele cow co-op group payed it forward to a village in the nearby village in the Mpombo Ward. One of the co-op founding members helped a new cow co-op in Mpombo. He was trained by Africa Bridge to be a mentor and guide for the new co-op. He became a co-trainer, supervising the building of the cow shelters and ensuring the new cows are effectively managed. Every month the mentor met with the new co-op members. At these meetings there is a report on activities and a discussion about challenges and successes. After the meeting all the co-op members visit one of the new cows where the mentor conducts a tutorial on how to overcome one of the challenges raised during the meeting.

While villagers have an innate understanding of agriculture, they do not have the support, knowledge nor the capital to acquire and manage a high-grade dairy cow. As Granny Mary demonstrates that when given the relevant knowledge, support of a co-op system and a valuable asset, vulnerable village families have the capacity to raise themselves out of extreme poverty, transform the lives of the their most vulnerable children and pay it forward to others in their community.

Your Actions Give A Big Impact for Children

I am writing you today with good news – and a heartfelt plea for support. The good news is that real progress is being made in the remote villages and impoverished Kambasegala and Kisondela Wards of Tanzania. For example:

Estwida, a widowed mother of four, had no means to support her family or send her children to school. With a ‘starter’ flock of eight chickens, the family now has eggs and meat – and the children have shoes, workbooks, and uniforms, all they need to attend school.

At Africa Bridge, we believe in the human potential of these fragile communities, and in the human capacity to support those in need, even in a year defined by uncertainty and global crisis.

In this extraordinary time, Africa Bridge has continued to provide vulnerable children and families in with life-sustaining resources, including education about the novel Corona virus and COVID19 and HIV prevention. We do this because we are committed to improving the lives of Tanzania’s young people – in times of ease and times of crisis, our dedication is unwavering.

Why? Because we believe in empowering families to provide brighter futures for their children. Because sustainable social initiatives and co-operative, collaborative agricultural programs weave a stronger social fabric, even in communities challenged by poverty, isolation, and lack of access to robust health services and public education. Put simply, we help because we can – and because we must.

Your gifts go directly to enriching their lives, improving health and well-being, and nurturing their economic independence.

  1. A gift of $1000 means a cow and a bull for a dairy co-operative – giving families access to nutritious milk and rich crop-growing fertilizer, both sources of extra income.
  2. $250 sends five children to school for a year, providing tuition along with vital uniforms, workbooks, and shoes – often the only pair a child may own.
  3. $100 funds a full year of children’s club enrichment and education for 25 children.

In a time of crisis, it is easy to see what is broken and requires repair. At Africa Bridge, we see what is working – our relationships in Tanzania, in the communities we serve – and we challenge you, our supporters, to stand strong with us. We hope you will consider supporting our work in this difficult season; please visit our website to give as you are able or use the enclosed envelope to mail your gift.

Many thanks,

Sharon

Executive Director

Kisondela Ward Quarter 3 Report

Greetings!
Please enjoy the Kisondela Ward Quarter 3 Report.

Project Summary:
Direct population benefited:  1,346 children and 635 guardians.
6 Villages in Tanzania:  Ndubi, Bugoba, Lutete, Kibatata, Mpuga, Isuba
Project Duration:  2016 – March 2021

Forty-seven members of the Most Vulnerable Children’s Committee (MVCC) and seven Empowerment Facilitators (EF) conducted a mentoring visit with our Africa Bridge staff.  The Spider-web tool was used so that those in attendance could see how to record and access co-op activities for each quarter. Families are starting to see the benefits of the co-ops and they are excited to see the project progress this report format.  

Africa Bridge staff and the MVCC met with the Rungwe District Education Officer to conduct a follow-up on health education.  This follow-up was conducted in 8 schools (7 primary and 1 secondary).  All schools did engage in life skills, gender issues, sexual reproduction, HIV/AIDS and STD’s topics. 577 boys and 754 girls participated in the program.  Students have gained confidence in talking with their teachers about concerns they may have regarding their health. The number of pregnancy cases is dropping.
Specifically in the secondary school, the number of pregnancy cases was five in 2018 and is only one case in 2020.  

Children’s Club meetings were held again this quarter and children were very happy to be able to participate again now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been removed regarding gatherings. Children played football and number games and continued to learn about child abuse and how to report out if needed. 

MVC home visits included the following services:  cleanness advise, school and academic counseling, soap and petroleum jelly, financial support, health insurance card, school sweaters, exercise books and pens, clothes and food.  650 boys and 566 girls received these services. 

The cows in schools project was reviewed and evaluated on how to continue to improve.  Africa Bridge staff met with teachers, students and government leaders to evaluate the funds needed to provide minerals for the cows, appropriate roof for the cow shed and how to stock grass for the cow. 

Africa Bridge staff met with co-op leaders to discuss the importance of nest boxes.  Cleaning the nest box to prevent contamination of eggs and the importance of scheduled vaccinations were discussed. 

An inventory of the number of avocado trees was completed.  The number of trees alive is 3,726.  We were pleased to see that many of the farmers who had trees that died had already replanted trees.  Inputs/fertilizers were sprayed on all trees to increase fruit production. Next year, the government and MVCC leaders realize that they will need to purchase these inputs for the trees. 

Thirty-one members of the Ward Steering Committee met and shared insights on the status of the program.  Representatives from each village discussed the success and challenges this year due to not holding meetings due to COVID-19 prevention. 

To our This Is My Village members – Thank you for your support of this program over the years!  Please let me know if anyone has questions.  

Asante,
Sharon
Executive Director

Kambasegela Ward Report

Greetings!  
Please enjoy the Kambasegela Ward Quarter 3 Report.  

Project Summary:
Direct population benefited:  985 children plus 359 guardians
3 Villages in Tanzania:  Kambasegela, Mbambo, Katela
Project duration:  August 2017 – August 2022.

Twenty-seven members of the Most Vulnerable Children’s Committee (MVCC) and  six Empowerment Facilitators (EF) conducted a mentoring visit with our Africa Bridge staff.   The Spider-web tool was used so that they may learn how to record project results and access co-op activities each quarter. The Katela village is doing slightly better with the chicken projects than the other two villages. Now, the EF’s are sharing what they have done to have this increase in Katela. Everyone is happy to be back to attending monthly meetings after the shut-down due to COVID-19 prevention as required by the government. 

Chicken co-ops in Mbambo experienced more death of chickens than the other two villages.  The care of your chicken training was conducted again in the Mbambo village.  And, staff shared the importance of giving timely vaccinations to chickens is critical to the sustainability of the co-op.  All co-op members received additional instruction on proper management and disposal of vaccines. In the three villages, 1,668 chickens were inspected and 1,167 chickens were vaccinated. 

MVCC supervision follow-ups went very well this past quarter for all beneficiaries.  MVCC members emphasized project management and child care. 

The Ward Steering Committee meeting was well attended and held in the Kambasegela Ward office.  Twenty-nine people attended out of thirty-two expected attendees.  The MVCC and EF’s met with the new Kambasegela village leadership in July to explain the Africa Bridge program model. The importance of collecting data for reports was discussed in detail.  Africa Bridge staff worked closely with the village livestock officer to conduct chicken management training for all co-op members.  The academic progress of students was discussed and EF’s and MVCC will continue to track this work. The revised well-being survey was presented at the July meeting and completed over three days in September.  The next meeting will take place late in November. 

Children’s Club Quarterly meetings were conducted in each village. Out of 745 children, 217 girls attended and 196 boys attended the meeting. The children enjoyed storytelling, riddles and songs.  And, the typical football, netball, skipping ropes and number games.  A question and answer session was used to facilitate the awareness of child abuse and what to do.  Printed silhouettes were used during this session.

Africa Bridge staff and the Busokelo Council Education Officers met to conduct a two-day follow-up visit in all five schools – 3 primary schools and 2 secondary schools. Teachers and students spend one day each week to review health issues – life skills, sexual reproduction, and gender issues. Currently, 184 boys and 196 girls are in the program.  

286 households were visited this past quarter and the following services were provided:  Cleanness advise, academic counseling, soap and petroleum jelly, exercise books and pens, financial support and food.  

Thank you for your support and interest in our program!  Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Asante,
Sharon
Executive Director

Lwitiko’s Story Told by Barry Childs

12 years ago, I and 10 Africa Bridge donors first met Lwitiko Kadenge in village of Igembe, Tanzania. We sat on makeshift benches together with the villagers under a beautiful shade tree. After the formal introductory protocol, the village Chairman introduced us to one of the many orphans. It was Lwitiko. The Chairman then did something most unusual. He asked Lwitiko to present the formal village profile. Typically, this would be done by a village leader or an elder, not a child.

Lwitico at the time was a small, very thin 15-year-old boy, with a Primary School education.  Calmly he stood up and with great authority made the presentation. It was brilliant. It was so well, thought out, covering the essentials, yet short enough to maintain our attention.

Lwitiko, being an orphan was fortunate to have completed his Primary school education. However, his prospects of going to a good high school and perhaps gaining a college diploma were nonexistent. Despite the fact that Lwitiko excelled in school and the villagers considered him a genius, he could not conceive of ever leaving the village. Given the circumstances there was no way to further his education.

Through the generosity of donors like you, the lives of vulnerable children and their families in the 8 villages of Masoko were transformed. Lwitiko began to dream of a brighter future.

In the spring of 2014, he graduated from a high school for gifted children with distinctions in every subject. In October 2014 he started Medical School. This July 2019 I received an e-mail from Lwitiko describing what he had learned during a 3 month placement at Durham University Medical School….. in Great Britain. 

In November 2019 Lwitiko graduated as a doctor. His dream is to return to Igembe to practice.  Then in time start a community health initiative using the principles he has learned from Africa Bridge.

Lwitiko’s journey started as a most vulnerable orphan with no hope of escaping his fate…  to now he is living his dream.

At his inaugural address in 1992, Nelson Mandela said that we are all brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. We are all born to manifest the glory of God that is in each one of us. As we shine our light on others, we liberate them to share their talents and gifts.

I feel very fortunate that Africa Bridge has given me and many others the opportunity to shine our light on children like Lwitiko and to liberate them to be Brilliant, Gorgeous, Talented and Fabulous.

Lwitiko will be joining us on Friday, October 23, 2020 for our annual Toast to Tanzania Event! Visit our Africa Bridge Website for event details.

Celebrate International Day of the Girl on October 11

Barry Childs tells us Zinduna’s story

Zinduna lives in the small village of Mbeye. In 2003 both her parents died, leaving the four children orphaned. The village council proposed splitting the children up to live with close relatives.

Zinduna, who was 15 at the time and the eldest, objected to this idea. In order to keep the family together she became the head of the household caring for her brother and two younger sisters. She left primary school and started a small business selling fruit, vegetables, cooking oil and spices.

In 2005 she joined one of the early Africa Bridge co-ops. She says that “The experience of being a co-op member enabled me to increase the output of my land and to build a small shop for my business on the highway”. My vision was to help all my siblings to be well educated and to achieve their dreams”.

Despite the challenges of fluctuating costs of farm inputs, inclement weather and a robbery, Zinduna persisted and all the children, including Zinduna completed their education. She is now married with her own family.

With a little well aimed support it is remarkable what Zinduna has achieved. I am continually humbled by the actions of the children and adults in the villages where we work.