There’s “Opportunity” in Numbers: A New Project with Portland State
Here at Africa Bridge, we love numbers! Why? Because they play a critical part in making change happen- from tracking results to balancing our program budgets. And speaking of budgets, our Financial and Operations Manager, Alex Chester, does an amazing job working closely with our staff in the U.S. and Tanzania to ensure funds are available, receipts are collected, budgets are balanced among many, many more tasks. It’s not an easy job with numerous activities going on simultaneously, but absolutely vital to keep Africa Bridge’s programs on the ground running successfully.
On top of all of this, Alex has also begun collaborating with a group of students at Portland State University that are completing their graduate project with Africa Bridge. The team of four, Michael, Tianjing, Xiaoguang and Wenxiong, are working towards their Masters of Science in Financial Analysis. Over the next four months the team plans to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of Africa Bridge financial processes, strategic goals and other NGO best practices.
Their project will entail analyzing the budgeting process to help increase efficiency and minimize any potential errors, propose a forecasting model for strategic planning activities, and make recommendations for internal process improvements. That’s all scheduled to wrap up in August, so keep a look out for future updates from us on this new project!
We’re very excited to be partnering with this enthusiastic and bright group of students for the project and look forward to seeing the results!
The Inside Scoop: How Students are Making a Difference
Recently, Africa Bridge worked with a team of students at Portland State University to develop a pilot cell phone application to assist with gathering data in rural Tanzania. Susan Stewart and Ellen Worcester from Africa Bridge worked tirelessly with six students to make this idea a reality. For further information on the project click here.
So, here’s the inside scoop on what it’s like to work with Africa Bridge as a student.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Yuriy Krushelnytskiy, one of the extraordinary students that helped develop the cell phone app. Yuriy was finishing his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science when the opportunity to work with five other students on this project presented itself. Despite his busy schedule, which includes being a student, working two jobs while raising a family, Yuriy embraced the opportunity to help Africa Bridge.
Yuriy admits he didn’t know much about rural Tanzania before the project, and shared he was actually a little surprised to learn that they could get cell phone reception in such remote regions. As a programmer, Yuriy was responsible for writing much of the code for the app. He mentioned that working with Ellen and Susan was great. He especially appreciated their understanding, speedy feedback, continuous patience, and assistance in providing additional information.
On a personal note, Yuriy is from the Ukraine and lived there during a time of political instability and unrest in the 1990’s. He was given the opportunity for a stronger education through an American fund for youth education. This opportunity gave him a head start at becoming a programmer. He has lived in the U.S. since 1998, and believes now “it’s my turn” to give back.
After the Capstone project was completed; Yuriy and another student continue to assist Africa Bridge with the app program. As well, they have even taken on another project, which he predicts will last an additional 6-8 months.
We are grateful for Yuriy and his fellow student’s dedication to improving Africa Bridge programs! Thank you from the bottom of our heart! To find out how you can help make a difference visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Changing Lives: Growth of Cooperatives in Mpombo
The avocado cooperatives in the Mpombo Ward are doing very well with over 10,000 healthy avocado trees planted and anticipated to generate a highly successful harvest by 2014. Recall that in 2012, we started avocado cooperatives in every Mpombo village. Equally exciting, our partner The Rungwe Avocado Company, reports greater demand for Hass avocados from European markets and is seeking more production. We will be adding avocado co-ops in all five villages Bwilando, Ijoka, Kasanga, Lulasi, and Lusanje to aid in meeting this increased demand. Estimates of farmer profitability during the next ten years look promising and strong.
To diversify and accelerate income generation, we are starting dairy cooperatives in Mpombo villages this summer. We found a new opportunity in the increased demand for dairy products, and in the benefits arising from our membership in a new cooperative milk cooling & storage facility near Mpombo.
This new facility allows our dairy farmers to send their milk to markets far beyond their villages. Three times weekly a large truck brings milk produced in Rungwe District to a regional yogurt processing plant that sells milk products throughout Tanzania. In 2013, our goal is to have over 50 families participating in dairy cooperatives in Mpombo. Africa Bridge will start these cooperatives.
Africa Bridge’s policy of guiding farmers into sectors that have regional, national, and international markets combined with our grants and agricultural training programs are changing the lives and futures of the most vulnerable among us.
In February this year, our survey team from Africa Bridge completed five weeks of house-to-house interviews of families who are prospective cooperative members. The interviews established the families current situations, how much they eat, conditions of their homes, their health, the children’s needs, and assets they currently own. These same participating families will be interviewed again after three to four years of co-op participation. This critical information is used to guide Africa Bridge in meeting needs and documents how well our programs put families and their communities on the path to economic independence.
The generous investments of This Is My Village sponsors are increasing farmer’s income on a sustainable basis and providing vulnerable children with brighter futures.
Please help our ongoing efforts in Tanzania to reduce poverty through sustainable economic development. Make a gift today.
Written by John O’Lear with Rita Romina-Black
Oliver’s Stories V: The Road to Bwilando
We had spent our week in Tanzania visiting villages in various stages of the Africa Bridge five-year timeline. Many were in their second or third years. We met one village, though, that was nearing the end of its 5th year. It was called Bwilando village.
The road to Bwilando is a very long one, over beautiful ridgelines, overlooking rivers and mountains. The geography of Bwilando is a little interesting, given the ridgeline it’s built upon. Though the village is rather small, it spreads out over a great distance, around a single dirt road. They have these trees in Bwilando; great big trees that look like something out of Dr. Seuss.
As we drove through the village, Barry Africa Bridge’s Founder pointed out an old tree upon little bluff where he had first met with the people of Bwilando almost five years before.
A little further down the road we stopped to meet a man who had spent the last year building an avocado farm with seeds he received through the Bwilando Avocado Co-Op. This man had taken in four children who were not his own, along with his son. After receiving the seeds, he took lessons with the company who partnered with Africa Bridge to send those seeds to Bwilando, so that his farm would be the best it could possibly be.
Thanks for reading! In my final blog of this series, I will share a story of the change we saw in Bwilando village. Check back soon!
By Oliver Muggli
Oliver’s Stories II: A Girl named Aluna
My second story is about a girl named Aluna. She is thirteen years old, friendly, eager and very intelligent. Aluna is a very dedicated child. She has a demanding workload both at home and at school. We met Aluna very early on a Wednesday morning. We actually had to take flashlights to find our way to her home. We stumbled numbly to her home and exchanged greetings with Aluna’s grandmother Bibi; a woman hunched over on a makeshift cane, almost 90 degrees to the ground, from a life spent tending her fields. She welcomed us graciously into her home, as did every Tanzanian I met, and introduced us to Aluna. Though Aluna was initially shy to us “wageni” or “visitors”, she mustered a smile and shook each of our hands briefly. She knew very little English, but managed a “good morning” to us all.
I don’t know about you, but if I were met with a camera at 5 in the morning, I would not have been quite so welcoming to visitors of any kind. But in Tanzania, welcome, or “karibu”, is more than just a word. It is, without a doubt, a way of life. A common exchange you might overhear between two people on a busy street in Tanzania, is “Karibu”, “Asante”, “Karibu”, which translates to “Welcome”, “Thank you”, “You’re welcome”. You’re welcome for being welcome. I love that!
Aluna is not awake at this unfathomable hour because she’s a morning person. Her family is counting on her to start the fire that will heat their bathing water for that day. Her family is counting on her to collect the grains their pig will eat that day. Her family is counting on her to go to school. They are making an investment in her future and their own. Aluna and her sisters will one day, most likely one day very soon, support Bibi in her old age.
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for more stories.
By Oliver Muggli
Oliver’s Stories I: A Single Cow
In one of the villages we visited, an elderly man came forward to tell us his story. This was during a formal meeting of the village, where normally only the village council and the representative of the most vulnerable children’s committee speak. But he had a message he wanted to convey to us, something he had to say before we left. This man was small and he was frail. He had a beautiful smile, albeit a smile missing a few key teeth. He leaned heavily into well-loved wooden cane. He wore a suit more than a few sizes too large for him and a pair of dress shoes made nearly white with the dust. Willick, an Africa Bridge employee, explained to us that this man had joined the Africa Bridge cow co-op in his village nearly five years before.
He stood before us and, balancing his cane on his leg, grasped both lapels with a great big grin. He said “You look at me today and you might say ‘that is a well dressed man!’. But I was not always this fortunate. Before Africa Bridge I could barely feed myself. Before Africa Bridge, I could barely feed my family. Before Africa Bridge I had nothing to wear but an old white sheet, and I wore it everyday. But now…” and he paused for great effect , “but now” he continued “look at me.” And he beamed.
In just a few years, a single cow had altered his life forever. He was no longer ashamed of his poverty. Today he could provide for his children. This man had built himself something incredible, something he felt proud of, something he could sustain. With the help of Africa Bridge, this man had built himself a new reality. And that is what Africa Bridge does. Africa Bridge gives people a sense of pride.
By Oliver Muggli
Introducing Guest Blogger Oliver Muggli
Hi everyone. I’m Oliver Muggli, I’m a senior at West Linn High School and a member of the Africa Bridge board of directors. I, along with Jonathan Peachey, head up the Africa Bridge club at West Linn High School. I’m very proud to announce that the Africa Bridge Club donated $1,500 at the “A School Night Out” event, which was also matched, as part of the fundraiser.
Last month I was given the absolutely incredible opportunity to travel to Tanzania with Africa Bridge. I saw elephants and lions and giraffes. I met people whose dedication and ambition inspired me deeply. I experienced amazing things that will change, and already have changed my life forever. So before I begin, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John and Ellen Worcester, as well as Barry Childs, for making my trip a reality. I am more grateful to them for their generosity than I can really express in words but from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I’ve got several stories from my trip that I’d like to tell you about. Two of them are pretty short, one them is a little longer. Narrowing down these stories was an incredibly painful process. If I could tell you everything I saw and experienced, I would. But there, really truly, is far too much. It was an eye opening experience, and it somehow got packed into two weeks. So I have it down to three stories, which I think really highlight the incredible work that Africa Bridge is doing in Tanzania.
Check back to read my first story here on our upcoming blog series “Oliver’s Stories”!