African returns

Jul 6th, 2012 | By | Category: Newsletters, Updates

These huge machines were grading the road we use to get to Okaseni Village from Moshi. Our trips to the village were much easier because of the improvements.

Dale and I arrived in Tanzania on Thursday, June 7th, for our fourth visit since 2007 when we started the Africa Village Project to help Okaseni Village improve its standard of living and become self-sufficient.

On this trip, we noticed some dramatic changes. As I mentioned in my last posting, we did a lot of fundraising over the last two years to buy malaria nets for the village. But we discovered just before we left for this trip that the Tanzanian government had purchased nets for the country, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Global Fund.

Such a positive initiative was breathtaking for us. We have not seen much evidence of large-scale aid projects in Tanzania at all. That’s not to say that such projects were not happening, but we ourselves have seen work only by small organizations and dedicated individuals. We rejoiced to hear of this watershed project!

More changes unfolded before us in Moshi, the large town near Okaseni where we stay during our visits. The number of young men just hanging around shops and street corners had diminished, and we were able to make our way along the streets with fewer touts accosting us. Had they found jobs? There did seem to be more people working: tending stores, clipping hedges, walking briskly through town.

Across from our hotel, Uhuru (Freedom) Park, which on our previous visits had been barren and uninviting, was now a pleasant garden with gravel walkways, shrubs, flowers and a food court of numerous stalls selling yummy local meals. Another very agreeable surprise was the roadwork. The main road north from Moshi that had previously been pitted and bumpy was being graded and paved. We could hardly believe our eyes.

Highway personnel inspect a newly paved section of the road through Uru District, where Okaseni Village is located.

These changes were encouraging signs that public and/or invested money was being spent in an ethical and civically responsible manner. In fact, even the money itself had been upgraded. New 10,000 shilling notes (roughly equivalent to a $10.00 Canadian bill) had been printed, and the much-handled and grimy old notes were gone.

We still saw many lepers and disabled beggars along the roadsides, but the economic situation seemed to be improving. We felt that we were witnessing the stirrings of hope and the nascent release of a natural and pragmatic vitality in a people so long without opportunity or prospects.

Speaking of money, you may be wondering how we spent the malaria net funds. The next posting will tell all . . . .

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