Wait... First go to your sink and pour a glass of fresh clean water to drink... then come back and watch this short video.
Wait... First go to your sink and pour a glass of fresh clean water to drink... then come back and watch this short video.

African Empowerment Project is committed to implementing and nurturing community run development projects focused on creating opportunities for income generation, achieving access to quality education, and improving health and wellbeing, in order to empower the people of Africa to build a sustainable life for themselves and future generations.

How YOU can help!

Please visit our website at www.africanempowermentproject.org to learn more about who we are and how we are empowering the people in the village of Mnang'ole, Tanzania to pull themselves out of poverty.

You can make clean, accessible water and safe, healthy lighting a reality for the people of Mnang'ole by clicking below:
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IRS EIN # 27-1519070

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Travel adventures continued ...

Following our rewarding morning with Kandora.... With a patched tire.. We were 'on the road again' preparing mentally for the road ahead.. After about an hour it showed it's ugly face.. Right in front of my bumper .. 'here we go' this 65 k section of road from dar to lindi has been under contructiom for years.. Recent Promised completion dates have been august 2010, Jan 2011, April 2011, and now june 2011, however I leaned yesterday that the contractors have stopped work becsuse the government has not paid rhwm yet..so progress has come to a hault.. And the rains are deteriorating much of the work that has been completed so far.. The results.. Pot holes, huge orators in the road .. Some filled with water and some filled with mud... Large sections of road we call a mud bog in the us.. The mud boggers of the bush of Vermont would be in there glory.. But this lady from VT isn't loving it.. So needless to say this 65 k took me 5.5 hours to get through .. And man..the tension from cringing as I approached each section of terrain with anticipation of bottoming out or sinking like quicksand into this unknown crevice, river( literally sections were just like passing through a river), or series of potholes.. Never have I dreaded moving forward in a vehicle like this experience ... FINALLY the moment I had been praying for.. The end of construction and onto clear, smooth paved road... I soon realized that the Noah was on empty .. And NO gas stations in sight .. We kept driving hoping and praying that gas would be around the next bend... But nothing but mud huts and deserted land.. The moment I had been dreading came .. The car began to hestitate and the Noah finally came to a halt. So now the only tohing to do was for Salim to do was to flag someone down and hitch a ride into the nesrest town with the 10 liter plastic water jug we happened to have in the car.. Get some gas and hitch another ride back to the Noah and I ! The first truck that came by kindly gave Salim a ride.. My instructions were to stay in the car with the doors locked.. But I had to pee so bad .. So I disobeyed orders and got out in the pouring rain and went into the bushes.. Just as Salim was returning with news of the gas situation... Hey when you gotta go you gotta go! so there was no gas in the next town but the guy he received a ride from called another guy in snother town with a pikipiki.. Motorcycle .. And he agreed to bring us gas..about 20 minutes, $40 and 1/4 of a tank later we were rescued and back on the road..Now... We are only a few hours from my village of Mnangole.. Or so I thought.. Just a few more miles down the road the saying 'bad things happen in 3's ' Came true for us... another flat tire .. Yes... It's true...more waiting for rescue ... As we couldn't find the jack to replace it with the spare tire... Let's just say it was very dark and late when we finally made it to lindi.. The city an hour south of Mnang'ole... Slept in lindi that night ... The lanterns were to arrive that night in lindi as well buuuutttt.. This IS africa... They had notceven left Dar Es Salaam .. They would leave dar the next day ... Ha! That was wishful thinking... 1 day turned into 4 days... The good thing is it have us an excuse to visit Mtwara ... A Major town in the south.. With some life and energy... Mainly because there is a small airport amd a few colleges.. We visited the port for some major importing and exporting... The main export out of Mtwara is cashew nuts... They ships numerous containers of raw cashews from here headed to India to be processed (roasted shelled and packaged)..a friend of Salims explained how unfortunate it is that Tanzanians dont take advantage of the opportunities to gain big profits from their own resources.. They grow the cashews here but the big bucks comes from the processing and distribution ... I hear over amd over again how Tanzanians dont know how to use their resources... Miles and miles of beach up and down rhe coast with no hotel, restaurant, or resort... And even the locals dont use this beautiful indian ocean for their own pleasure... So anyway...the lanterns finally arrived... New tire... Mattress for girls... And the back full of lanterns, water.. Detol to clean our water for showers... and FINALLY... Off to Mnang'ole... Challenged by 19 kilometers equivelent to an hour of rough road.. Arrived at my final destination at 3 pm.... Home Sweet Home!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In the 'Noah' on my way!

Finally on my way to my destination ...April 3rd... In a Toyota Noah ... My friend, escort, translator, Salim by my side ... Ready for the 8+  hour trip to Mnang'ole... Knowing what was ahead on this journey but confident that I could do it!  I am now referring to the rough road... 65 kilometers (4-5 hours) of really rough road I had experienced as a passenger on a bus last year... I was ready for the challenge! Setting out from DAR we waited to eat breakfast until we were an hour or so out of the city.  We chose to stop in a village, like many in Tanzania …With a few shops and restaurants among the side of the road... Wooden shacks with scrap metal and branches from local trees for rooftops... Rough cut tables and benches made from local trees... And torn up plastic table clothes... nailed to the tables in an attempt to provide some sort of sanitation to this rough dining.   As we pulled up to the village a kind man waved us down to tell us that we had a flat tire. This was the first time of many that I realized that I would have been a damn fool to have attempted this journey on my own. There was a 'fundi' (repair man) ready and waiting to provide the service of repairing the tire and making a few dollars to feed his family that day. This project again did not go down without some minor setbacks.  A. We could find no jack in the car and no one close by had one either.  One was located but it didn't work... This is Africa my friends!  Finally a working jack was located… So we set out to eat breakfast. Before deciding on the restaurant of choice, we were greeted by a young boy appearing to be around 9 years old with some mental disabilities. He was quite charming and brave, shoeless, with tattered clothing and clearly hungry.   His name... Kandora! His charm captured my heart and within minutes we were hand in hand… Eating sorghum porridge together... While he bounced his frail body on the bench to a local song playing on a nearby radio just as an American 9 year old might bounce to a pop song on 96.7 in Burlington! He ate only a little of his porridge as I'm sure his stomach is the size of a golf ball.  People surrounding us were all talking about how happy Kandora was today!  Just as I was about to suggest to Salim that we buy Kandora some sandals…Salim was already walking toward a local shop to purchase sandals for our new friend. As we were trying them on him for size a man nearby stated … It's a shame this child has been walking around for years shoeless and it took a complete stranger to notice and give the boy some shoes. I could not have been more pleased then to watch this young boy walk around town with pride… Sporting his $1 flip-flops... Like a man who had just purchased a $300 pair of Italian leather shoes! Problems repairing the gash in the tire afforded us more time with Kandora.  The next treat was to bring him to get his hair cut by the local barber for 75 cents!  As he strutted down the street along side us holding my hand with pride, people in his village were commenting to him… He was saying something to them as he held his hand out to them… apparently what he was stating back to them was…'Leave me alone.. I'm busy… we have things to do!'    Salim says that Kandora will be the talk of the town for years and is sure that he will never forget this day, all of his life! I was sad to say goodbye to Kandora that day. As anyone who knows me well, can imagine, I had tears in my eyes as we drove away! I WILL stop by this village when we return to the city and seek Kandora out to let him know I have not forgotten him! Next chapter ...the remainder of the journey to Mnang'ole was not without more adventures….

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flexibility is key

My preparation for the journey to Mnang'ole included
purchasing mattresses and other household goods for my new home (mud hut)...ie. A bucket for washing clothes, soap for washing clothes, basin for washing dishes, cups, plates, a thermos for tea(called chai here), and kibao cha nazi ( a crucial instrument consisting of a collapsable wooden seat with a sharp pronged piece of metal on one end, used for scraping the coconut out of the shell...) (this IS the only food available in my village for flavoring to the food..) banking, phone and Internet service, meeting with crucial parties about lanterns, etc., this took a few weeks the way things work around here. If you think it will take one hour in America, it will take 1-2 days here ... If you think in will take one day in America .. For sure it will take one week at least here! I was fortunate..I think.. To be able to rent a car from a friemd for around $650 .. He needed money to finish a cinderblock fence around his mama's house and I needed transportation to get around.. You will understand the comment 'I think' in a moment... I was faced with the intimidating challenge of not only sitting in the drivers seat on the righthand side of the car and driving on the left side of the road but dodging bikes, crazy dala dala(mini bus) drivers, men pushing carts carrying 15 foot poles, pedestrians crossing everywhere without notice, and cars cutting you off left and right..and even in the city dodging potholes 2 - 3 feet deep! For those of you who think NYC drivers are crazy.. You ain't seen nothin'! My final goal was to meet with Peter from the Peace Corps, who was kind enough to have lunch with me and share some secrets to improving crops in rural villages using only resources right in their own back yard. This appointment happened just as planned because Peter is from Massachusets! After March 31st I was ready to head to Mnang'ole .. Now just waitng for my Tanzanian volunteer to arrive from university abroad.. As is often the way in Africa.. You must be flexible and have a plan b and a plan c.. It turns out he had extended his stsy much longer so.. I was left with the question.."who will escort me the 9 hours to Mnang'ole? I only felt panic for a few hours and was almost ready to brave the trip on my own.. I've always loved a challenge ...when I was blessed with a choice of 4 different friends willing to escort me on my long journey .. Kulwa was the one who made the most sense as he had a training down that way so that was the plan.. However one thing led to another and it turned out I was not able to leave till Sunday .. This was too late for him to go so in the end .. My dear friend Salim joined me on the adventure from Dar to Mnang'ole... What am I learning more and more each day? Worry does no good, and everything ALWAYS works out for the good! Grasshopper... If your reading this.. Your words are ringing true !!! HA!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh the places you'll go and the people you'll meet ...

Today I am writing from Mtwara Tanzania ... 95k from my home base.. Mnang'ole. I was not able to blog from the bush, as the network I signed up with had no service. I have changed network and hope to be successful in communicating when I return on Wednesday. During my first few weeks here in 'Bongo', slang for Tanzania, I met some amazing people while preparing for my journey to Mnang'ole. Most importantly I met some friends of whom I had only met on facebook.  What a joy to meet them in person and spend time with them. I was welcomed with open arms and great concern for my well being... In turn I met friends of friends .. I have a network of brothers and sisters here with whom I have built bonds that I'm sure will last a lifetime. I am so grateful to them all! For anyone back in the states who has the least concern for my safety… Fear not! Trust me these friends won't let anything bad happen to me!

I also met two amazingly strong and beautiful women. First is Khadija Mwanamboka.. An award winning fashion designer/guru… Who so graciously invited me to her fashion show at the Double Tree in Dar es Salaam ... The show featured a variety of designers... In particular a Masai designer who incorporated traditional Masai style into his contemporary designs. Photos will come later! I met with Khadija a week later to learn about her NGO serving orphans in Dar and about her plans for supporting young women and teens by providing vocational
training for them. We chatted about ways that we can support each other in the future. She too continues to check on me to be sure I'm ok in the bush!!

The next woman I was honored to meet was Anne Kilango. She is a prominent member of parliament... Well known not only here in Tanzania but in the US as well for her strength and courage to speak out against corruption.. (google her name to learn more.. It's quite fascinating.) What struck me just as much, was her story.. She came from nothing in the bush of Tanzania .. Had 3 children .. Eventually became a single mother. Her strength and determination and willingness to work hard led her to the opening of a bridal shop where eventually she was traveling abroad to purchase goods for her shop. She became an advocate for local women and eventually she was invited to sit on the parliament ... Appointed by the president ... Her most recent term she was voted in by the people... With 65% of the vote. She is feared by some because of her strength and transparency and willingness to expose the truth! In 2009 the United States government presented Anne Kilango with an award for exactly this! I was honored to spend the day with her and her husband… My dear friend William's baba!
This concludes this post but there is so much more to say... Tonight or tomorrow I'll be back with more updates. Keep in mind that I am writing this with one finger on my iPhone. My finger is tired! Peace to you all ...please leave me a note to let me know you have been here! Asante sana!