To the ends of the earth…and back!

Shout out to WellShare International

The last adventure Barb and I shared prior to her departure was a journey out to Mong’ola with WellShare International, a US-based/funded nonprofit working in Tanzania, to teach some of the women from their Strive and Thrive Groups, to bake banana bread. WellShare helps young women be more self-sufficient through providing training and equipping them with skills to produce more income at the family level. In fact, a new sewing machine was presented to the first group of women so that they would have two in their fabric shop to stitch dresses and clothing.

The road out to Mong’ola is quite the adventure. If one does not have quick reflexes, bruises on the top of your head can result from bumping them on the car ceiling. Not only are there bumps, there is A LOT of sand/dirt. As you know, Karatu is home to red clay/dust. The Mong’ola/Lake Eyasi area, on the other hand, is more brown/gray dust as well as sand. A clear indicator of your location is the color of the dirt. Needless to say, had I waited any longer to bathe than I did, I would have needed a chisel to remove all of the dust from every crevice of my body.

Anyway, there were other medical volunteers here with WellShare so we divided into two groups. One group went to Malekchand and I went to Lagangarere with the others. Members of WellShare staff joined my group, two young and very beautiful young Tanzanian women, Joyce and Bertila, probably around my age of so. Anyway, we visited the seamstress shop first and met some women then waited a few minutes for the rest of the women to arrive. As we waited, we were met with smiles and shouts from the local children as they played hide-and-seek through the doorway and around the building. Soon, we were ready to begin baking so we all gathered in one of the women’s houses. There were about 8 or 9 women, ranging in age from young group members to their older mentors, the Traditional Birth Attendants trained by the project. The young ones especially were more shy and as I make eye contact with them each time, they’d smile shyly before looking away! Even as we introduced ourselves, the two young girls were quite soft spoken. By the time the first loaf was done though (we made three), the girls were much more confident and not nearly as quiet. In these moments, I ached to know more Kiswahili so as to communicate with them. I have gotten much better with the language, but I cannot quite converse at length just yet. polepole!!

You may be thinking, how did you made bread with no electricity? Well, my friends, let me tell you how awesome it was. First, we took a huge pot and filled it with sand while some others filled the charcoal on the burner and lit it. Once lit, we placed the huge pot atop the fire and covered it. After preparing the bread, we checked the heat of the sand and much to our delight, it was hot enough. We placed the loaf inside the pot, atop the sand, then covered it again AND placed some of the hot charcoal on top of the lid. After about 35-45 minutes, the delicious banana bread (or mkate wa ndizi) was ready for consumption.

The amazing thing about WellShare is that we did not just go in and bake the bread ourselves with the women looking on. Joyce from WellShare read out the recipe as three of the women helped her. All Joyce did was show how to determine the proper amounts of ingredients (measure in a home made measuring cup that used to be a peanut butter jar) and answer any questions. The women did everything else so they could learn how easy it is to make the banana bread. Then, once we finished, all the extra ingredients as well as the pots, baking pans, whisk, extra charcoal, etc. were left for the women so they could make some more loaves. Hello empowerment!

WellShare not only works in Tanzania, but in Uganda and also in the US. For more info, visit their website and see some of their great work!

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