One of the common comments we get when we talk about our plans is ‘that health stuff seems right up Victoria’s alley, what’s Simon going to do?!’ Fair enough, since the Community Health Education project is the reason why we’ll eventually end up in Mwanza and that’s a really tangible project that people can understand. Thinking back to our time in Malawi nearly 5 years go (wow!) I (Simon) was able to spread my engineer’s wings and participate in many projects needing some technical input. A lot of my time was spent teaching basic IT skills to school leavers, as well as project management for AMECA & Beit-CURE Hospital. Anyone who’s lived in Africa can also tell you how much time keeping a car on the road and getting banking and admin done takes (those queues!). We anticipate the same in Tanzania!
So what is the plan for me? In the last blog post Victoria mentioned the importance of not dumping any preconceived ideas or projects on the community we’ll be living with. We saw so many failed projects in Malawi that were somebody’s “good idea” but didn’t ever get going. So i’ve titled this post ‘Grassroots’ because that will be the approach we will take to many of the activities we pursue. They have to be “bottom up” and developed hand-in-hand with the community.
So here’s a few themes that describe the types of projects i’ll most likely be involved with and i’ll elaborate more as we go along:
Appropriate technology: Simply put this is basic adaptation of existing ways of doing things that make those activities cheaper, more efficient, easier, safer etc. Here’s a few Africa-related examples of AT to get your head in the right place:
- Micro solar lanterns– These cost the equivalent of e.g. 3 month’s household spend on candles and dirty fuels like kerosene, and in return provide a light source that can be recharged every day for three years. Some even have mobile phone chargers built in!
- Earthquake proof housing design– Something very fresh in the thoughts of those in Tanzania at the moment. Simple strategies can prevent roofs falling down and mud brick walls caving in.
- Fuel efficient stoves- You’ll hear a lot about this on our blog since EI are doing a lot of this across Africa. If you replace the typical 3 stone fire found in every rural household with a simple clay or sheet metal stove you can increase efficiency and cleanliness of everyday cooking tasks whilst saving the household money (they don’t need to buy as much fuel)
Consultancy: If we spend a lot of time in a city or township setting, there may be scope to provide skills training (e.g IT, engineering, maths & science coaching) to key individuals or groups. The term ‘Capacity building’ is often floated around. For example in Malawi I taught several Police men and women at our local Police checkpoint basic computer skills. Not only did this foster good community relations, i believe it helped those individuals with their career aspirations and allowed the police department to improve its administrative capacity.
Preaching and teaching: Wherever we are we will be involving churches in the work we do. The need for good quality bible teaching is of paramount importance in the typical areas EI works, since the blending of traditional religions and locally established denominations often lead to a loss of focus on the importance of the gospel message. For me this could take many forms, from youth mentoring, church sermons to seminar style lessons.
So that’s a brief summary, there’ll be more as plans become clearer. Grassroots projects can take a long time to establish, which may be frustrating and awkward at times, but always give better results than those which are imposed on communities.
Needless to say, as missionaries everything we do will need to be flavoured with the message of sharing Jesus’ love. Practical projects can be done by anyone with any motive, so our challenge will be to make our motives distinct and point our project partners to the person of Jesus.