By Max Perel-Slater, Advancing Leaders Fellow 2013, SIT Study Abroad: Tanzania 2009
I co-founded the Maji Safi Group (MSG) in March 2012 as a disease prevention and health promotion organization in the rural Rorya District of Tanzania. We empower rural Tanzanian women and communities to prevent disease through networks of collaboration. Our approach is to utilize women’s power as drivers of development to achieve the fundamental human right to water, hygiene, and sanitation.
The MSG strategy of training and employing local women as Community Water Workers (CWWs) to be health promotion ambassadors for their communities is creating excitement among the villagers in Shirati. Local stakeholders are eagerly joining MSG’s prevention movement from multiple arenas, including homes, schools, markets, hospitals, NGOs, businesses, as well as through community events.
Our next step is to expand the network of CWWs from one group of villages to a regional level by establishing Community Resource Centers (CRCs) that will provide programs and resources that tie disease prevention and health promotion education to essential community services.
Imagine: 20 toddlers ages three and four arrive at the CRC on Saturday morning, ready to learn about animals, the alphabet, hand washing, colors, and basic language skills. As the early childhood education class finishes up, the women in the prenatal and infant care class arrive. Today, they have a lesson on nutrition and oral rehydration instructed by a clinical officer from the district hospital. Meanwhile, local youth are milling around the center waiting for the Singing and Dancing Group and the Junior Water Ambassador Program to start.
And that is just the beginning. As we create these spaces, we will involve the surrounding communities in formulating their specific uses. Going forward, other programs may include a palliative care class, children’s library, after-school tutoring and homework help, a women’s group focusing on female hygiene, athletic clubs, and a fisherman’s group. Taking the pulse of the community and supporting the CWWs in determining a CRC’s function empowers the community to reap the benefits of such a space.
Thanks in part to the World Learning Advancing Leaders Fellowship, MSG is already turning these ideas into a reality. Over the next nine months, we will find a space for the center, recruit staff, network with local NGOs, and develop additional programs with a steering committee comprising local stake holders.
Join the Advancing Leaders Fellows in making a difference by donating to the Fellowship program. Your support changes the lives of our alumni and the communities they serve. And be sure to follow Max on Twitter and on this blog as he develops his project in the coming months.