Friday, August 24, 2012

The Latest

So, as you may have guessed, I did NOT attend the webinar this past week.  Though it looked promising and certainly the subject matter would have been beneficial for the Project, my computer (and let's face it, me myself) rejected the idea completely.  The first sign that it wasn't gonna happen was when I tried to prepare my Mac by downloading something called "wimba" or "wimba wizard" or "a-wimoweh" which was apparently crucial to participation.  My computer just would not load the program, something to do with Java or Cookies or some other item one would think you'd get at Starbucks and not on the internet.

I called the NYU Tech Help Desk and the girl from “Level One Assistance” was at a loss as to what the issue was though I tried my best to explain it to her.  I am sure however that my increasing agita did not help the situation, and eventually she gave up on me and told me to expect a call from the next level up.  But instead of waiting for “Level Two” or whoever, I called the NYU department responsible for holding the webinar and was told that if the Help Desk couldn’t assist me, the best they could do was offer me a refund so I took them up on that because really, isn’t starting your own non-profit organization in the midst of an economic downturn hard enough without the added pressure of trying to join a webinar??

Anyhoo, in successful seminar-not-webinar news, I have signed up for two classes at the Foundation Center, one called “Introduction to Fundraising Planning” and the other called “Grantseeking Basics.”  Both of these will be good follow-ups to the six-week NYU course I took in February on proposal writing, which I think I’ve got the hang of, but which the Foundation Center also offers instruction in should I want to get a refresher.  Fantastico, right?

I also sorted out the Toa Nafasi Citibank account, so Mama's got a shilling or two in her pocket these days.  Thank God the interventions I am proposing are fairly simple and cost-effective and I've no capital costs (construction, expensive equipment) nor capacity-building costs (increasing staffing) to contend with.  In fact, most of my anticipated expenses are programming-related and even then, I am fairly sure I can count on volunteers and donated materials for the most part.  However, that means fundraising will be tough because the major costs then will be overhead (my flights, staff salaries, fringe) and those are generally not covered by grants, or just a very small percentage.  Oy vey.  I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Not too much else to tell you all at this point except for one sad note.  Pastor Lyatuu of Msaranga has died.  Apparently, his death was caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, which is actually quite common in Tanzania.  The food is high is salt, sugar, and oil and people do not exercise often nor do they regulate their diets.  You hear a lot about illnesses related to "sugar" or "pressure" like limbs that have stopped working, circulatory problems, or heart attacks.  It's really too bad because of course these things are completely preventable, but I know from having worked with other NGOs in the health sector that there are people dealing with these issues, educating the masses about proper diets and moderating the bad stuff, including alcohol.

At any rate, though I have been to many Tanzanian weddings and even baptisms, I have never been to a Tanzanian funeral, so I don't know quite what to say and pole or even pole sana does not seem enough.  This was a man who I knew very well, who welcomed me into his community and made me feel at home.  Obviously, he was a man of God and so that should be noted, but he was also a man of the people and I can attest to the fact that his parishioners really loved him as I attended church services on several occasions.  Obviously, I'm Jewish, but I feel that Pastor Lyatuu was sensitive to this and never tried to push the churchy stuff on me too much which I really appreciated.  (Even the Ngowis who I love like my own family want to save me.)  I'll just end this entry with remembering Pastor Lyatuu as an integral character in one of the seminal stories of my first few months in Tanzania in 2007.

I was walking to school one morning on the route that I had grown accustomed to taking when a man who was seemingly loitering aimlessly on the side of the road jumped me and, after a rather violent struggle, ran off with my bag.  (This was my first mugging in Tanzania; the second - and hopefully last - occurred just weeks ago in Dar es Salaam.)  Of course, I became hysterical and after a few moments, some of the villagers heard my cries and took me to the church.  By that time, everyone in Msaranga knew I was Mwalimu Sarah, their mzungu, and they were very protective of me.  It was fairly easily discovered that the culprit was one Freddy Lyimo, a known drug abuser and "very bad boy" in the village.  Pastor Lyatuu consoled me and apologized for the misfortune I had suffered in his community.  He then made it his mission to retrieve what he could from my stolen bag and put the word out on the street of the items I had been carrying and what Freddy was likely to sell in order to supply his habit.

After I'd say no more than two weeks, I had everything back.  I mean, EVERYTHING.  Not cash, of course, but my wallet, my books and school supplies, my bank card and ID, etc.  All due to Pastor Lyatuu's efforts.  He had even gone so far as to buy my phone back from the mama who had unknowingly bought it off Freddy.  I had only been in-country a few months and yet the kindness I was shown by these villagers with Lyatuu at the helm was remarkable and I will certainly never forget it.

Hopefully, he went quietly and peacefully, dreaming of sweet, full-fat milky tea and thick, buttery chapatis.

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