On the road to Gininiga
HUKWAFA is the acronym in Swahili for “Huduma kwa Watoto na Familia, meaning “Serving Children and Families.” HUKWAFA is a LIKEWISE AIDS Ministries project working with the most vulnerable children in Gininiga and Magu, Tanzania.
The herd of cows in front of our jeep is moving slowly; we have come to a complete stop again. Finally we move forward. We are on the road to Gininiga in Tanzania—what an experience!
There are sinkholes—places where the rains have washed the road away—unexpected sharp turns, and sudden drops where the road disappears altogether. People are walking along the side of the road carrying heavy items on their heads: a bucket of water, huge load of firewood or a bag of rice or beans. A man is negotiating his overloaded bicycle down a deep gully in the road. We swerve to miss him.
Feeling vaguely nauseous, I sit in the back seat, crammed in between two travelling companions. I steel myself for the next drop of several meters, by hanging onto the back of the driver’s seat.
My four travelling companions are made of sterner stuff. I take comfort in knowing that they have travelled this road before and survived. We are on the road to Gininiga, a small village with no electricity or running water, to meet with the local groups who are part of the HUKWAFA project.
Although I am new to these parts, my companions are well-known leaders of the HUKWAFA project. In particular, the Project Manager, Bahati Andrew, who is also our driver, is a social scientist, and is the leader of this project. Bahati has worked closely with the people in the project. Bahati tells us, while she is driving, how she has worked with the Government Support Worker and the local Mamas, who volunteer their time to assist with this project.
We arrive at the village in a cloud of dust, and my carsickness subsides. After a warm welcome of handshaking and “karibu sana”, we sit down on wooden benches outside under the shade of a large tree. Some of the women sit on the ground, as there are not enough benches. There are approximately 85 people gathered for this meeting.
There are several purposes for our visit to Gininiga: to meet with the HUKWAFA Groups;to meet the leaders in Gininiga; to learn how the groups have utilized the start-up funds; and to hear their plans for the future.
What I am most interested in finding out is: What do these local farming men and women who are directly impacted by the HUKWAFA project think?
One by one, the leaders of each of the five groups stand up and proudly reports, in detail, how they have utilized the start-up funds—how they have loaned money to members of their group, charging interest. Their capital has grown. Some of the groups have leased a piece of land and are planning to grow rice, beans or cotton.
It is heartwarming to both see and hear the pride and purposefulness as each group shares how their start-up funds have doubled, and in some cases tripled. The conversations are energetic and through our interpreters we are able to interact with the local people and develop a personal connection to the project.
HUKWAFA is a grass-roots project. The local people have taken full ownership and have made the project successful. The regional politician brought greetings and encouraged the groups to continue their good work. He stressed the importance of sending their children to school. The Town Administrator dropped by with greetings and thanked the HUKWAFA project organizers for working here in Gininiga.
The most surprising guest speaker at this meeting was the Government Support Worker, who had travelled out with us in the jeep. He brought large colorful posters and spoke emphatically, saying “Rape is wrong and you must report it to the police;” “Child abuse is wrong and you can speak with the Social Worker.” (The social worker is a volunteer with the HUKWAFA project.) The most graphic poster was the one that stated “It is not right to sell young girls into marriage for the money.” Each poster was graphically explicit and easily understood even by those unable to read. It was a powerful presentation and held everyone’s attention.
Then Mama Upendo, the assistant project manager, gave an emotional plea to take sick children to the clinic or hospital for care, and reminding everyone to send their children to school.
International support and development can be challenging with cultural dynamics, project implementation challenges and even personality differences. The success of the HUKWAFA project, as a sustainable intervention, is built on a solid foundation and a trusting partnership that empowers the local people to be in charge of their own plans and development.
As the meeting under the tree comes to a close, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction from our visit. We have listened to their plans and we have connected with the people. This day in Gininiga has given us insight into their lives and the logistical challenges ahead—insight that cannot be found in an email or a photo.
I feel a sense of connection and renewed purpose for the HUKWAFA project and the people we are here to serve. I am more committed than ever to continue this journey of hope with the people of Gininiga.
With these happy thoughts I reluctantly return to my middle seat in the back of the jeep, resigned to face the long bumpy ride on the road back from Gininiga. ν
Alice Sears is a member of the Likewise/AIDS committee of the Board of World Mission, past chair for the Canadian District Mission and a member of Rio Terrace Moravian Church in Edmonton, Alberta. In top photo, Alice (left) meets with a HUKWAFA group in Gininiga.
From the January/February 2013 Moravian Magazine