Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shamba Mama

This past April I finally got enough courage worked up to start a Mamas Group. Many volunteers work to organize Mama Groups as way to help empower women and serve as an outlet to educate them on various health issues.

I’d been procrastinating because of the language barrier. Though I feel good about the amount of Swahili I now have for getting around and working with children, speaking to adults is another thing. Remember the episode of Friends when Phoebe tried to teach French to Joey? That’s how it is when adults try to correct my pronunciations. To my ear I sound just like them….if a little better with a Southern flavor added.

Well, I remembered procrastination isn’t my style, and I needed to get a move on. So I spoke with the guy in my village who speaks some English and he put me in contact with his tutor, a retired English teacher. I thought he’d be able to attend meetings for a few months and I’d wean off his help. Then when he arrived he asked to make sure I knew he lived about an hour away! Typical just when you think you have it figured out something happens to mess it up.

I can’t pay for him to attend the weekly meetings but we can get money through Peace Corps to pay tutors. So it worked for him to come early and tutor me in Swahili….a blessing and a not-so-much-blessing. But something I needed so I’m really glad it’s worked out.

The first meeting had two women attend. Then the word got around more and 22 attended the second! Meetings here are a bit different than in the US as you may have to wait at least two hours before people arrive. This drives me crazy!

I explained the purpose of the group and options of income generating projects at least 4 times. It was also too many for what they were comfortable working together to make money. So the first 12 to arrive parted off and decided to grow Chinese cabbage. The other 10 decided to grow green peppers. I was glad as I was pushing for it to help diversify crops grown. Tomatoes and onions are basically the only things available on a regular basis.

Both groups have already cultivated plots donated by a member of each group, planted seeds and have started paying a membership fee that helps to reimburse me for the cost of seeds, fertilizer and pesticide. Hopefully after the first harvest they will be able to sell enough to build coops for a bigger chicken project.

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