AFRIKAN PROJECT IN MALINDI / ELIYA MSUMBA
It was my second month in office and I was busy with meetings in the village. I had a brief meeting with the elders of the community to discuss on how to improve the quality of life and social services in the village.
While in the meeting, two young Israeli men walked passed. Eager to get some new insights on how we can enrich our communities, I sought to get some new ideas from these visitors. It turned out to be the best thing I had ever done because I met people who were open minded and ready to share the knowledge they had. I personally wanted to know about the Holyland of Israel. I had heard so much about it, but I had no opportunity to meet any native Israelis to confirm what I had heard.
It took me just a few minutes to know that I had met true global citizens. They were open minded, social and I felt we shared the same world view. I asked questions ranging from religion, politics, education, agriculture, technology and lifestyle.
I invited Rafi and Rafael to come the next day to the school where we met so that they may see how we run things and if they could share some of their new methods or ways of doing things and thus help in improving the way we educate our children. Without hesitation, they readily accepted my invitation and we visited the two adjacent schools the following day. I learned so much about the education system in Israel and how different it is from ours.
We acquired new knowledge and we were moved to see how we could improve our schools. I can't forget the moment I heard that in Israel there is no strict physical punishments. Still, students grow up disciplined and well mannered. This added confidence to my struggle of fighting against beating pupils as a way of disciplining children. We had in depth and realistic discussions which had a significant impact on how I worked and approached things.
We took a trip to the mountains and villages surrounding and to private entities and public institutions hoping to get some new information that may be useful in improving how we manage our institutions. When we arrived at my house, we had discussions about religion. In my opinion, my new friends learned many things about us that they didn't expect to find in remote villages such as Malindi. They could not believe the way we live in harmony in the villages with Muslims and Christians. I couldn’t understand what the whole fuss was about. I also learned a few Hebrew words and found it so interesting and easy.
I personally had never in my life met people who made me feel so confident like Rafi and Rafael. I drank coffee for the first time in my life. They didn’t tell me not to drink the mud, I finished it all. After the day trip to the tip of Usambara mountain range, we realized this was the beginning of the great future to come. From that day on, I was never the same again. We planned on working together to improve the schools. I couldn't believe how cooperative and supportive they were. They humbled themselves to the extent that they touched me deeply. How in the world would people in their twenties that just finished their army service as officers be so friendly, humanistic and ready to work with helping the poor unknown people in rural villages like Malindi! I couldn’t imagine what they would think if they met our officers.
When the first team came to the village my dream was beginning to come true. There was a great atmosphere of cooperation and organization that I had never imagined before. Israeli men and women worked side by side and cooperated with the villagers in planning on what to do and how it should be done. Every idea was welcome and considered. Nobody was ignored even if the idea was not accepted. Nobody felt offended.
There was contemplation on every aspect of the project. Everybody gave their best in ensuring cost effectiveness without jeopardizing the quality of work. Efficiency and time management was a priority in every undertaking. All these were very important lessons that the villagers and I learned from the Israeli team. One outstanding thing about the crew was that everyone in the group had a unique talent which was brought to the project ranging from leadership, financial management, efficiency, art and design, graphics and social services. Others were very sensitive to cultural relativism versus cultural ethnocentrism.
The down to earth humility and hard work by the team gained the cooperation of villagers. The whole community was moved and felt an internal drive to participate in improving the school. Most importantly, the positive mindset with which the team from Israel brought to the village helped the villagers to start questioning themselves about other things which they could change or improve by themselves thanks to the group from Israel. The news spread all over the district about this project and my fellow councilors started asking how things went in the project and wanted the same for their village.
The central government sent the school 44.4 million Tanzania shillings for construction of two classes, one office and a four roomed toilet to support the work done cooperatively between the villagers and the team. The government has adopted the method used at Malindi and it is used all over the region to bring big results using little resources. It is called P4R (Pay for Results). The idea of involving the community in construction activities and using local constructors was thanks to the Israeli team. This method kept the cost down, especially in rural areas where machines and construction equipment’s are expensive and rare.
Through the water project in another village funded by the team villagers, women can now fetch water less than one kilometer away. Instead of carrying twenty liters of water on their head for a distance of more than five kilometers as it used to be, they can now fetch it from the village center. This is a huge improvement for them and they can now spend the time to improve the well-being of everyone.
Students in two primary schools are now getting safe drinking water. The old system used to endanger their health. Prior to the water project, more than a third of people who attended the dispensary were suffering from waterborne diseases ranging from, worms, typhoid, bilharzia, amoeba and cholera do to the lack of reliable safe drinking water. In just a few months after the water project, the prevalence of typhoid (stomach fever) and other diseases like cholera and amoeba had dropped dramatically in these two villages in all sections of the community. More significantly, the major affect was seen from school going children thanks to the water project funded by the team, and with the community doing all the manual labor needed.
In the two villages where the projects were implemented, the villagers were very supportive of the government and were cooperative in improving village roads and environmental conservation in order to protect the water sources from drying out.
Although we, as a community, still face many challenges. We appreciate and are very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the team and to learn a tremendous amount that can help us in the future. The team from Israel has started a revolution in our region.
We hope this cooperation will continue because we really need it to ensure that no life is unnecessarily lost.
I personally believe that when the first world holds the hand of the third world and tries to support their efforts to make progress, it is possible to have only the first and second world, not the first and the third.
On behalf of the people of Malindi and on behalf of the families of children who have been helped by these projects in one way or another, I send a world of thanks to the group that came and worked with us, their families and friends. We will never forget this experience. I believe it has positively affected the way we view Israel as a people. I also send my gratitude to everyone who gave their support by donating money or gave any other kind of support to the project. !תודה רבה לך
Msumba Eliya ( Eliyah)
Lushoto district council