I have been in Tanzania for the past 10 weeks as part of my internship with the Student Invested in Health Association (SIHA). SIHA is a student run nonprofit organization in Edmonton that focuses on working with the community to improve community health and well-being. For the past seven years SIHA has been working in Mlandizi with the community on projects such as malaria education through local experts and organizations as well as providing clean water access to two primary schools.
This summer, we prepared to move SIHA’s operation from Mlandizi, a small rural community to Morogoro, a larger city. In order to make sure we were ready for our move in the upcoming year, I worked with our partners Endeleza Vijana Organization(EVO) and Mwanabwito Education Committee (MEC). Specifically several meetings where we discussed the consequences of our move and what steps we should take to make sure these organizations are in left in a sustainable state.
Another major task that I decided to take on during this summer was to manage the finances for the organization. This was an excellent learning opportunity for me as previous I had little to no experience with finances. However I decided to push myself and research independently to find a system that I was comfortable that was also easy enough for others to use with a little explanation. This was also an interesting challenge as this was second year where SIHA decided to create yearlong financial commitments to our partners and our employees. However since this was not communicated to the team before we left, we were left with a shock as we discovered we had significantly less money to work with for the summer. In order to make sure that we were in a financially stable position we decided to implement some structural changes to SIHA that would create much more financial transparency and responsibility.
After all these experiences working with SIHA I still found the most valuable things I learned came from the Tanzanian community. Our partners who were patient with us as we struggled to learn the ropes, our local coworkers who shared their knowledge and life with us, and finally the countless strangers who made us feel welcome. Everywhere I went I was greeted by a chorus of greetings that is often followed by Karibu (Welcome). The amount of times we have been invited to the homes of strangers for some tea and conservation is astounding, especially considering we knew limited Swahili and they knew limited English. These are the people that made us feel welcome, safe and at home through their actions, their smiles and their attitudes. These are the people who made Tanzania a place I call home.
Picture taken when SIHA helped out at SON International’s Open House in Morogoro