On Tuesday morning we switched the morning and afternoon routines. Instead of Swahili in the morning, we rented a bus to visit the Mennonite Economic Development Association Tanzania offices on the Msasani Peninsula. We were warmly welcomed by the TZ MEDA Director, Faith Patrick, followed by presentations about MEDA projects from Timona Jarha, Director of Operations, and his colleagues.
MEDA’s mission is to alleviate poverty through sustainable economic development. The focus of our visit was to learn about one of MEDA’s major projects – the national voucher system to distribute mosquito bed nets to pregnant women and their babies. We learned about the program at their main offices, than drove to Tegeta to visit a clinic where the nets were being distributed to women and their babies. The program is an innovative collaborative effort between the governmental health department, local businesses who sell the nets, health clinics, and the net manufacturers.
A key element of the program is a voucher system (both digital through mobile phones and paper) that allows women to purchase a net for a subsidized price of 500 TSH (~ $.30). The purchase of the net increases business for local shop owners, while also encouraging the women to register with a clinic and obtain follow-up visits. The nets are made in Arusha and treated with an insecticide which aids in deterring mosquitos. To date MEDA has facilitated the provision of more than 10 million nets across Tanzania! We were impressed with how development needs to combine multiple sectors (private, governmental) with a business model to ensure sustainability in the long run.
On the way back to town, we surprised the students with a stop for lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant. Yummm! We returned to the church in time for Swahili lessons from 2-4 in the afternoon.
On Wednesday we met at Unit House for our usual de-briefing and hymn singing. It was a rich time of discussion about our many recent visits where we have met hope-filled people who are working for change in their communities. We feel so fortunate to be able to witness their work.
– Ryan for the team