02 June 2014

teaching entrepreneurship in tanzania.

Let me begin by saying that Ashley and I are a bit behind on our blogging. Turns out our new home is in a mobile network dead zone, so we have had little to no internet access for the past three weeks. Thanks be to God, I think we finally found a solution to our internet woes!

 I digress.

Anyway, some of you may be wondering, "Michael, what the heck are you doing in Tanzania? I don't mean why you moved there. I just assume you are crazy. But tangibly, what are you doing with your time?"

Well, the last time I wrote about my work in Tanzania, I said that I would be working at a local nonprofit, African Probiotic Yoghurt Network (APYN), which aims to improve community health, especially people living with HIV/AIDS, while reducing poverty and advancing development through the economic empowerment of women and youth.

All well and good, however; this is Tanzania, and life in East Africa never goes according to plan. In other words, I am not working at APYN.

"Then Michael, what are you doing? You moved halfway across the world to do what?!"

Thankfully, no time has been lost finding new work and I have already hit the ground running.

I work at Education for Better Living Organization (EBLI), a nongovernmental organization in Mwanza, Tanzania that aims to provide sexual and reproductive health education to adolescents and reduce the rate of school dropout due to pregnancy. For the young mothers who do leave school early due to pregnancy, EBLI equips them with computer literacy training and entrepreneurship skills for increased capacity for employment and economic empowerment.

"Wait, Michael, are you seriously going to be teaching sexual and reproductive health to Tanzanian teenagers?"

Thanks be to God, NO!

My work focuses on the latter part of the mission of EBLI - namely, equipping young women with entrepreneurship skills.

For those who know me well, you are already aware that my academic and professional backgrounds are in business management and marketing. It is precisely those skills that I will leverage in my work with EBLI here in Tanzania.

Specifically, my work will focus on planning and facilitating entrepreneurship workshops with youth and women. Areas of emphasis include understanding local needs, resources and personal skill sets, business identification, market analysis, profit and loss, bookkeeping, customer care, and teamwork.

The goal is to empower Tanzanian youth and women to establish group enterprises, attain economic empowerment, and rise out of poverty.

So that is what I am doing: planning, teaching, building and sustaining group enterprises (entrepreneurial businesses).

"Okay, cool, but what have you done thus far?"

Since completing language school and arriving in Mwanza around mid-April, I have spent time meeting different organizations to better understand local needs and existing/potential collaborations. Also, I have participated in multiple entrepreneurship workshops with child domestic workers and their mothers, and a leadership training for student leaders of school clubs.

Each session has been a balance between sitting and observing, and also doing some facilitation with my limited Kiswahili language skills. Planning out my portions of the training has been humbling, as I spend 20% of the time drafting the plan in English and 80% of the time translating into Kiswahili.

Now, the bulk of my work is being spent building out a group enterprise plan, continuously teaching the principles and methods to young mothers, helping them build-up their businesses, and conducting follow-ups to ensure they have understood the content and are operating their business well.

It is a big task but I believe in the mission and am thankful that I can put my academic and professional experience to good use as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Tanzania. Most of all, I am excited to be collaborating with Tanzanians and striving towards a goal that Tanzanians have named they desire - to escape a life of poverty.

You can read about this work update in our latest quarterly newsletter.

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