Wednesday, November 9, 2022

She Wished to Tell our Donors ...

 by Tim Wright
There’s often a fulfillment in visiting beneficiaries that I would like to share more often with our donors. It is associated with the intersection of abject poverty and marginalization, perseverance in the struggles of surviving and raising children, the gentleness and kindness in spite of it all, and their gratitude for the little that we do to help. 
Today, I was delighted by widow Nturiya, who cares for three children and a grandchild. Some years ago, the elders had chosen her as one of the most vulnerable in her village, so we loaned her a camel which she would pay off by giving another widowed mom the first female offspring. I learned that her camel has given birth twice and aborted once, providing nutritious milk for almost three years. The last borne camel is female, which she will be giving to her partner widow, thereby paying off her loan. She seemed delighted to help her friend which is part of communal society. 
Unfortunately, due to this severe drought, the camels are being herded a long distance from their village and only return for water every 7-10 days, so there is no camel milk for her family. So, as Nturiya’s household is again vulnerable, we are providing food aid, and she shares some with neighbours who have helped her, in the past. She wished to tell our donors that she is grateful, but also to please not stop the food aid… we must continue, given that this rainy season is expected to fail, also. 
What amazed me about Nturiya was her joyful spirit and determination to survive even if food aid was stopped – she said that she would have to beg, go dig roots to chop and sell as livestock feed, and fetch firewood to sell. She thinks that somehow, they would make it… I am not so sure, as indigenous knowledge of weather is less reliable with increased global warming. 
While enjoying the friendly engagement with Nturiya, there was my usual, attendant feeling of rebuke – my unearned privilege plus my inadequate gratitude and expression of compassion…story of my life, but I would not change it!


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Special Appeal: FOOD EMERGENCY

Up to 20 million people in East Africa are at risk of severe hunger according to the UN's World Food Programme, and acute malnutrition in children is increasing. Sauti Moja’s local partners in Kenya and Tanzania know that it’s getting much worse and plead for more help!

 This current food crisis grew out of three, poor rainy seasons. This year, we have been providing food assistance for up to 372 vulnerable households with the expectation that this need would reduce with the ‘long rains’ of April and May. But, again, there was not enough rain for either crop harvest or enough forage growth for livestock – thousand of livestock have died.  A bad situation for the most vulnerable is now desperate for most, as there is no hope for recovery until after the October-November ‘short rains’.

 Sauti Moja and our partners have prioritized saving lives, so have scaled back and delayed some project activities to reassign some undesignated funds to food assistance for the most vulnerable in their communities, but we need more. Our target is $114,000 to help feed 576 hungry households for July to December (~$33/mo/household). Recipients include people displaced by conflict and who lost land and livestock; elderly with no family support; families affected by AIDS and moms needing this food to take ARVs for their survival; disabled children, orphans and their caregivers; widows who are active in restoring peace to their communities; and female-headed households identified by community leaders as the most vulnerable.

There are so many legitimate needs in the World to which one should respond, but as a member of the Sauti Moja Community, I hope that you are able to top-up your regular giving to address this hunger crisis in the communities that you are already helping. (Your regular giving still enables us to continue important educational programs, and after the rains, will provide funds for livelihood recovery – livestock replacements, plowing and crop inputs, small business loans, etc.)

 Sincerely thanking you for considering this need,

Tim Wright

Please follow this link and DONATE TODAY AT


Sometimes, we wonder what displaced people who are grieving conflict and drought, as well as hungry and fearful about the future, could be thankful for?  Kule is an example, as her family was chased from their home and farm to the desert, where she has no work, but yet, is sole caregiver for an elderly husband and six children. Kule came to our partner’s office to express thanks to God for touching the people who provide help, and to the staff who sat with her in the darkest time, listened to her fears and needs, and provided food assistance and shelter support. Kule’s expression of thanks is to the whole Sauti Moja Community who support vulnerable moms, like herself. (Be assured that, once the rains come, we will not forget Kule. She and others will be helped with livelihood recovery in order to become food secure.)


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Covid-19 Prevention

This week, I chatted with a colleague in Tanzania who said that they are still going to the office to do book work but are concerned about contracting Covid-19. For example, someone who later tested positive for coronavirus had been at a wedding. In response, the police had been rounding up all the attendees and locked them in isolation at a guesthouse in Longido. I talked with other colleagues in northern Kenya who indicated that while no cases have been confirmed in Marsabit, they are worried. Their worry is legitimate: self-distancing is problematic with so many living in close quarters; most people must go to weekly markets to buy and sell foodstuffs and other household needs; there is limited medical capacity for testing and treatment; etc. For those in remote communities with too few and poorly-equipped clinics, prevention is extremely critical!

RETO team responds with information, water & soap in remote communities in Marsabit, Kenya.
 Response from our local partners, SMTZ and RETO, became much more important, as several large NGOs closed their doors and sent their staff home without a community response.  In contrast, our partners are grass-roots agencies whose mission is to serve their communities, and since their staff are local, chose to continue to serve by collaborating with their government health authorities in virus prevention. 
SM-TZ disseminates key government health communication on Covid-19 prevention.
Tanzanian staff knew that there was shortage of vehicles in the District, so approached the District Medical Officer with an offer to use SMTZ vehicles in disseminating key messages to all of the villages and sub-villages. This was a huge relief to him, but first, he needed SMTZ staff to translate the messages into Maa - the language of the Maasai who live in Longido District. Then, they and health officials took both our vehicles, equipped them with loudspeakers, and traveled to villages informing them about the virus and prevention practices, including social distancing and hand washing, that would reduce risk. 
Mother & child introduced to a hand washing bucket in Marsabit, Kenya.
Similarly, the Kenyan staff in RETO developed a proposal that focused on the most vulnerable in the communities where they work. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, staff went to villages on a motorbike equipped with loudspeakers, and then made presentations about Covid-19 to groups in all the sub-villages. Further, recognizing that our beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable and poorest in their villages, we supported distribution of hand washing buckets and a three-month supply of soap to 200 households. 
SM-TZ communities learning about Covid-19 and prevention.
Both District health staff and the community members were exceedingly appreciative of our support.  Thank you Sauti Moja donors for making this important work possible!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Mother's Day Story - Compassion in the Face of HIV/AIDS

Rarely seen apart, Naalamala and her daughter, Namwata, share an affection that is hard not to notice.  This loving bond between mother and child stemmed from the mother’s close monitoring and care of her daughter who was born deaf and HIV-positive. Naalamala withheld her daughter’s positive status from her until she was old enough to understand and cope with the information.  Also, Namwata would not be able to marry with her positive status; therefore, unlike her other two children, her care and well-being would always remain with her mother.

Rarely seen apart, Naalamala and her daughter, Namwata, share an affection that is hard not to notice.

Naalamala’s husband died due to AIDS.  In Maasai community contracting HIV/AIDS and dying can be related to a‘spiritual backlash’ – like a curse. For example they might say, “Your husband must’ve done something bad in the community, and like a tree, the branches are dying.”  However, despite the loss of Naalamala’s husband and the subsequent positive status of both Naalamala and Namwata, the family remained loving and supportive to them both.  Realising this type of change in a community’s thinking can take time, but through the SM-TZ Community Conversation approach, some in the Mairowa community have learned to accept that AIDS is a disease that requires not only medicine but a big dose of compassion.

After the death of her husband, Naalamala’s family returned to her father’s boma (family homes).  They remained in her father’s boma until her son reached the age when he was expected in Maasai culture to exercise his manhood with more power and responsibility. He could not do this living under his grandfather’s authority.  Additionally, Naalamala would not inherit from her father’s boma, so it seemed like the right time to start her own. Recently, Naalamala broke away from the security of living with her father and started life anew in her own boma where her son is the male head.  

It is essential for Naalamala and her daughter to have enough to eat every day as the antiretrovirals prescribed to HIV/AIDS patients are very strong and must be taken with food.  For this reason, each one in Mairowa who has self-identified as having HIV/AIDS, like Naalamala and her daughter, have been provided with five goats to enable start of a herd and with food aid during the recent, severe drought.This herd will be a sustainable path to food security for the family and will take less labour as they are weakened by AIDS.

Naalamala, unwell, and her daughter - no words, the picture says it all.

 Although Naalamala had moved away from the security of her father’s boma, her own sister and mother often visit her boma, providing needed support to a life that is highly laborious.  Additionally, Nasula, a SM-TZ volunteer, visits monthly to check on family well-being.  It was after one such visit that SM-TZ learned that Naalamala was unwell, so SM-TZ staff arranged for a medical check-up, which led to an extended hospital stay.  Released too early, she returned in January for further treatment.  Throughout her sickness, her family continued to care for her and Namwata; eventually, their loving support guided this resilient mother back to health.  

Naalamala, home and well after a 3 month battle with illness due to  HIV/AIDS.

The sacrifices of women who are mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters contribute to the ongoing health and well-being of those who fall under their care.  They are the loving and sacrificial life force that inspires, teaches, and heals.

Mother and daughter - life is good again.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Land is Our Life

[This is a guest post from Alicia Mori. Alicia has worked with Sauti Moja in Tanzania since 2013. Her work, vision and passion is behind a new project in Tanzania called, Land Is Our Life (see here). The following captures some of her experiences and wanted to share it with the Sauti Moja community.]
As pastoralists, the Maasai live close to the earth. Not only are their homes built from the resources directly surrounding them, but their livelihoods primarily depend on herding livestock that provide meat, milk and income. Without access to land, livestock perish, poverty grows and community health declines. For the Maasai, land is literally life. 

From intern to researcher, I worked alongside Sauti Moja Tanzania and eventually came to understand that Maasai land rights are at risk as their traditional grazing areas must compete more and more with tourism, trophy hunting and wildlife conservation interests. Coming to the end of my Master’s degree, I found myself frustrated that all I had contributed to this issue was words on paper andI didn’t know how to address the challenges I had come to understand so much. In 2016, I was offered the Ocean Path Fellowship, which is funded by the Pathy Family Foundation and given to graduating students who are looking to implement innovative projects in communities they are meaningfully connected to. After training at the Coady Institute, I packed up my bags and moved back to Tanzania where I partnered up with Sauti MojaTz to pilot what is now know as the Land is Our Life project (see more info here).

To sum it up in a pretty little sentence, the Land is Our Life project aims to protect traditional uses of land by educating indigenous leaders and communities about policy changes and mobilizing them to ensure their voices are well-heard. 

Practically, this has meant holding educational workshops in various villages where people are invited to learn about and critically discuss significant issues that impact their communities. When I first started visiting the various communities in Oldonyo Mali it became quickly obvious that beyond a small minority of leaders, very few people knew or had been informed that their village had joined something called a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). I don’t want to get into it too much (I wrote a 70-paged thesis that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the complexities associated with this three-lettered acronym), but basically the Tanzanian government came up with new conservation areas that are created by village communities agreeing to set aside some of their land to be used as wildlife conservation areas. This decision is usually made under the pretense that their communities will receive hefty revenues from tourism and will be given more power to influence wildlife management in their lands. In my experience, the reality is that most people have no idea what a WMA is and they realize few benefits from joining one. 

A massive gaping hole in the transition is that no one really takes the time to educate these communities, especially in ways that are accessible and meaningful. One of the biggest complaints I heard throughout my visits to Oldonyo Mali was that the organizations and people that had come into their communities to fill in this gap would leave them behind with information they couldn’t understand, let alone retain. Furthermore, the organizations never created relationships and they never came back. 

We kept our goals simple: show up, listen, and share knowledge. The more we kept it simple, the more people learned, and the more they began to realize that what we were doing was different to anything they had experienced before. Over time, over the many hours of sharing, listening, learning, people began to understand more about the WMA – its policies, its benefits, its risks, the threat it may carry to land rights and, most importantly, how to hold leaders to account and ensure the community’s interests are prioritized. 

One of the key elements of success was that they were being taught by one of their own, Oshumu Shuaka, who I collaborated with and hired to facilitate the workshops. Oshumu is a Maa-speaking, Maasai born man, who grew up in the same land and knew the community we were working with, the struggles they faced, and the best ways to meet their needs and spotlight their strengths. Oshumu inspired his community members. He taught them, learned alongside them, and developed strategies with them. The example of Oshumu, in fact, leads me to another reason why this work is important: because it is inspiring new leadership. By giving leaders and communities knowledge about the shifting social, political and economic terrains, they are better equipped to mobilize themselves and put their voices front and center. 

Oshumu working with the women of Kitabarne.
 And one of the greatest things is that it is not just men’s voices that are getting heard…women became more confident. 

When we started the workshops, I didn’t know if it would be more effective to facilitate workshops with men and women in one space, or to split them up. I was advised to do separate workshops as Maasaiwomen tend to participate less in the presence of men, but for convenience sake, we ended up inviting men and women to attend the same workshop. Men would sit on one side, and women on the other. In the beginning, the women were silent, or at best they would giggle and hide under their shukas when asked a question. I felt like I had made a terrible mistake.

But over time I saw something beautiful. The more the women realized our discussions were relevant to the well-being of their communities, and the more they saw they were able to grasp the concepts and information just as well as the men, the more they began to join the conversation and have their voices heard.

Naipaya (middle) attended Land is Our Life workshops and in May 2017 she ran for a position in her village’s WMA Authorized Association and won. She credits this decision to the workshops which inspired her to lead and made her feel capable of doing so.

This was also noticed by Oshumu, who told me that the biggest change he saw come from this project was the self confidence he saw in the women who attended the workshops. In his words, 

Before, in Maasai culture, women couldn’t express themselves before men. Now we see there is some understanding in the community that women can stand up and express themselves before men. That is a big change I saw in these communities. Slowly, we encouraged the women to discuss and at the end of the day they realized, “I have an opportunity to be heard and I can stand and nobody will tell me to sit down and be quiet!” So, by providing them that opportunity to discuss and share, they learned slowly that they could express themselves before me and be open to talk about anything before men.
I believe Oshumu himself was a main factor for this success. As he expressed, it was initially very difficult to get the women participants to ask questions or to have discussions while men were present. However, as the workshops progressed, Oshumu made huge efforts to give space for the women to speak and he celebrated the women who included themselves in conversations they could have easily abstained from. I still remember the days when I was hit with excitement that it was the women who speaking up and relaying information they had learned from the workshops. This notion was also expressed by the women themselves, and in the words of one from Kitabarne,

“this education has strengthened our abilities to express ourselves before men. Everything is changing, so even us women should change and participate in leadership without fearing the men.”
Knowledge is power. Whoever said that knew what they were talking about. For me, the greatest success is that this work continues today. It thrills me that Sauti Moja is carrying all this work forward via the Land Is Our Life project (see here). And this works persists because the people involved are passionate about empowering Maasai voices. Oshumu continues to facilitate workshops in Oldonyo Mali and tells me he is excited to soon begin a new set of workshops alongside other leaders in the neighbouring village TingaTinga. 

Land is Our Life participants of Oldonyo Mali.

Communities are eager to learn, to be better informed about the political changes around them. They are eager to get involved. They just need the means…literally, knowledge is power.

If you haven’t already, please give to this important cause:
(Be sure to click the Land Is Our Life project on the scroll down menu).