It is surreal that my time with BCC has come to an end. It has been heartbreaking to leave the incredible people I’ve had the privilege to get to know and love over the past fourteen months. I just returned to the U.S., but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have flight alerts set for cheap flights to Tanzania. It is one of the small things that allows me to continue to feel connected to Tanzania, aside from the miracle that is WhatsApp!
The fellow has a unique role within BCC and one that aligns with my beliefs about responsible and effective international development practice. The fellow does not manage BCC, does not make programmatic decisions, and works to contribute to the goals of the program by working alongside staff. Over the past year, I believe I’ve learned a great deal about international development through working with BCC, collaborating with partners, and just living in Moshi, an area that is home to a large number of organizations dedicated to development and social enterprise due to its proximity to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
One of my largest takeaways from this past year is that partnerships are the key that will help us all to progress. One of my favourite Swahili phrases is “bega kwa bega,” meaning “shoulder to shoulder,” and I have witnessed the dramatic impact of walking shoulder to shoulder with partners in Moshi and beyond. The partnership between BCC, ELCT-ND, and Mosaic continues to strengthen and is the foundation of the support we provide. Throughout this year, BCC partnered with Femme International to provide education about menstrual health management and sustainable products for the young women we serve and their caregivers. This is knowledge that many women at the workshops learned for the first time. BCC has a wonderful partnership with CCBRT to provide life-changing equipment for our clients and to train our staff about therapeutic techniques. We worked with ChildReach to further educate our staff about children’s rights under Tanzanian law and international convention. Recently we sent eleven of our direct care staff and two of our coordinating staff to a week-long training at Jaffery Academy Special Education Needs Department, a school supporting students with disabilities in Arusha, Tanzania, in order to increase BCC’s capacity to educate the children and young adults we serve. There are so many other partnerships affecting the lives of the people we serve, and I am so excited to watch BCC continue to expand its partnerships and share best practices with other organizations in Moshi to provide the highest quality care possible.
The very existence of BCC and access to services for children and young adults with disabilities in the Moshi area is an immense blessing for families living there, and I am so excited by what I saw in the last couple of months I spent with BCC. I am thrilled to witness the new leadership of Pastor Anna Makyao, a strong woman who is a pastor at one of our centers and who is passionate about the mission of BCC. There have been amazing renovations at three of our centers, creating environments for our clients and staff to thrive. A majority of BCC clients are now registered with the National Health Insurance Fund in Tanzania and BCC just finished conducting annual health screenings for all 200 clients, which are improving every year. The skills learned from the training at Jaffery Academy are being implemented throughout our centers and there is nothing that brings me more joy than Victoria, our Young Adult Coordinator, running into the office after returning from the training brimming with new ideas to improve the services for young adults and wanting to show me all the resources she brought back with her. BCC is striving to improve the education in our centers, and we are definitely on our way. Finally, spending my last week in Moshi with the BCC staff, the incredible incoming fellow Kimber, and my wonderful supervisor Meritt, was the perfect finale to my time with BCC.
The previous fellow and my supervisor Meritt, who I respect and admire more than I can say, left me with a quote at the beginning of my fellowship year. The quote reads, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” All we can ask of ourselves is that we do our best each day to work together to better the lives of people in our communities, and I feel incredibly humbled and honored to have walked “bega kwa bega” alongside the staff of BCC.
By Alex Bailey