Dar es Salaam Travel Blog› entry 2 of 4 › view all entries
The next morning, everything changed. After meeting the second half of our group the night before, over a silent and exhausted group dinner, we all teamed up in the morning to meet some local non profit programs.
Isa, our smiling, always professional, business suit wearing driver arrived to pick us up for each of the following two days. Turns out he is a pro at navigating the complicated , eternally "under construction" dirt roads of Dar and has seemingly limitless patience in the chaotic and dangerous traffic of minibuses packed with dozens of people, motorscooters, bicycles and cars that flood the streets during "rush hour." Clearly, the two million plus people who live in Dar do come out during the day afterall (just not on Sundays).
Angelina from Village Enterprise Fund was the first woman who came to show us the great work they are doing in the community by making micro-grants (the precursor to the much discussed micro-loans which require you to already have a business and some money to qualify for).
"Hi Guys!" "HI!" "Hi Guys!" "HI!" "Hiiii Guys!" "HI!" We could hear the group of about 80 men and women shouting and laughing as we disembarked from the van. We entered a very modest cement house to find the large group gathered into a small 8 x10 room in sweltering heat at 630am, all with wide smiles on their faces. One man, in a dress shirt and tie stepped forward to address their group. "Ok guys, I am going to tell you about the 5 steps to make a sale, ok? Step 1 - Introduction. Ok what does this mean?" and he begins to explain in swahili, pausing midway through his lesson to lead the group in some kind of chant, then dropping back to wrap up his lesson in English (for our benefit undoubtedly) ".
John, the Director of the site was proud to pass out sodas (Fanta at 10am?!) and to show us the more than 15 accounting books where he hand wrote every transaction for each salesman everyday.
The program began when Village Enterprise Fund met a handful of women who were selling fish door to door at homes where the occupants couldn't always afford the bus fare to town for their food.
Other than the sales manager who whispered in my ear "Be my wife" during the morning motivations, I seemed to make another friend during our brief stop.
We loaded up the van, as the 80 salesmen trickled out of the building and off to start their 8 hours on the road. I left with high hopes for big sales and a full heart from the warm smiles. I made a mental note as we drove away - send a letter to my friends at HP to see if they can donate a laptop...
After lunch, our representatives from CARE International picked us up and we headed out to meet with a group of women they had trained and helped fund in support of their local businesses. Our van pulled up in front of a dried out lawn and a small group of children flocked to the side windows. I dug into my purse to see if I had anything to give them and shared the left over juices in the ice box from lunch. These kids loved posing for photos and were elated to see themselves on the digital preview screen. When I looked around next, everone was gone and one of the neighbor's had to point me to the building they had entered into while I was playing with the kids (this was to become the routine at every stop we would make...).
As I walked up the stairs I could hear the sound of a woman's song in Swahili over a chorus of some 40 others singing background.
First the lockbox comes out, then the key (each kept by separate women). Each women receives a small bookelt with her cash inside. Once the books are passed out, they ask if anyone would like to purchase "shares" from the bank. A stamp is placed in the booklet for each share bought that day.
I asked our translator if the women had any questions for us and told him to tell them we are very impressed by their success. A proud looking woman said something in Swahili which was translated into what I suspect is a watered down version of what she actually said. "We are still poor, how can we improve our business? We still need help, can you get us more business training so our families and neighborhoods can do better?" My heart sunk. We scribbled down notes and promised to send them information about business that would help. They looked doubtful and unsatisfied with our reply. I understood completely and felt ashamed to be there so empty handed.
As the group concluded their meeting, we reconvened to see some of the items some women had brought to try to sell to us.
While we were shopping, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and a woman handed me a small piece of paper and introduced her self. On the paper was her name, phone number and email address. I wrote down mine and a few others from our group joined.
Bottles of soda were passed out and the local government representative said a few words to thank us for being there. For some reason, as he spoke I was in awe of the way he carried himself and his eloquence. I secretly envied the integrity their politician exuded. As the women began to sang again, I couldn't help but start to cry (thankfully I had on my sunglasses). I was frustrated at being unprepared to help and saddened to have not done more during the brief visit. Again, I made a mental note - be sure to send business training information...