As easy as washing your hands

The Karimu International Help Foundation began its work in 2008 by trying to satisfy the educational needs of the children of Dareda Kati Village, in northern Tanzania.  But it soon became clear that Karimu would have to address other needs–that, in fact, we would have to start doing so long before finishing the necessary work on Ufani Primary School and Ayalagaya Secondary School. So this summer, even as we start work on Ayalagaya and build two more classrooms and–funds permitting–another shared teachers’ office for Ufani, we shall introduce some crucial healthcare measures to the village. Our volunteers will include three physicians and a medical student who will teach the children about the importance of washing their hands. That probably sounds like a job for which they are overqualified, yet we hope their training will give them special credibility in the village and enable them to drive the message home in a way that other people teaching about handwashing couldn’t do. A bigger challenge, however, will be to make handwashing possible since the villagers have no soap. Our doctors and medical student hope they can teach the villagers to make soap, but we’re very cautious about this. We have absolutely no idea whether making soap will interest the villagers–we shall simply try to get them interested and then we’ll wish for the best.

We know the people of Bacho want better healthcare because they’ve told us as much; the villagers, not Karimu, proposed finding ways to reduce illnesses and unnecessary deaths just as the villagers asked my wife and me to help them build a primary (and then improve their secondary) school. Whatever success Karimu has enjoyed in Bacho depends largely on the fact that the villagers themselves drive our work, telling us what they need while hoping we can raise in a few months sums of money which they could accumulate only after many years. But wishing for better healthcare in general entails neither knowledge of, nor willingness to act upon, specifically what that would require. So at Karimu we feel free to make particular suggestions in answer to the villagers’ general requests, but after that the responsibility passes out of our hands.

Thus, as with handwashing and soap, we’ve taken a wait-and-see attitude toward the antimalarial bed nets we expect to deliver to Bacho this summer. We’ve contacted General Manager Divyesh Ramanandi of the A to Z Textile factory near Arusha–the same mosquito net factory toured by President Bush when he visited Tanzania two or three years ago–for a price and learned that we need to raise less than four thousand dollars more before we can buy a net for every single resident of Bacho. So we know we’ll acquire the nets. Will every person in the village take a net, though? We know our doctors and our medical student can give the villagers good cause to want nets. Yet the villagers will have to make the choice for themselves.–Don Stoll

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About Don Stoll

Don and his wife, Marianne Kent-Stoll, are co-founders of the Karimu International Help Foundation. They established Karimu in 2008 at the request of the people of Dareda Kati Village, in the Manyara Region of northeastern Tanzania. Karimu is devoted to working with the residents of Dareda Kati in order to satisfy their development needs, as defined by the villagers themselves.
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