The Tanzanian villagers that Karimu works with often downplay the indispensable contributions of our full Board and our scores of volunteers. The people of Dareda Kati tend, a little embarrassingly, to see Karimu as like a traditional marriage: as, fundamentally, between one man and one woman.
I suspect the villagers’ knowledge that Marianne and I have been married for many years, and that three of our children have visited Dareda Kati, has a lot to do with their over-identification of Karimu with us. Rural Tanzania is a place where life without a family is undreamed of, unless that dream is the nightmare of being orphaned. With four children, Marianne and I fall one or two below the average for Dareda Kati, but at least we make the charts.
Along with the villagers’ satisfaction with this traditional marriage come certain traditional expectations. One of these was underscored by a recent e-mail from our Tanzanian Board member, the extraordinarily efficient Joas Kahembe.
Joas was reporting on a misunderstanding among the Tanzanians about who would benefit from Karimu’s next clean-water project. The Chairman of the Dareda Kati Council, a man named Barnabas, emphasized the significance of his hike, two years ago, through the mountains immediately above the village. Its goal had been for Barnabas, and some Karimu people who hiked with him, to identify possible sources of water for Ufani Primary School and for other parts of the village.
Karimu succeeded in bringing clean water to Ufani School last year. In the view of Barnabas, therefore, those other parts of Dareda Kati must be the intended beneficiaries of the next Karimu water project.
It upset Barnabas that people from a neighboring village, Aiyesam, were claiming this next water project for one of their schools, Bacho Primary. Since Karimu had never done any work in Aiyesam, how could this be?
Although Joas believed Barnabas was wrong, he wasn’t sure. He told Barnabas what he thought could explain Karimu’s sudden interest in Aiyesam, but he also e-mailed Marianne and me for confirmation:
“Marianne became compassionate with the Bacho Primary School pupils when you saw them drinking dirty water from the nearby stream and decided to provide them with clean water.”
This is part of the truth. Marianne and I visited Bacho Primary School two years ago and again last year, both times with other Karimu volunteers, including, in 2011, our Board member, Dr. Susan Hughmanick. Peggy Seltz, Ed Glysson, and Linda Presser may have been with us in 2011, and our older daughter, Greta, last year.
I’m sure I’ve left some people out from both years, and I apologize to them. I don’t remember all of the faces, but I remember vividly that none of us enjoyed the spectacle of the filthy water that pooled just below Bacho Primary. This would have been the only water available to any schoolchild too tired for the strenuous climb into the mountains above the school, where cleaner water can be found.
Joas told Barnabas that Marianne became compassionate because, in the village, she is Mother Marianne. I am Father Don, so my responsibility is not to become compassionate. My job is to listen reasonably to Marianne’s impassioned pleas for the projects requested by the villagers. Then I must choose this project or dismiss that one or say maybe to these others, based on a rational assessment of Karimu’s capabilities.
Oh, well. It’s probably less important to try to explain to the villagers where Karimu’s head and heart lie than to make sure that Karimu has both a head and a heart, and that these work in tandem.