A whole village discusses the relationship that my wife, Marianne Kent-Stoll, and I have built with the people of a remote village in northern Tanzania, called Dareda Kati. The relationship started with our visit there as tourists in 2007. At the villagers’ request, we have returned every year with American volunteers, and with the intention of bringing to Dareda Kati improved education and healthcare and whatever else will be needed to lift its residents permanently out of poverty.
But ignorance and lack of resources hinder us—our own ignorance and lack of resources, that is. Marianne and I can lay no claim to certain knowledge of how to end poverty, which seems to have eluded the entire development community. I received my advanced academic training in Western philosophers like Plato, Hegel, and Nietzsche, while Marianne studied poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, W.B. Yeats, and William Carlos Williams. Our training, as well as our inclinations, led to careers first in higher and then in secondary education.
Only when we were in our fifties did we stumble, by way of unexpected friendship with a few Tanzanian villagers, onto the minefield of international development. As confessed nonexperts, we have hazarded a guess that ending poverty might have something to do with spending money wisely. If one can justly accuse the global development community of spending foolishly, at least Marianne and I and the small nonprofit we founded in 2008, the Karimu International Help Foundation (http://www.karimufoundation.org/), possess very little that we could misspend.
Even the name of our nonprofit points to our ignorance: having had little or no prior involvement with the nonprofit world, we did not know that a foundation is supposed to have an endowment. But Karimu lives hand-to-mouth on the generosity of its donors, endowed only with respect and friendship for the people of Dareda Kati.
So A whole village documents, among other things, our ongoing education in the art of development. We expect many failures, while hoping that, ultimately, our successes outweigh them.
Marianne and I always appreciate offers of help in executing Karimu’s work, which we perform without compensation during the time left over from our day jobs. I serve as Coordinator of International Student Life at Idyllwild Arts Academy, in the mountains above Palm Springs, California. Marianne is Idyllwild’s Dean of Academics.—Don Stoll