Celebration in a Sea of Red

Hey, only have a minute?…scroll down to look at the pictures. Sure to make you smile.

The women are gathered around the living room. It kept threatening rain so we thought it best to move our lunch inside. They are sitting up against the walls, on the floor, on the steps and any seat available. Elijah, our newest member of the family is present although he was sleeping through most of it. That happens when you are 4 months old. He is being past from one mama to another so Elizabeth his mom gets a turn to eat. The women look splendid in bright red, more about that in a moment.

Our lunch is a catered event featuring local foods. There are traditional foods such as beef and plaintains as well as newer favourites such as chips na kuu-kuu (coo-coo, fried potatoes with deep fried chicken). We know to always order extra, not a bite will be wasted as the serving dishes are scraped clean for the last helpings. To drink we bought two crates of soda pop in glass bottles, coke, sprite and the very sugary Fanta favours, orange, passion and something lemony?(bright yellow). The bottles are well used with worn edges from being handled and refilled often. They have no issue with drinking a warm pop and many times prefer it.

Our meeting started earlier that afternoon in the courtyard. All the women sitting in their ‘Sunday best’ around us in a circle. We are getting to be a large group with 22 women in three groups. There are more to come as this Tanzania trip is about expansion to a new area with a new group of women.

Our meeting welcomes our three leaders from the new area, the mountain village of Materuni (Mat-ah-roo-knee). Ana, Gertrude and Regina are the selected leaders representing 19 women from that village.  Attending the luncheon is one of our initial steps to integrate the new women into the project. Having designated leaders will ease the transition to this unusual way of working with a mzungo (m-zoo-n-goo– white person) and the project.

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The next agenda items are updates from me about my activities in Canada, special presentations are made to some of the women. Again this year we have gift bags for each woman. Inside their IRIS gift bag is a cotton dish cloth made by my sister and her Alberta croquet crew plus handcrafted soap by Val at Ravensong. They love these very personal gifts. The bag is not undervalued either as it will appear over the coming weeks at meetings as the purse and book bag for many of the women. Then it is time for the next gift.

Last year, we revealed the new project logo with approval by all. Back then, my fella promised Group A that he would buy t-shirts for all the women. They choose red as the colour.

Standing in the courtyard, I ask them if they remember what Marc promised to do. They started to get excited ~ They certainly do remember what he said. Opening up the suitcase to reveal the new t-shirts was met with laughter, squeals of delight and clapping. They are thrilled to have a new shirt while posing like models for my camera. A big moving crowd of red looks so great. We wake up Marc in Canada with a Skype call so they can say thank you.

I am wondering if they have ever had a new piece of clothing, maybe a piece of fabric as a skirt.

The afternoon winds down with more hugs and thank yous and presentation of our first inflatable solar lights. The Materuni leaders seem impressed as we load them in the taxi. Stomachs full, gift bags held tightly. They have a long ride home up the mountain roads then walking who knows how long to their front door.

Over the coming days, we will hold individual group meetings to gain greater insight into the successes and challenges of the existing 22 businesses. There is also training for the 19 women of Materuni plus a village visit. For now, it has been a solid start to this year’s efforts.

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