Joining 2Seeds as a Project Coordinator is an experience like no other, even within the international development arena. The extent to which PCs become part of their Tanzanian communities is extraordinary—especially considering most come in with a level of Swahili that includes “hello,” “How is your family?” “I am going to cook rice”….and not a whole lot more. (It is a testament to the patience of our Tanzanian Partners that they continue to pursue friendships with us throughout months of riveting conversations about the weather.)
Lots of development organizations pursue a “grassroots” or “bottom-up” approach, but you’d be hard pressed to find a model more rooted in true partnership with local communities than the one we embrace at 2Seeds. As Project Coordinators live in their project sites, they share in so many aspects of community life beyond their 2Seeds projects. I could probably count on my fingers the days in which I didn’t down at least one cup of sugar-laden tea with a Tanzanian. I chatted with women at the village water tap, patiently enduring their giggles as I struggled to get a twenty-liter bucket of water on my head (I improved, but there was lots of drenched clothing and a broken bucket along the way). I marched with the entire community in a funeral procession, and I celebrated Easter eating spiced rice with my neighbors. My village, Kwakiliga, with all its joys and quirks and frustrations, became my home.
The 2Seeds model fosters relationships of trust upon which we build our projects. These relationships allow us to pursue income security in a manner that will be sustained and which honors the agency and potential of our Tanzanian Partners. I could go on about how this emphasis on partnership forms a foundation for lasting impact, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about my excitement to go back to my second home in Kwakiliga next week.
In July 2014, at the end of my year as a Project Coordinator, I wrote a blog post reflecting on the friendships I’d made in Kwakiliga. Here’s an excerpt:
“I didn’t really think, going in [in August 2013], that I would form genuine friendships in Kwak and be truly sad at the prospect of leaving. After all, can authentic relationships be formed between people of different languages, radically different cultures, and, perhaps most threatening to friendship, hugely different economic situations and general opportunities in life? I didn’t think so. But what I learned is that those things didn’t prevent Mama Mwaka from becoming a friend I care deeply about, nor did they prevent her from caring and worrying about me (and bringing me four huge squash as I left Kwakiliga so that I would have something to eat on my journey). It didn’t stop the Mcharos from becoming my Tanzanian family, at whose home I can show up anytime and be welcomed, and who consider me so much part of their family that they neglected to invite me to Easter lunch; they just assumed I was coming. To be sure, these relationships are different from those I have with, say, my college friends. I don’t stay up gabbing with Mama Mwaka until late into the night like I did senior year with my roommate. But I’ve learned that it is not those things – the outward appearances of relationships -which define a genuine friendship. It’s openness and honesty, and knowing that I can rely on my Kwakiligan friends to care for me the best they can. As I learned to embrace the differences between us and be more open with my friends in Kwak throughout the year, those relationships became so tight-knit.”
When I left Kwakiliga, I knew I’d be back, but I had no idea when. I planned to keep in touch with some of my best friends via phone, but I expected that the kids I had played with all year—who had given me fist bumps and danced to my iPod blasting Florida Georgia Line and Taylor Swift and stuck their little fingers through the crack under our front door, begging for sidewalk chalk—wouldn’t remember me when I returned, and I was sad about that.
But upon my return to the U.S. in August, I found myself drawn back to 2Seeds with an offer to join the team in DC, managing finances, operations, and fundraising. While I don’t get to work one-on-one with our Tanzanian Partners anymore, I love supporting our Project Coordinators as they continue the work that my fellow 2Seeds alumni and I began. I believe in the deep impact created by 2Seeds’ methodology, and it’s a gift to work every day to build the capacity of this organization. In order to update myself on the newest happenings in each of our projects, and to spend some time working with our Ground Team, I’m headed back to Tanzania on Monday. And you can bet I’m starting that trip with a few days of vacation in Kwakiliga.
I’m so thrilled with anticipation of drinking chai with Mama Mwaka, eating ugali with the Mcharo family, listening to the political rants of Mama Halima and the conspiracy theories of Mzee Rubeni, and playing with my gaggle of neighborhood watoto (children). I have no doubt that the community that welcomed me so wholeheartedly upon my arrival as a Project Coordinator will bend over backward to host me next week, make sure I am very well-fed in the midst of their teasing about how my Swahili has deteriorated. It’s an incredible thing to have a second family thinking about me even though I am far away, and I am grateful to 2Seeds for introducing me to that family.
Until next time,
Amanda Satterwhite is a 2Seeds Project Coordinator alumna (Kwakiliga Project, ’13-’14). She now serves 2Seeds as Manager of Finance and Operations, working to ensure 2Seeds continues as a financially stable and compliant organization so that Project Coordinators can continue their impactful work.