Karibu tena—welcome again!
Mariianne Mays Wiebe
This year, three U of M students travelled to Tanzania for an annual five-week program called Badili Mtizamo – Girl Power! Badili Mtizamo is Swahili for “change the way you see things.” The theme of this year’s program was ‘”Girl Power!” and was designed to deliver a curriculum on gender equity, leadership and health to secondary school boys and girls in the Karatu District of Tanzania. This five-week project was supervised by Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR) in partnership with the U of M’s International Centre for Students (ICS). During their time with the program, students are required to keep a blog in order to report and reflect on their work.
One of those students was Nadine Keafer, a third year medical student at the U of M. Prior to entering medical school, Nadine received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa in 2005 and with a Master of Science degree in Medical Microbiology at the University of Manitoba in 2009. She also completed the Space Studies Program at the International Space University in Barcelona, Spain in 2008. After graduation from medical school, Kaefer plans to pursue a career in Family Medicine with a focus on child and maternal health. What follows is her final blog entry.
On our last day here in Bunda, it is hard to believe we have already spent five weeks in Tanzania. Yesterday some CPAR staff and the Badili team went to Musoma for some reflection and relaxation by Lake Victoria. One question we kept coming back to was if we thought we made a difference, and if making a difference was important. I found that a particularly difficult question. It is very difficult to measure change in a program like ours. As Alan Kaplan said, measuring change with a program like this “is like holding infinity.” From my mission statement, the difference I wanted to make was to help empower and educate women. In hindsight, my goals were both overly ambitious and immeasurable. We certainly contributed to the education of both young men and women, but it is impossible to determine if they were changed or empowered. When asked if they learned something, most students replied “yes,” but it is difficult to determine if they actually did learn something or if they were being polite.
Of course, the purpose of the Badili Mtizamo program wasn’t just about “making a difference,” it was about changing the way we involved in the program see things. Although I can only speak for myself, I think we all have changed our view in some way. For me, the biggest change was viewing Africa beyond Nairobi and various safari tours. Although there is no one “real Africa,” spending five weeks in a rural town like Bunda certainly changed my idea of Africa. Memories of traffic jams, black diesel smoke and police road checks have been replaced with classrooms, markets and the CPAR Bunda office. I definitely felt like more of a part of the community in Bunda, although we stood out way more than I did in Nairobi. Although I like to joke that I am really an African on the inside, for the last five weeks I really did feel like an African, although somewhat paler and more sunburnt than your average Tanzanian. I had the goal of changing how Tanzania sees women;I ended up changing my view of Tanzania.
And now I must add a few final words now that I am back in Canada. Words cannot describe how much I will miss our new family at CPAR. Many tears were shed at our last dinner as a group. Good-byes are always hard, but thankfully there is a better phrase often used in Tanzania at partings – Karibu tena (“welcome again”).
This article first appeared in the July 18, 2013 edition of The Bulletin.