June 21, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Blogs - Tanzania: Business Development: Personal Web Page: Peace Corps Volunteer Lee in Tanzania: My End of Term Report for the Peace Corps

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Peace Corps Volunteer Lee in Tanzania: My End of Term Report for the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Volunteer Lee in Tanzania: My End of Term Report for the Peace Corps

I am absolutely convinced that grass roots Economic Development programs are Tanzania’s greatest need, and that American PCVs are uniquely able to energize programs to Create Wealth (or, to put it in its negative frame, to Overcome Poverty), as the Tanzanian response to the project described here attests.

Peace Corps Volunteer Lee in Tanzania: My End of Term Report for the Peace Corps

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I just completed a (yawn) End of Term Report for the Peace Corps. A bureaucratic self justification if ever there was one. Typical question, on the objective: we are to indicate the # of students assisted (by gender), # of teachers assisted (also by gender), # of Organizations Strengthened, Type of organization, and # of communities assisted, and then give detailed descriptions of activities and outcomes. About a dozen of these inane objectives.

But then, on the last page there was an invitation to “provide a short story of any project that you feel is particularly successful or gratifying.” Well, need I tell you I teed off on that one, big time? So, since I enjoyed the opportunity so much, I’ll share (inflict?) my response on you, too. To wit:

The real tragedy of the pervasive and self-defeating Tanzanian Culture of Dependency is that for even those Tanzanians who do want to take responsibility for their lives and their economic state, there is no way for them to learn the essential skills that are needed.

During PST, I absorbed all the sad numbers: Only about 1% of students entering primary school successfully complete Form VI, and in secondary school a major loss of students occurs after the Form-IV National Examination. So during my first week at site, I asked my Headmaster what help the schools provide to School Leavers, to assist them in establishing careers and in becoming responsible citizens. The answer: We do nothing – they are no longer students and they are no concern of ours.

Soon after that, I went to the library of St. Augustin University to borrow a book on Cash-Flow Forecasting to help a friend who wanted to increase his egg business from 100 to 400 chickens so he could pay school fees for his children. However, I failed. This respected economics university had not even a single book in its library on how to start or operate a small business.

After these experiences I began to think and talk about creating a program to teach School Leavers the skills needed to start a business and make it an economic success. The response was overwhelming. Everyone I talked to insisted on taking part themselves. It was seen not only as something needed for students, but also for all those government employees who barely earn enough to support their families or anyone who cannot find worthwhile employment. I became convinced that I had struck a nerve – this was a project that Tanzanians not only needed, but were truly hungry for. It would not be just one more project bestowed on a passive audience by a well-meaning visiting do-gooder.

Fortunately an NGO, TechnoServe, has developed just such a program to teach entrepreneurship in the schools. In addition, TechnoServe has created a Training of Trainers program to guide instructors in presenting the program, and has adapted an existing US program for Tanzania in both English and Kiswahili versions.

The rest is history. All four Headmasters I contacted were enthusiastic about the program, and agreed to select two instructors from their own staff and to make their facilities available. In turn, the instructors were passionate about the program and were willing to participate for only a meager financial stipend. At this writing, the program is halfway to completion. Student attendance (entirely voluntary) has not declined, and classroom discussions are animated. The instructors meet regularly on their own time to check progress, share experiences, plan for the inclusion of guest speakers, and assure program sustainability. Field trips to visit successful small businesses are planned. By the end of the course, the schools will have completed an intramural competition in creating business plans, which will be judged by local businessmen and bankers.

The Mwanza Rotary Club has followed the progress of the program with interest, and has provided guest speakers for the course from their own membership on numerous occasions.

The instructors have even decided to start a business themselves to share their training beyond the school environment, and have registered with the Tanzanian government as Mwanza Entrepreneur Consultants.

Note: Certainly this is not the only Peace Corps activity in the field of Economic Development. Just next door PC Kenya has active programs, and PC Zambia has a remarkable program to convert sustenance fish farming into viable businesses. Still, I am absolutely convinced that such grass roots Economic Development programs are Tanzania’s greatest need, and that American PCVs are uniquely able to energize programs to Create Wealth (or, to put it in its negative frame, to Overcome Poverty), as the Tanzanian response to the project described here attests.

When this story was posted in July 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

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Returned Volunteers met with author Philip Weiss in Baltimore on June 18 to discuss the murder of Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner. Weiss was a member of a panel that included three psychiatrists and a criminal attorney. Meanwhile, the Seattle U.S. Attorney's office announced that Dennis Priven cannot be retried for the murder. "We do not believe this case can be prosecuted by anyone, not only us, but in any other jurisdiction in the United States." Read background on the case here.

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Richard Celeste co-chairs report on Indo-US cooperation 29 Jun
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Story Source: Personal Web Page

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