Hearts for Lushoto – Participatory and inclusive approach for communities

By  Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Carolyn Schoepp of Hearts for Lushoto. The municipality of Lushoto sits high in the Usambara Mountains of Northern Tanzania. It’s population is approximately 23,000, with 140,000 in the surrounding district. Lushoto struggles with a lack of resources, poor infrastructure, and the AIDS epidemic which has resulted in a 300% increase in the number of orphans from 2002 to 2006. These orphans often end up living with their grandparents or in poorly equipped orphanages. Prevention and education are the main areas Hearts for Lushoto focusses on to support the communities in the region. We would like to thank Caroline for her detailed answers, and for the pictures she sent us.
 1What are the main issues related to education in Tanzania and in your region of intervention?
When I was in Lushoto I observed AIDS Education and Prevention Program classes being presented to students in two secondary schools. I was shocked when I needed to use the bathroom in one school of 600 students. It consisted of a pit with no running water, no soap or cleanser and no toilet paper. Not only is this a serious health and sanitation problem but it is particularly difficult for secondary school girls during their menstruation cycle. 
I would like to see running water and proper bathrooms in all 84 schools in the Lushoto District. This would greatly reduce illness and school absences particularly for girls who often miss school during their periodsI would like to see a community effort to access funds to achieve this goal (see question 5).
Current Proposed Project
In the meantime, our current proposed project is meant to improve conditions for girls and women during their menstrual cycles. For this project we would be working with successful Drayton Valley entrepreneur, Sarah Haselock, Sarah is an HFL member who is willing to share her expertise to train young women to make and market reusable feminine hygiene products. Sarah has already sent a kit containing detailed instructions and patterns for making the products.
Sarah and several of her colleagues have donated products for needy girls and women in Lushoto and we will continue to distribute donated products to ensure that all needy girls and women receive appropriate feminine hygiene products. We plan to reserve up to 10 percent of our products for donation to the disadvantaged.
However, there are many more affluent women and girls in the large municipality of Lushoto who would be grateful for the opportunity to purchase quality feminine hygiene products that are not presently available to them. A small manufacturing business would fill this gap while empowering young women with a source of income.
We are fundraising to  purchase capital items such as sewing machines as well as items such as fabric, thread, snap fasteners and absorbent material. We would be able to support the local economy by purchasing many of the needed supplies in Lushoto. A number of us will be travelling to Lushoto in the near future and we will be able to evaluate the program and deliver specialized items from Canada through the Drayton Valley Safari Club’s Blue Bag Program. We are very excited about this project for a number of reasons including the following:
1.       It empowers disadvantaged girls and women (girls in underdeveloped countries miss up to 2 months of education and opportunity every year due to lack of feminine hygiene supplies)
2.      It improves health and hygiene
3.      It is environmentally friendly
4.      It is cost effective (well-made products will last for years)
5.      It provides training and  employment to disadvantaged young women
6.      It strengthens the personal connection between our two communities
This is also an environmentally friendly project that reduces environmental waste significantly.
 How was the Lushoto community Foundation founded and what are its activities?
Hearts for Lushoto Society grew out of a partnership between the municipality of Lushoto and the community of Drayton Valley through Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  (There is a link to a document about this partnership in the news section of our website.) The partnership between the two communities far exceeded the mandate of CIDA because of the generosity of local various groups and individuals.
Jeannette Vatter, who was then the director of the Drayton Valley Community Foundation travelled to Lushoto to set up the LCF Board and hand-picked William Kusaga as the director. The original board members were selected by the District Local Government Council. The present board is still served by three original members who have been dedicated themselves to the LCF since 2006. This continuity has been instrumental in raising the profile of the LCF in the district.
The selection criteria for board members are as follows:
·         being a resident in the community
·         having a general understanding of problems, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the community
·         possessing leadership qualities and education
·         willingness to volunteer time and resources to serve the community
When I was looking for a way to remember my brother who had died of AIDs, supporting Lushoto seemed to be the perfect memorial.  
Hearts for Lushoto Society serves the disadvantaged in the large municipality of Lushoto, Tanzania; which is largely rural and situated in the Usambara Mountains. Lushoto has a population of over 500.000 and covers 4,092 km².
Our mission is to improve quality of life for the citizens of the municipality of Lushoto, Tanzania, who have been devastated by the AIDS epidemic. To this end we oversee several programs in addition to the AIDs Education Program. We support disadvantaged families through microeconomic projects allowing them to start or expand small businesses and better support their dependents. Caregivers are often single mothers, aunts and grandmothers and dependents include biological children and grandchildren, as well as other orphaned relatives, such as nieces and nephews. Family units are usually large. We offer medical insurance coverage to disadvantaged individuals including AIDS orphans and provide ongoing support to the Irente orphanage and school and to the Irente School for the blind. We provide funding as well as supplies.
Over three thousand people were directly served by Hearts for Lushoto society in 2015. This includes 1500 secondary students who attended the AIDS Education Program as well as 1257 HIV positive individuals and school students who were provided with medical insurance for one year.  The Irente Blind School of 67 students received the items listed on the attached letter from the Drayton Valley Chapter of Safari Club International.
Thirty students were provided with funding for school fees and uniforms. Microeconomic grants were provided to 120 individuals running family businesses.
Detailed Information on the AIDS Education and Prevention Program: Our Flagship Project.
To make an impact on the spread of HIV we developed an innovative AIDS/HIV Prevention and Education program which we implemented in Lushoto secondary schools. This is the first such program offered in Tanzanian Schools. Our program is innovative in that it breaks down the taboos around discussing sexual matters and, thereby, allows for open discussion and dissemination of crucial preventative knowledge. By our example we have influenced the Tanzanian Government and they have begun to implement some HIV education (not a comprehensive program such as ours) into the health curriculum for secondary schools.
Decrease the incidence of HIV infection by:
1.       increasing openness regarding sexuality and HIV
2.      increasing awareness and correct knowledge about HIV and AIDS
3.      empowering girls and women through education, distribution of female condoms and knowledge of personal safety strategies
4.      encouraging early detection of HIV to allow for early treatment and awareness for patients
5.      increasing the HIV awareness and openness of the community at large
In all 84 secondary schools and other selected locations:
1.       disseminating the facts about HIV/AIDS
2.      distributing male and female condoms
3.      demonstrating the correct use of condoms
4.      offering HIV testing
5.      teaching personal safety strategies
We look forward to a time when families are not devastated by the death of young parents, a time when the number of orphans is greatly diminished and when elderly grandparents do not have to be fulltime caregivers. This program is designed to be proactive and to prevent the future spread of HIV that has led to the AIDS crisis in Lushoto. We are certain that we have already saved lives by preventing the spread of this deadly disease.
”These seminars we are conducting are the first of its kind in a society
 where matters of sexual relationships are a taboo to be mentioned publicly.
 I believe one of the major factors which have contributed to the spread of
 HIV/Aids.” William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.
“These seminars as I have almost always told you continue to change the lives of these innocent children. AIDS in Africa it seems is here to stay because of the ever increasing level of poverty. These efforts we are jointly making to create awareness to these students are efforts worth commending. Your efforts in this are so invaluable; we will therefore be very much appreciative to receive more of the female condoms as you have pointed out”. William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation”. William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.

“As always the reception on part of these students and the staff in materials presented in the seminars was wonderful”.  William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.
“In all schools the students learned vital information that is so critical in their lives as far as HIV AIDS is concerned. The use of both condoms especially the female condoms served as an eye opener to most of these students, as the pictures attached herewith for example show facilitators demonstrating the use of condoms with a makeshift sex organ”.   William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.
Our general observation through data provided by the schools indicate that unplanned pregnancies are on the decrease. For example in one secondary school of 450 students the number of unplanned pregnancies dropped from 12 students in 2007 to 2 in 2013. The Lushoto District has formal measuring rates for HIV/ Aids infection which according to statistics available has dropped from 3.8% in 2007 to 1.8% in 2013.
“We also had the time to discuss with the teachers to gauge on the impact made by these seminars and the results in all the schools we visited is very positive as pointed early on in our reports.  There is therefore a great need to carry on with this wonderful project which is changing the lives of these students by the awareness created”.  William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.
    “On behalf of all the schools we visited may I once again express to you my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for affording us this opportunity? God Bless You all”.  William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.
Members of the Lushoto Community Foundation Board take an active part in delivering the program. This participation helps to raise awareness and increase openness in the community at large. Unfortunately this program does not yet have sufficient stable funding. Therefore, seminars are arranged when funding is available. Our goal is to provide the program to all secondary students every third year so that every student will experience the program at least once in their high school years.
I would love to see our program available to other communities in Tanzania.
The HFL AIDS program, as well as the other HFL programs, (micro-economic projects, medical insurance funding, school funding and support for the Irente Orphanage and the Orphanage for the Blind) have all received support from various sponsors and individuals throughout the years.
What are according your experience, the most effective ways to promote community empowerment?
Our volunteer director, William Kusaga finds that the most effective way to promote community empowerment is through a bottom up, participatory and inclusive approach. Community members ought to know the strengths and weaknesses of the community and be tasked to find solutions for weak areas. Projects for the community should not be imposed on people but the community should be given the opportunity to understand their shortcomings and community members should participate in formulating solutions for their problems.
The Lushoto community Foundation has accomplished a great deal in the past ten years. The LCF has a high profile with the underprivileged and the community stakeholders. A goal would be to facilitate greater engagement with and support from the business people and to strengthen communication with and partnerships with agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, to best access and manage expertise and resources.  
In what ways do you get in touch with people that could benefit from your activities?
A strong board is essential to a successful organization and to liaison with the community. The present board is still served by three original members, including our wonderful director, William Kusaga, who have been dedicated themselves to the LCF since 2016. This continuity has been instrumental in raising the profile of the LCF in the district.
The selection criteria for board members are as follows:
·         being a resident in the community
·         having a general understanding of problems, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the community
·         possessing leadership qualities and education
·         willingness to volunteer time and resources to serve the community
William finds that personal visits to people who would benefit from our services are the best approach. Visits to places where many people gather such as the market, allow for contact with many people in a short time. Other means to get in touch include mail and mobile phones. Most of the underprivileged individuals in Lushoto do not have regular access to the internet.
Since my visit to Lushoto I have been able to keep in touch with board members and community stakeholders by email. I find that some individuals are more responsive than others, probably due to their comfort level with internet and with written English. I have been translating my correspondence into Swahili as well. 
I am concerned for the future of LCF, since William is 63, and has given 10 years to the program. When the time come it may difficult to find a volunteer director as capable, knowledgeable and dedicated as William has been. I would love to access ongoing funding to make the director position a paid one so that our programs will continue. A paid director would have time and resources to oversee existing programs and to facilitate improved cooperation, communication and referral between various community, government and non-governmental stakeholders.
 Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
We do cooperate with local authorities in specific areas of our projects. For example when I visited Lushoto I brought eyeglasses and medical supplies for the District Hospital. I was given a tour of the Hospital by the administrators and I met with the District Council Chairman and a number of school staff members.
There is international funding available for much needed projects such as provision of running water in schools and construction of a new and larger maternity wing for the Lushoto Hospital. However, accessing funding resources is extremely time consuming and labour intensive. It involves bringing together various community stakeholders, a great deal of planning and extensive paperwork.
My dream would be that the Lushoto Community Foundation would become a funded organization with a full time paid director. For over ten years William has voluntarily dedicated himself to the betterment of the disadvantaged of Lushoto. He has become the ‘go to’ person who will listen to them and support them.
Two gaps that I see in the community are the lack of regular engagement of community stakeholders, both public and private and the lack of expertise for navigating the complicated system to access much needed support and funding.
With proper funding the foundation could fill a gap by becoming a place where community stakeholders could meet, brainstorm and solve problems. There would be expertise available to complete grant applications and take advantage of available assistance.