A vital clarification to make right off the bat of my journey here is why me, why Uzima, why New Life?
The opportunity to work with the Shoo family as they expand their vision came about the summer of my sophomore year in high school. During this time, I traveled to Tanzania for a three-week period with a team of Americans operating under the name UNITE. UNITE’s team included subgroups of teachers, public health instructors, doctors, and a finance team. My mom was my link into the group. They asked her to join as she has her PhD in public health and had spent time in the past training in Kenya. I attended a prelaunch meeting for the group, and in seeing my level of maturity and quick ability to learn and absorb (their words not mine) the group leader asked me to join the trip.
I spent my springtime training to join the group of teachers. These efforts included practicing public speaking and familiarizing myself with teaching strategies of primary school teachers in the Connecticut area. In Tanzania, we visited village after village, school after school, staying at each for about three days to conduct trainings with the goal of establishing foundations that could outlast our stay.
We took one day during our time there to hike part of Mount Kilimanjaro. My mom stayed behind, as she had already seen the mountain during her stay in Kenya. She visited New Life Foundation and was inspired by the model it presented. Thus started the bond between Josephine, Glorious, and my family. Since that day, we have seen them once or twice a year as we open our home to them when they come to fundraise for New Life in the New York area. I first met Josephine in America and we hit it off. We exchanged big ideas. I was attracted to her visionary spirit and she was attracted to my ability to flesh out these visions. We remained in contact via e-mail, hoping to meet again in Africa, though the prospect did not seem likely, as I was smack dab in the middle of receiving my education.
This past spring, Josephine was in America again. We met for lunch at a local Au Bon Pain and spoke about Uzima for the first time. She shared with me her aspirations for the program. From the way it was presented to me at the time, I thought Uzima was a mobile woman’s rights movement that would be taking place throughout northern Tanzania. Josephine and I discussed a modulating curriculum that could adjust itself to the needs of each village. I was inspired by the idea. The women were my favorite part of Tanzania the last time I was there; they and their stories were so tragically beautiful. I wanted to learn from them, to be with them, to help them. Growing Uzima felt like the perfect opportunity to do so.
We have since formulated that this mobile outreach is only a portion of what Uzima is to become. Its centerpiece is an emotional and psychological healing center in Moshi where women will come on a by-need basis. The combination of our two ways of thinking – Josephine by limitless dreaming and me by synthesis of these dreams – has allowed Uzima to expand to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Why New Life:
Ever since my mom came back from working at New Life that day, I knew I wanted a taste of what the foundation has to offer. Glorious (New Life’s president) and I have also had many wonderful talks about education, nature and nurture, and additional topics that feed into the core values at New Life. Through speaking to him, I became most enthralled by the two subsectors of New Life called Fountain of Zoe (a nursery for abandoned children) and Fountain of Joy (a place of refuge for young mothers).
Once and for all, Why Me:
My opinions about God and destiny and all that jazz change on a pretty much daily basis. However one thing I know is that these people, these opportunities were put into my life for a reason. I am the kind of person who, when something inspires me – when I recognize an opportunity that I am passionate about and can uniquely contribute to I will chase it. This is my best explanation as to why, in the spring of my senior year when I was already accepted to college and ready to move smoothly into the next logical segment of my life, I bought a plane ticket to Kilimanjaro Airport. I am not here on a program, I am not accompanied by any other Americans (or westerners for that matter). But I am here; here in the Kilimanjaro region of Sub-Saharan Africa working to transform a joint dream into a rescue for women throughout the area.