Journeys from the Heart

Please enjoy our journal entries, as snapshots in time. From here to Africa and home again, we dreamed and tried and sometimes cried, but giving up was not an option: “PERSEVERANCE” said Alphonse Ngowi… so we persisted for water in Uru. “PERSEVERANCE” said Florentina Masawe… so we dreamed with our African sisters of better lives in Uru. “PERSEVERANCE” said Everist Momburi… so we carried their message half way round the world, in hopes that others would persevere with us.

 And so you have! Every generous gesture sent hope and happiness flying back across the ocean to Uru, only to return to us again… as happiness increased ten fold.

Lucia’s Big Dream

1 Lucia Sewing

Lucia sewing with Acorn Women’s Coöperative

Lucia’s fam­ily was bur­dened heav­ily by poverty, so she stopped going to school at the end of her pri­mary years in 2008 when they could not pay her school fees. She worked at home for the next sev­eral years, help­ing her fam­ily grow food, tend­ing to house­hold chores and car­ry­ing water daily. But in her heart an unre­lent­ing dream to con­tinue her school­ing would not die.

Des­per­ate for a way for­ward, Lucia knocked on the door of kind neigh­bors Alphonse & Eva Ngowi in 2011. She had watched Alphonse do com­mu­nity ser­vice as the water project man­ager for ICBD. Eva, too, coop­er­ated with ICBD in her found­ing of the Acorn Women’s Coöper­a­tive, pro­vid­ing skill devel­op­ment for a small group of Uru women cre­at­ing fair trade prod­ucts. She told them of her family’s hard sit­u­a­tion, shared her dream for edu­ca­tion and asked for their help.

2 Students at Kishumundu Secondary School

Lucia dreamed of being a Sec­ondary School Student

The Ngowi’s lis­tened care­fully to Lucia’s request for assis­tance with her con­tin­ued edu­ca­tion but were at a loss as to how to help. They lived a mod­est vil­lage life and still had 3 chil­dren they were sup­port­ing in their edu­ca­tions. But Lucia was adamant in her dream­ing and per­sua­sive in her appeal. With parental per­mis­sion, they decided she would stay in the Ngowi home for the time being. Here she would help in the house­hold and learn sewing and tai­lor­ing skills from the Acorn Women’s group.

Lucia was hard­work­ing and appre­cia­tive for this shel­ter and oppor­tu­nity, but in her own words: “my heart still ached for sec­ondary school education”.

I met Lucia in early 2012 dur­ing a work trip to Tan­za­nia and was touched by her eager­ness to work and learn. Her good humor was evi­dent in her wide smile and she went about her house­hold duties with care and con­sid­er­a­tion. While vis­it­ing in the Ngowi home I observed a dili­gent, bright young woman who truly deserved to have her dream of edu­ca­tion supported.

6 Mama Barbara, Lucia, & Baba James at Kishumundu Secondary School

Mama Bar­bara, Lucia & Baba James at Kishu­mundu Sec­ondary School

Hap­pily, Lucia she became the recip­i­ent of an ICBD edu­ca­tional schol­ar­ship allow­ing her to begin her sec­ondary school edu­ca­tion in Jan­u­ary 2013.

7 Lucia Smiling

Lucia smiles & dreams bigger!

Lucia has been in sec­ondary school for two years now and has not dis­ap­pointed. She works hard and is a stu­dent leader, respected by her class­mates and teach­ers. With stars in her eyes she con­tin­ues to smile and car­ries a new big dream of being “ a doc­tor or an engineer”.

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Building Bridges of Hope for Humanity

Walking the ed road of Uru image

Walk­ing the red road of Uru

In Uru Tan­za­nia the dirt roads are rough and pit­ted, the paths are steep, and walk­ing or dri­ving is often dan­ger­ous. Sea­sonal small rains turn the red clay soil into slip­pery impass­able slides that are treach­er­ous for vehi­cles and any­one on foot.

An Uru teacher was recently mak­ing her way to school on a path wet from the night’s rain. While nav­i­gat­ing a par­tic­u­larly steep ravine she slid and tum­bled into the crevasse below. The teacher sur­vived the fall with bruis­ing but no bro­ken bones, for­tu­nate, at least this time, no last­ing injury occurred.

Our good friends Anto­nia and Tingi were upset and con­cerned about not only what had hap­pened to the teacher, but about the poten­tial for future injury to oth­ers. With the vision and ini­tia­tive we have come to deeply appre­ci­ate from our Uru friends, they resolved that ‘some­thing must be done’.

Anto­nia asked her hus­band Tingi, a retired engi­neer & vol­un­teer for our water project, to design a sim­ple bridge span­ning this ravine chil­dren and teach­ers cross daily. Anto­nia gath­ered lum­ber from her farm and asked sev­eral vil­lage men to bring tools to the planned bridge site.

New Bridge image

Tingi & friend proudly pose on the new Bridge

A sturdy bridge was built that very Sat­ur­day ris­ing from the con­cern of one woman for another and facil­i­tated by a lit­tle wood, a few help­ing hands, and the belief that the prob­lem at hand could and there­fore should be solved NOW!

The image of this bridge in far off Tan­za­nia reminded me of the bridges we all have an oppor­tu­nity and oblig­a­tion to build. Bridges we are called to build in order to span the gaps of a life less for­tu­nate or a sit­u­a­tion that “could be better.”

For  those of us work­ing for safe water access in Uru, our faith and efforts in this mis­sion are built on the real­iza­tion that every per­son mat­ters, that one per­son helped by a few can make a dif­fer­ence, and that there is real power to change the land­scape and com­mu­nity when human­ity works together.


Small girls car­ry­ing water

A sin­gle small bridge on the slopes of Kil­i­man­jaro makes the way a lit­tle safer for the peo­ple of Uru. This same small bridge car­ries a pow­er­ful call to action, for all of us to make a dif­fer­ence, now.


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A Cistern is a Beautiful Sight

cistern foundation

Min­nesota part­ner Jim Thomas, Pas­tor Kleopa, Alphonse, Michael & Bar­bara appre­ci­at­ing the cis­tern foundation.

In all my life I could never have imag­ined that a water cis­tern would become a ‘beau­ti­ful sight’. But in ways that are noth­ing short of God given and mys­te­ri­ous, I am now moved to tears by the Grand­fa­ther Cis­tern tak­ing form in Kyaseni Village.

land donor Anthony Ngowi

Engi­neer & good friend Tingi with land donor Antony.

 Mr. Antony Ngowi donated a piece of his pre­cious land where the cis­tern is tak­ing form, to ‘honor his father and his father’s father and their fathers’. He is deeply happy to be an impor­tant part of gift­ing the Uru com­mu­nity with clean water. He is also pro­vid­ing a watch­ful eye dur­ing con­struc­tion, as well as a wide smile and a warm embrace, to all who come to visit and mar­vel at the cis­tern tak­ing form.


a happy moment

A happy moment with tech­ni­cian Michael, Jean and Project Man­ager Alphonse.

The cir­cu­lar cis­tern has become a sym­bol of hope and an affir­ma­tion of per­se­ver­ance for not only the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity, but for recent vis­i­tors, too. Our friends and part­ners in a new water bore­hole project being devel­oped in Kikatiti stood qui­etly with us dur­ing a recent tour, imag­in­ing such a real­ity for the fam­i­lies and school kids chal­lenged by drought and high flu­o­ride in their Meru moun­tain area.


Antony's grandsons

Antony’s grand­sons Baracka & Amani enjoy the vis­i­tors and build­ing activity.

Long time part­ners Rev. Sandy and Jean from Eau Claire Wis­con­sin came a long way too, to stand at the cis­tern. They were reminded once again that the part they and their church com­mu­nity have played over the years through prayer and fundrais­ing, has cre­ated health and hope for Uru people.


Baby Salome and sister

Baby Salome and her sis­ter share wide smiles.

On com­ple­tion of the cis­tern, the amount of avail­able clean water will dou­ble and be made avail­able to twice as many peo­ple. So Jim and I come to watch the cement being mixed by dili­gent ‘fundi’s’.  We stand and laugh with the vil­lage chil­dren, who are end­lessly enter­tained by the con­struc­tion and vis­i­tors in their midst. And we look at dia­grams, take GPS read­ings, and talk about pipe paths that will carry water from the bore­hole to the new cis­tern and even­tu­ally to many more pub­lic water taps.


And all of it is a beau­ti­ful sight.

Pig Round Up

Alphonse discovers the escaped pig image

Alphonse dis­cov­ers the escaped pig

On a recent visit to Alphonse’s Kyaseni vil­lage home, we were alerted to ‘some­thing hap­pen­ing’ by the insis­tent bark­ing of Simba, the watch dog. Simba is Swahili for ‘lion’, and Simba was liv­ing up to his name quite nobly, bark­ing fiercely and strain­ing at his leash.

pig free roaming image

The pig free roaming

As Alphonse inves­ti­gated fur­ther, he announced that ‘one of the pigs has escaped and is now free-​​range’. So we all rushed out­side to con­grat­u­late Simba for his suc­ces­ful watch dog­ging, as well as to con­tem­plate the sit­u­a­tion of the run­away and now hap­pily roam­ing pig.

jean comtemplating image

Jean con­tem­plates the predicament

Alphonse was fol­lowed by Jean towards the pig, and I was amazed to see Jean take a posi­tion that looked like a linebacker’s stance get­ting ready to make a tackle. I grabbed a cam­era, since I was pretty cer­tain my pig catch­ing skills would be inad­e­quate, and Rev. Sandy took up a safe posi­tion on the porch.

Rev. Sandy image

Rev. Sandy main­tains a safe distance

First efforts to drive the pig towards the pen were fruit­less, with the pig eas­ily main­tain­ing a safe dis­tance from Alphonse and Jean. More aggres­sive efforts to cor­ral the pig worked up a sweat (for the peo­ple, not the pig) but no progress was made until a group of school boys came along. See­ing the prob­lem, the young men eagerly joined in the chase.

jean covers her ears image

Jean cov­ers her ears to the squeal­ing as the pig is caught carried

With every­one work­ing together, the pig was dri­ven toward the pen but remained elu­sive, by run­ning under­neath the cor­ral. Now cor­nered, the pig began squeal­ing loudly and indig­nantly at his predica­ment. One young man saw his chance, went down on his belly and grabbed the pig’s hind legs. The pig was pulled into the open and the other young friends rushed in to help.

Community Cooperation image

Com­mu­nity Coöper­a­tion brings the pig safely home

The pig was now protest­ing at the top of his lungs, as Jean cov­ered her ears to the squeal­ing and the young men strug­gled to carry him to his pen. Ulti­mately thwarted in his bolt for free­dom by ‘com­mu­nity coöper­a­tion’, the pig grace­fully accepted his sit­u­a­tion and calmly resumed eat­ing his dinner.

The Long View

Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain

Mt. Kil­i­man­jaro is the tallest free­stand­ing moun­tain on earth at 19,500′.

On arriv­ing in Tan­za­nia every year for our work trips, the first thought that comes to mind is “the moun­tain”. Our first glimpse of Mt. Kil­i­man­jaro and it’s glac­i­ered peak ris­ing above the clouds is an anchor­ing image for us. It is Africa, it is our work, it is ‘home’.

Kilimanjaro’s image has even greater impact for the peo­ple who live here. Ever present, she looms as a daily reminder, defin­ing every­one who lives nearby or on her slopes as those who belong to the moun­tain. And she in turn pro­vides for them, with count­less fruits from the forests… with earth to grow veg­eta­bles in … and water from the glaciers.

Chil­dren sing songs about this beau­ti­ful moun­tain, men tell sto­ries of heroic adven­tures and women may know her best as the giver of water and life.

But in recent years, the moun­tain has been strug­gling to pro­vide for her chil­dren. Cli­mate shifts have cre­ated rapid melt­ing of the glac­i­ers that have sup­plied water for a mil­lie­nium to those who live here. It is a melt­ing of such speed as to cre­ate a cat­a­strophic loss of sur­face water and impair­ment to life.


URU girls enjoy­ing clean water access.

Strug­gling to keep up with the reced­ing water, the walks for water became longer and longer, leav­ing the women and chil­dren exhausted, ill and impoverished.

But the moun­tain has a long reach. In 2006 a story of Kilimanjaro’s peo­ple and their strug­gles for water reached a small group of friends in the USA and from their story…

It Can Be Done was born.

Work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Uru East com­mu­nity, a grass roots begin­ning based on coöper­a­tion, shared resources and ‘sweat equity’, has resulted in a suc­cess­ful pilot pro­gram for a com­mu­nity owned and oper­ated Water Sup­ply Sys­tem. From the first max­i­mum yield ‘Grand­mother Well’ at Kimo­cholo, clean water is now flow­ing through a pipe sys­tem of 5 kilo­me­ters and 18 pub­lic taps. And con­struc­tion will begin in Feb­ru­ary of the new ‘Grand­fa­ther Cis­tern’. This 100,000 liter cis­tern will dou­ble the amount of avail­able clean water, and will dou­ble the num­ber of peo­ple who will receive it.

And there is more! The story of this suc­cess­ful com­mu­nity dri­ven approach to prob­lem solv­ing and water sup­ply has reached Kilimanjaro’s sis­ter moun­tain: Meru Moun­tain. Sup­port­ers in the USA and in Meru vil­lages have now part­nered with It Can Be Done for pre­lim­i­nary research and water source devel­op­ment for two sep­a­rate but coop­er­at­ing Water Sup­ply pilot pro­grams in Meru. This is a sec­u­lar and faith based coöper­a­tion among It Can Be Done, the Meru Lutheran Dio­cese, the Mil­wau­kee Lutheran Synod which includes Our Sav­iour Lutheran Church/​Oconomowoc Wis­con­sin and Our Sav­iour Lutheran Church/​New Ulm Minnesota.

From the top of the moun­tain we can see the long view… past, present and future. We see the many count­less hands and hearts that have and will be work­ing for water as LIFE. And in tak­ing the long view we cel­e­brate the power of indi­vid­u­als work­ing together, to make real and last­ing dif­fer­ences in the lives of others.

May God bless all these hands and hearts with renewed strength, clar­ity of pur­pose and always… love.

Miles & Smiles

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the begin­ning of love.”  Mother Teresa As we con­tin­ued to han­dle con­struc­tion and engi­neer­ing pri­or­i­ties for the water project, our days have con­tained cel­e­bra­tions of hope and hap­pi­ness in other areas as well. A visit to Kishu­mundu Sec­ondary School allowed a won­der­ful reunion with Lucia…

Dark Side of the Moon

For me, the expe­ri­ence of Africa is liv­ing life at its fullest. It is a place where I am keenly aware that life is pre­cious and fleet­ing and where I am con­stantly amazed at the resilience of human­ity. There is lit­tle oppor­tu­nity to avoid the dark­est sides of life, with so many chal­lenges to life itself appar­ent at…

Hope Is a Verb

I Walk the Line

As sure as night is dark and day is light  I keep you on my mind both day and night And hap­pi­ness I’ve known proves that it’s right Because you’re mine, I walk the line.   — Johnny Cash, “I Walk the line”       Mon­day was a day spent dri­ving and walk­ing our Uru water sys­tem. This included the “Grand­mother Well” at…

Old Friends

This is my fifth jour­ney to Kil­i­man­jaro and I am delighted to be bring­ing my dear hus­band James Zin­zow with me, for the first time! James has been serv­ing as an engi­neer con­sul­tant with our project for sev­eral years now ‘sight unseen’, so we are both excited to have him actu­ally meet the peo­ple and places…