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.

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.

Bar­bara & James with Lucia

A visit to Kishu­mundu Sec­ondary School allowed a won­der­ful reunion with Lucia Mbuya, the 2012 recip­i­ent of ICBD’s Hope of the Future edu­ca­tional schol­ar­ship. We were delighted to hear that she had placed 8th out of all Tan­zan­ian stu­dents tak­ing admis­sion exams for her cur­rent grade level. Lucia’s favorite sub­ject is biol­ogy and she is now hop­ing to be a doc­tor some­day “so she can help peo­ple in her country”. 

 Our Ful­bright Scholar and Field Engi­neer Yana Gen­chanok wel­comed her par­ents to Tan­za­nia on Sun­day, with a din­ner at the Ngowi family’s home. We all enjoyed Eva’s won­der­ful tra­di­tional food as well as many sto­ries, tall tales and some shared trep­i­da­tions  as the Gen­chanoks looked ahead to climb­ing Mt. Meru this week. We fin­ished the evening with Yana proudly show­ing her fam­ily the water dis­tri­b­u­tion system. 

The Gen­chanoks leav­ing for Mt. Meru climb









 We spent a won­der­ful Tues­day dri­ving up to Materuni vil­lage to see Eva Ngowi’s dream in progress’ for a Cof­fee & Curio Shop. About a 30 minute ride up the moun­tain from her home, some 30 to 40 tourists drive daily then park their cars at Materuni for a hike to the Nambe’ Water­fall. Eva nego­ti­ated a deal with the owner of a small shop that is cur­rently under con­struc­tion there,where she plans to have the Acorn Women’s Coöper­a­tive sell home grown cof­fee beans, cof­fee, drinks and snacks, and where the Acorn Women’s beau­ti­ful hand­i­crafts may be pur­chased as well. 

Eva Ngowi smiles proudly in front of new construction


Eva and I also went into town to select some lovely Tan­za­nia kitange cot­ton cloth to cre­ate prod­ucts I will carry home to shops and bou­tiques in the USA. A stop by the Acorn Women’s work­space in Kyaseni the next day found the women hard at work already, cut­ting the new cloth and cre­at­ing lap­top bags, purses, and jewelry.

Cre­at­ing hand­i­crafts at the Acorn Coöper­a­tive 








With a group field trip planned tomor­row to the Hai Dis­trict water project for ideas and learn­ing, James and I took a one day safari today to Arusha National Park. Just an hour from Moshi town, we wel­comed the chance to breathe deeper and con­nect to the soul of Africa through its grass­lands, moun­tain slopes, forests and won­der­ful wildlife.


Bar­bara & James at Arusha National Park

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 every moment. But here in Africa I have no desire to avoid the dark because to do so would be to miss life altogether.

We were invited this week to visit a church in the Meru area, about an hour from Moshi town. 
Leav­ing the foothills of Mt. Kil­i­man­jaro we drove through the dry flat plains, dusty and near-​​barren from drought. We saw small chil­dren stand­ing within a foot of cer­tain death, as they vig­i­lantly guarded the family’s goats graz­ing at the highway’s edge. We watched the Maa­sai herders walk­ing count­less miles with their cat­tle in search of even the small­est water hole, a resid­ual bless­ing from infre­quent rain. And we watched the own­ers of bar­rel laden don­keys  retriev­ing water from a rare road­side stand­pipe, hav­ing walked days for water.

Many peo­ple turn away from life’s chal­lenges here in Africa, sad­dened by the depths of prob­lems and con­vinced that real impact is not pos­si­ble. But to turn a face from the prob­lems means to turn away from the depths of the peo­ple them­selves, all mir­rors of the best and worst within us all.

As James strug­gled to regain energy after a week long bout of food poi­son­ing, we tried to man­age some work progress dur­ing pro­longed elec­tri­cal black­outs, phone fail­ures and sub-​​saharan tem­per­a­tures. Even with these small dis­com­forts we real­ized for the thou­sandth time how blessed we are. And with grate­ful hearts we per­se­vered, thank­ful for the oppor­tu­nity to be of some slight ser­vice or bring momen­tary relief to a Tan­zan­ian sis­ter or brother.

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me

African Evening Sky

Look around and choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.

 — song lyrics from Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd

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…

Snapshots of Tanzania Soul

As I pre­pare to leave for Kil­i­man­jaro air­port and return home to Amer­ica, images of the last 5 weeks come to my mind’s eye: Our group arriv­ing in Africa amidst wind and dust and a night sky heavy with a mil­lion stars, all bear­ing silent wit­ness to life come and gone and come again. Here, the ground and the…

Alive & Well in Uru

Every day in Africa is a day lived close to the ele­ments, close to the earth, and close to its’ peo­ple. Here there is no insu­la­tion from any aspect of life or death, from the food eaten or from the effects of weather. On Kil­i­man­jaro, peo­ple par­take of food that is har­vested and then eaten on…