Mamas know best: How to change lives for the better

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Mamas know best: How to change lives for the better

The clients in our family preservation program – a resource designed to help families in need stay together through micro-finance, business training, and other forms of support- vary in age, background and experience. They are orphans, farmers, widows, survivors of domestic abuse, grandmothers, single fathers, aunts, sisters, caretakers, and children.

Moreover, they are individuals of extraordinary resilience who have formed lives outside the boundaries of their original circumstance. 

Apropos of our recent mama graduation (pictured above), we continue to focus on our mamas–these are women who deserve to be heard, recognized and celebrated for all that they have done, and for all they continue to do.

What makes a mama?

Many of the women here in Nkoaranga are respectfully known as mamas- whether or not they are biologically connected to the children they care for. It’s simple. In Tanzania, when you rear a child, you are by default, their mama. I’ve learned that this is a title earned through function and practice. Oh, and love. Lots and lots of love.

All of the mamas we partner with are strong and compassionate caretakers- fully equipped with the necessary drive to see their ambitions through.  Another universal quality I’ve noticed? They refuse to be identified as victims of circumstance and instead, derive meaning from the hardships they encounter, and continue to grow stronger as a result. 

Below, we have included some advice that our mamas would like to share with anyone marshaling up the courage to change their own life!

“My advice to someone in difficult circumstances? Do not give up hope. Hope is always there. And if I meet another person who needs help like I once did? Well, I will not send them to an organisation. I will try to help them myself. I will give them an opportunity to change their life, because I was given an opportunity to change mine.”
“My advice to someone in difficult circumstances? Do not give up hope. Hope is always there. And if I meet another person who needs help like I once did? Well, I will not send them to an organisation. I will try to help them myself. I will give them an opportunity to change their life, because I was given an opportunity to change mine.”

Chichi is a 22 year old, orphaned woman who moved here alone from Mwanza. She worked for over six months without receiving her first pay-check, and was then let go because the shop could not afford to pay her a salary. Since her arrival to Nkoaranga, she has built a successful clothing resale business, and is expanding into shoes and other accessories. An official graduate from our program, Chichi is now fully independent and continues to move forward and offer assistance to others in need, in whatever way she can.

“I am proud and happy that I can support myself without any assistance. I think that if people make the effort to improve their lives, then the doors will open. You just have to take the first, small step forward. And then you have to keep going.”

Afrasion is a widowed mother of two. Shortly after her husband’s death, the land she lived on was reclaimed by his family leaving her homeless. Afrasion struggled to support her children and could not afford to send them to school given her circumstances. However, after taking a business class and obtaining a $100 grant, she was able to start a clothing business. She used the earnings to open a small restaurant/café that now helps support her children’s education. Like Chichi, Afrasion is fully independent and continues to explore new business opportunities that can help her continue to grow and challenge herself.

“When my husband died, I was in a terrible situation. I failed so many times. But I kept trying. And I tell others in my situation to keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying. That’s really all that you can do.”
“When my husband died, I was in a terrible situation. I failed so many times. But I kept trying. And I tell others in my situation to keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying. That’s really all that you can do.”

Mama Max is a 50 year old woman with six children whose husband died in 1990. She has two grandchildren that she still cares for. Following her husband’s death, she began to raise chickens, and sold the eggs successfully. She then used the profits to purchase her own goat and even began to sell bananas in market as well. Now stable and independent, Mama Max has completely rebuilt her house and continues to provide friendship, encouragement and support to other villagers of Nkoaranga.

Our mamas are extraordinary women. Their efforts remind us that every decision we make tells the world something about who we are, and what we value. And in their progress, lies proof that a series of small, but intentional actions have the power to transform a life.

So, how do I apply this advice to my own life ?

It all starts with a change! And changes can be scary.

It’s uncomfortable to deviate from routine and, in some cases, you are asked to dismantle the lifestyle that you’ve grown accustomed to in order to invest in a future that still appears ambiguous.

But it’s important to remember that you alone are responsible for creating a life that you find meaningful. You can make it as rich and colourful as your imagination can conceive. And if you don’t like what you’ve rendered, you have the power to wipe everything clean and start all over again.  

This optimism is the driving force behind our current Small Things Summer campaign. No effort is too small to produce meaningful change  – all the “drops in the ocean,” as Mother Teresa terms small acts of great love, together can have an immense impact for children and families in need. The families in our Family Preservation Program don’t need pity – all they need is a chance, for the door to be opened, and they will do the rest of the work themselves.

To learn how you can help the mamas of our Family Preservation Program this summer and for more information on how to start your own mini-campaign, click here