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.

What 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 periods. I would like to see a community
effort to access funds to achieve this goal (see question 5).

Current Proposed
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
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?

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
having a general
understanding of problems, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the
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.  
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.
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.
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.
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
increasing openness regarding sexuality
and HIV
increasing awareness and correct
knowledge about HIV and AIDS
empowering girls and women through
education, distribution of female condoms and knowledge of personal safety
encouraging early detection of HIV to
allow for early treatment and awareness for patients
increasing the HIV awareness and openness
of the community at large
In all 84 secondary schools and other
selected locations:
disseminating the facts about HIV/AIDS
distributing male and female condoms
demonstrating the correct use of
offering HIV testing
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.
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
William Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community
“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.

always the reception on part of these students and the staff in materials
presented in the seminars was wonderful”. 
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”.  
Kusaga, Director, Lushoto Community Foundation.
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.
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
having a general
understanding of problems, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the
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
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.