Beautiful horrible places

I am in love with beautiful horrible places. Mwanza is one such place. The lake it picturesque and the views divine. Yet disease runs rampant, poverty destroys lives and breaks families. Children are frequently abandoned due to lack of food. The environmental elements are spectacular, but the human suffering is equally astonishing. Recently, I heard stories of babies dying from mothers in Magu because “there was no one there to catch them when they were being born”.

Kids in Lake Victoria

The long rains have come to water the green fields full of life. Hundreds of species of birds flock to the trees and sing. Women in brightly colored kangas sit roadside in stalls selling fresh organic produce. Small fingerling tilapias dry on the lakeside rocks while white herons perch nearby.

This is a population of fishermen and farmers: people who work hard and toil under the sun. The fruits of their labor are meager as most engage predominately in cash crops. The fish are sold to large factories. Agriculture takes time so there are often long period where these family have little income and insufficient food. Children who are hungry steal to eat. The community rejects the children as “thieves” and they run to the street.

In the streets, the kids are exposed to every evil imaginable. From rape to police imprisonment, the children soon become lost to the world. These “Lost Boys” are in constant danger and if they survive they often become hardened criminals. Most have no communication with their families and have not seen them since they left home. Only those who are able to find housing and employment are able to improve their lives.

Voices of Africa is working on a few solutions. First, we managed to rent a 1 acre farm with a fish pond a few kilometers outside of town. The goal is to provide food and work for the hungry children in a safe environment. Currently, we are looking for support to provide a steady availability of food while we wait for the harvest of the fruit. Using permaculture and mini-farm techniques, the plan is to create a highly productive farm in a small amount of space. As our space is the same size as a majority of the small scale farmer’s homesteads, we can share information for improving the food supply and the income from agriculture. The children will have informal English and computer lessons while working and the funds from the harvest will help to send the younger ones to school.

Secondly, since two of the key issues in Mwanza are unemployment and lack of quality education, we are building six computer labs in local schools. Five of the schools are severely underfunded government facilities. None of the schools has a proper library and the children often share 10 to a single book. Each computer lab will have 25 machines to accommodate the class size of 50 children which is average. The teachers will first be trained and they will in turn train the student. The sixth classroom is at a private Catholic facility which will serve as a training center for teachers from the other schools and will also have 25 computers.

Last is the problem of healthcare for the people. This is where we get extra techie. We are working with two local partners to address maternal mortality and poor care in medical facilities. The African Woman Alliance is working on using community groups to gather information and find solutions to the issues within the Magu medical system that lead to maternal and infant mortality. Ongoing research is being conducted as to the state of the local healthcare facilities to have a clear picture of the missing elements and design solutions. One solution in development is an Android application which has all the elements required to educate and track pregnancies and births. It is to be tested on tablets by nurses in dispensaries this summer.

In the district hospital facilities, Afya Connect 4 Change is implementing a hospital management information system named AfyaPro. We plan to assist their team in building understanding of healthcare providers to the benefits of systems and technology. The HMIS has been extremely useful to the hospitals in finding where they have areas of loss and theft. Systems can shine a light where it was previously easy to hide in the darkness.

We want to create a company that promotes both of these applications on a for profit web-based model to provide future funding outside of grants and donations. AfyaPro is working well in the larger facilities. We want to do a similar solution with a cloud based in Kiswahili for the lower level facilities to streamline the data and provide medical records from the village level with statistics to be shared with the government. The African Woman Alliance’s Android application makes an ideal complement and the applications will be developed so there is not replication of entry. Entering data in more than one system or software for new technology users is daunting and overwhelming.

A medical records system stemming from the village and informing government with more accurate statistics provides a platform for advocacy and increased situational awareness. The statistical data will be open and publically available. This allows the public to seek redress and external donors to better utilize their aid resources.

Our contributions are small but important pieces in a big challenging puzzle that we call “development”. These beautiful horrible places are naturally endowed with everything good thing in the world. Gold, diamonds, vast biodiversity, fertile soil, and so on meanwhile the people suffer from poverty, disease, and lack of education. Rather than say we can do it all, we say we can do something small with great love and do our best to share and make that grow.

Please check out this link to know more about how you can contribute: or contact for more details.


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