December 12, 2019

Young head of the family with willpower

MG 0877
MG 0877

In the midst of banana trees in northern Tanzania, six brothers and sisters live in the simplest of circumstances without parents, completely on their own. Aronia Joseph, the oldest of them, has been looking after them alone for years. Our partner organisation Humuliza supported her in coping with this great task and also stood by her when her father threw his children into misery.

"Caribou! Aronia Joseph welcomes us with a big smile. She sits down on the long dried blades of grass, which make the ground in the parlour a little more comfortable. She offers us the wobbly bench, the only piece of furniture in the room. The walls are made of crumbly red clay with a skeleton of wooden sticks. "Our parents built this hut," explains the 21-year-old, who looks much younger. She wears a colourful skirt that matches the equally traditional blouse.

We are on a project trip to Tanzania. In Nshamba, in the Kagera region, we visit the office of our partner organisation Humuliza. Aronia, is a participant in the program and invites us to her home. She would like to tell us her story and what the work of Humuliza and terre des hommes schweiz means to her. And so we listen to her family history in a spellbound manner.

Cheated mother with six children
Aronia Joseph, her mother and her five siblings were left alone by their father under the rusty corrugated iron roof in the middle of the banana grove. "His affair has created a new family," Aronia Joseph soberly observes. This is not uncommon in the rural areas of Tanzania. At least the plantation around the house remained for the deceived mother and her six children: the banana trees reliably yielded a regular harvest and the coffee bushes in their shade as well.

Although the small income was enough to cover her living expenses, her mother could not afford to see a doctor. Despite years of stomach aches. "It was only when the cramps became unbearable that she went to see a doctor," Aronia Joseph recalls. "He could not help her." Aronia Joseph still does not know what finally killed her mother. "She needed an operation, but we could not afford it." Her mother was confined to bed for a long time. So Aronia Joseph took on more and more of the household chores. "Until I became the head of the family." After her mother's death, she sought help from the Humuliza organization. "I knew Humuliza because friends had taken me to activities earlier."

Comfort, knowledge and self-confidence for everyday life
Humuliza supports Aronia Joseph and her siblings in coping with their grief but also with tangible know-how to help them find their way in their situation. For example, Aronia Joseph learned how to manage the household or how to successfully grow plants and harvest crops. Things that her mother had taken care of until then. With her death, as in many similar cases, much knowledge was lost before it was passed on.

"One of the most important things I have learned from Humuliza is to take new courage and self-confidence," Aronia Joseph continues. Before, she had been shy and hardly dared to say anything in a group. Now things are different. This is important if she wants to hold her own in the rough everyday life. "I have also learned how to look after my little brothers and sisters. Physically, but also mentally."

Aronia puts a pot on the small fireplace in her hut.

A hut and a patch of land

We walk with Aronia Joseph around the hut to the small earthy place behind it. In one corner a few wooden poles and banana leaves serve as a screen for the toilet - a hole in the floor. Next to it is a bundle of firewood. Like every weekend they had collected it on Saturday. Aronia Joseph grabs some branches and carries them into the hut. The kitchen is a room with Russian walls, newspaper and a few banana bunches. "This is where we cook," says Aronia Joseph, breaks up some branches and puts them in the small fireplace. "Soon the children will come home and need food."

 "From Humuliza I got some farm animals and some seeds after the first course," explains Aronia Joseph, referring to the chicken and goat that live in their wooden fittings behind the hut. "We raise them and sell them," she says, "then we buy two young ones each and start all over again."

With Humuliza's training, life seemed to improve for the siblings - until their father drove them completely into poverty. "Bit by bit he sold our plantation. He robbed us of our livelihood!" He left his children only the shack and a piece of land behind it. Nothing more. The situation became desperate. Suddenly there was no money for everything: food, clothes, school fees and uniforms.

Humuliza helped the young family. "You'll pay for my brother and sister's school fees." In addition, the family receives the equivalent of CHF 4.30 a month for maintenance. "We are very grateful to Humuliza. We could never manage without them", explains Aronia Joseph. Because the beans that she is now planting around the hut do not come together sufficiently.

Aronia sits at a green plastic table in front of a pile of papers. In the background wooden shelves with magazines.
At Humuliza, chokeberry has learned to work with computers and trays. She likes digital work.

Goal: Independence
She also got a small job at Humuliza. "I collect statistics and enter them on a tray," she says with a smile. Aronia Joseph likes this kind of work. "I'd love to open an internet café and design websites." To the European eye, web design doesn't really fit into the Tanzanian hinterland. But many here have an old cheap smartphone and in the middle of the village the mobile network is not always bad.

"If that doesn't work out, I'd be happy with a cafe or a small inn." She's got a long way to go before she can realize her dream. Although she is grateful and happy to know that her siblings are being looked after, the 21-year-old is not satisfied. "I want to stand on my own two feet and take care of us myself." At Humuliza she learned the necessary knowledge "Now it still needs a lot of patience and hard work." We realize that she was not discouraged by her family's history and is now ready to continue writing it positively

Comfort for young heads of families

Consolation is the name Humuliza in the Kihaya language. The project was initiated by terre des hommes schweiz in 1997. In Nshamba, in the district of Muleba (Kagera region), countless children and young people like Aronia Joseph lose their parents every year to AIDS or other diseases. Humuliza accompanies them in coping with their grief and offers them psychosocial support. However, due to the death of the adults, they also lose very practical and important knowledge about life-sustaining agriculture and animal husbandry, which causes the surviving children and young people to fall even deeper into poverty. In this way Humuliza also empowers those affected with comprehensive practical knowledge on how to run their own household. In addition, Humuliza ensures that thousands of children and young people can exercise their right to schooling every year and assumes the costs associated with this. The organisation also trains 20 young people each year in sustainable agriculture and livestock farming. At the end of the course, it provides them - like Aronia Joseph - with seeds and small animals.

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