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HILLARY TESHA

I remember the day I met Hilary Tesha. He came to work wearing a t-shirt that said Mount Shasta Cheerleading Squad. He didn’t know Mount Shasta was on the other side of the world or that I lived there. It felt synchronistic and magical. It made me feel like we both belonged to this mission.   Joseph, our Tanzanian director suggested Hilary could cook for the 51 men building a 260,000-liter rainwater harvesting system on the Patandi Primary school. He was motivated to help, to learn, to grow. After a few projects, Joseph gave him the official title of Chief Cook. Because...

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HAPPY ALLEN

There is always a moment that feels like you are in a vacuum and all the air around you is being sucked away. It happens seconds before panic sinks in. The fear sings a story of how alone you are in the world and how you don’t have what you need to make it out of where you are. If we listen to those lyrics, we always lose.   It takes great courage and even greater strength to close the book on that fear and reconnect to our innate ability to persevere.   Maybe it’s because her name is Happy that the distance to...

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MILGRID

It takes a little while for MILGRID to smile. She has learned to keep herself relatively invisible, to express her joy quietly and to tiptoe through her own life. When she finally allows herself to smile, she creates a warmth that is palpable. It feels like a hug. But she doesn’t know it. Her shame predates it.   Milgrid like so many other women and girls has learned to shroud her power. Her entire life, she has been taught that she is more her husband’s property than she is her own person. Milgrid was married at 13 years old. She was chosen by...

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ELIESH

Her eyes are like a map of hardship. You can feel her struggle engraved in them. When ELIESH laughs, the pain is replaced by joyful abandon. But it is her quiet smile that communicates that you are with someone who can overcome anything. She is remarkably thin and yet she emanates a comforting warmth and a mighty strength.   Eliesh has 6 children. Saying she raised them on her own is an understatement. She embodies the unstoppable will of a mother who will sacrifice everything, down to the soles of her feet, to offer her children a life of promise.   Her husband died one...

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LEMNA

In September 2000, LEMNA was 30 and pregnant with her 4th child. She was married to a man whose family thrived on abusive power. They loved to leave Lemna feeling powerless and afraid. On this particular night, their cruelty was deafening. They all stood in the home she helped build and demanded that she leave. She was not worthy of their name nor of this home. They were driving her out pregnant, with nowhere to go. Her mother-in-law lined her children up and demanded that the two eldest stay. It was Lemna’s gift to her. She could take the toddler and go. “Where?” Lemna...

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IRENE

IRENE’S smile is as big as it gets and her stature is the polar opposite. She is no more than 5’ tall and spaghetti strand thin. She is child-like in appearance and ancient in wisdom. She sees solutions that are broad to create opportunity for as many people as possible.   Irene is married to a man who was broken by his choices and found his solutions in bottles of alcohol. Together they have grown a family Irene is solely responsible for. For Irene, leaving her husband was never an option. To leave him would imprison her to a life of solitude. In...

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NIPAELI

Even in a crowd of people, Nipaeli stood out. Her beauty is indescribable. The problem was she was living a life she did not ask for. She left her family to be with her husband. Her husband moved them to a village that was foreign to her. They had four children back to back. When Jonathan was born, Nipaeli had been pregnant for 11 months. Though never formally diagnosed, all signs point to Cerebral Palsy. When it was clear there were problems with Jonathan’s development, Nipaeli’s husband left. He found another wife in the city. He returns occasionally but not...

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HAPPY

She stood before she spoke. Straightened her dress and composed herself. Happy John had something to say. She wasn’t going to wait.   This was the first meeting Save the Rain organized in her village. Save the Rain wanted to hear the stories of Lositeti and Happy had many to tell.   “My dream is to be able to give my children breakfast before they go to school,” she said.   This was also her daily prayer. In those prayers, Happy asks about tomorrow, every night: What will it look like? Will her kids be sick? Where will she get food? Will she be there for...

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SINGING FOR THE RAIN

Three years ago, we gathered in Lositeti, a village in the far reaches of the Makiba Ward in the Arumeru district of Tanzania. As we finish the tour of the school, Gilbert, a local Rotarian, becomes emotional. He says he is not certain how this kind of poverty exists in Northern Tanzania. Truthfully, it takes only one story to fully understand the depth of their struggle and to commit to help. But the women don’t stop at one. They share their stories of rape, domestic violence, anxious nights waiting for water, and the 10 hour daytime journey when the water...

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