Lorraine Flores, of Felton, California; Dr. Susan Hughmanick, of Aptos, California; and Joas Kahembe, of Babati, Tanzania, bring the total membership of Karimu’s Board to five. In the beginning there were only my wife, Marianne Kent-Stoll, and I, Don Stoll.
Marianne is the president and I am the treasurer, and we do Karimu’s business from an office—otherwise known as the living room—in our house in Idyllwild, California. But when the two of us first visited the remote Tanzanian village of Dareda Kati in 2007, we were only tourists.
The villagers would occasionally see visitors like us staying for a few days in the home of a farmer named Marceli. The house in which he lives with his wife and their eleven children is an extremely simple one, like nothing that any of our Karimu volunteers could imagine living in. It is built out of bricks, however, while all the other homes in the village are mud huts. By comparison, Marceli is well off.
Now the villagers expect to see Marianne and me every year, along with a few dozen other wazungu (“foreigners” in Swahili). The numbers of people who want to travel with us have grown, and so has the variety of our projects. Occasionally, someone will ask us if we envision a time when we will no longer travel to the village, or if we have an exit strategy. These questions reflect the belief that development work should aim to create a self-sustaining community.
The success of Ufani School’s students, the appetite of its teachers for ongoing professional development, the gradual extension of pipes carrying clean water to every part of the village, the improved medical facilities, and the health of a handful of small business cooperatives, like the HIV patients’ chicken farm, all point to the villagers’ own determination to become self-sustaining. This supports our hope that the need for Karimu’s presence will disappear someday.
But when is the right time to exit a friendship? When is the right time to tell friends that we no longer intend to visit them? When is the right time to tell friends that we have no more need to enjoy their company or to walk and eat and talk with them?
In August 2012, Paul Yoronimo, Ufani School’s Head Teacher, reminisced about our first visit to Dareda Kati. He reminded us of when it came time to say goodbye to the teachers who, in less than a week, had become our friends.
“Don, I know you did not want to raise our hopes that you would return.”
He paused. Paul wishes he could speak English better than he does, so he speaks slowly and carefully in the attempt to do his best.
“You were sad, but you did not want us to see. You held yourself like this.”
Paul stiffened, making his face into a mask.
“You said, ‘We cannot come back. This trip cost Marianne and me a lot of money, and we are not rich. But we promise that we will try to raise money for your school.’”
“Do you remember what happened next?”
Neither of us could say a word to him.
“Don, I reached over to you and put my hand on your arm. I looked you in the eye and said, ’But you belong to our family now. You have entered into our hearts. You must come back.’”