How can the project that Students for Humanity is carrying on in Wasa be sustainable in the long term? What are the challenges that the association is now facing and that it will probably have to overcome in the not-so-far-away future?
It’s perfectly reasonable to ask oneself those questions. A cooperation project of such dimension and importance is not something that one can decide to terminate without thinking of the aftermaths. At the same time, it’s unreasonable to think that it can go on forever.
The members of the Projects Abroad section have tried to clarify these doubts for us.
Most importantly, Wasa is expected to become completely self-sufficient and the association will continue to support only the students who received the scholarships. However, it is difficult to predict when exactly that will become a reality, as many factors have a great influence on the outcome. The team is constantly working on a pre-established ‘path’, a plan of action, but it is also crucial to respect the times and needs of the village, to understand them and to adjust the steps accordingly. For now, the goal is to continue all activities with this mindset. And it takes time and patience, but watching Wasa grow and flourish under your own eyes makes all of it worth it.
So, rather than when, the question is how.
There are already alternative revenue streams to support the school: two shops, one (Clelia shop) that sells everything and offers services such as printing; the other one is situated in the center of the village and sells clothes made by the tailors at the schools. The latter was one of the many ideas of the Baba. There is also a third shop that is about to open, where one will be able to find tools for carpentry and masonry.
Another important and new source of revenue is the kindergarten, that the Baba put up out of his own initiative during the last year. The pink-wall building is completely self-sufficient, collects fees from families and serves meals, but kids do not sleep there.
Some of the realities just described are already perfectly functioning circular realities: for example, at the shop they can buy food at favorable prices and the money earned can be used to buy more stuff or is invested elsewhere. This is an incredible achievement, because these dynamics represent a solid foundation upon which to build a future reality characterized by stability and integration, both of the villagers within a more economically sustainable ecosystem and of Wasa within the region it belongs to.
Of course the process is not always as smooth as one may hope and expect. There are many variables that could slow down the development of the mission. The little control on what the Baba does and on how the money he is given is actually spent opens to the possibility of mismanaged resources, even though cash flows are always carefully controlled. Moreover, the revenues earned from commissions are not always clear, and the same goes for the division of properties between the Baba and the school, therefore a higher degree of transparency is yet to be achieved.
Another issue is that of food. Last year the association decided to buy and sustain two more hectares of corn and beans, but the number of students increased more than expected last October, causing the need for four more hectares to be bought. Because of the unanticipated event, food was not immediately available for all the students as the latest purchased land was not ready for harvesting yet. Despite this being a situation that is better to avoid, the fact that the school is exponentially growing from year to year is something that S4H is very proud of. After all, the very goal of this cooperation project is fostering growth and granting a good education to as many people as possible, and that’s why investing a little bit more than what planned on primary needs, such as food, is not considered a stepback in this case.
Three meals a day, one bed per person, an adequate kitchen and new businesses that guarantee constant flows of cash: these are the requirements to gradually allow the association to take a step back. An unexpected growth of the school sure delays a hypothetical separation of the association from the project, nonetheless this possibility is already accounted for and will not stop the volunteers from believing in the mission.
Obviously the current pandemic represents an additional challenge, especially for what concerns the organization of the activities. The section Projects Abroad took advantage of this deadlock to completely reorganize itself and to warm up the engines while waiting for better days.
Overall, the Covid situation in Tanzania is not exactly easy, but the village of Wasa seems to have been spared and the villagers are not feeling the pressure of the worldwide health crisis as much as others are. True, the volunteers can’t fly to Wasa, they can’t meet the students and give them scholarships, but a key pillar still standing is the relationship with the Baba, that now needs to be stronger than ever. But how long will it last?
In Tanzania, the diocesi places the priest inside a church and the minimum required stay is three years, but the truth is he can be moved to another village at any moment. During the past years, Students has met three Babas, but the current one is by far the best fit for the association and the most loved: he is well connected with the diocesi, working hard to constantly improve the situation, always positively involved in all initiatives. He is also the mind behind some of the new realities that found the light in Wasa in recent years. Essentially, no one would want him to go soon, but if that were to happen S4H will be ready to open its arms to a new Baba and start working with him, with the same spirit and excitement that it always had.