A Mother’s Strength Keeps Families Together

A Mother’s Strength Keeps Families Together

Stories that Connect: Mama Max

The Small Things’ success is continuously achieved through the passion and commitment of women. Not only is our organization run by three amazing women, but the majority of workers are also women – teachers, child care providers, nurses, and program coordinators.

More importantly, we want to commend all of the mothers and women that we work with who are the real drivers of change in Nkoaranga. Whether they are supporting one another through community micro-finance, caring for one another’s children, and empowering each other to build businesses – it is these women who hold the power to change the world. One of the most inspiring women our organization has ever met is Mama Max.

Trauma Threatens Family Unity

Mama Max was one of the first clients of TST’s Family Preservation Program. At the time social workers first approached Mama Max, she was working hard to keep her family together.

Her husband passed away while she was pregnant with their sixth child. Originating from Moshi, Mama Max lacked the social capital and connections in Nkoaranga. Compounded with intense trauma and a significant loss of income, keeping her family together felt nearly impossible.

For ten years Mama Max raised her children and fought to keep them with her – safe, healthy, and as happy as possible. But, she and her children were undernourished and living in an unsafe environment.

From a Widower to Community Leader

Mama Max prefers to tell her story herself, which is why we have translated it below – so you can read it in her voice.

“When I met..them…who was it? Rehema and Reuben – they helped me a lot. They saw my home – it was over there where the cows are now. It was just planks and a tin roof, with not enough space for all of us. My eldest was living in a different hut over there where the bananas are now. Anyway, Rehema and Reuben, they came and they saw. They asked me what kind of business I could start and do well. I told them chickens! I can raise chickens….”

“So, the next day, the gave me 20 chickens. I started caring for them and they started to lay eggs. I brought the eggs to TST and the office bought them. Then, I started to get other customers in the community. Before, everyone saw me as helpless and I was ashamed – no one wanted to help me because they thought I couldn’t help myself. It had been so long. But, now they saw me…”

“After getting money from the eggs, I bought banana trees and planted them…Then, I planted avocado seeds and these grew.”

Banana trees are the largest, most profitable crop in among the Meru people

“Over time, with the money I was making from the eggs, and as the trees were producing bananas, I started selling bananas. I went every week, carrying the bananas on my head down to the market – where I sold them! I sold them all and I made money.”

“I continued to sell the bananas and then the avocados and I joined the group – the micro-finance group VICOBA, up at the office. In VICOBA, I started to save money. I saved and saved…a little for food, a little for school fees, and a little for my businesses. Because I saved, I bought a cow. And now look! I have two cows. The women in the VICOBA liked me and we found ways to work together and form a community. Now my neighbors like me and my youngest, is studying in college for a diploma!”

VICOBA are community micro-finance groups that allows individuals to come together and support one another by saving money

Meeting Mama Max on TST’s Social Impact Tours

Mama Max is now TST’s very own welcome committee for all guests. Always exclaiming, “ninapenda wageni,” or I love guests! Over the last two years, Mama Max has welcomed over a 150 guests from all over the world into her home. As hospitality is such a important part of Tanzanian culture, she is proud to introduce people to Tanzanian culture and Nkoaranga itself.

Although COVID-19 currently prevents TST and Mama Max from currently welcoming guests, once the world is safer to travel, Mama Max has exclaimed how excited she will be to welcome more. The TST Social Impact Tour program invites visitors to come to Nkoaranga and join in an ethical tourism experience. The first stop – Mama Max, where stories and cultures are shared around a cup of tea, under the banana trees.

If you are interested in booking a tour on your next trip to Tanzania, or learn more about ways to get involved, you can send an email to [email protected] or reach out on social media!