A Student Development Experience in a Development Context

“Hello dollar, hello pen”

The past five days in Karatu have been unbelieveable, we are busy each day visiting farmer field schools, medical clinics, hospitals and rainwater harvesting systems. I have been trying to post this blog for three days now, which goes to show how filled our days are. The CPAR staff have facilitated my comfort immensely as Japhet, Nderingo, Deo, Mohammad, Aggrey, and Oswardhi have been so welcoming and planned the logistics of the trip so well. While there are differences as to how my life would be at home, I enjoy the difference. My largest fear of insecurity has definately settled and each day I wake  up excited to learn about the next CPAR project.

Our first day in Karatu was an experience I will never forget, yet in some ways it is difficult to articulate. The first walk through the town of Karatu literally encapsulated what it meant to walk “off the beaten track.” We walked through the roads of Karatu where we were followed by people asking for money, children asking for a dollar or a pen, people shouting out “Mzungu” (which in Swahili distinguishes a person from European origin). The streets smelled of fresh smoke and the roads were defined by a dark red/brown colour with deep ruts. The green lush trees contrast beautifully to the red dirt and bright baby blue sky. The purpose of the walk was to get an idea of what the town of Karatu was like, and my eyes were certainly open and wide. It is difficult to go into specific details of everything we saw and in some ways I prefer to keep them to myself, but it became clear right from the start that CPAR staff are role models for people living in Karatu.

Within the first few days it is clear the importance of CPAR’s role in the Karatu and Bunda regions. CPAR’s role is to build capacity of communities and particularly households living in poverty and the projects we have visited so far have definitely shown how the alliance between CPAR and communities have increased household income. One of my goals for this service learning tour is to try to get a better understanding of development. On our first day Japhet pointed out, “do not give anything to little children following you around town”. He told us that some Mzungus come through the town of Karatu and may give a dollar here or a pen or pencil there, and while such an act may seem harmless and really insignificant to a Mzungu who has money to spare, the impact of such an act is far reaching. The lesson in this is that giving a dollar or a pen is not improving the development of the community. Usually Mzungu’s come and go, but what happens when we leave? The dollar or the pen only lasts a day or two, and then the children are left just as they were before. Giving children money may not encourage going to school and getting an education. If anything it recreates the dependency issue that hinders the development process in the first place. As Japhet said, when children ask “hello dollar, hello pen” they are not truly benefiting from an act of being given a pen or a dollar since the dollar or pen only lasts temporarily. He said to us, “we as Tanzanians have more to offer than that…this is not all we are or who we are.” If a person is truly concerned with helping, or “doing good,” the dollar or money should be funneled into building stronger and healthier communities, by strengthening projects like the farmer field schools (which Scott described in his blog) or UMATU (the group of women living positively with HIV/AIDS).

It is always important to keep in mind the root of the problem to begin with. What has caused poverty? Supporting community based organizations are far more efficient in creating sustainable futures for the children.  As a Mzungu it is important to recognize that personal insecurities and possibly guilt does not necessarily entitle one to dump their money wherever, rather it is necessary to consider the possible consequences and benefits of such donations.

I can say I am so proud to be associated with an organization like CPAR. CPAR staff and CPAR projects are so inspiring and this small little lesson on “hello dollar, hello pen” at the beginning of our trip really struck a chord with me and I hope it encourages readers to rethink the way they view development, or if they even think of development when giving a dollar here or there. The message is not that people do not need money, but rather the realization that money is only one means to an end. Money can empower people if they realize their needs and are given education as to how to use the money to sustain their livelihoods and build stronger welfare.

I still remain overwhelmed by all of information and knowledge I am learning from farmers, health clinics and the UMATU women. I think I will need another week to absorb everything and take time to reflect and soak in these experiences. Stay tuned for more information on the specific projects and stories surrounding the inspiring work of CPAR and the people inTanzania.

 – Katherine


7 responses

  1. dwight

    Hi Katherine,
    Enjoyed your insights on “pen, pen”. Many tourist groups intentionaly load up with pens etc to give out on the streets and it is totally counterproductive. Part of our job at CPAR is to educate folks that this actually undermines real development. Those kids have been “trained” by westerners who came before us and by declining we are undoing this harm.

    Asante sana!

    May 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm

  2. An important lesson indeed and a real eye-opener I am sure. Thanks for the post, I am thoroughly enjoying reading along!


    May 25, 2011 at 1:49 pm

  3. Florence Levy

    Why not just give them a pen or pencil?
    Dependency? Maybe they really need one. How many times have you needed a pen or pencil? Did this create dependency in your life? These people are human, just like you…They are not children. They have seen more about life than you or I. Give them the writing tools.

    Now, how is being a part of CPAR in Karatu not enabling their dependency? Maybe stay in Canada and allow them to solve their own problems.

    By the way, these people are impoverished because of the central banking system’s fractional reserve banking and early initiatives of globalism. This globalist lead engineered poverty is spreading throughout Europe and North America.

    Want to learn more then visit media sites like Infowars.com or PrisonPlanet.com.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:27 am

    • cparcanada

      Hello Florence,

      Thank-you for your response. The topic of dependency theory really intrigues me. There are many macro level factors contributing to the issue of dependency which I did not want to include in that particular blog post. However, the issue of international banking, central banking, and globalizing factors all contribute to the dependency relations between North and South. I should clarify the purpose of this particular blog for us students. We are partaking in a service learning program where the purpose is to learn about the various lives of Tanzanians. We are not here to solve any problems, rather engage with people through the facilitation of CPAR to understand how it is community based development can function. Why not give them writing tools? I don’t believe that was the exact message I was trying to portray. I believe that writing tools are a very important aspect of development particularly the education system, but I think that donating more than one pen or pencil to a school would be a more effective way of helping children. The “hello dollar, hello pen” example was more of a metaphor. I am more interested in learning about why the child cannot buy their own pen. In my opinion the solution is not to just give away money and pens, but contributing to increasing a person’s income so they can buy pens on their own.

      – Katherine

      June 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

  4. Jen


    I am so glad to have had this quick update about what you are doing so far! It seems like some important messages that are being reinforced there in Tanzania are very timely and relevant to even the development of communities here in Manitoba.

    I’m so proud of you and am looking forward to hearing more about what you and the other students are learning.

    Love you lots,


    May 26, 2011 at 3:32 am

  5. Hi Katherine,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It sounds like your perspective about development has already deepened.

    Thanks for sharing!

    May 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm

  6. Nathan Hatton

    Great post Katherine. So happy for you sounds like you are having a fantastic time and learning so much. Look forward to reading more of your blogs.



    May 30, 2011 at 9:35 pm

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