InFocus: Amy Jones and Marret Peets, president and vice-president of Anza St Andrews

0

Anza, a Swahili word, meaning “to start” or “to begin”, is a charity aiming to create jobs and support communities in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region. The organisation was founded in 2010 by sisters Krupa and Shivani Patel after they were inspired by their work in areas of Ghana in 2008-2009. It has since grown year-on-year and has student societies in many universities in the UK, now including St Andrews.

“We are looking at trying to help women in Tanzania start their own businesses,” says Marret Peets, vice president of Anza’s branch in St Andrews. Amy Jones, president of the society, described how this is done: “Part of Anza is that we have trainers out in Kilimanjaro and what they do is they find people who are interested in starting their own business, and saying to them ‘okay, we have the capital for you, now lets make a plan.’”

Indeed, while not intentionally gender-specific, much of Anza’s focus has been on improving the lives of women in the region. “One of our products is Kilipads, because there’s, basically a real issue with female sanitation, especially in schools, many women, including teachers, skip school during their periods because there are no facilities for them whatsoever,” said Ms Jones. “We’ve essentially given these women the skills and capital needed to make their own sanitary pads”.

The Killipads project began in 2013 and was started to combat these alarming problems for women, including the fact that 90% of women in the region use rags to manage menstruation according to the organisation’s website. The charity focuses its work on helping the community as well as allowing the women to make money for themselves. Ms Jones explained that “it’s bringing a beneficial product to the area but they’re also generating income for themselves.”

Helping women to make their own money is a key goal of Anza. “It takes them out of the factory setting where they might be exploited,” said Ms Peets. The charity focuses on giving people the structure to provide for themselves. As Ms Jones explained, “it’s about giving them the skills and the utilities and the infrastructure to basically allow them to generate their own income, and help future generations do the same, so it’s a very longterm scheme, and very sustainable as well.”

Both the charity itself and the St Andrews branch are relatively new. Ms Jones was the first person to connect with the organisation from St Andrews. “I got an email from a Classics professor, who had been in contact with the charity,” she said, “because 90% of their income comes from student based projects, so they were looking for students to be ambassadors for the NGO.” Asked why she decided to become involved with Anza, Ms Jones said that, “their ethos just really appealed to me, especially the sustainable aspect of it.”

She expanded more on why she believes the ethical part of Anza’s work was so important to her joining, saying: “there is definitely some ethical substance to this because not only are they helping these women but they’re trying to establish this base where the businesses are sustainable and bringing beneficial products to the region, it really ticked all the boxes for me.”

Ms Jones also spoke about how they’ve “started from the ground up” this year. The society does have hopes to grow however. “We’re quite small at the moment, we’d like to be more ambitious next year” said Ms Jones, with Ms Peets adding that, “we want to build our membership base as well.”

As part of the work of the charity, students from universities across the UK volunteer to work as trainers in Tanzania for a month, raising £500 to do so. Ms Jones will heading on the  trip herself next August, but the organisation has had trouble finding other volunteers.

“We’re looking for students who will be able to give up a month of their time,” she said, “people aren’t willing to commit their entire summer this early in the year.”

Anza has many aims and goals, focused around encouraging ,entrepreneurship and helping communities. It tries to help people in the region tackle major issues, when asked what she thought the main problems faced by people in countries like Tanzania were, Ms Jones said: “I think it’s mostly lack of capital and lack of training.” On the issue of capital, she said that: “they need those initial funds to get their business going, the motivation is there, especially among women, they want to be able to do these things but there are just so many obstacles.”

When it comes to the issues surrounding lack of training, Ms Jones expanded further on the role of the NGO’s trainers in Tanzania. “Our offices out there have trainers that give them the skills they need and help them create a business plan that’s going to be profitable.”

Ms Jones is also passionate about the community aspect of Anza’s projects, and the benefits they can bring to the local society. “Kilipads are a good example of this,” she said. “An astronomical amount of girls drop out of school because they don’t have the right facilities.”

Other projects that Anza is involved in, and that Ms Jones says provide a huge benefit to the community, include one based around waste management. “We basically pay youths to go out and recycle, and teach locals about recycling.” She said this is especially important to the local economy of Tanzania, explaining that “a lot of Tanzania’s income comes from eco-tourism so it’s really important that they take care of their environment.”

Ms Jones was also keen to emphasise that Anza is not an isolated charity, operating from far away, and aims to be fully integrated into the local community. “A lot of the work of trainers is about incorporating themselves with the locals.”

The Anza society in St Andrews does a huge amount of work every week, she said, and is currently trying to “lay a lot of the groundwork” for future projects and fundraising. “I Skype with the woman in charge of student ambassadors once a week, and we also submit progress reports,” Ms Jones explained, with Ms Peets further commenting “me and Amy meet once a week, and the committee meets every two weeks.”

Anza is partnered with a school in the Kilimanjaro region, with education being one of their priorities. “We want to enable education of school kids. The school we’re connected with in Kilimanjaro was to be shut down because the health standards were so terrible,” said Ms Peets.

Ms Jones also spoke about her visit to the region in August, saying it will aim to continue the work Anza has done with the school: “part of our project over the summer will be extending and improving the school.”

Both Ms Peets and Ms Jones were also keen to emphasise the incredible diversity of projects that Anza works on, responding to the needs of the region and what individuals there want to do and produce: “we have a lot of different micro-businesses in a lot of different varieties.”

Speaking about the overall mission of Anza and what the organisation would like to achieve, Ms Jones said that “our very ambitious goal is to design a generation that produces its own income, and then hopefully their children would do the same.”

They also have hopes for growth in St Andrews in the coming years. “Certainly we’d like to see a lot more people going to events and for the society to begin to have that name recognition,” said Ms Peets.

They also want to place emphasis on the need for more people to go out to Tanzania and help the charity directly for a month, considering how much they currently struggle to find people to go. Ms Peets said that “we’d definitely like more people to volunteer for the trip” and Ms Jones added that “while we’ve had a plethora of people who want to help us raise money, the difficulty has been finding actual volunteers to go on the trip.” Indeed, Ms Jones expressed her excitement about travelling to Tanzania in August and explained some of the work they will be doing. “A lot of the trip is building projects so we’ll be building things like libraries and vegetable gardens.”

She also said that they will be visiting areas in the wider region, because of Anza’s belief that the trainers should gain a better understanding and appreciation for the region as a whole, and not just the one small town where much of their work, including the school, is based.

Do they think that Anza will be successful and more prominent in the long run? Ms Jones replied adamantly: “I think Anza’s going to become really established.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.