Painting a Mural with Maji Safi Group

Brynn Berry and Jessica Gannon are both master-level students from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, an MSG partner since 2013. Jonathan Berry is a graduate of the Mortenson Center for Engineering for Developing Communities at CU at Boulder. Jonathan is providing technical support for the Arborloo Toilet grant Maji Safi Group received from Friends of Tanzania. Brynn and Jessica have contributed greatly to the artistic aspect of MSG’s work with spreading awareness about preventing disease and adopting healthy WASH habits.

My name is Brynn Berry. My friend Jessica and I have been working in Shirati since August and have the privilege of working with Maji Safi Group (MSG) until the end of December. My husband, Jonathan, has also been able to join as a volunteer for MSG’s Arborloo toilet project.

Most of my work at Maji Safi Group consists of editing, curriculum design, and various art projects. However, before elaborating on my work, let me introduce you to someone much more talented than me.

MSG currently employs a local Tanzanian artist named Jacky. Jacky is a brilliant illustrator, succeeding to capture the culture and vision of the community in his work while providing a visual platform for the dissemination of WASH education. Jacky’s work decorates the Maji Safi office, local hospitals, and primary and secondary schools in the area.

MSG aims to complete six more murals before the end of the year. Jessica and I are assisting in the creation of one mural at the local Katuru Secondary School. The mural will serve as a learning tool for students and community members passing by. I also plan to assist Jacky in the planning stages of the creation of additional murals.

The planning process for mural design is structured to allow a variety of stakeholders to voice their ideas. This participatory approach allows for bottom-up inspiration.

Step 1: MSG’s Community Health Educators (CHEs) provide a list of suggested images/values to be painted.

Step 2: Jacky or I create a sketch of what a mural could look like based on the CHE suggestions.

Step 3: Artists invite MSG staff to interpret the mural. This stage reveals any changes that need to be made. This stage was particularly valuable to me as it highlighted several cultural differences that were revealed in my artwork. For example, a common menstrual care product used in Shirati is kitamba (cloth in Swahili) which needs to be included in female hygiene education.

Step 4: Artists edit and revise drawings.

Step 5: CHEs label and narrate mural in Swahili.

Step 6: MSG presents the sketch to school/hospital administrators and choose a wall for the mural.

Step 7:  Artist, mainly Jacky gets to work.

In addition to mural design, I am busy creating educational booklets that will be used for menstrual hygiene management programming. Maji Safi Group is excited to announce that we have received a grant from Dining for Women, a global giving circle that funds grassroots organizations, to introduce menstrual cups (kikombe cha hedhi) to the Mara region. Menstrual cups will be purchased from a local Tanzanian distributor, and booklets will be given to girls receiving the cups. My work involves content development for the booklets and graphic design work to illustrate the pages.

The design process is fun and exciting. It demands a conscious effort to create culturally appropriate images and communicate WASH education in the best way possible.

Thank you for your incredible support and interest in our work here at Maji Safi Group.

Best Regards,

Brynn Berry

Returning to Tanzania

Naomi Chang is currently getting her Master in Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. At CU, Naomi is part of the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities, and unlike most students in her program, she wholeheartedly believes in the importance of hygiene education. This is largely due to experiences from living abroad during her service in the Peace Corps from 2014 until 2016. Our common interests led Naomi to MSG for her summer practicum experience. Naomi also received a Boren Fellowship to improve her already seasoned Swahili skills by working with MSG’s staff on a daily basis. 

Tanzania holds a special place in my heart. I spent two years in a rural village in central Tanzania as a math and science teacher, creating bonds with students, teachers, and other community members. So, when I was given the opportunity to come back to Tanzania and work with Maji Safi Group, I immediately jumped at the offer. As the time came closer to my arrival in Shirati, I became more and more nervous  ̶  afraid that my previous experience was unique, and I wouldn’t be able to connect with the people of Shirati like I did with those in my old village. I was so wrong!

I immediately felt welcome in the Maji Safi family, with several Community Health Educators (CHEs) treating me like a daughter and others like a sister. Not only were they welcoming, they were dedicated and passionate about their work. I was able to participate in almost all the programs offered by MSG, watching firsthand as the CHEs took the time to fully explain waterborne diseases and their symptoms, how to prevent transmission, and how to filter and treat water.


At one primary school, the topic for the week was menstrual hygiene management (MHM). I was curious to see how the CHEs would approach this sensitive topic, because I know it can be an uncomfortable topic for many. To my surprise and delight, the CHEs were able to create a safe space for girls and boys to openly discuss the topic of menstruation, while injecting humor into the subject. Boys and girls were called on to respond to questions and to demonstrate how to attach sanitary pads to underwear. This education is integral to normalizing menstruation for future generations.

MSG also has a great relationship with a school for children who are speaking/hearing impaired. The CHEs have adapted their lessons to better teach these students, and some CHEs are learning sign language to further facilitate the transfer of knowledge. In a country where people with disabilities face stigma, it is great to see that MSG has provided the opportunity for community members to interact and create relationships with them.

I also remember walking to Lake Victoria and getting lost on my way back. Thankfully, a young lady was walking to the Lake and offered to take me to the main road. While we were walking, she asked if I had swum in the Lake. I responded by saying I was afraid of getting bilharzia. She smiled and then launched into the symptoms and transmission of this disease. Shocked, I asked her how she knew all of this and she replied, “Maji Safi!” To me, this was further proof of the excellent outreach and educational programs that Maji Safi Group provides. To see that a random person was able to correctly tell me the symptoms and transmission of bilharzia shocked me and points to the efficacy of Maji Safi Group.

A typical scene at the shores of Lake Victoria. Women who have not received Maji Safi Group’s education about preventing bilharzia often expose themselves to this disease by going in the parasite-infected water to wash dishes and laundry.

It is impossible for me to paint the full picture of the dedication and passion of each of the CHEs at Maji Safi Group, but my experience working with them for three months was an excellent reminder of why I chose to pursue a career in international development.

Presenting WASH Solutions in an Affordable Way

Yinran Huang completed her practicum field work for her MSW at Washington University in St. Louis with Maji Safi Group this summer. Yinran was born and raised in China where she received a Bachelor of Marketing and Management from the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics in 2014. After working for several years with different marketing companies in China, Yinran decided that she wanted to focus on social work and began her MSW in 2016. MSG enjoyed welcoming her to Tanzania, and we are excited to bring you her blog reflecting on her experience.

Have you ever wondered how MSG helps normal households gain access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene in an affordable way? Well, here come the answers. With the partnership of AfriPads and Population Services International (PSI), MSG has introduced several cost-effective products for program participants and local communities, including WaterGuard, water filters, reusable sanitary pads, and Arborloo toilets (see our previous blog for more information).

In Shirati, lacking financial resources is one of the key barriers to implementing good WASH practices within household settings. Many people still drink untreated water and rely on crude, improvised materials to manage their menstruation because they cannot afford or access proper WASH products. Now, normal households in Shirati have more choices for getting clean water, cheaper sanitation solutions, and female hygiene products.

Let’s begin with water. In Shirati, accessing drinking water can be costly and time-consuming. Surface water sources, such as ponds, rivers and Lake Victoria, are usually free but unimproved/unprotected and often far from dwellings. Groundwater, on the other hand, is a much safer but a more expensive choice due to the cost of drilling the well. So, most people fetch water from surface water sources every day, and the most common way of purifying water is boiling. However, the sustainability of this method is questionable as the cost of firewood/charcoal/gas is high, and people must wait for the water to boil and cool down before use. Thus, WaterGuard and water filters offer normal households a more convenient alternative for water treatment.


WaterGuard is a chlorine water treatment tablet provided by Population Services International (PSI), Tanzania, and one of MGS’s recommended water treatment methods in Shirati. The chlorine tablets offer an alternative to boiling water. Chlorine is released when a tablet is dissolved to disinfect the water and prevent water-related diseases. Each tablet can treat up to 20 liters of water, which will satisfy a typical household’s minimum daily requirements for clean drinking water. Two tablets are needed if the water is very dirty. After adding the tablet, the water must sit for 30 minutes. WaterGuard is sold either by the strip with 10 individually sealed tablets (500 TSH = $0.25) or in boxes with 12 strips (6,000 TSH = $3). Thus, flexible purchasing choices allow consumers to access safe drinking water with minimal disposable cash on their hands, and WaterGuard is more time- and cost-effective than having to gather firewood or buy charcoal.

Ceramics Water Filters

The Maji Salama Ceramic Water Filter is manufactured and distributed by Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa (SWCEA). The Maji Salama filter tested at a 99.99% microbiological effectiveness rate with a life of at least five years, according to SWCEA’s official website. The clay filter is placed in a food-grade plastic storage bucket with a spigot at the bottom for dispensing the filtered water. With a rate of 1 to 3 liters per hour, depending upon the volume of water in the filter, a single filter can provide enough safe drinking water for up to 6 people. In MSG’s office, several water filters provide a safe, reliable, and convenient drinking water resource for all staff members and program participants.

Female Hygiene Education and AfriPads

MSG noticed that the poor hygiene situation in Shirati is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge about menstruation and the use of poor solutions, like rags, instead of proper feminine hygiene products. In response, MSG’s Female Hygiene Program promotes proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM) education through culturally sensitive communication. The program is active in several primary and secondary schools in the Rorya District, and a small group seminar is held every Saturday afternoon at the MSG office. The classes give adolescent girls the opportunity to discuss female hygiene-related experiences and ask questions in a safe and supportive environment.

By educating adolescents, MSG plays an essential role in also educating adults and the community in general. Children and adolescents serve as agents for change because they take the knowledge and good practices learned from MSG’s Community Health Educators back home. Hygiene education is thus transferred from MSG’s programs to families and communities where many have no other access to formal education about hygiene and sanitation.

Maji Safi Group partners with AfriPads and introduces their reusable sanitary pads in the Female Hygiene Program as an alternative to disposable pads with at least two comparative advantages: affordability and waste reduction. AfriPads is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice. With proper care, the AfriPads can last at least 12 months. Instead of using 195 disposable pads, only four reusable sanitary pads can satisfy a girl’s needs for a whole year and thus help her save a significant amount of money.

Given the massive cost associated with healthcare, disease burdens, loss of productivity and labor capital, investing in WASH-related products will not only result in a large range of economic and social benefits but also be more cost-effective in the long run. MSG’s dedicated work gives people easy and affordable access to WASH supplies, resulting in healthier families and communities.

The Arborloo Toilet’s Journey to Schools

Inspired by the success of Elliot Skopin’s Arborloo project at the Maji Safi Group office, four Arborloos were recently built and installed at two schools in Shirati, Tanzania. Two of the most attractive design points of the Arborloo toilet are its cost-effectiveness and its ease of construction. Additionally, Arborloo toilets have the benefit of generating safe and nutrient-rich compost from human waste without requiring any handling of excreta. Once the Arborloo pit is nearly full, the top is covered with at least 15 cm of topsoil and allowed to sit for a few months. Afterwards, a tree or small garden can be planted on top of it, and the newly formed compost will provide essential nutrients for healthy and rapid growth.

For these reasons, two toilets were installed at Katuru Secondary School, and two were installed at Sota Primary School. Each school received one toilet made of jamvi (reed mats) and one toilet made of sheet metal. These two designs have different benefits. The jamvi toilets are very inexpensive to make and easier to transport, due to being lightweight. The sheet metal toilets are more durable but also more expensive and heavier. Since these toilets were installed at schools, the high volume of users made it necessary to pilot a durable design that would not require maintenance every time the Arborloo needs to be moved to a new pit.

Fourteen high school students from Rustic Pathways, an organization that focuses on cultural immersion and interacting with the community, helped install the four toilets under the supervision of Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Educators (CHEs), local carpenters and masons. Students from both Katuru and Sota also helped dig the pits, saw wood, and install the superstructure, ring beam and slab.

Following installation, the CHEs returned to the schools to introduce students to the design, use, and benefits of the Arborloo toilets. Students were encouraged to ask questions and discuss the differences between typical deep-pit latrines and Arborloo toilets. Currently, lessons that address the construction, maintenance and composting process are being refined and implemented at the schools. These will form the basis for Arborloo education and be adapted for different audiences.

To further help facilitate understanding of Arborloo construction, several small cardboard models of different designs are being created. Each model consists of a pit (plastic bottle), a ring beam, a slab and a superstructure with a roof. The ring beam and slab have removable tops, so participants can see the faux wire mesh and rebar structures inside. Because no toilet is complete without a handwashing station, all models come with a demonstration stand and bucket to remind everyone of the importance of combining proper sanitation facilities with good hygiene practices.

A week after installing the Arborloos and teaching the students how to use and maintain them, Maji Safi Group’s CHEs revisited the Arborloos during an after-school program to monitor whether the students were using them. Dirt, ashes and excreta in the pit were noted by the CHEs, and the students reported that they were very pleased with this additional facility. Hopefully, these students will become Arborloo ambassadors to their families and in the community to help end open defecation in Shirati!




A Model Tanzanian School Matron

To celebrate Maji Safi Group’s five-year anniversary, we are continuing our series of guest bloggers from the Maji Safi Group (MSG) community. Our second guest is Angelister Mwinuka, matron at Katuru Secondary School in Shirati. MSG has been working with Katuru for several years now, and Angelister Mwinuka has been an extraordinary partner in breaking the silence about menstrual hygiene and bringing awareness to the importance of school attendance. In March this year, MSG opened Female and Male Hygiene Clubs at the school. The clubs will continue the positive changes and the more welcoming school environment MSG’s programs have facilitated.

We hope you enjoy reading about Angelister Mwinuka’s inspiring experience and knowledge.

1. What changes have you seen in students at Katuru Secondary School since partnering with MSG?

Since MSG started, we have seen an increase in attendance rates, and the girls have learned how to keep themselves clean at all times. We now have supplies to stay healthy, like water and soap, and we have extra pads if students need them. Since MSG came, girls are in class more, and fewer girls have asked for permission to leave and go home because of menstruation. I have also noticed that more girls are passing their exams. Additionally, as a school, we have started small income-generating projects, like farming vegetables, to help pay for feminine supplies like pads and soap, so the products are continually available.

2. What changes can MSG bring to schools in Tanzania?

MSG can bring a big change. If people learn about WASH and their bodies, it will help prevent diseases. Students and parents will know more, and they will be able to work better because they are healthy and don’t have to spend money at the hospital or stay home sick.

Healthy students are also able to sit in class for longer, concentrate better and therefore, perform better.

3. In your opinion, what issues have menstruation brought to Katuru students?

During menstruation, female students are not comfortable, and they are embarrassed to be at school around boys. They have pain during their period, which makes them stay home from school. They feel even more uncomfortable when they don’t have the right supplies, and they feel more comfortable at home since there is no place to change their pads at school. If they stay at home because of pain or lack of resources, they miss the lessons. This causes women to have lower passing rates than men.

4. What are the things that schools in Tanzania really need?

There should be enough education about menstruation to explain that it is not a disease and to help young women understand themselves better. Schools should have enough supplies to enable girls to stay in school during their period (pain meds and pads), and schools should have enough water and clean toilets. It is important that the girls have a place to wash their hands and get dressed, so they look nice when they come back to class. There should also be enough education for women and parents and more attention on how to educate girls and keep them protected while they go through puberty. It is often their parents who decide to keep them at home, and then they miss classes. The parents need to help support their children, so they can reach their potential.

5. In your opinion, what are the ways MSG helps people in the Rorya District?

MSG brings new ways to spread education, so the whole community gets the necessary knowledge and makes changes to the environment. When people understand how to prevent disease, they can see opportunities for change all around the community.

It would be great if MSG could also teach outside of the Mara Region because people would live in a healthier environment, and it would help the economy. Hopefully, MSG can go to Tabora and Dodoma and even Dar es Salaam, so people can understand their own health and help build a healthier country.

World Water Day at Monarch Elementary

At Maji Safi Group, we were so inspired by the students at Monarch K-8 School in Louisville, Colorado, who walked on World Water Day to call attention to those without safe water! Kindergarten students, paired with fifth graders, wore lots of blue and carried one-gallon water containers to shine the light on the world water crisis and those who walk long distances each day for water.

How can other schools do the same? Here’s a bit about Monarch’s success.

For months leading up to World Water Day, kindergarten teacher Alison Adams sparks her students’ awareness and empathy. She teaches them about children just a bit older than them, who need to walk miles each day to fetch heavy containers of water for their families. But what if that water is very contaminated and makes the children ill?

“It’s hard for the students to imagine not being able to grab a water bottle or simply walk over to the fountain or sink. The beauty of 5-year-old children is their curiosity, innocence and untainted belief that they can do anything,” Adams said.

Alison Adams during the Water Walk.


“Our students ask why other children can’t have medicine to get better. They say things like, ‘They can have my water bottle,’ or ‘Let’s buy them bottles of clean water’ and ‘I will help them carry it!’ They genuinely mean it.




At the beginning of their year, Monarch students learn what it was like 100 years ago in a classic one-room schoolhouse with no electricity, water, computers, etc. In a make-believe play center, students have desks with chalkboards, chalk, wooden chalk boxes, a metal bucket with a cloth napkin for their snack, a pretend wood stove, and a wooden bucket and ladle for water. “We talk about not having running water in your home, so they immediately connect to going to the stream or lake. Then we talk about, ‘But what if you had to walk for hours?’”


The Monarch students watch videos with children in other countries who walk with no shoes in the mud or on dirt roads with large buckets and containers. They read books like I Walk for Water and The Water Princess. “Through both mediums, our students hear the words of children who want to go to school, bathe in a clean tub, go to a party, or do other things our kids do so often without noticing.”


Adams then talks about organizations that can help and how students can get involved, including by doing a water walk. This year, Monarch students raised $850 for Maji Safi Group, thanks to Adams’ leadership – enough to buy 28 water filters to provide program participants with clean drinking water!

Community Health Educator Caroline teaches about ceramic filters on World Water Day 2017.


How did Adams’ own awareness of the global water crisis begin? “From a combination of church and concert experiences. Our family also now sponsors five children in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Haiti and Brazil. We learned more about the struggles of our children’s families and their communities. Also, by working with several church organizations and youth groups, I was introduced to the work of Compassion International, Blood:Water, and World Vision.”

And now Adams passes her global awareness on. “This is why I teach kindergarten. This is the most important reason I teach. These students are the future, and they will not only continue to ask the questions, they’ll be the ones to find the answers.”




2017 – Another Successful Year of Fundraising!

Community Health Educator Caroline teaching about water treatment with a ceramic filter during World Water Day 2017.

Maji Safi Group has a lot to do with roots. In 2013, our nonprofit took root in Shirati, Tanzania, to address the root causes of preventable waterborne diseases. Accordingly, our grassroots fundraising in the US started taking root in 2013 as well. Since then, Maji Safi Group has put down deep roots in rural Tanzania, helping tens of thousands of residents understand the importance of personal and household hygiene, public health and the economic advantage of focusing on relatively inexpensive disease prevention instead of costly treatment. Good health is the root of a productive life, and Maji Safi Group still depends on grassroots fundraising for our financial health. Along the Front Range in Colorado and all around the world, we have worked had on developing a group of passionate supporters, so our fundraising efforts could develop roots like perennial flowers, blooming year after year, and we are starting to yield a sizeable annual crop. Throughout the year, our fundraising events support the work we do – work that is rooted in a deep belief that participatory development and empowering communities to address their own health issues will lead to healthier lives!

The Friends of Maji Safi Group

Maji Safi Group has developed an amazing base of about 400 loyal and very generous donors from all around the United States and six continents. Thanks to their continued support, we can trust that our funding will be reliable, and we are starting to see more donors believe in PEP – The Power of Extended Philanthropy. When donors commit to a monthly donation, they enable nonprofits to do strategic planning at a very efficient and constructive level.


The Maji Safi Golf-a-thon

On a little bit chilly September morning, 19 women from the 18-hole league at Lake Valley Golf Club and Maji Safi Group’s president, Bruce Pelz, set out to play the third annual Maji Safi Golf-a-thon. When dusk put an end to play, they had played 613 holes and, thanks to our 107 generous donors, raised $57,000. The Maji Safi Golf-a-thon has become a day of amazing camaraderie and intense physical effort to make a difference in the lives of others. It is the backbone of our annual fundraising efforts.

Maji Safi Group at eTown Hall
On Dec. 3, eTown Hall buzzed with happy Maji Safi Group supporters as we ran our second annual fundraising party. The free afternoon show featured juggling, dancing, singing and a wonderful magic show. The evening show featured great food, open bar, live music, and fundraising games. This year, we added a holiday market stocked with authentic Tanzanian art and crafts items, gift certificates and items donated by Boulder restaurants, merchants and artists, and beautiful quilted creations from the Front Range Contemporary Quilters. Throughout the night, the holiday market was teeming with eager buyers looking for holiday gifts for family and friends. After doubling our income from the first year, we have already booked eTown Hall for Dec. 2, 2018 for our third annual fundraising party!

Colorado Gives Day
For the second year in a row, Maji Safi Group received dozens of donations on Colorado Gives Day, enabling us to get part of the one million dollar incentive fund. This year, MSG raised over $30,000 on Colorado Gives Day! The donations we receive this late in the calendar year enable us to enter the new year on very sound financial footing.



Maji Safi Read-a-thons – Children Helping Children
The Maji Safi Read-a-thon at Whittier International Elementary School in 2013 was our very first fundraising effort and the start of our work with students along the Front Range in Colorado – our ‘young global citizens’. The Maji Safi Read-a-thons are a win-win situation where children improve their reading skills and learn about global issues, social responsibility, and helping others through personal effort, while raising about $8,000 for Maji Safi Group’s After School Program in Tanzania. In 2018, we will run three read-a-thons in Boulder Valley District schools: our sixth annual at Whittier International, our second at Ryan Elementary and our first at Heatherwood Elementary.

Casey Middle School
Maji Safi Group has been working with students in the Leadership Class at Casey Middle School for four years, and it has now become a tradition. After an informative presentation about MSG’s mission and work, the students can choose to do ‘Global Improvement Projects’ (GIPs) with us. The projects typically help spread awareness of WASH issues and MSG’s work – some also raise funds for our work. Each spring, Maji Safi Group is part of Casey’s annual ‘Africa Night’.


Maji Safi Women’s Days Out
Maji Safi Women’s Days Out have become a fun way of raising money. Boulder restaurants donate a lunch that is followed by a professionally taught art class. In 2017, we hosted two such days, one at The Kitchen/The Generous View Studio and one at Restaurant 4580/Shelley Goddard’s Private pottery studio. Supporting women in Tanzania while having fun together through creative art projects in Boulder is another win-win situation that is becoming a popular part of Maji Safi Group’s fundraising.

If We Dine Once, They Can Dine Twice
For several years now, a group of Boulder friends have gathered in the spring for a small fundraising dinner. The idea behind ‘If we dine one, they can dine twice’ is to raise money for the Dining for Female Hygiene events in Tanzania where participants in our Female Hygiene Program bring together their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc. for dinners that feature food, Menstrual Hygiene Management education and the sharing of stories about the female experience.


The Generous View Studio
The Generous View Studio is a privately owned art studio in Boulder with a gorgeous view of the Flatirons. Through art, the studio creates community and encourages generosity as all income from classes and rentals benefit Maji Safi Group.


Par-3 Fundraiser at Lake Valley Golf Club
On Sept. 10, we ran our first Par-3 fundraiser in cooperation with the Lake Valley Junior Golfers and raised just under $1000. Together, we invited the golfers to pay $10 to try to win fun prizes by hitting the green in one shot, getting inside 15 feet of the pin, and closest to the pin. We hope to repeat this fun event at Lake Valley in 2018 and find additional golf clubs that will host us.


As a nonprofit passes its infancy and proves programmatic success and sustainability over time, its access to grants increases. In 2017, Maji Safi Group received several grants from US as well as European grantors. We are thrilled to have reached this point in our growth and hope to obtain additional grants in 2018. Grants and donations from family foundations are also valuable in terms of proving our status as a publicly funded nonprofit.

Hopes and Dreams for 2018
In 2018, we hope to add a Maji Safi Walk as a new annual event, and we hope to move into the realm of working more with corporate donors, larger grant makers, major individual donors and crowdfunding. Please support us generously in 2018 to celebrate our fifth year of operations and help us continue to grow! One of the biggest impacts you can make is sharing your interest in Maji Safi Group with friends, colleagues and family members as well as participating in our many entertaining fundraising events. Every time you or a connection sends a donation our way, you can be assured it will improve the health of underserved populations. Maji Safi Group will always stay close to our roots, but in our fifth year and beyond, we will keep growing towards the sky.


Please contact Erna Maj at [email protected] if you would like to participate in one of our fundraising events, learn more about MSG’s partnership with the Generous View Studio, run a crowdfunding campaign for us, host a dinner party, etc.


Teaching Games in Shirati

Eli Horowitz is getting his MSW at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. He came to Maji Safi Group this summer to work with fishing communities in participatory learning and action, a series of group activities designed to help communities learn more about themselves and identify priorities for development. His professional background is in social work, especially working with kids in experiential education settings. He spent several summers working with camps as a wilderness professional, which included team building games and low ropes activities.

It was just before lunch, and there I was, tool in hand, sawing away at one of the yellow water buckets that are so ubiquitous around Shirati. I got more than a few confused looks and at least one, “Unafanya nini?/What are you doing?” But I was undeterred.


What was so important that you would waste a water jug when water storage is so precious in Shirati, you may ask. Games for teaching good water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) behavioral habits of course! Games that would entertain, engage, and teach teamwork and problem solving skills.

“Yellow Jugs” being used to store water at a home in Shirati.

As all the Mabalozi/Community Health Educators gathered in a circle under a tree in lieu of their normal Monday morning staff meeting, I was nervous. I tried to explain why experiential education is important, but through an interpreter, it is always hard to know if you are getting the right message across, and besides, these games are better understood through doing than saying.

We began with a simple icebreaker called ELECTRICITY. The participants hold hands in a circle, and everyone squeezes hands one after another to see how fast we can make it around the circle. The game is called Electricity for a reason, but this time it did not quite give a jolt. “Why are we doing this?” one participant asked. It was not an answer I had readily available, so I tried to do the only thing I knew how: facilitate another (more fun) game.

When we separated into groups for HUMAN KNOT, the mood changed immediately. It reminded me why a good challenge is important: When people are having fun and are challenged, the question shifts from “Why are we doing this?” to “How do we do this?” Playing Human Knot, the Maji Safi staff members were challenged in a fun way and even requested to play again just to finish working through the problem. By the time we finished, the groups had each given themselves a hearty applause and were eagerly asking for the next game.

Community Health Educators playing the “WATER FETCHER GAME”.

From there, things got exciting! We finally got to play the ‘WATER FETCHER GAME’! “You can’t step into the circle; otherwise; you’ll get bilharzia!” participants were warned, referring to the danger of entering Lake Victoria’s parasite-infected water. Through cooperation and conversation, the Mabalozi were able to use ropes to manipulate an elastic band around the yellow water jug I had prepared the other day (= putting on a water filter). Afterwards, they used group problem solving to flip the bucket (= fetching water) and put a ball inside (= treating water with WaterGuard). Confusion gone, the Mabalozi were all smiles. I asked who felt they could facilitate this game with kids at Maji Safi programs, and everyone raised their hands. I was all smiles, too.

MSG focuses on incorporating cognitive development into our programs through different games and activities.

We finished off with a classic game I grew up playing while attending Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: COKE AND PEPSI – a game that involves plenty of running, enthusiasm, and general silliness. The game ended with all in breathless laughter.

Today, nearing the end of the week and preparing for health screenings, the Mabalozi asked me if they could bring the game to the program they were running this afternoon. I haven’t stopped smiling since.


Another Spring of Kids Helping Kids

Increased reading speed, vast knowledge, vocabulary expansion, improved memory, increased analytical and critical thinking skills, better writing skills, better imagination, mental stimulation, tranquility and stress reduction, hours of entertainment – the widely claimed benefits of reading are numerous. In this year’s Maji Safi Read-a-thons, 57 Boulder Valley School District students reaped all of them and at the same time learned about global issues, empathy, social responsibility and helping others through personal effort.

The 2017 Maji Safi Read-a-thon at Whittier International Elementary School in Boulder was the fifth annual, and for Ryan Elementary School in Lafayette, it was a first. Staff, donors and many families love this recurring win-win situation that Maji Safi Group brings to the educational setting to encourage students to become excellent readers and ‘young global citizens’. This spring, the 57 participants read 650 books and raised over $8,000 for Maji Safi Group’s After School Program in Tanzania where children receive fun and interactive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education to learn how to stay healthy and succeed in school. Since July 2012, Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Educators have taught 6000+ students in 10 schools, and in 2015, the District Education Office approved Maji Safi Group to teach WASH education in all 125 primary schools in the Rorya District.

Students in MSG’s After School Program doing tooth brushing demonstrations for their peers.

Read-a-thons are especially a great fit for IB schools, like Whittier, with a Primary Years Programme (PYP) whose stated goal is the development of the whole child, preparing students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others and participate in the world around them. The Wildcat Student Council at Whittier backs the project, and members create momentum by visiting classrooms, making and distributing posters, and making school-wide announcements. At Ryan Elementary, this first Maji Safi Read-a-thon was a fifth-grade project organized by teacher Molly Hayes.

Thanks for organizing such wonderful opportunities for our neighborhood kids to grow up really seeing firsthand how they as individuals have a positive impact on the lives of others.
– Whittier parent –


This year, we honored all participants with certificates, thank you cards made by our program participants in Tanzania, ‘young global citizen’ photographs and ice cream coupons donated by Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, Lindsay’s Boulder Deli and Eats & Sweets. We also had the special honor of recognizing three ‘young global citizens’ at Whittier who have participated all five years: Amanda Kohla, Calder Leland and Sean Lewis.

I have participated in the Maji Safi Read-a-thon for five years now. It has been an amazing experience for me. I chose to do this because I love reading and I love helping people. I have always had enough of everything. Some people in Tanzania don’t. They don’t even have clean water. One of my favorite things is reading. Being able to read and at the same time help children and adults in Tanzania was cool. I have had fun getting to raise money for these people, reading books, and getting to know the people that organize this.
Amanda Kohla

This spring also included working with students in the Leadership Class at Casey Middle School in Boulder. Offering the students in this elective to do a ‘Global Improvement project’ with Maji Safi Group has become standard every semester. This time, four students participated in an art project where they made beautiful greeting cards with alcohol ink. The cards were sold at Africa Night in April and brought in well over $100.



As Whittier graduates continue their education at Casey Middle School, Boulder High School and CU at Boulder, we are hoping to create a ‘young global citizen’ trail through the Boulder Valley School System and beyond. Anyone who is interested in helping young people get involved in empowering the vulnerable groups we work with in rural Tanzania is most welcome to contact Maji Safi Group about opportunities inside or outside school. We are only an email or a phone call away and happy to discuss tailor-made projects suitable for individual families or educational settings. We absolutely love seeing kids helping kids.

A huge thank you to all our readers and their families, their teachers, their donors and our generous ice cream vendors!Young Global Citizens Maji Safi




The Arborloo Toilet

Elliott Skopin is a graduate of Wesleyan University where he attended school with MSG’s Executive Director, Max Perel-Slater. After working for several years after college, Elliott decided that he wanted to travel the world and made Shirati one of his stops. While in Shirati, he took on the Arborloo toilet project as a volunteer. Enjoy his blog about his experiences working with the MSG staff!

If you have passed by Maji Safi Group’s office recently, you likely noticed a few new things – the Arborloo toilet standing in the side yard and a number of freshly poured concrete structures curing nearby. These items comprise the beginnings of an exciting project that will provide an affordable, long-lasting pit toilet alternative to members of the Shirati community.

What is an Arborloo Toilet?

An Arborloo toilet is comprised of a reusable concrete base, known as the ring beam and slab, and a portable latrine structure. The ring beam and slab – simple, inexpensive and durable constructions made from poured concrete and wire reinforcement – cap a shallow (1-2 meter) pit in which human waste is deposited. The four-walled latrine structure provides privacy and is intended to be moved and reused, along with the concrete components, when the hole is filled. However, the capped pit does not simply lay fallow. The composted waste provides a fertile plot in which a tree will thrive, hence the “arbor” (“tree” in Spanish) in Arborloo.  The benefits of this system are numerous: It is inexpensive and simple to produce using readily available materials, the portable design is intended to last for many applications, and the composted human waste provides excellent fertilizer for a fruit-bearing tree or other planting.

During my 6-week stay in Shirati, I had the opportunity to assist in the design and construction of the first Arborloo toilet at Maji Safi Group’s office. We benefited from valuable feedback from our community health educators, other staff, and members of the community as we worked on this first construction. We found that the concrete slab and ring beam, which have a fixed design, are reasonably easy to produce. The design of the outhouse structure, however, allowed for greater creativity and provided more of a design challenge. I very much enjoyed the collaborative task of finding a creative and affordable solution. In the end, we opted to construct the walls of Maji Safi Group’s latrine out of a variety of materials, including one section that is comprised of hundreds of plastic bottles picked up from the neighboring streets. The design options are endless, and it will be exciting to see the ingenuity employed by those who construct Shirati’s newest Arborloo toilets in the coming months.


The Arborloo project is in large part due to the generous fundraising by students at Casey Middle School in Boulder, Colorado (Read Blog Here). Nearly a dozen new concrete structures are finished and will be transported to the homes of our community health educators whose families will be using their new Arborloo toilets in no time! Their valuable feedback will allow Maji Safi Group to refine the design and share the benefits of this system with the greater community. Before long, healthy fruit trees will stand where these first Arborloo toilets were sited.

A big thanks to everyone at Maji Safi Group for their fantastic work in getting this project off the ground and for making my time in Shirati so wonderful.