“Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba”
—Swahili proverb (“Little by little, fills the pot”)
For years, Veronica or “Vero” has been buying and collecting stones. She does so with determination and grit. She has 3 piles so far, each about the size of a golf cart.
One of the ways Vero has been able to pursue this rock gathering mission is by starting various side businesses, often using bikes from globalbike programs to maximize her earnings. For example, on the weekend she rents a bike and travels for an hour to a market to sell clothes that she bought on wholesale. She once used her earnings to buy a solar panel, which she now rents to villagers so they can charge their cell phones.
Vero has invested her earnings in rocks for years, because she will one day have enough to build a house. That house, built with a solid rock and cement foundation, will be sturdy enough to withstand the rains, floods and winds that batter rural Tanzania for three months every year. These are rocks that will protect Vero’s family of 8 children. Every single stone brings them all closer to a foundation of security and stability, for years and years to come.
Vero’s spirit of resilience and determination is not uncommon among the women that globalbike partners with in Tanzania, and it has inspired uncommon members of our own communities here in South Carolina.
Dr. Katherine Jeter knows how to recognize a determined spirit. Known as "Bibi," or grandmother in Swahili, Katherine fought breast cancer at 66; summited Mt. Kilimanjaro at 75—step by tedious step—and has already raised $270,000 for her favorite charities before turning 80. And these are only a few of her life accomplishments.
Five years ago, Jeter witnessed the determination of women and bike users when she visited rural Tanzania. Traveling by car, one is sure to pass women and men on bicycles transporting water, firewood, and goods for sale, over very long stretches of rough terrain.
“The women…don’t have a choice. They gotta carry that load,” Katherine shared. “They gotta go to market, and they gotta put the water on their heads and bring it back. They do not have the choice of whether they’re gonna be strong or not. And that’s part of their upbringing. And I think we could do a lot of that with our own children right here in America. We could help them be strong. We could help our young women be strong. And know that they are fit for big things.”
This month—for her 80th birthday—Jeter will complete a journey that celebrates the shared strength and resiliency among women in Tanzania and the United States. Jeter will ride the 440-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway to raise $80,000 for globalbike programs in Tanzania in an event called Bibi’s Birthday Bike Ride. The ride symbolizes the steady path that is necessary to realize meaningful, long-term payoffs, whether economic gains or fitness goals. With it, Jeter links the resiliency of women in Tanzania and the US, simultaneously providing resources for women’s economic resiliency and promoting women’s fitness and health potential.
“Strength begets strength…,” Jeter shared, noting that she’s been given a passion for encouraging others. “Resiliency is something that can be nurtured and expanded and built upon.”
This very week, Katherine inspires donors to contribute to globalbike and help her reach her $80,000 goal. A beacon of determination, she encourages herself and others at every step of the fundraising effort. “We’re one tenth of the way there! …Let’s do this 9 more times!” “We’re now 25% of the way there! …Let’s do this 3 more times!”
As one Swahili proverb says, “haba na haba, hujaza kibaba.” This means, “little by little, fills the pot,” or in other regions, “little by little, the bird builds its nest.”
As donations in Katherine’s honor pile up, so do the rocks at Vero’s future house. Vero knows of the coming rains each year in March. This past year, the rains were particularly severe. Many people in the villages where globalbike works lost part or all of their home. Vero’s house, like many houses in the area, is made of mud and a thatched roof, materials that can be easily destroyed in severe weather. If a home is damaged, people are suddenly faced with large costs that they may not be able to cover right away.
It can take people many years to build a house that can withstand the long rains. It is common in poor rural communities of Tanzania to see structures standing, partially constructed, for months or years, while the owners accumulate enough capital to complete the building. First people may invest in materials that are stored and saved, like rocks. Then when they acquire enough earnings, they may build a foundation that sits until the walls can be funded, and so on. It takes time, determination, and faith to build a house in this manner, the same kind of qualities it takes to raise $80,000 and to cycle 440 miles. “Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba”
Just as Katherine, extends her faith in women’s strength and resiliency to women at home and women in Tanzania, so does Vero share her belief in women’s business potential at Enaboishu, a women’s cooperative partnered with globalbike. Vero now works as Enaboishu’s lead bike mechanic and for two years provided a storage space for bike rentals at her home while Enaboishu’s bike program was growing and while the shop was under construction. With every commitment made by Vero, every dollar earned and every mile ridden by Bibi Katherine, the muscles of strength and resiliency are being worked across the globe, driven by a shared faith that women are “fit for big things.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Bibi Katherine’s fundraiser for globalbike, visit https://www.bibisbirthdaybikeride.com/ .
To help Bibi build resiliency and strength among women in rural Africa, donate at https://globalbike.org/bibis-birthday-bike-ride .
Follow Bibi’s bike ride at https://www.facebook.com/bibisbirthdaybikeride/