Vijana Think Tank: a youth initiative providing relief amid a global pandemic

Tuesday April 28 2020

Vijana Think Tank members on the ground at the

Vijana Think Tank members on the ground at the Mabibo market in Dar es Salaam where they constructed hand-washing stations. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By Mpoki Thomson @MpokiThoms mthomson@tz.nationmedia.com

In playing a part to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and to support other ongoing relief efforts by the Tanzanian government, collaborative initiatives have been undertaken by Tanzanian youth, which play a vital role in providing the communities around us with important utilities that help in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

Some of these initiatives include a fundraising project undertaken by Vijana Think Tank (VTT) to raise Sh100 million to build permanent handwashing stations, donate liquid soap, sanitizers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to high population density areas in Dar-es-Salaam - which include markets, schools, clinics and hospitals.

Vijana Think Tank is a non-partisan youth public policy organization aiming to address Tanzania’s most pressing social, economic and political challenges. VTT’s membership is made up of young, patriotic and committed Tanzanians from all sectors and walks of life who all have one goal in mind and that is the development of our country.

In an interview with Success Magazine, Andrew Mahiga – a VTT member explains more about the project which includes working closely with local government authorities, on the ground community groups, technicians and engineers to ensure that efforts reach the target beneficiaries.

As a youth initiative what drove Vijana Think Tank to play a role in helping the community?

VTT has a network of 250+ young Tanzanian professionals who have the knowledge, skills, and personal networks of their own across many sectors, to access support to address this crisis. We felt that it was our duty and responsibility to do something to play our role as citizens during a crisis that is not only affecting Tanzania but the whole world.

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Tell us about some of the challenges you’re facing in trying to fulfil your objectives in this cause?

Like many fundraising campaigns, there is a challenge of legitimacy and transparency. People first needed to recognize VTT as a legitimate initiative and clearly understand and accept our motives as far as who, what and where we wanted to help. This included getting buy-in from the government, our peers and leaders and the local communities where we wanted to conduct our activities.

With this being a fundraising campaign, we are faced with the challenge of engaging with the community and raising their interest in donating. It is important for people to see the need for what we are doing and how it is important and relevant to them, their families and community at large. We have come to note that there is a need in customizing our messaging across the various channels we are using.

Depending on the target market we have used channels such as social media posts, paper flyers and posters, audio messaging around specific neighborhoods and even writing to prospective corporate partners. To put it into context, even this article is a medium for us to communicate with the public on how they can play a part.

What has the response from the community been like?

The response from the community has been great and within a 1-month period, we have managed to fundraise Sh4.3 million. These funds have allowed us to begin construction of 3 permanent handwashing stations at Mabibo market in Dar-es-Salaam – with oversight and support from the market and municipal council leadership. These stations will positively impact the 10,000+ people who work at and visit the market daily. There has also been interest from private companies and other volunteer organizations to support our cause.

People are seeing the importance of washing hands and good personal hygiene not only during this crisis but as part of a changed lifestyle post-Covid-19. There has also been an increase in positive responses after we began building our first permanent handwashing stations. People are seeing the idea come to reality which is motivating them to support us even more.

Aside from providing facilities that people can use, this initiative is raising people’s spirits and giving them something positive to look forward to during a time when we are being overwhelmed with negative and frightening news.

How has Vijana Think Tank been impacted by the pandemic?

VTT has been impacted the same way as everyone else. Members of VTT are in different parts of the country and some different parts of the world dealing with this pandemic in the best ways they can. One way that this pandemic has impacted us in a positive way is that it has brought us together and is making us communicate more with one another by using technology platforms available to us such as WhatsApp. Whether we are sharing news about Covid-19, books, resources, advice or even checking on one another to see how everyone is doing, this pandemic has created a sense of togetherness.

Do you think the youth are playing their part in helping the communities around them in the current pandemic? Is there more that can be done?

This crisis is different to most in the sense that it affects everyone, everywhere and sometimes it affects some people more than others. It is difficult to say whether youth can do more because everyone has different circumstances that they are dealing with. Some people have other health issues, some are out of employment and struggling to make a living, some are taking care of children, parents, and other family members etc. The dynamics are different depending on who you speak to.

First and foremost, youth need to take care of themselves and their immediate families. They need to take necessary precautions to protect themselves and people around them by following the advice of health professionals. After this is when they can look at how they can support other ongoing causes and initiatives tackling the pandemic or oven helping people in their neighborhoods and communities that are most affected - by donating food, supplies or helping vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities and those who have other health issues.

Link to the official VTT Covid-19 fundraising page: https://www.wezeshasasa.com/vttcoronafundraising

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