By: Jessica Chen

Last month, I spent a week as an adopted daughter in Suguti, Tanzania – a village where PCI partners with communities to run village savings groups and school feeding programs. I was there as a guinea pig to test a new trial program for PCI staff called Immerse. The opportunity is based on the idea that a weeklong immersion living with a family would offer profound insights into the communities we serve and how we do our work. Here are my three top takeaways, both as a staff member and a human being.

1) I now know in my heart that I work for an organization literally saving lives

PCI Woman Empowered (WE) Participant

Beatrice’s Women Empowered (WE) group lent her money to buy life-saving malaria medicine when no one else could // Photo credit: Jessica Chen

I’ve always understood that our work saves lives by providing much needed resources (food, water, education) but, I hadn’t seen the effects myself since I don’t often travel to the field. It’s one thing to understand our work and another to realize that the woman next to you wouldn’t be alive today if her PCI savings group wasn’t there to help her get life-saving medicine when she needed it (See Beatrice’s story). So, no, I don’t get up in the morning wearing tights and a cape, but you can bet I’m proud to be part of an organization that literally saves lives around the world.

2) I will never see clean water the same way again

Learning to carry water

Learning how to balance a one-gallon water jug on my head // Photo credit: Jessica Chen

Imagine that the first thing you do in the morning is walk half a mile on a dusty road, wade into a lake to fill a 10-gallon bucket, place the dripping bucket on your head, and desperately try to avoid sloshing water all over yourself while sidestepping potholes on the way back. By the time you get home, your head and arms ache, you’re sweaty, and you’re covered in dust. I struggled to carry a mere one-gallon jug on my head, a feat that any 5-year-old child in the village could do. And that’s just carrying the water, never mind treating it.

3) Being a foodie is a luxury

Tanzanian children eating

Primary school students eating rice cooked and served at school // Photo credit: Jessica Chen

My host father, as well as my actual father, told me that there are two types of people in this world – those who eat to live and those who live to eat. As a foodie, I was proud to be a member of the latter group. But living in a community where the main question is if you’re going to eat, rather than what you‘re going to eat, can stop a girl in her foodie tracks. According to the principal, attendance at the local school jumped from 70% to 95% due to the provision of a meal of rice and beans from PCI, the only guaranteed meal of the day for some children. In a place where food is solely seen as sustenance, my weeknight dilemmas between Mexican and Greek suddenly seemed downright embarrassing.

I may have only spent a week living in Tanzania with a family, but the lessons they taught me will forever change the way I see the world and my work with PCI. Learn more here about the transformational work we are doing in Tanzania.

Jessica Chen is a Knowledge Management Officer for PCI.