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In small-town Tanzania, jobs aren’t easy to come by. Poverty is rampant, and what businesses there are aren’t big enough to employ many people. So when Anna Mbenyeti’s husband died, she was left wondering how she would feed her six children in her isolated village near Dodoma, Tanzania. Now, years later, her start-up business is feeding many more children than that, thanks to the financial help provided by the generous friends of the Maryknoll Sisters.
It’s no secret that children like sweet snacks. Mothers, though, like nutritious foods for their kids. Anna saw that and began to market a healthy snack with the help of Sister Connie Krautkremer.
Anna knew that she could bake, and that was the seed from which her idea grew. She asked herself what she could bake that was quick and easy–and delicious for the kids who milled about on the street corners after school. Anna got the idea of making mandazi, an East African snack of fried dough that kids couldn’t get enough of. What’s more, customers could eat them without a fork and knife.
At first, Anna’s income was small. Anna’s small business seemed destined to stay that way as it paid the bills–yet only barely. Anna only had to look in front of her to find a clientele that would keep coming back for more. And they did.
Her best customers turned out to be local children from the school nearby. Where else could they get home-cooking that was hot and ready to eat right from the roadside where Anna had her stand.
“Instead of buying sweets like candy, they buy these healthy snacks,” says Sister Connie. Though Anna’s fresh-baked treats are mildly sweet, they’re not nearly as sugar-heavy as processed foods. Ingredients such as coconut milk, peanuts, and almonds in mandazionly add to the nutrition value of the snacks. So Sister Connie was pleased to approve Anna’s request for a loan that was needed so she could expand her business.
With a small no-interest loan Anna received from Sister Connie’s Hope for Widows Fund, Anna has been able to finally see success after all these years. Anna was able to make more of the snacks that keep children racing to her, and the boys and girls from the school are only too glad to hand over what spare change they had in their pockets. Anna also used part of the loan money to buy containers that would protect her treats from flies and keep them fresh for an entire day.
Sister Connie knows that Anna’s success means no worries that the loan will be repaid: “It is helpful to Anna that there is enough time to repay the loan, and there is no interest,” Sister Connie says. For Anna, the project was a godsend because on her own, she likely would not have been able to get a loan.
Because people generously donated to the Maryknoll Sisters, families like Anna’s can grow and prosper in ways that meet the needs of everyone in their communities.