Jambo from Team VSI in Tanzania

Jambo, mambo!  Our time is up in Tanzania and Team VSI (Dave, Lauren, Kristian and Jackie) are sad to part ways and leave this beautiful country.  The last three weeks have been packed with lessons learned and fun and sometimes hair-raising experiences.  We can’t imagine a better way to end the year than with IBD.

IBD is about learning.  Before IBD, none of our team members possessed non-profit experience, so we were ecstatic to be assigned to Venture Strategies Innovations (VSI) – a non-profit committed to improving women’s health in developing countries by creating access to key technologies.  In particular, VSI has focused on improving access to misoprostol, a heat-stable medication that is used to treat post-partum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal death in Africa.  Our first week in Tanzania was spent interviewing representatives from the Zanzibar Ministry of Health, USAID, and other partners of VSI.  This valuable face time helped us to better understand NGO dynamics and the urgency of VSI’s mission, and enabled us to create deliverables that could potentially forward its important work.

While we were based in Dar Es Salaam, where VSI’s Tanzania office is located, we had the opportunity to travel to Tanga, a small town to the north to do some field work during our second week.  We met several local organizations, such as the Tanzanian Red Cross and Tanga Aids Working group, to evaluate possible partnership opportunities with VSI.  We also got a chance to understand some of the issues facing drug access in rural areas and how an organization such as VSI can potentially make an impact.

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IBD is about fun.  Outside our day job, we were full-time explorers!  We spent a 17-hour layover in Dubai and we made the most of it.  We visited the Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, and received a tour of Dubai bars and bakeries by a new admit, Vivek Girotra.

Two weekends were spent basking in the sun on the expansive beaches of Zanzibar.  Thanks to Kristian’s determination to adventure beyond the beaten path, we found a 185 year-old tortoise during a snorkeling trip!  Lauren fell in love with the old guy, Jackie ran from him, and Kristian caught the action on film.  For weekend two, we rented out a gorgeous beach house with Team Kilimanjaro.  Our most frequent activities were sunning by the pool, African dance parties, night time reef explorations, and pinching ourselves for our luck.

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In the first weekend after the project commenced, we had a “beyond yourself” experience along with Chris from Team Kilimanjaro.  We embarked on a tour with Investours, a micro-finance project that provides tourists with opportunities to visit two local small business owners seeking a microloan.  We visited their sites, learned about their business models, and decided which business would receive our tour fee as a microloan.  We may have caught the business owners off guard with our serious questions and suggestions for pricing and ordering strategies, but it was a great learning experience for all.

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IBD is about bonding with your team.  Through work, travel, and the occasional triple room accommodations, we spent a lot of time together, and learned a lot – perhaps too much – about one another.  For example, we learned just how much Dave loves entrepreneurship.  If you’re interested in learning about Wall-It, the new Skydeck start-up or about the future of 3-D printing, Dave is your man.  We learned that Jackie is deathly afraid of cats, and for good reason in Tanzania!  We learned that Kristian is very well-traveled and would typically know what to do when plans went awry.  Finally, we learned that Lauren is obsessed with wildlife with the exception of mosquitoes, which are most often interested in Lauren.

Our team gives a hearty thanks to our client, VSI, and the IBD program for giving us the opportunity of a lifetime.  Kwaheri from Tanzania!

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