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Insight Trip: Tanzania – Mark Zoller Day 1 Post

By Mark Zoller

This post is a part of an ongoing series from YAO members on an insight trip in Tanzania.


It’s Monday evening and YAO is winding down after our first full day here in Tanzania. The majority of our group pulled into the Rivertrees Lodge late last night and were greeted with dinner and drinks as we got acquainted with each other and the program we were about to participate in. The accommodations here at the Lodge are extremely comfortable and the grounds are beautiful. The place is nothing less than spectacular.

This morning started early with a delicious breakfast buffet in the dining hall, followed by an extensive overview of the microfinance program that Opportunity International is just beginning to undertake here in Arusha. Luckily, the program is under the watchful eye or Mr. Peter Olivier, the CEO of Opportunity Tanzania; Mr. Evans, the Chief Relationship Officer; and Mrs. Terry, who heads up Human Resources. It could not be in more qualified hands. After familiarizing the group with the plans, challenges, achievements and goals that Opportunity Tanzania is facing, we took off for a meeting with the Regional Commissioner of Arusha, Mr. Isidori Shirma (the equivalent of the city’s mayor). Unfortunately, the Commissioner was in a meeting with Tanzanian President Jakays Kikwete. His Regional Administrative Secretary, Mr. McHome, met with us in his place.

After a relaxing lunch on the rolling fields of the River House restaurant, our group went to Opportunity Tanzania’s temporary headquarters and met with its friendly, enthusiastic staff. We were taken out to one of Arusha’s poorest districts where we met two of Opportunity’s new clients. One had a well-stocked general merchandise store that sold fabrics, clothing, shoes, bags, radios, etc. The next client was a tailor who needed the loan to keep up with the high demand for his services. He had recently been approached to outfit a private security firm. He currently employs two people, but he is hoping to use his loan to expand his business and maximize output. All of us were entertained by the adorable children of the village who were happy to greet us as visitors with smiles and would pose for pictures. They all got a big kick out of seeing their faces on the screens of our cameras and swarmed our group laughing and playing until we left. We were touched by the friendly  smiles and greeting we received from everyone we came across. Living in absolute poverty has not dampened these people’s spirits or their sense of hospitality. We wish the best for these people and our prayers are with them and their communities as Opportunity helps to empower  and encourage their entrepreneurial spirit that is present on every street corner and storefront.

For tonight, it’s dinner and lounging at the Rivertrees Lodge as we rest up and reflect on our first jam-packed day and get ready for tomorrow morning’s client meetings followed by an afternoon safari. Stay tuned!

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