By Jackie Adams, President of Tareto Maa USA
Today marks the one year anniversary of my pledge to found the U.S. chapter of Tareto Maa. Ever since returning to the U.S after having served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, I felt that something was missing in my life. I tried to fill this void by volunteering with several nonprofits, but the void remained unfilled. And then I came across Tareto Maa. I already felt such a personal connection to the people and culture in Eastern Africa, and knew from my own experience what a great need existed in that area of the world. Further, I was incredibly disturbed by the indignity of the practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage. Motivated by the desire to help protect dignity of the human person, I reached out to the leaders of Tareto Maa to learn more.
Looking back, I remember that initial period of time quite fondly. Armin (President of Tareto Maa Germany) and I were corresponding daily with emails shooting across the ocean as he tried to explain how Tareto Maa functioned. We tried to sort out how I could become a part of it all. I think in our own ways we were both optimistic yet uncertain; hopeful yet cautious. I was enthusiastic and eager to begin. However, I also wanted to make sure that Tareto Maa was benefiting its patrons and not adding any extraneous burdens. I admit, it was a time of great excitement on my side as I questioned whether this would be a great cause that I could devote myself to.
Now I have gotten quite settled into my routine as President of Tareto Maa USA. Every two weeks, regardless of other plans, I get online to have a global meeting with Phillipe (President of Tareto Maa Austria), Armin (President of Tareto Maa Germany), and Gladys (President of Tareto Maa Kenya). We’ll laugh about our sketchy internet connections which occasionally cause odd blips in the conversation. Then we’ll lean into our screens in anticipation as we plan for the future of our mission. Armin and I are both very vocal about our opinions and our passion shines through as we debate possibilities. Phillipe and Gladys have a calm, confident way of discussing issues that bring a sense of balance to the team. In this way our team’s personalities beautifully complement each other and over the past year it has been a warm reassurance to know that my weaknesses are made up by the others’ strengths and vice versa.
At Tareto Maa USA’s monthly board meetings, I see the energy, hope and promise of our young chapter. I am so excited to get to watch our potential unfold in this coming year once we have achieved tax exempt status and begin to host awareness and fundraising events. It is a pleasure working with such a gifted and outgoing group that believes so deeply in fighting for this cause.
Last but definitely not least, our online forums have allowed me to connect with people across the U.S. and the world – all of whom have come together solely in the desire to support the children in Kilgoris, Kenya. I love getting on Facebook and Kiva and seeing the encouragement of the group as we tackle one challenge after another. Our page on Facebook is, for me at least, a charming photo album that chronicles the progress of our work together.
I won’t pretend that all of this has been easy. Writing the application to the IRS for tax exempt status was one of the more frustrating experiences I have faced in my life. Along with having so many people supportive of Tareto Maa, I’ve also met with the unsuccessfully trying to turn interest into action as friends and acquaintances who engaged in extended conversations with me about their desire to help do nothing after. It has gotten to the point that I will speak freely about Tareto Maa with anyone, but reserve optimism until any support or project has commenced. I have also felt the disappointment of not being able to always be the leader I’ve wanted to be, not having enough time to handle all the work, and knowing that I haven’t always properly handled the challenges I’ve faced. It’s wearisome to know that sometimes I haven’t been enough.
When I first embarked on this adventure, I didn’t know where it would take me. Of course, I had my own hopes and ideas but I knew that all of this would only start to take shape once I had taken a leap of faith and chosen to fully participate. Now that I have progressed further down the pathway, I can say without hesitation that this hasn’t always been easy but it has been very real to me. It is an honor to be a part of this group – to be a member of the global leaders, to work with my U.S. board and to be a part of the Tareto Maa community. This group has had a very powerful and meaningful impact on my life. I no longer consider Tareto Maa as something that I do, but rather consider it an extension of myself. I look forward to seeing both how this group will continue to grow and how it will challenge me as I grow with it.