Mary Sebastian as born on the July 7th, 1972. She is 6 months younger than me. She was raised in the Mengwe-Juu village of the Rombo District of the Kilimanjaro Region of northern Tanzania. Her father died when she was very young, and she lived with her mother and her siblings. After primary school there was no money for her continued education. Only years later was she able to complete a 6-month-long vocational course to learn to operate a sewing machine. Soon thereafter she married and had two sons, Godrich and Godlisten. When the boys were 6 and 8 their father Ombeni died in a road accident. Mary was left alone to raise her children. She did her best by working as a laborer and by purchasing and selling sardines. Just barely Mary was able to send her boys to school and and pay for their daily food and house rent.
In 2010 Mary was working as a helper to the masons and she fell with a load of concrete on her head. She crushed her back and was bedridden for almost three years during which time she and her boys were completely reliant on the goodwill of neighbors and friends.
This past September, when Mary heard about St. Joseph’s Women’s Loan program run by Mr Elias Shayo and sponsored by Unite, she quickly applied. Mary’s first loan is 400,000 Tsh (~$219). With that money she is purchasing and selling kangas and kikoys. For every fabric sold, Mary can earn up to $.80 profit. Mary walks for 8 to 10 hours a day with her goods balanced on her head. She sells to local villagers and shop owners. With her income she is now able to pay for Godrich’s education at the Mpwapwa Government teacher training college. Godlisten is now independent working as a Daladala (bus) driver.
Since Ombeni died, Mary has never remarried and has no plans to. Instead she is fighting to succeed in her business and to one day purchase a small piece of land and build a small house of her own so can avoid further “rent headaches.” Currently Mary pays 20,000 Tsh/month for her rented room (~$10.98).
When asked how her life has changed since receiving her loan, Mary responded, “God has given me my new husband,” meaning now she has the support she needs to stand on her own and become independent. She cannot believe that there are people living on the other side of the planet who are working to help her. She said, “I feel I am in a dream. I cannot expect such a thing to ever happen in my life.”
We are proud of Mary and her accomplishments and will keep you closely posted on her progress over the months and years to come.