Jake Jeran
Jake Jeran
Tanzania 2015
I will be spending three months in Arusha, Tanzania working on a microfinance project with Projects Abroad. I will be educating and training women in the outskirts of Arusha on how to sustainably run their small business ventures. Read More About Jake →

Home Away from Home

As I sit here in my hotel room, its crazy to think that my 10 week placement in Tanzania has come to an end. The 70 days that I have spent in Tanzania have been life changing. Literally! I can remember the moment when I first stepped on Tanzanian soil like it was yesterday. Anxiety was building, nerves were racing, and I was beginning to sweat, as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I never knew that what I would find here would be greater than just an experience; I found a new home. A home away from home, where I have a family that loves me and colleagues that support me. From that moment when I was standing outside of the airport 70 days ago until today, God has changed my life. I have been blessed to meet some of the most amazing people from all around the world and have some experiences that I will forever cherish in my heart.

One of the hardest parts about saying goodbye was looking into the eyes of some of my best friends and knowing that I may never see them again. Nothing is for certain of course, but if there is one thing that I have learned about myself on this trip, it is that I HATE goodbyes.

I remember about a year ago today God planted a seed in my life, which led me to apply for the Lumos award. 11 months ago I felt like God was calling me do something amazing! I had no idea where I would go or  who I would do it with, but I just knew, in my heart that He was calling me to do something greater than myself. That’s when I found the Lumos Foundation. It was as if God had literally laid this in my lap and said “Go.” Don’t think about it, just go! Since that day, I was persistent about planning and preparing for a life-changing trip. That was August of my sophomore year at Belmont. As I am about to start my junior year at Belmont, I can whole-heartedly say that I have grown as an individual because of this amazing opportunity. I can say today that every single minute and every single ounce of energy that I spent planning and preparing for this trip was 100% worth it because I wouldn’t trade the experiences that I have had for anything. If given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.

A lot of people laugh or are a little cynical about “World Changers.” I guess to some people that term may just seem too “big” or too optimistic. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel as though I have changed the world in this past 70 days that I have been in Tanzania. It may have been so minute that nobody can tangibly see the change, but I firmly believe that God used me to change the lives of people in the small area of Arusha that I worked in. Call me crazy all you want, but to me every single dollar is worth it if I can even change one persons life for the better.

Although my placement at my project is over, there is one more thing I came to do before I go back home. Kilimanjaro! An experience that I think will be one that will last a lifetime. Tomorrow morning I embark on an 8 day and 61 mile hike that  will definitely stretch my boundaries and hopefully be an incredible experience. Hiking Kilimanjaro will be a perfect end to a perfect trip.

Here are some of the incredible friends that I have had the pleasure of meeting on this trip.






I am incredibly blessed and forever grateful for the Lumos foundation and all of their support. I also want to thank all of my family and friends for their endless support and love.


I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Steve Jobs,

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently—they’re not fond of rules…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, but the only thing you cant do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

With Love,


Networking Event

As I have shared in my previous blog posts, the needs of the women that I have been working with over the past 8 weeks are enormous! They need assistance not only in their business ventures, but also their personal lives. Since I started working with Projects Abroad in May, we have been diligently planning and preparing for the networking event that we hosted in late June. A networking event is something that Projects Abroad does quarterly in which they bring all of the women together from all of the groups in order to collaborate and educate them on certain matters. This event is essential to the development of our women because it gives them the skills they need to further develop their businesses and their personal everyday lives.

This first speaker that we had for this event was from a local NGO called AISE. AISE empowers people to design & build their own creations that improve lives & are affordable. This organization that is located in the heart of Arusha has been working on developing more efficient products since 2011. In recent years they have focused a lot on using a simple mechanism like a bicycle to be the energy source to make items functional. One of the best products that they created for farming was a bicycle maze Sheller. This contraption attaches to any normal Tanzanian bicycle and improves efficiency in maze farming.


Since most of our women do not focus solely on farming, Marco(Manager of Partnerships) spoke on how simple everyday items can be recycled to be used as practical tools, which will help in the daily lives of these women. The first product he showed was a bicycle powered juice blender. This product definitely took the attention of our women because they had never seen anything like it in their lives. With less that 5000 shillings (roughly $2.50) they can create a juice blender that doesn’t need electricity to run. By finding more productive ways of doing such tasks, these women have a lot more time to focus on other things like growing their businesses. The women loved the enthusiasm that Marco brought because he showed them that it really does not take a lot of money to do such simple things.





Next, we got the creative engines of our women running! We had one of the women present on different techniques in which she uses to make jewelry and scarves. She showed them how to make bracelets and scarves out of trash bags and other recyclable materials. Showing everyone how to make things out of recyclable materials really made people interested in the art of creating things such as jewelry because the starting capital is nearly nothing. All you need is a few trash bags and a lot of time.

In my opinion, the biggest issue that these women face from having a very successful business to one that is barely scraping by, is that they are too afraid to branch out and be creative. Most women who we work with are simply doing the same thing as 20 other people who live in the same area as them, so the competition is fierce and almost impossible to compete in. One of the women shared with me that for every 100 juice boxes she sells she makes approximately 1000TSH. That’s equivalent to a little over 43 cents. There is no way for her to compete in the market because if she increases the price by even 1TSH she will not have any customers. This is why this networking event is so important. With all of the different presentations that we are providing for this daylong extravaganza, we are hoping that these women will come away with different ideas and thoughts on how they can differentiate their products from everyone else. It’s really not a difficult task. It can be as simple as finding a new pattern or a new flavor of something that no one else sells, but most women are too afraid to step out and take a leap of faith in hopes that they will still make a profit. I think that it is the fear of failure, which holds most of them back from expanding their businesses.


Another issue that we felt needed addressed to the whole group was time management. Because of their culture, Tanzanians don’t really have a concept of time. To be honest I kind of like the easiness of life and not having to worry about a schedule every second of the day, but there are times when time management is necessary. One of the biggest issues we have had over these past few months has been attendance. A lot of groups have a less than 50 percent attendance rate, which makes it really difficult for our team to train and educate these women. The inconsistent attendance rates have been an obstacle since the beginning, which we hope to change because it will provide better efficiency in our training programs.


Overall the women had a lot of fun, while learning a lot and expanding their minds. As a team, we are hoping that we can take some of these women’s businesses to the next step, which will eventually lead to sustainability.




Until Next Time,


Finding Pride Rock

Before coming to Tanzania one of the first things that people would ask me was if I planned to go on a safari. Prior to coming here I was planning on climbing Kilimanjaro and not doing a safari because honestly $500 dollars seemed like a lot just to see a few animals. I never really understood the hype of going on a real safari.

Boy, was I wrong!

We left for our safari on Friday morning and drove for a couple hours to the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park. Within the first hour of our game drive we saw a few small animals, but nothing too amusing. Lake Manyara is mostly a forested national park, so it was really hard to see the animals unless they were literally standing in front of the car. We kept stopping to talk about the trees and environment, but didn’t see anything too special. Needless to say, I was unimpressed; I paid money for this? After about an hour of driving we saw an elephant crossing the road in front of a few other safari vans. We pulled up right as it was disappearing into the forest. The other vans began to drive away, but we stayed while our driver was telling us about elephants. After a few minutes we saw the elephant coming back out of the forest, but this time he was followed by his entire herd. Next thing I knew there were about 15 elephants surrounding our car! Our driver had to continually tell us not to touch the elephants because they were so close to us! After about 30 minutes and 1,000 pictures, the elephants eventually moved on. We continued to drive through the park spotting multiple giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, and hippos, but nothing quite topped the total engulfment of the elephant herd.




After our overnight stay in Lake Manyara, we headed to the Serengeti National Park. Being one of the most popular National Parks in all of Africa, I was excited to finally be able to visit. The Serengeti plays host to one of the biggest migrations in the world. Every year thousands of wildebeest and zebras migrate from Tanzania up to Kenya for the dry season. During our safari we were able to see the tail end of the migration. Our driver kept telling us that the number of migrating animals we saw was nothing compared to the migration at its peak, but I can’t imagine that. As we drove around looking for various animals, I was overcome by the vastness of the park. As far as you could see, there was just land. No buildings, no people, just magnificent landscapes. On our first day in the park we saw lions, elephants, leopards, hyenas, and giraffes. The leopards that we saw were a mom and her 2 babies in a tree. Our driver told us that due to leopards’ very secretive nature, that was extremely rare to see. At one point we saw at least eight lions sunbathing on top of a rock right next to the road. If they wanted to, they could have easily hopped right onto our car. At the end of the day we headed to our campsite, which was in the very center of the Serengeti. We fell asleep under the most amazing stars that I have ever seen while listening to nearby hyenas and lions prowling for food.




Our second day in the Serengeti started at 5:00 AM. After being slightly delayed by a flat tire, we were able to watch the sun rise over the park. I’m pretty sure it was a real life scene from Lion King. After the sun was up and shining, we went on a search for cheetahs. We drove all around the park until at last our driver took a sudden turn off the road (which is slightly illegal). We drove a few seconds until we saw two young cheetahs casually lying down. I have no idea how our driver knew where they would be, but it was an indescribable experience to be able to see them so close.





After seeing our cheetahs, we were getting pretty tired of seeing so many zebras and wildebeests, so we left for Ngorongoro Crater. That night we camped on the rim of the crater and overlooked the valley. As we were eating our dinner an elephant waltzed through our campsite, and as we were going to sleep we could see zebras grazing next to our tents. The next day started once again at 5:00 AM. No one ever tells you how cold a safari can be, but let me tell you: it was freezing! After bundling up in many layers we set off to find what treasures awaited us in Ngorongoro. After descending into the crater and watching yet another beautiful sunrise, we immediately spotted one of the few rhinos in Tanzania. The pictures did not do this crater justice. With the sun rising over the mountains, the rhino grazing in the morning grass, a pair of elephants starting their morning trek, and the sky reflecting in the lake, no camera could capture the moment. The rest of the day consisted of driving through the crater, seeing lions, spotting elephants, looking at the massive amount of flamingos in the lake, and singing Lion King.


However, all good things must come to an end. As the day wore on, we were forced to pack up and head to Arusha. Needless to say, my four-day safari was an experience that I will never forget and always treasure.


A Step Back

This past week I have been reading a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel. After reading this book, I have been challenged both personally and spiritually in my walk with God. “In the grasp of wonder, I am surprised, I am enraptured. It’s Moses before the burning bush afraid to look at God.” This passage really struck me and I began to ask God for wonder as I continue to serve these women through my microfinance project. I want to share some of the stories from this week of how God has opened my eyes and showed me wonder.

This past Friday, I was visiting one of the woman’s groups that we normally go to. This week we were working on individual assessments to see how each of the women was doing in bookkeeping and English. We felt that it would be more beneficial to work with each woman individually and help them on their skill levels. Some women needed a lot of help, while others are able do it all by themselves. There was one particular woman who was having a lot of trouble with basic math skills. One of our team members was practically holding the pen in her hand while trying to get her to write the correct answer. Even when it was explained in Swahili she would have a hard time coming up with the answers. After a grueling half hour of doing this one worksheet, we finally figured out what the problem was. She couldn’t see. No wonder she had no idea what the right answer was, she couldn’t even see the numbers that we were pointing to. I think this was the first time in my four weeks here that I actually realized the reality of these women’s lives. Not once in their lives have any of these women been given proper treatment for their eyes. I thought I was helping these women by training them on math and English, but I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the actual problems. Half of these women need glasses. Teaching with a language barrier is hard enough, but teaching someone who has difficulty seeing is a whole other issue. A ten-dollar pair of glasses is all that is standing between a literate woman and an illiterate one.



On Monday my microfinance team held a meeting with a few of the leaders from the women’s groups. We were discussing various ways that we could help each individual and make their lives and businesses more successful. I started talking to one of the women, and I asked her why she didn’t have much attendance in the group meetings. She said, “Well three of our members are disabled and can’t leave the house. We’ve been trying to get them wheelchairs for years, but they just can’t afford It.” $200 is all it takes to buy a wheelchair. What is pocket change to most people is a life long savings for these women. How blind could I have been to not see this problem? These women are struggling and need help desperately.

These are just a few of the ways that God has shown me wonder throughout this week. My team and I had to completely step back and focus on the root of these women’s problems, instead of doing what we thought was good enough. We now need to find ways to provide basic and essential necessities to these women because without it our help is useless. We began identifying and documenting all the needs of each individual in hopes that we will be able to find ways to provide for them.

The problems don’t just stop at glasses and wheelchairs. Some women need help with school tuition for their children, some need shoes, and some just need more capital money to build their businesses. This is why we are here. To help these women with every bone in our bodies and with every resource we have.

Assisting these women to create a sustainable business is only a small part of what we are doing here. My heart breaks for their needs, and I pray everyday that God will provide us with tools and resources to help them.

Until next time,





As Tanzania recently just celebrated its 50th birthday, it is beginning to elevate another element of Nyerere’s principles: education. Education has been a severe problem all across Tanzania since its inception. In 1960, Tanzania was one of the poorest and least literate countries in the world. They have made little improvement since then. With less than 7% of youth passing secondary level education, Tanzania faces a colossal problem. Among the 7 percent that graduate from secondary school, only fractions of a percent are women. For the most part women in Tanzania don’t go to school past elementary or middle school and rarely move onto university education. The lack of schooling puts them in a rut, which practically defines their life because they have no means of advancing in society.

Most, if not all of the women that I work with on my microfinance project fall into this category. Most can barely read and write in their native language, let alone English. Because of this, most women have a very hard time starting and sustaining their small business ventures.

There is a huge divide between the literate population and the illiterate. This week my team spent the majority of our efforts on training he women in some simple mathematic and English skills. We first started with some beginner English training, which consisted of simple greetings like “How are you” and “What is your name.” The goal of our project is to give these women the ways and means to succeed in the business world. As it is now, they have no way to compete with the educated business owners, but with some training and help from Projects Abroad, we hope to give them the skills they need to be more sustainable and live more fruitful and abundant lives.




After this we moved onto some book keeping training. Most of these women struggle with simple addition and subtraction (especially with negative numbers). My team and I created a template to help teach the women these skills that are very necessary to their businesses. Throughout my 10 weeks here, we are planning on continually increasing our English training and book keeping training for these women in hopes that by the time we leave, they will have all of the basic knowledge that is necessary to run their businesses in a sustainable manner.

Apart from my project placement, I have been taking Swahili lessons every day before I go to work. I have only taken 5 hours so far, but it is crazy how much Swahili I have learned in just that short amount of time. I can now say greetings, form sentences in present, past, and future tense. I know some verbs, how to bargain on the street, how to count from one-one million, and all of the days of the week. There is very little grammar in Swahili, so it is a pretty easy language to learn. The hardest part is learning the accent of the language. Learning simple phrases have really helped me communicate not only with the women that I work with, but also around the streets. By the time I finish my language course, I should have a very good base knowledge of Swahili, which will help me tremendously throughout my time in Tanzania.

Until next time,

Kwaheri! (Goodbye)

Something New

As the plane began its descent, the anticipation started to build, as I was about to take my first steps onto Tanzanian soil. There I was, standing outside the airport by myself sticking out like a sore thumb. As fear began to fill my body, I couldn’t find my ride to my host family. Not only was I nervous because of the new surroundings, but I was frightened as to what I would do if I could not find my ride at the airport. Luckily all it took was a few more minutes of waiting before PJ (my driver) picked me up and we headed off to my host families home.

I have now been in Tanzania for almost a week. The past week has been a learning experience as I begin to embrace the Tanzanian culture and way of life. Everything is new; the people, the fashion, the food, the cities, the language, and pretty much everything else you can think of. Learning to adapt to this new way of life has been challenging, but also exciting as I absorb and experience true Tanzanian culture. While there seems to be a lot of chaos in this city of more than two million, there is also a sense of relaxation within Arusha.

The first few days I was here I had orientation with one of the Projects Abroad staff and he showed me around town and gave me a brief overview of where everything was. After my first day, I was expected to figure out the bus routes and learn how to travel on my own. To put it lightly, I was terrified. Being in a new culture, I had no clue how to communicate and travel on my own. I still get lost in this confusing city from time to time, but somehow I manage to find my way home.

Tuesday was the first day that I began to work on my microfinance project. I took a 15-minute walk to the Projects Abroad office to meet my volunteer team, then immediately afterwards, we all went to a town nearby the city. We worked with 8 different women in this group. Most of the work we did on this day was just making sure that the women’s businesses were still succeeding as well as seeing if they needed any additional training to help their businesses flourish. Since a lot of the women have trouble with simple mathematics, we helped them with some bookkeeping. Most women can add and subtract numbers, but they get confused with negative numbers, so we are planning on doing some training on that subject in the coming weeks.

This is a picture of Hilda receiving a 600,000TSH ($300) loan from Projects abroad.


Within these different groups that I will be working with, each woman owns her own business. Most of the women own small shops that sell anything from medicine to rice, but there are also women who own beauty parlors, gardens, textile shops, and many other different trades. Here are a few pictures of the businesses that I visited throughout the week.

IMG_3420 IMG_3413 20150519_153759 IMG_3421 IMG_3419

Now that I have been here almost a week, I am beginning to understand this culture a little bit better. Although it will take some getting used to, I think I will like it here.


See You on the Other Side

I think back on the last nine months of my life and can see how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time. The trip I’ve been planning since August is right around the corner and I’m filled with anticipation as I count down the days. 6 days stand in between me and Arusha, Tanzania. During my time in Africa I will be working with Projects Abroad, assisting with a micro-finance project within the villages that surround Arusha.

My love for traveling has been a life-long passion. There is a never-ending tug on my heart to serve others and I find joy in going abroad, finding areas that are in need. Thanks to the Lumos Award I am now about to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could only have imagined before entering Belmont University.

Tanzania is on my mind 24/7. I daydream about all the people I’ll have the privilege of meeting. I know they’ll touch my life more than I could ever touch theirs. I’m entering this summer with an open heart, praying to be changed from the inside out. I try to imagine what the culture will be like. I smile when thinking about the stories I’ll have when I get back to the states. This trip will be all consuming and I couldn’t be more ready. I’m thrilled to put the little things, I often find myself uselessly worrying about, behind me and focus on the people and experiences that I will be a part of.

I could never have gotten this far without all the love and support from my family, friends, and professors, so thank you. Please continue to keep me in your prayers. I invite you to follow my journey over the summer through this blog, as I keep you updated on my trip. I’ll miss all your pretty faces but a plane is calling my name. See you on the other side.