International exchange – Ruth

Women from Kisekibaha village (Tanzania) bring wood for a celebration meal

Women from Kisekibaha village (Tanzania) bring wood for a celebration meal

How International Exchange within the Grail changed my life

The chance to fulfil my dream of being with people in cultures outside Australia came when the Grail women in Tanzania invited me in 1980 to come and join them for a while. First to attend the first ever meeting of the East African Grail women (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and then to visit Grail women in their homes in the various countries. Young and adventurous I had a vision of getting to know people of other cultures through sharing their daily lives and trying to understand their worldviews, life issues and concerns.

That’s one of the great things about going to a place overseas sponsored by the Grail - you get the opportunity to live with the people!!

I went first for about six months and then I just had to go back!! So, I worked and saved up for another year to teach English to help young women, some over twenty years old, to pass exams, so they could obtain scholarships and go to High School. That would certainly contribute to making life richer for some of these young women, giving them opportunities and choices they may not otherwise have had. I was also delighted to be in Tanzania to experience the advantages and disadvantages of living under a socialist system.

Then there was the matter of my being the only one at the Grail Centre at the time who could drive the Grail’s land rover. This vehicle was used not only for the needs of the Centre, but to take women from the surrounding villages to hospital for the birth of a baby, to take sick children and others to the dispensary at any time, night or day, or to bring home the bodies of the dead. What a privilege.

2013 - Ruth & young Masai girls at the Grail Centre, Kisekibaha village near Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

2013 - Ruth & young Masai girls at the Grail Centre, Kisekibaha village near Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

When I drove a family to the dispensary at night, with a child dying of measles, through the pain and suffering, I felt a bond grow between us. The friendships made during that year have lasted a lifetime.

As time went on and we experienced many hard times together, lack of food for one thing because of widespread drought, I began to understand solidarity and reciprocity and saw very clearly that I received much more than I was ever able to give. I became much more aware of the inequities in our world, the dominance of rich Western countries economically, culturally, politically and the impact of western systems on countries in the global ‘south’.

From that time onwards I have been an activist and trainer of those who are working with the marginalised in Australia and supporting action taken by Grail women locally and internationally which aims to make the world a fairer and equitable place for all peoples and indeed the whole of creation.

Ruth Crowe (Grail Sydney)