Before she lays down her own personal roots, Erin Kelly will be helping women overseas lay down strong business roots.
The Grimsby woman will soon be travelling to Tanzania for a three-month stay in the city of Iringa, where she’ll be volunteering with CUSO International promoting and supporting local female entrepreneurs. This will be Kelly’s second volunteer effort with CUSO after travelling to Cameroon three years ago to work with an environmental group.
“The ultimate goal is to get their stories out to as many people as possible,” she said.
While in Tanzania, Kelly will be interviewing female entrepreneurs and sharing their stories. The idea is to get media attention on the farmers, artisans and producers to help secure more international grants and funding. At the same time, she’ll be doing video and photography to document the country and its people, and to help the entrepreneurs develop their businesses.
Kelly, who ultimately wants to become a documentary filmmaker, was working at a local business for a couple of years when the volunteer bug hit her. She took some anthropology courses in university and has long had a fascination with other cultures. Realizing her job just wasn’t quite the right fit, she reached out to CUSO to see what they could offer.
“This is a good stepping-stone to what I want to be ultimately,” she said.
Recently engaged but not yet married or with a mortgage, Kelly knew this was a great time to go.
And while Tanzania will be a completely new experience for her, Kelly does have some ties with the country and the people she’ll be interviewing. In the early 1990s her aunt and uncle returned from a 10-year stay in the country. Kelly interviewed them and will be posting video from the interview on her YouTube channel, erinforeel.
Kelly has also been working to get her own freelance video and photo business up and running. She said it’ll be interesting to see how her own business experiences compare to those of women entrepreneurs in Tanzania and the barriers women face starting a business in each country.
Having spent six months in Cameroon and receiving training from CUSO, Kelly said she more or less knows what to expect. But still, there will be nuances to the culture she’ll have to adapt to. Like any other, the Tanzanian culture has its own rules and hierarchy, and that’s something Kelly plans on respecting.
While she’s excited about the trip and a chance to see the country, Kelly knows it’ll be something of a challenge getting the women to tell their stories.
“The thing I’m most nervous about is gaining their trust,” she said.
Kelly leaves Jan. 17. She’ll be providing updates on her YouTube channel and at her website, erinforeel.com.