Posted by Flavia Serugo on Dec 03, 2018

Born in 1946 in Seoul, Korea, as the youngest of 6 children, Rotarian Young Kimaro’s brief stint as a child actress on TV came to a stop when she left for U.K. with her parents. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Maryland graduate school among other qualifications. She joined the World Bank in 1972 where she enjoyed a long and successful career spanning from strategizing development assistance, education projects, to moderating quality review panels for the Bank’s operations, until her retirement in 2001. She then relocated to Tanzania with her family. Today, she devotes her time to community development for Mwika Development Trust Fund (MWIDEFU) as a Rotarian. She shared her story with our Wave correspondents, Flavia Serugo, the Wave Editor, Uganda. 

Who are you, Young? Tell us briefly about yourself.

I am a product of four continents: Asia, Europe, America and Africa. Perhaps I can claim to be a citizen of the world?  

Born 70+ years ago, my early years were in Korea. My Dad’s appointment as Korean Ambassador to U.K. took me to England where I received most of my secondary schooling. I attended my final secondary year and college back in Korea, before I set off to America for further studies. The book, Education for Self-Sufficiency, by Nyerere led me to a student from Tanzania, Sadikiel Kimaro.  Soon after we tied the knot and thus began my life-long connection to Tanzania.

 

An Oriental and an African…half a century ago? How did that work out for you? 

It alarmed our families.  Our elders questioned: “Marriage is challenging enough.  Why raise the stakes by adding more complexities by mixing race and culture?” They also were worried, of course, what others might say.  However, the world has changed much since.  These reservations have evaporated, and we have eased into both sides of the family. 

Caption: With Kimaro and children from left - Eliaichi, Florence, and Kundaeli

 

Tell us briefly about your career?

My World Bank entry was ego crushing.  Despite a degree and graduate studies with Fulbright scholarship, all I was offered was a typing position.  After one and a half painful years, I did break out of typing ranks.  

My career at the World Bank falls neatly into three categories: one, managing country relations, coordinating work of a country team, and strategizing assistance to a country; two, managing projects from identification to implementation and evaluation, and lastly, monitoring and enhancing quality of education projects, and assessing quality of Bank operations.  A good training for Rotary work, no?

 

What made you relocate in Tanzania and what led you to become a Rotarian?

After considering all options following our retirement, Kimaro and I decided it was time to give back.  We packed up and returned to Tanzania.  Once my husband completed his stint at assisting President Mkapa on economic affairs in 2005, we returned home to his home village, Mwika.  

Kimaro had a new market built in Mwika with support from Moshi Rotary and New Zealand.  On its opening day, he was inducted into Moshi Rotary Club; I opted to become a Lion, in my father’s footsteps.  But when Kimaro began forming a new Rotary Club in Mwika in 2011, I had to be part of it.  I joined Rotary.

Caption: Kimaro and I 

Tell us about your transformational projects for the community in Mwika.

Of the many projects, two stand out.  School mentoring project held separate focus group discussions with school’s stakeholders - students, teachers, parents, and school management - to identify problems (only those which the school had control over) and suggest solutions. Then all groups were brought together to share their findings and recommendations. Schools which had, till then, felt powerless and blamed the system for everything, suddenly realized how much they could do to bring about change for the better.  They became empowered.

The second is the microcredit project which started with USD20 loans for 100 market women.  Subsequent borrowings were tied to the balance in their savings. Two years thereafter, a quarter of them were borrowing USD100-200!  

A seamstress who started with one sewing machine then, today has six. She doubled her shop space, and has 10 interns learning the trade and assisting her.  Recently, a woman trader supplied a buyer 7 tons of maize.  That trader was a market woman who started her business with a USD20 loan from our microcredit project!  The project’s impact continues.

 

What is your source of Inspiration?

My Dad for whom “the greater good” was his foremost concern.  Dad’s courage and willingness to do what is right, no matter at what cost, has always been a source of inspiration to me.

Caption: Dad about to present his credentials to the Queen

What projects are you currently undertaking?

RC Mwika is replacing wooden footbridges with durable concrete ones. High humidity and frequent rains on Kilimanjaro cause wood to rot easily, making footbridges hazardous. Flood waters often wash them away which rob villagers of easy access to schools, dispensaries, clean water supply, and the market to sell their produce. Mwika Rotary decided that footbridges will be its signature project. Our fifth footbridge is about to be completed and three more are lined up. A survey of more footbridge sites is on-going.  We will continue to build footbridges until all streams in Mwika are safe to cross at all times.