Honoring Susie O’Kane’s Legacy in Tanzania

Susie O'Kane in Tanzania

We’ve all heard the phrase, “the gift that keeps on giving.” Mosaic’s program in Tanzania has a story to tell about just this kind of gift. It also includes all the things good stories do: deep meaning, happiness, tragedy, an adventurous heroine and…Winnie the Pooh. Yes, even him.

In 2007, when we were just beginning to build a model for providing services to children with disabilities in Moshi, Tanzania, one of the immediate needs to address was training. In a place where there were no services for children with intellectual disabilities, and where disabilities were still considered by many to be a curse, extensive staff training was a must. Mosaic had a solution: enter our adventurous heroine, Susie O’Kane.

Susie was Mosaic’s director of training at that time, and dove into the task full-force. She worked on the development of staff training that would provide a foundation for the Tanzania program. She then traveled with our international team to Moshi, providing training expertise and falling in love with the children, staff and country.

Susie’s dedication continued, bringing her back to Moshi. She saw her imprint on the day center staff, now well-versed in how best to care for the children in the program. We still see that imprint today on every visit to Tanzania.

In 2013, Susie was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She lived her life with great passion, an adventurous heroine, until she passed away in 2014. It was a great loss to her loved ones and to her Mosaic family as well. Her mark on our program in Tanzania, however, remains.

Susie’s friends and family gathered together to raise funds in Susie’s honor to help support our new young adult program in Tanzania. Our new community farm, which employs young adults with disabilities, will be ringed by fruit-bearing trees purchased by the donations and planted in Susie’s honor. The produce from the trees, along with crops, will be sold to support the wages of the employees.

Because Susie loved Winnie the Pooh, her friends and family asked that this grove be named “The Hundred Aker Wood,” after the classic Pooh tale.

We are thankful for all that Susie did for Mosaic, and for her help in the founding of a program that now helps hundreds of children, young adults and their families. Her work, and the tree donation, are both gifts that keep on giving.

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