Of Cars, Color, and Culture

A few months ago we were able to do something  wonderful to help the Tanzanian staff who interact with the families we support- we bought a car.
When I arrived in Tanzania early this week we talked about how the car had changed their workload. Being able to take a sick child immediately to the hospital, or travel a long distance to deliver safe drinking water materials has become much easier, and staff were really grateful.
There was only one problem. The car was RED. Most cars in Tanzania are grey, white, or black. Not red. And the car buying process suddenly began to make sense. The car was much cheaper than the amount we had expected to spend. At home I had bragged about how cost- effective our Tanzanian team had been, but I finally understood that it was at a certain cost to them.
Mary's husband shook his head when he saw it for the first time. A neighbor asked if it was a butcher's car- because it was the color of blood. I worried that we had inadvertently put staff in a compromising position, and asked if they wanted to have the car painted . 
And you know what? They laughed.
Because now the organization has free advertising, and micro-finance borrowers who are slow-pay are afraid of being chased by the "red car people"!  And at the end of the day, the red car does exactly what it was meant to do- make work easier, and more rewarding, for our extraordinary WAMATA partners.