Kathryn Sutton in Zanzibar
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Tufts University graduate with my sons in 2004 Kendwa Village project Koani farmers project
My name is Kathryn Sutton and this is my personal website. If you wish to know more about my work, please visit the website of my foundation Participate Now! http://www.participatenowfoundation.org
I am an American woman who grew up in Connecticut. I have been living in Zanzibar since September 2004 and plan on residing here for a very long time – I consider Zanzibar my home. I have had a great love for Africa and its people that began in 1974. My then husband and I traveled in a VW van for one year from Cairo to Capetown. We decided to spend time with at least one person in each country and to learn about their country and culture. We had many incredible experiences, but the defining one was our visit to a Samburu village in northern Kenya. The people were very poor and yet they fed us and took care of us during our visit. I started thinking “Why aren’t I reading in the New York Times what we as Americans can learn from Africans, rather than what we can teach them?”
My husband and I returned to the US in 1975 and subsequently I had two boys, divorced my husband and raised my children alone. I worked as a small business consultant and bookkeeper for start-up businesses, then as a CFO of my family printing business. I began telling my children when they were quite young that they couldn’t come back home after they graduated from university, as I was planning on returning to Africa to help women start small businesses. During these years I became a women's activist due to the confidence of some strong women friends of mine. I held the position as chairwoman of the Commission of the Status of Women in Norwalk, Connecticut, for two years and was one of the co-founders of an annual dinner that honored women as unsung heroes called Celebrate Women! During these years I was also a volunteer in the Norwalk Hospital emergency room for 5 years. I learned during this time that I was effective in listening to people and helping them to have a voice of their own.
In 1999 my youngest son joined the Marines. At that time I sent my CV out to various corporations and organizations that worked in Africa but not one of them would interview me because I didn’t possess a university degree. I had married at 19 and never attended college. A client of mine advised me to take a class at the local community college. I was very anxious as I was 47 years old and didn’t think that I would be able to do the work. But I did take a History class and fell in love with learning. Through twists and turns I applied to the REAL program (Resumed Education for Adult Learning) at Tufts University. I was able to take classes concerning Africa and learn about all of the places that I had visited in 1974. It was amazing and I am proud to be a Tufts graduate with a degree in Political Science.
In January 2004, my last semester of college, I became quite ill and was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis). I have some very wonderful doctors in Boston, Massachusetts, and have chosen to go on with my life and not let this disease interfere too much. I believe that I am very fortunate and have a mild form of MS - a friend of mine identifies it as a "permanent nuisance," which I will accept. I have fatigue, numbness and other symptoms but I am learning to live my life to the fullest every day within the limitations that I have.
I had applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to do research on the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, but I was not awarded the scholarship. My son had finished his time in the Marines and he told me “Mom – you’re obviously meant to do something else – you just don’t know what yet”. I have a very wise son. I came to Tanzania in September 2004 and traveled to Zanzibar planning to study Kiswahili for 4 weeks, but I fell in love with the island and the people and I have never left.
I was incredibly fortunate to become involved with the local NGO (non governmental organization), ZAPHA+ (Zanzibar Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS). At the time there were 26 members – today in 2008 there are over 600 who are open about their status and support each other. I was also fortunate to have been a catalyst for The Clinton Foundation to bring ARVS (anti-retrovirals) to Zanzibar in March 2005. Many are alive today because of the incredible people who began Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative in Tanzania. Former President Clinton visited Zanzibar in July 2005 and spent time with the members of ZAPHA+. It was a great honor for the people of Zanzibar who are predominantly Muslim to have a former American president walk through the streets and shake their hands.
I live a most exciting life here in Zanzibar. Fascinating people pass through my lovely rooftop penthouse and Stonetown. I have had the good fortune to meet the advance team for President Clinton during his visit in 2005 - they are kind and passionate young men who care deeply for America and I appreciate that we are still in touch with each other. John Gartner, a psychologist and author, visited in July 2007 when he was writing his biography of President Clinton. John visited me in Zanzibar and later decided to write about my work and Zanzibar in the last chapter of the book - that was very exciting. Jamie Drummond, the director of DATA and ONE, came to visit in 2008. Jamie is a brilliant man who understands all of international development to Africa, having worked with Bono and Jeffrey Sachs and others over the years. I love being a perpetual student in this most beautiful classroom.
In January 2008 I started my own foundation - Participate Now! - which is based on listening to the people and collaborating with the participants and community leaders to strengthen their existing situations. Please visit my website to learn more about my work here in Zanzibar. www.participatenowfoundation.org
424 Riverside Drive
Fairfield, CT 06824