Here in Tanzany, people prefer sports utility vehicles. This makes sense as even the roads inside the major cities can get out of hand very quickly. Mostly Toyotas and Nissans, the typical car has the spare tire mounted on the outside. Sometimes the tire is exposed to the elements, but more often it has a cover made of tough weather resistant fabric.
People here just love to decorate that wheel cover. You see all sorts of messages from the artsy to the commercial (particularly air conditioners) to the political and even sexually suggestive.
But the ones that really crack me up are wheel covers promoting the governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Every organization has all their cars fitted in a wheel cover that includes their logo, project description, mission statement and whatever else they can fit on there. Seriously, some of those things seem like they have whole essays printed on them.
Even the really small NGOs with like no people and very little funding run around town with big important wheel covers talking about how they are out to save Tanzania. If you were an alien who teleported down to Dar es Salaam, you’d probably find yourself thinking, “God damn. With all these organizations doing all this good work, surely this country will be developed in no time!” If only.
We, however, didn’t have one. Even though the COPOTUS’ project is a year old, they are still fighting the government and the auto dealerships to get their project vehicle approved and delivered. So, we decided to have some fun with the whole wheel cover thing.
Fans of the Seinfeld TV series from the 1990s probably remember George Costanza’s creation of The Human Fund. Before Christmas George gets a gift from a friend that a donation was made in his name to a charity.
George makes up cards from “The Human Fund” and as office Christmas presents gives out fake “donations” made on his co-workers’ behalf to the Human fund. The motto of The Human Fund: “Money for people.”
We kicked the idea around for several months. What project should the Human Fund support here? Would the Human Fund use Kiswahili on its wheel cover? In the end, Colleen went out and made it happen with a simple design and the motto.
So I’ve been driving around Dar for several weeks now with my new wheel cover. One lady in traffic asked me for the Human Fund website address and my name. I guess she thought that she was a person and could use some money. I told her I was “George” and she should just Google The Human Fund and she’d find it. Another British couple asked me if The Human Fund had a big operation here. No, I told her. We’re still pretty small.
I haven’t run into as many Seinfeld fans as I expected – maybe the joke is too subtle or dated. But it amuses me and our friends now have an easier time distinguishing our car from the hundreds of other 10-year-old silver Prados driving around town.
And I have several more Human Fund wheel covers printed up and ready to go. So if you live in Dar and would like to be a supporter of The Human Fund, contact me via the blog and we’ll see if you too can help get the word out there.