It's been 16 years - I have lived twice as many years without her than with her - and nothing can change that. I know this and it pains me. Losing my mother in a boat accident on Lake Victoria has left a deep mark on my life. However, I have been very careful not to talk about it publicly before. For me it was both my personal pain and my family's pain and nobody's business. I still keep the distance.
However what I learned as my life had taken a turn and took me from Tanzania, Africa to the runways of New York, London and Paris, is that sharing my experience has its advantage. Talking about it doesn't make the pain go away, but it does allow me to get used to the pain. For several years now I have wanted to do something with this pain. I wanted to transfer this loss into something more meaningful. I launched my charity organization - Flaviana Matata Foundation (FMF). For me this was a way not only to give back, but to pay tribute to my mother who was one of the most generous women I have known. She paid for the school fees of several children who were not her own and she was always ready to lend a helping hand. So my foundation's first objective was to help children, in particular young girls, in sponsoring their education. However I felt that even though I never made her loss public I had to eventually let people know how much my mother means to me and what my foundation is about.
So this year I decided to do something that is directly connected to the MV Bukoba boat tragedy and to my mother. I personally got in touch with a manufacturer of life vests and ordered 500 life vests. I shipped them to Tanzania and delivered them thousands of miles to Mwanza city on the shore of Lake Victoria where numerous boats leave the port to other destinations including Bukoba where my mother boarded 16 years ago. I delivered the life vests to the government agency Marine Services Limited. They operate boats at low rates and their vessels are used by most Tanzanians as they are affordable. It was this agency that also operated MV Bukoba 16 years ago. The agency management was very grateful and gave us a wonderful reception. The handover was also symbolic as it was done at the unmarked cemetery for the victims of MV Bukoba and other people who lost their loved ones joined us. It was a very painful but very special day.
I wish I could have said all that I wanted to say but my emotions got the better of me, however I am truly grateful to everyone who stood by me and supported me on this beautiful journey, with special thanks to Maria Sarungi Tsehai and her entire team at Compass Communications, blogger Shamim Mwasha(8020 fashions blog) and Frank (JF internation).I believe that my donation will inspire others to consider contributing to the safety of our people. I also hope that despite economic hardship and challenges the government of Tanzania faces, it will finally give priority to marine transportation as well and improve the safety of the people.
I am looking forward now to every future May 21st with a different perspective. No longer is my heart heavy and no more do I think of it in dread, but I look forward to making every May 21st meaningful not only to me, but to the people of Tanzania and to future passengers.