Twenty-five years ago, six Thomson Safaris guests and founder Judi Wineland were moved by their experiences with the beauty and vibrancy of Tanzania. They banded together to give back to the communities that touched their hearts.
That organization, Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FOTZC), celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Focusing on healthcare, education, women’s empowerment and clean water access, FOTZC strives to help communities overcome economic and social challenges with sustainable development initiatives. Thomson guests can visit some FOTZC projects on their safari during their time in the eastern Serengeti.
We’re looking back at some of the many projects FOTZC has embarked on, and the change that created in those communities.
Twenty-five years ago, it all started with education. FOTZC partnered with community members in Tanzania to support the Salika Primary School.
Thanks to Thomson guests and donors, FOTZC raised $74,000 to install electricity, add a computer room, build new teachers’ houses and classrooms.
Since then, FOTZC has partnered with 21 other villages to bring clean water, classrooms, teachers’ housing and dormitories to hundreds of students.
According to Lukas Kurkas, a ward councilor on Oloipiri, FOTZC’s partnership with their schools “is like a dream come true. After the construction of classrooms, we saw a huge rise in daily attendance. The awareness and willingness to educate children in the Maasai community has increased hugely.”
In rural Tanzania, women and children (usually girls) have to trek hours every day to find water, then carry heavy buckets back under the hot sun. Sometimes, that water is low-quality, dirty and potentially disease-ridden.
To address this, FOTZC donors have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to build boreholes throughout the region. This brings clean, safe water within close reach of thousands of people in Maasai communities.
These boreholes have had a ripple effect throughout the region: waterborne diseases have been virtually eradicated. Women are free to pursue their own paths, instead of hauling heavy buckets for hours every day. Children are able to focus on their studies.
Clean, safe water is a vital building block for everyone. In Maasai communities, it helps people stay healthier, improve their economic outlook and generally experience an improved quality of life.
When FOTZC first partnered with communities in Tanzania, women were not considered equal to men. Slogging water from far away, cooking and caring for children were tasks that left no time for women to pursue other possibilities.
FOTZC quickly realized that women’s empowerment would help villages achieve the broader goals they’d set for themselves. Enter Community Conservation Banking (COCOBA), a microfinance initiative that teaches and supports women to open small, environmentally friendly businesses.
Women in the COCOBA program work in one of three crafts: beadwork, beekeeping and leather tanning. As their businesses thrive, they use their profits to feed their families, pay school fees, start new businesses and build homes.
“When you empower a woman, you empower the whole community,” Asela Melkiory, beekeeping project manager at COCOBA, said.
Reliable access to basic healthcare is a core concern in Maasai communities. When people fall sick, they’re unable to work or attend school. Mothers who lack vital pre- and post-natal care miss out on information and interventions that can set them and their babies up for healthier labor and childhood experiences.
In 2015, FOTZC completed a health dispensary in Sukenya. The center offers access to pre- and post-natal care, improving birth outcomes and helping women and their infants reach a 95% survival rate. The clinic’s doctors and nurses teach patients about everything from proper nutrition to the benefits of vaccinating themselves and their children.
“We thank FOTZC for this health clinic; it is because of you, our standard of living is improved,” Chairman of Sukenya Village Lettit Lettit said.
It was such an immediate and unqualified success, the Tanzanian government asked FOTZC to think bigger. So, FOTZC is currently planning the addition of a maternity ward, childcare unit, operating theater, laboratory and outpatient clinic for eye care, ear care and physical therapy. When completed, these facilities will transform the dispensary into a fully functional care center.
How Can I Help?
Click the link below to support FOTZC’s projects and be a force for good in Tanzania. One hundred percent of your tax deductible donation goes directly to FOTZC projects. You can choose to send your gift where it’s needed most, or in one of FOTZC’s areas of focus: Education, Health, Water and Women’s Empowerment.