Twenty years. There’s a weight to that number that’s hard to ignore.
It feels like just yesterday that Judi Wineland and a group of Thomson Safaris travelers came together to see how they could give back to Tanzania. But the group that became Thomson’s sister philanthropy arm, Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FOTZC), has now been around for fully two decades.
Judi Wineland in Tanzania circa 1980
In honor of that anniversary, FOTZC wants to refocus on fundamentals. And whether you’re talking about health outcomes, education, or women’s empowerment, there’s nothing more fundamental than clean water.
In remote northern areas of Tanzania, the only water source might be miles away, and ridden with dangerous diseases like cholera or dysentery.
Waterborne disease is so common in the region, in fact, that the Sukenya Medical Dispensary (completed by FOTZC in 2015), reports that 4/10 of the most common illnesses they see result directly from tainted water: diarrhea, dysentery, eye infections, and typhoid fever.
Even without the obvious dangers of disease, the trek for water itself is fraught. Women and children often walk up to eight hours round-trip for water, meaning they’re unable to pursue an education or participate in the workforce. And the trip is often undertaken alone, through sparsely inhabited regions. Sexual assault is an ever-present threat.
To FOTZC, the need for better access to clean water was clearly the core issue.
…actually, make that the “bore” issue.
Over the next three years, FOTZC has committed to drilling five new boreholes, which will serve over 3,000 individuals.
A completed borehole near Sukenya Primary School is a perfect case study. Since clean water has been made available, absenteeism at the school—most often due to illness or students being forced to trek long distances for water—has plummeted by almost two-thirds.
The benefits are expected to spread to the entire community. Freed from the need to travel long distances for water, women can focus on creating and maintaining their own small businesses with the aid of FOTZC’s COCOBA (Community Conservation Banking) microfinance program.
And future projects will benefit, too. Currently, construction workers haul water hundreds of miles through rugged terrain. When water is available on site, however, this huge expense is eliminated, meaning every donated dollar goes further towards the kind of education, healthcare, and community empowerment projects FOTZC has been undertaking for 20 years.
What better way to celebrate the two-decade milestone than by ensuring that communities can rely on one of the most fundamental resources around, one that has the possibility of rippling down into more and more positive outcomes: clean, safe, accessible water.
Thanks to a generous matching campaign, every dollar donated to FOTZC, up to $50,000, will be fully matched through September 30, 2017.