I was still mourning the death of my beloved wife, Dorothy, who died from breast cancer at the age of 56, when, in January 2008 I made my first visit to the Machame region of Tanzania in east Africa. I had been invited by a friend, from Willington C of E Primary School in County Durham, who was making his annual visit to their link school, Nkoraya Primary. I took photographs and soaked up the atmosphere, chatting to people and observing the environment.
I was struck by the warmth and joy of the children; their friendliness, spontaneity, and enthusiasm for learning. However, the poverty, poor quality of food, lack of sanitation, widespread disease and absence of clean water appalled me. I was shocked to discover that some of the older pupils were missing hours of schooling each week to carry dirty containers to a polluted and germ infested stream, where they were filled with brown, contaminated water, which was used for cooking and drinking.
Returning home to my safe, comfortable life, the needs of the Tanzanian children filled my thoughts. Remembering how much my wife Dorothy had done, as a nurse, to ease suffering among sick and elderly people in County Durham, inspired me to try to do something to improve life for young and vulnerable people in Tanzania. Months of research and enquiries followed as I looked into the possibility of finding a site, locating a drilling company, sinking a well and building latrines for the children of Nkoraya Primary School.
In January 2009 I met with a group of friends and asked them to help me raise the necessary £20,000 needed to make this a reality. It seemed impossible,
but as they agreed to help and fund raising events were organised I wrote to everyone in and around the local community encouraging their support. The response was overwhelming. People were moved from compassion, from respect for my late wife and by the promise that every penny given would go to benefit people in Tanzania. Support spread ever wider, as news of our plans were communicated. Schools, churches, sports and social groups helped. Private and group donations, coffee mornings, raffles, sponsored events including the Coast to Coast walk and the Boxing Day North Sea dip, tombola’s, bring and buys, lunches, bag packing, and Ceilidhs all helped to raise an amazing total of almost £40,000 by the end of August 2009, providing enough for not just one well but two.
I returned to Machame, at my own expense, to witness the sinking of the well and the building of latrines at Nkoraya Primary School. Whilst on the trip I identified three more unbelievably poor, rural primary schools , Kilvulini in Mwanga District, Uduru and Machame in the Hai district which were confirmed as locations for three further wells and twelve bayt latrines which were completed in February and August 2010.
After more extensive fund raising, a group of seven of us returned to Tanzania in January 2012, where we all completed a sponsored climb of Kilimanjaro which raised funding for our 2013 programme and saw a fifth well sunk at Makanya in a very barren area of Same District and a further two wells sunk at Migugu and Mwasawia both in the Singida Region. That brings our tally of wells to seven by the end of 2012.