For the past few days we have been in Igoda Village in Tanzania with Village Schools International. The work that Steve Vinton, Susan Vinton and their international family, are doing is amazing. The schools are being built to provide secondary education for the underserved in Tanzania- and believe me that is what they are doing! The concept is beautiful. VSI visits communities and lets them know that they can build a school for their community if they are willing to work! VSI, with the help of partners such as H2O for Life, provides all the materials that cannot be provided by the local community. The expectation is this- the community will construct all the bricks, provide the lumber, provide the sand and gravel and sweat equity labor, and VSI will help with the skilled labor and materials such as cement, nails, rebar etc. The schools are built for a very inexpensive price, and the school is a sustainable facility for the community. H2O for Life works to provide the materials that are needed to complete the water facilities, toilets and hand-washing facilities. H2O for Life has partnered with 20 schools through VSI.
Yesterday we visited Madesi school. The school provides the high school level education and although new, is ranked in the top 15 schools in the area. The key? VSI invites many English speaking teachers to volunteer for a semester or a year in the schools. Teaching students to become more fluent in English by providing the role models and direct teaching has helped the testing scored rise dramatically. The students enrolled are the kids that were not chosen after standard 8 to continue. Giving these students the opportunity for further education will change the communities.
We were shocked to learn that this area of Tanzania is the area most infected with AIDS. We went with Susan Vinton on her home visits yesterday, and had our eyes opened to the problem. The AIDS rate is around 40%, with most households containing one or more people that are positive. There are a large number of orphans- many who are HIV positive as well, and so many babies that are sick. The Vinton's were not expecting to settle into a community that was so highly infected with HIV , but once established, they realized that people were dying daily- and the cause was AIDS. They needed to do something!
This area in Tanzania is known for it's tea fields, and along with the tea plantations came an influx of AIDS.
The tea companies brought in migrant workers, and truck drivers who rapidly spread AIDS among the unsuspecting communities. In a short time, the effects have been devastating. Susan and her VSI family, supported through donations, administers medicines to the community, and they have purchased 2 buses to transport people to local clinics to receive the free medications that is saving lives. (the closest clinic until the VSI clinic opens in a short time is an hour bus ride away- not easy for sick people) Educationally, VSI, also focuses on AIDS education and encourages all students to be tested. Once students are tested for AIDS, the kids tend to encourage their parents to also visit the clinics. Susan is hopefull that the problem is beginning to be controlled, but time will tell. It was a depressing, heartbreaking day for us. It is wonderful that there are people on the ground that see a problem, and dive in to create a solution.
If you wish to support H2O for Life and our work in collaboration with Village Schools International, visit our website, or give us a call. It is an amazing program!
VSI also brought us to many of the fantastic water projects that have been developed. The students and community once again are challenged to provide the materials needed to bring water to the schools. The methods are among the best we have witnessed while on our journey. They are utilizing a "Ram" pump that pumps the water from a nearby stream to the school storage tanks. It is cost effective and efficient. We are thrilled to be part of their work.
We are currently on an 8 hour car trip to an area to visit more schools. The roads are decent, and we hope to meet many more wonderful students and teachers tomorrow.