Text and photos by Erna Maj – Erna has served as Maji Safi Group’s Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator for several years. She thoroughly enjoys running our Young Global Citizen Program and visits our on-the-ground projects in Tanzania on a regular basis.
Imagine a health care facility (HCF) where there is no safe water source. To get there, you negotiate a seemingly endless slew of bumpy clay roads. Your HCF patients and staff are without clean drinking water, and not a single handwashing facility can be found at any point of care. No water for flushing in old latrines, nor trapdoors to keep odor out. It is even typical for doctors to burn medical waste on the ground or in dilapidated incinerators without much regard for the surrounding environment, and healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) are all too common. While difficult to picture for some, these have remained the exact conditions for many residents across the Rorya District in Tanzania where Maji Safi Group has directed its efforts for years.
To help mitigate these problems, Maji Safi Group started a WASH in Health Care Facilities Program in 2021 to make health education and WASH infrastructure more accessible to hospitals, health centers, and dispensaries. To raise money for this work, we enlisted a few old legs and a whole lot of young ones!
Walking in Tanzania
In Tanzania, many women and girls walk long distances every day to fetch water and firewood for their families and to bring laundry and dishes to water sources for washing – carrying it all on their heads. These chores often keep girls out of school. If children do get to attend school, it is not uncommon for them to walk for a couple of hours a day. For most people, walking is the general mode of transportation; you see locals walking from the crack of dawn and deep into the night. Out of curiosity, we asked two women to wear a Fitbit watch for a day to get an idea of how far a housewife in rural Tanzania typically walks. The answer is 10 miles!
Old Legs – World Water Day
To celebrate World Water Day on March 22, Maji Safi Group’s cofounder and current president, Bruce Maj Pelz, longtime supporter Steve Taffet, and I walked. While walking 13.5 miles, I had plenty of time to ponder what it would feel like to walk 10 miles every day – not for fun or exercise or to enjoy beautiful mountain views, but out of necessity and carrying a heavy burden, putting pressure on joints, neck, and spine. When I am in Tanzania, I like to take a morning walk for exercise along beautiful paths between fields – often walking along women. I want to take in the wondrous views of Lake Victoria, they need to fetch water. The first time I visited Tanzania, people would stop me and ask, “Unapenda wapi?” (Where are you going?). When they realized that I was just walking with no apparent purpose or destination, they shook their heads and continued. After six visits, people know me. They still shake their heads, smile, and wittily say, “Unapenda kufanya masoesi!” (You like to exercise!). In the evening of March 22, I was definitely wondering if walking like that without a purpose is frivolous and a bit rude. But on March 22, I did have a purpose as many generous sponsors helped me raise $5,865. In addition, Bruce raised $425, and Steve Taffet raised $650.
Young Legs- School Water Walks
The young legs were much more exciting than the old ones. Now that the schools have escaped the COVID-19 era, our Young Global Citizens have resurfaced. We were finally able to once again enlist their help and enthusiasm to spread awareness of our work and raise funds from grassroots fundraising. Our work with children and youths in Colorado is fun and constructive in that these young people learn about world issues, social responsibility, charity, empathy, and helping others through personal effort. To learn more about the history behind this work, please click HERE. This spring, we focused on water walks.
Flagstaff Academy – Longmont
At Flagstaff Academy, all 900 students and teachers from kindergarten through 8th grade with great enthusiasm walked loops around the school grounds. Some carried water, others had chosen not to. All classes had seen a slide show about Maji Safi Group’s work prior to the event and received stickers with Maji Safi Group’s logo. The students successfully raised $1,404 for WASH in HCFs!
Casey Middle School – Boulder
At Casey Middle School, students from the Leadership Class organized a water walk. Students could choose to participate for a couple of hours during class time. Twenty-seven youngsters chose to do so and walked 82.5 miles, raising $720! The Beleza Coffee Bar in North Boulder had generously saved gallon-sized milk bottles that were filled with water – water that cooled off the students on a hot, sticky day as the students could not resist a fun, little water fight along the way. The walkers were rewarded with Bobo’s Oat Bars, Maji Safi Group stickers, #Iwashmyhands Maji Safi Group wrist bands, and ice cream coupons donated by Ben and Jerry’s.
Whittier International Elementary School – Boulder
At Whittier International Elementary School, a few students from 2nd grade and all 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders walked for about 20 minutes each. For each loop, the students received a popsicle stick, so they could report their number of loops to sponsors. The final result is not known as the walk happened at the very end of the school year, so classes did not report their number of popsicle sticks to Maji Safi Group. But we do know that 3rd and 4th grade used over 1,000 sticks each! Whittier students raised $844!
Very Generous Sponsors
The Water Walks for WASH in Health Care Facilities also had two general sponsors. One donated $5,000 to honor our Young Global Citizens’ dedicated efforts to help others. The other donor matched all funds raised at 100%.
Maji Safi Group is very thankful for this amazing generosity and to the individuals and all the Young Global Citizens who walked to make this fundraising project a huge success!
$9,908 = Raised by walkers
$5,000 = Donation
$14,908 = Matching donation
This is enough to do the following at a health care facility:
$750 = Hand-washing station at HCF
$1,500 = Hygiene and environmental cleaning education for HCF staff
$3,000 = Latrine block at HCF
$3,500 = Incinerator at HCF
$15,000 = Borehole supplying HCF (+ surrounding community) with clean H2O