Shelly, Maureen, V., Rob, Lindsay, Diana, Joann, Dang, Dino, Elizabeth, Rosalyn, Maria, Jeff, and now Paulette!
We are twelve Americans who shared a life-altering cultural safari led by David Peterson of Dorobo Safaris, San Jose State University professor Jeff Fadiman, and an exceptional team of guides. When we came home, we were met with questions about the scenery, animals and mosquito bites. Our most vivid memories, however, were of the people – especially the children – and providing them with much needed education. Most rural families can’t afford school tuition for more than one child. Orphans usually miss out on school entirely. AIDS orphans are often homeless, regarded with a mix of pity and fear.
The nonprofit Dorobo Fund for Tanzania was established to promote sustainable local resource management in Tanzania, while supporting indigenous cultures as they interface with the modern world. The Dorobo Fund is a U.S. 501c3 nonprofit organization licensed in Minnesota. Thad, David, and Mike Peterson, founding members of the Dorobo Fund, also own and operate Dorobo Safaris, an eco-tour company in Arusha, Tanzania. Through our safari with Dorobo, we learned about the role of local assistance initiatives. We were surprised and delighted to see how far U.S. dollars can stretch in Tanzania.
Our project manager is Zenan Gasper Mwacha, supported by donations to the Dorobo Fund. He is a thoughtful, soft-spoken, resourceful young man, whose passion is helping orphaned children. When we met, Zenan was personally sponsoring the education of 30 orphans by providing them with school uniforms at his own expense. Our group was inspired by Zenan's dedication. If he can give so much, surely we can give a little to support him and the orphans.
Our U.S. team is 100% volunteer. Shelly Wolfe is our contact with Zenan and the Dorobo Fund. She submits the donations to the Dorobo Fund, approves the budget, and updates us on progress. V. Hinkle maintains the web site and is our coordinator of school scholarships. She matches donors with students and keeps donors informed.
Some of the first travelers who met Zenan and were inspired to help
A momentous event: secondary school graduation, the start of a productive future
Interview with Zenan
"In the wilderness areas I observed elephants helping each other. I hope we can learn from elephants."
The following Q & A highlights our friend and program director for this program in Tanzania, Zenan Gasper. The answers have been slightly edited but not modified to provide you with his authentic perspective. Bear in mind that his native language is Swahili, and he is writing here in English, a foreign language. We have learned much from Zenan – we hope you do as well.
Zenan, tell us about yourself.
I'm Zenan Gasper, born, raised and living in Olasiti village in Tanzania. I've got my primary and secondary education, and now a college degree. I've been a leader throughout my school life and I was able to live with different people. I'm by no means an expert but self started and concerned to study and support needy children as much as I can.
The concept of this program was your idea. Why did you choose to provide these specific services?
I've chosen to provide these specific services due to the following reasons:
Children's rights are clearly known theoretically but practically nothing is achieved.
Different NGO's work with street children and less is done from the grassroots basis. They help children and making them totally dependent on support, so once failed to support, the children starve.
More is known about wildlife and rich people but less is known about poor people's life consequences.
I earned my school life very hardly with heavy workloads, which brought me close and sharing ideas with street children that they are less valued and less cared for. Their ideas are also less considered compared to middle class, educated and rich people. Therefore others judge them.
AIDS kills more people and creates a very bad and harsh environment for orphans and widowed parents. AIDS grows very fast and orphans are likely to engage in sex works, drug abuse, drunkenness, theft and so many behaviors which can affect them and others people.
Population growth is higher than resources and people competes for winning resources
Why did you choose these children?
I have chosen these children because I understand practically – they run their life with much difficulty, they have little involvement in decision making about matters that affect them. They get little emotional care and discipline support and are left in poverty. Those with one parent are at risk to become social orphans. Orphans engage in many antisocial behaviors which affect themselves, others and our future. They run the risk of discrimination and are exploited and regarded as cheap labour. They need their rights and income generating activities.
You have mentioned that the goal is to create a sustainable community. Please explain what this means to you.
Our goal should basically support the orphans by providing them proper education, training and counseling on how they can live independently, become self confident and create a promising future in tomorrow’s environment. They need to know and practice different economic ways which are easy and possible to do in their environment, proper utilization of resources in their environment. Orphans can grow their own food, generate income, understand their traditional values, and judge matters affecting them.
What are your other goals for this program? What do you want the children to get out of their experience?
My other goal includes finding markets for orphans' products like artwork, constructing the orphans center, particularly for secondary students, and orphans to have the chance for sharing ideas and experiences from different volunteers around the world.
I want the children to know about AIDS, learn about reproduction health, human population and economic activities – to become self independent, proper utilization of resources, to get proper education, get hope about life, to have a better life and to become useful members and leaders of the community.
What do you want Americans to understand about these children?
All the people should understand AIDS is a serious problem in Africa. Proper education is needed. Orphans need both education and support. The support should target grassroots projects and information. Orphans environment influences them to develop anti-social behavior as part of their response. Their behavior affects them, our environment and all of us. In the wilderness areas I observed elephants helping each other and I hope we can learn from elephants – they are still totally part of nature.
Zenan sorting donated school supplies in 2005
Zenan is passionate about environmental education, so the children will appreciate and protect their natural resources.
Looking at a painting of Mama Diane, who made it possible to build the new Olasiti Orphan Center. She bequeathed her property in her will.