West Linton Helps Charity Build 100 Fresh Water Wells in Tanzania
Poverty Relief Foundation thanks villagers for fundraising efforts including “Walk for Africa” and youth group’s music CD; funds provide clean water and classrooms to poor African communities
A CHARITY which provides fresh water to poor communities in Tanzania has thanked the residents of West Linton, near Edinburgh, for their support after recently building its 100th well in the East African country.
West Linton has staged several community events over the last few years to raise funds for the Poverty Relief Foundation (PRF), which builds wells, rainwater tanks and classrooms in remote villages of Tanzania’s north western region.
On one occasion, the village youth group recorded a music CD featuring themselves and local artists, and raised more than £1,000 by selling copies for £5 each. This was enough money to construct a well and pump in Rugendagenzi in the Biharamulo area of Kagera. The recorded track was aired on Borders Radio and also played on African radio.
West Linton’s other fundraising activities have included a sponsored “Walk for Africa” in which participants walked two or three miles each way to collect water and bring it back to the village. Over all, their efforts have provided funds for a well, a classroom and a rainwater tank.
Raymond Rowan, founder of Yorkshire-based PRF, said: “On behalf of the people of Tanzania who’ve benefited from these projects, we thank the people of West Linton, and all the people and companies that have kindly donated over the years.
“These donations have directly benefited some of the poorest communities in the world and bring great joy and happiness to many families.”
PRF started building wells in 2005, initially at the rate of five a year, but the charity’s efforts have gained momentum, and by the end of 2013 they had funded 96 wells, each serving hundreds of under-privileged families in the Kagera region.
“This year, I’m very happy to say, we have passed the one hundred mark,” said Raymond, 73, who lives just outside Bingley, near Bradford. “When we started constructing the wells nine years ago, I never imagined we would reach even 50, so to get to 100 wells is beyond all expectations.
“The wells we build provide these communities with access to clean, safe water, and one of the major benefits of that is the reduction of water-borne diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and bilharzia.
“Apart from saving lives, the children have fewer trips to the hospital, which means they can spend more time in school, and less sick days for the adults means they’re able to spend more time cultivating their land, growing crops.
“We want people to have a better life, and the most important thing in life is water. Water is life.”
Raymond, a semi-retired commercial property agent, runs the Poverty Relief Foundation with two colleagues, Mike Madeley, from Harrogate, Yorkshire, and Peter Millican from Newcastle upon Tyne.
Unlike many charities, PRF guarantees 100 percent of all money donated is used for funding the projects.
Collecting donations from individuals and companies, PRF ensures every penny is used for the projects. The wells are dug by hand by local people, who then appoint a committee to make sure they are maintained, cleaned and kept in good condition.
Each well, costing an average of £2,100, is used by up to 500 families, each averaging eight members, meaning PRF has provided clean drinking water to at least 200,000 poverty-stricken men, women and children.
PRF has also provided nine large rainwater tanks holding up to 150,000 litres and 75 small tanks of 15,000 litres each, which are shared by four or five families in very rural areas.
As well as fresh water projects, PRF also improves education by funding new classrooms, and provides “revolving loan” facilities for groups of women to set up their own businesses. The charity has to date built 10 permanent classrooms, some of them replacing makeshift shelters where the local children previously took their lessons, and others in villages where there were no educational facilities at all.
By providing classrooms PRF want to give the children an education, and a chance of making something of themselves so that they can escape poverty. Their existing classrooms are often little more than a thatched roof on wooden supports, exposed to the elements on all sides, with 50 or more children sitting on stones, with no desks or books.
“It’s such a shame when you’ve got all these children desperate to learn, without any facilities,” said Raymond.
The revolving loans are gifted to groups of women who then allocate smaller amounts of £15 to £25 to each woman to start a business such as sewing, cooking or raising chickens. The women repay the loan, not to PRF, but to themselves, at a set interest rate.
Once the original loan plus interest is repaid, the increased capital is then reloaned to other women, and as the total grows, more and more women receive funds to get their businesses off the ground.
One such fund started with £700, with 30 women receiving loans, and this has now grown, over 11 years, to more than £8,500, providing loans to 225 women. Two of these groups contribute some of their profits to help orphans in their villages.
Raymond, a father-of-two and grandfather-of-three, travels out to North West Tanzania each year to check existing projects, and inspect potential locations for new wells and classrooms.
He first visited Africa in the mid-1990s, but had always had an inexplicable affinity for the continent.
“I can’t explain why exactly, but I was always fascinated by Africa,” said Raymond. “When I was a boy I had a big map of Africa on my bedroom wall, I knew all the countries and capitals, and read a lot of African history.
“I always get an amazing reception from the villagers when I go out there – I can’t tell you how many chickens, goats, honey and eggs I’ve been given as a thank you!”
PRF is keen to build on its success and raise the funds to extend its reach in the region – they recently expanded their work into neighbouring Shinyanga, and are keen to construct more wells and classrooms there as well as in Kagera.
Most of PRF’s donors are individuals and companies from the UK, who have the option of having their name included on a plaque attached to the well or classroom they’ve funded.
PRF has also received donations from Austria after Raymond met a young Austrian woman in Tanzania, who was impressed with the charity’s work and has since worked tirelessly in her homeland to promote PRF.
For more information on the Poverty Relief Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.prf.org.uk
Also, check out the charity’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/prf.org.uk