By Doris Christelis, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The Gallup Organization predicts that the average American will spend $712 on Christmas gifts this season. Yet halfway across the world in Tanzania, children are largely uneducated, with families unable to afford the $5 per week it costs to send their children to secondary school. In fact, World Vision estimates that by the time children have reached secondary school age in Tanzania, 92 percent have stopped attending school.
“It is a tragedy of immense proportions,” said Anne Kottler, one of the directors of “Reach for Tomorrow,” a Westborough organization that raises funds to help children in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, achieve a brighter future. “These children are smart and willing to learn, but their families are so poor they can's afford to send them to school.”
With 58 percent of Tanzanians earning less than a dollar a day, children are largely expected to work at a young age to help supplement the family's income.
Kottler and her husband, Josef, got involved in fundraising for the students in Tanzania because their daughter, Elisha, went to Bagamoyo a few years ago and she volunteered at an orphanage called Imuma. After five weeks there, she returned to the United States, but wanted to find a way she could continue helping the children with whom she had formed relationships in Africa.
“Once Elisha told us about the orphanage's monumental needs, we of course were inspired to help. Initially, we started fundraising to help support six children from Imuma who needed the money to go to high school – about $250 each per year. It became apparent to us that our goal at Reach for Tomorrow in the longer term should be to help the orphanage become self-sufficient,” Josef said.
Right now, approximately 60 children are cared for at the orphanage where they can get at least one good meal a day.
“Most are street children that spend a few hours there each day just to get some TLC and participate in some activities like arts and crafts or computer skills training,” Josef said. “The orphanage is constantly in need of financial support to keep its many programs running. The best thing we could do for them is help them to help themselves.”
Many ideas for self-sufficiency were considered but ultimately two were selected: an Internet café, and a brick-making business. The Internet café is in the planning stage.
“Once we have enough laptops, we anticipate Imuma can start a thriving business,” Josef explained. “Bagamoyo is a very busy town with many foreigners that come through on their way to Kilimanjaro, safaris in Africa and to enjoy the nearby beach resorts. There are few Internet cafés in town, and demand is high so business should be good once we open.”
The Kottlers ask that if anyone has any laptops in good working condition that they would like to donate, to contact Anne at [email protected].
The brick-making business is already underway, with proceeds helping fund the orphanage's programs. Imuma received a brick-making machine purchased with proceeds from Reach for Tomorrow fundraisers. However, because of an erratic power supply, the bricks are still being made by hand. The goal now is to make bricks six times as fast by creating a more reliable supply of power.
In addition to building the brick-making business and supplying computers for the Internet café, Reach for Tomorrow is also trying to help upgrade the facilities of Imuma, which are in dire need of a facelift.
Tax-deductible charitable contributions can be made on Reach for Tomorrow's website at www.reach4tomorrow.info. The Kottlers are always looking for travelers who can take supplies, clothes and computers from the United States to Tanzania. A fundraiser is being planned for early January 2012. More information can be found on the organization's website.