History of Our Involvement

Beginning a Journey

Over ten years ago, Bob Ahearn traveled to the Kilolo district in the Iringa region of Tanzania on a life changing journey. Bob realized that with a little help and with love, lives could be transformed. After several solo trips  Bob was joined by Peter Cook, The Plymouth Church’s then Senior Minister for a visit the in 2005.

Identifying  a need for improved education in the town of Iringa and the smaller village of Pomerini,  Bob and Peter rallied the Plymouth church community together to raise funds to expand a kindergarten and  build a vocational center. Bob and Peter knew then, what many came to realize.  The giving of these gifts was an opportunity to receive a much greater gift .

In June of 2007, a group of seventeen, both adults and youth, journeyed to Pomerini to inspect the newly built kindergarten, help work on a vocational school, and help repair pipes that supplied water from a nearby river .The community of Pomeriniembraced their new visitors with a sense of joy and grace. In a village without electricity or running water, removed from the constant buzz of cell phones and I-pods blaring, the people of Plymouth church began to hear a new music and a new rhythm that changed them forever.

The Pomerini villagers revealed to the people of Plymouth church their music, a source of their joy, which emanates out of their community despite their scarcity of material possessions.

Their music it carries their language, provides their solace, their strength and faith.  Music is a bond connecting their community and reaching out to new friends.  The Plymouth visitors realized that they were receiving a gift with a foundation stronger than the brick and pipes that they had just helped to lay.

When most of the day is spent carrying water for miles very little else can be accomplished. Water is the basic ingredient for every life for individuals and communities. The nearby river serving hundreds of families and dozens of farms is contaminated. Pommern and the surrounding villages needed a source of clean, fresh water. 

The Journey Continued: Songs for Fresh Water

Upon their return to Massachusetts, the group was determined to help their new friends and keep their journey alive.  Funds were raised to bring a choir from Pomerini to Framingham to share their lives through their gift of music.

In October 2008 a group of 13 men and women, most of whom had never left their village arrived in Framingham. Their month long visit was packed with 32 concerts throughout Eastern Massachusetts.

Over the course of a month, the villagers became part of their host families.  Deep personal bonds were formed. As they shared their stories through song they raised money to dig fresh water wells for Pomerini and the surrounding area. The choir produced a CD which is still available for sale, as are handicrafts brought to us from that region. Through these concerts and individual and group donations, 30 wells, have been installed, raising the health and quality of life for thousands.  Sometimes the actions of one community on a local level, can affect communities 7,400 miles away to bring those communities together. 

By helping their community, our community grew stronger.  Along with many fun-filled and lasting memories, our Pommern friends left us with a renewed commitment to remain a continuing part of their lives. And it helped us understand how our lives had also been transformed.

Each well will service hundreds of people each and have a dramatic, long-term impact on many families. These wells improve sanitation, relieve the daily burden of carry water long distances, and provide improved living conditions.  Sources of local clean water free up time for women, to be able to pursue education or to earn extra money to pay for their children’s education.

Coordination of drilling teams and equipment has been provided with the immeasurable help of Bob’s long time colleague Ron Reed. On time and on budget, twenty-three wells have been installed and are operational. Maintenance for these wells also provides a source of scare jobs for local villagers, some of whom are for women.  These wells not only provide water but also hope - hope for a better future.   We have already identified dozens of new sites where the placement of new wells would dramatically improve the lives of thousands of men, women, and children. We are eager to continue forward with our recent successes. With your help, each $3,000 can fund a new well  that will provide immediate and long-term benefit for many needy families.

Dreaming Big

The people of the area share the same hopes for their children as we all do: to live in a safe place, to provide for themselves, and to have access to education.

As we continue to raise money for additional wells, we are also looking to improve the quality of and access to education. In a region where student to teacher ratios can be over 100 to 1, where a single classroom can have over 100 students, where six-to-eight children have to share a desk the need for more schools and teachers is critical. 

One of the visiting choir members, Barnabas Chavala, is the superintendent of schools in Pomerini and the surrounding villages.  With our help and under his supervision, the village of Masalali has completed an 8 classroom building to meet government standards. In Tanzania, the government will provide the salary of teachers and additional financial support only if a school meets minimum requirements.  We raised money to fund the expansion of the school.  The villagers provided much of the labor to complete the project, including making their own bricks.

But much more help is needed. As we look to complete similar projects, we are also exploring other opportunities to improve the education of the region. Whereas fresh water addresses immediate need, education provides an additional means for them to lift themselves up and have hope for the future.

They share the same hopes for their children as we all do: to live a safe environment, to have the means be able to provide for themselves, and have access to education to better their future.  By helping them obtain these goals, we have become better people stronger in community, stronger in faith, and stronger dreamers of what can be accomplished.

At Plymouth Church our own education continues. We returned to the Tanzania to learn more through a Plymouth Church exchange trip in 2015. Our connection with the people of Pommern and the surrounding area demonstrates that we can make a difference in the world if we dream large enough. Your continued support will help us make those dreams into a reality.  We’ve only started our journey and hope that you’ll join us in making  positive changes in the world and in ourselves. We invite to share the magic of this journey, of this connection, of this transformation.