Canadian-Tanzanian couple help set up Rotary Club in remote village

Leesha Mafuru has never been one to shy away from an adventure and that spirit has defined her life’s journey.

In 2008, while completing her bachelor of midwifery, the Cochrane High School grad Googled volunteer opportunities in Tanzania and hopped a plane to the African nation.

“I love traveling new and mysterious places and was able to integrate a trip into my bachelor of midwifery program,” she said.

Her wanderlust also attracted her to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro where she met her now husband, who shares her love for seeking new opportunities.

“We lived in Canada for almost six years and now are back in Tanzania with our three children. We have started a zipline adventure, have a non-profit tour company, and I am the maternity coordinator for an amazing NGO hospital in this area. We also have a sewing project, making washable menstrual pads, and make amazing handcrafted soap,” she said.

Recently, she decided to take another leap by organizing the first Rotary Club for the village near her – Mto wa Mbu.

“We are located in the Arusha region of Tanzania, but about two hours from the city of Arusha. We are the last centre before Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti, explained Mafuru, adding the club is named after the conservation area.

She was attracted to Rotary because her mother, Donna Hawes, has been a member of the Rotary Club of Cochrane for the past 30 years.

To kick off the new Ngorongoro Rotary Club’s service activities, Mafuru is beginning  a project to start a maternity home/ birth centre in Mto wa Mbu.

“The interesting thing in this area is that we are on the receiving end more than the donating end. So essentially we will be the club getting donations and global grants from abroad and overseeing the projects in the field here. So that is one goal, and we also will make local projects as well. Our first one is to fund public garbage cans in Karatu town. This will cost approximately $500, so now we are brainstorming for fundraising ideas,” she said.

The club is also working on getting the 20 charter members it needs to gain official status, which has been a challenge due to the membership fees.

“We started six months ago and are still searching for 20 members to charter officially. We have 16 now. We have a mix of expats and Tanzanians. The challenge is finding folks who are passionate about Rotary and who can afford the fees. Our fees are $130 per year; an amount that is totally inaccessible to some here,” she said.

However, Rotary suggested the club get creative with its membership and signup a few who live abroad and can attend meetings remotely.

“They have found this really uplifts clubs in low income areas and can lead to great project partnerships too,” Mufaru said. “Our members have enjoyed being part of a larger global organization, the fellowship, and are excited about the opportunities Rotary will bring for members and the community.”

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