Report from Geoff and Jenny in Mufindi, Tanzania
Foxes Community & Wildlife Conservation Trust
This Friday was saba saba 17 (7th July 2017)! It means it has been ten years since the Children’s Village opened.
Thank you all so very much!
We both wanted to take a moment to look back at the past ten years and even further back to the two plus years before the centre opened. There have been so many touching stories that have happened here in Mufindi, and there have been so many heroes and heroines from here and on the ground that we could start to write about them and not stop for another ten years! So today we want to reflect on the many people who have given so much of themselves for the people of Tanzania and Mufindi, and who have helped make this the magical place that it is! Please forgive us if we get any date, details, or order of operations wrong, and especially forgive us if we leave anyone out! Partnerships from all over the world have been made from Hong Kong, Holland, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, Japan, and beyond, and so many have contributed their time in fundraisers, runs, bake sales, advocating, and so much more. We wanted to take a minute and reflect on a few committed soles who have become part of the fabric of the history of the NGO.
A Short History
11th April 2005– Geoff, Vicky, and Bruce Fox, with Naused Nyaganilwa founded Foxes’ Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust (NGO 0971). There is a broad vision set forward, and many different projects imagined that include community support, environmental concerns, and even include areas outside of Mufindi. The goals are ambitious and courageous, and encompass an incredible amount of various aspects of civil society, but are centred around wanting to make everything better- in aiming to make the world a better place. In the first year, and at the passing of Geoff’s mother, the Fox family requests donations to start their organization in lieu of flowers, and enough money is donated to dig out all of the sites for what would become the Children’s Village. In the same year Marion Gough starts a fundraiser in the UK and it is proposed that a UK registered charity be formed so that donors may have a formal entity to give towards. Bruce’s wife Jane works diligently on forms and paperwork and a UK Registered charity is formed, and fundraising commences. That same year an old friend of the Foxes comes to Mufindi, and he brings his long-time Weyerhaeuser friend with him. Bob and Gary vow to start support of the project in the United States and within a very short time found a 501 c 3 charity, and suddenly FCWCT begins its global family.
In 2006 Simon Shercliff, hikes the Patagonia mountains as a fundraiser and forever entrenches himself into the global family as well while committing his life to foreign service.
The next year, two Canadian educators visit the Foxes in Mufindi, with their husbands Don and Terry, and hear about the dreams and visions of a little NGO that could that “just needs to find a Bill Gates,” and out comes a “Bill Gates Jr.” Anne and Ruth instantly commit the next decade of their lives to the project and an almost unfathomable source of hard work, resources, funding and commitment begins to pour out! The small NGO gains a third partner!
Amazing to think all of that is before the clock even starts on the ten-year milestone of today!
Then there was saba, saba, saba – 7th July, 2007: just Four children and two house mamas. For the rest of our lives we will remember seeing the work of Dr. Patrick Ney and Kate Ney leading up to that day and beyond. On that day they did medical assessments, filled out social welfare office forms, and reassured four children that they would be OK. If memory serves correctly, the Neys were with FCWCT for about 12 months, but their impact, and impression on the area and the children’s village project is still very much remembered, as are the lasting relationships made with the people of Mufindi.
Over the next couple of years, as the Children’s Village grew from one house and four kids, to twelve kids, to another house, and more kids, other projects continued as well to form a holistic approach including health and education. Suddenly there were projects spreading across the 16-village project area serving a 35-45,000 population. And then Dr. Leena Pasanen sees Chris Fox in Ruaha! She was visiting Mwagusi camp when Chris told her Mufindi would be a great place to “retire” and in 2009 she formally joined FCWCT working at first 10 days a month, but eventually full-time in Mufindi. The community outreach/home based care health services the NGO provides to the community gets an immediate jolt of world-renowned professional service and the Children’s Village gets a ‘guardian angel’ to watch over children from THE most health-compromised backgrounds.
Later that same year, some of the first “volunteers” visit the NGO- namely Will and Vikki! They immediately made an impact saving a child’s life with their intervention, and have returned several times since, improving the overall health of the area each time! The next year, Lauren, Brian, Terry, and Anne from African Book Box Society came around as well in a visit that is still remembered fondly. Lauren has since become a board member of ABB, just before her most recent visit to Mufindi! Another heart touched by this magical place!
In 2011, Meredith Pinto joined “the team” as our first Peace Corps Volunteer “3rd year extender” and she made an immediate impact helping to initiate the home based care program as it still exists today! The following year Stacey Droll expanded the program to another ward and we have Tanzanian volunteers in 11 villages to this day!
In 2013, Gord Bredyk and Evelyn Voigt interviewed Geoff and Vicky Fox for what eventually turned into a fantastic book called *Flying Snakes and Green Turtles ~ Tanzania Up Close. This book, will forever cement the commitment that Geoff and Vicky have made for each other, and to Mufindi. Evelyn of course has the incredible Voigt history behind her work giving an amazing perspective, and Gord is doing phenomenal work with Civilian Peace Service Canada, and we are so very grateful for their work year after year supporting projects in Mufindi through fundraising and support! In the same year, a “fantastic Bibi” named Julia Ostler first ‘volunteered’ in Mufindi, and she hasn’t looked back in terms of supporting the project! Her help with brochures, and flyers, and more recently with a website is invaluable for an NGO like this one, and this work (together with her contributions to education while in Mufindi) is impacting so many lives here in Mufindi!
In 2014 Dr. Bodil Sandin made her first visit to Mufindi “with Foxes’ NGO.” Dr. Bodil has been in Tanzania for decades, and has known the Fox family almost since she first arrived. Her achievements in dental care for the area are truly remarkable, and she has been “drawn in” by the Mufindi vortex and we hope she will never leave!
It is fair to say that in 2015 the global family expanded once more with the addition of a Finish branch! Spearheaded by Osmo and Marjatta Rosti, but supported by Antii Leppilampi, Riita, and the Joronen’s and many many other Finns, Mufindin Ystavat has become an extraordinarily successful partner, and has succeeded in giving the NGO a Scandinavian footing! 2015 was the year for a Canadian invasion with Birgit working side-by-side with office staff, sharing administrative experience, Alan fixing anything he could get his hands on, and Anne and Ruth making their annual pilgrimage sharing their educational expertise, warm hearts and enthusiasm with students in Mufindi. 2016 saw the return of Dr. Heinke, a doctor who’s history in Tanzania also spans decades, who has started a bit of a woman’s health movement, where since she has started, cervical cancer screening is now a regular health service for the area.
This year, 2017, we will see Amari finishing her service since she first visited almost four years ago. She began by helping with volunteer coordination, and slowly proved capable of taking on every task assigned, including master communications liaison during huge chunks of time critical to the life of the NGO. Also, this year Nurse Sheree continues her health service following up on patients identified by Dr. Leena and the home based care team, and has kept a watchful eye on children at the children’s village as well!
We also saw another visit from the Louisville team this year. Since 2014 they have been coming to give health services to people en masse; completing construction projects around the Children’s Village; and with Tom Conway’s key contributions as well, their impact has transformed the daily lives of the children living here.
What we have seen over and over and over is people falling in love with this place. Mufindi takes grab of your heart and never lets go! The impact all of you have had on this area and the people here is profound, and it has truly helped save lives and improve the lives of those most in need. There will be challenges ahead, there are rising food prices, and new permits/forms costs for NGOs during a transition time while we try to off-set operating costs by attempting to generate more income locally through projects at the Children’s Village. There are always difficulties, but it is important to look back once and a while and appreciate the success that has been achieved! To give an idea of what the Foxes have started, and what all of you have helped to build, a man from Igoda told us something a few years back, that although is slightly morbid does highlight the impact of the NGO here, he said, “The NGO is very important to the people here, if the Children’s Village had not been built, we would have had to build a graveyard instead for the children who would have been lost.”
All of you have made an indelible mark on the magic of Mufindi, and at 10 years, it seems like a great time to point that out and give a huge thanks to everyone for what has been accomplished. Gigantic thanks to the Foxes for without whom none of us would have ever made it here, and massive thanks to all of you for your service to the children of Mufindi!
With our thanks
Jenny and Geoff
Managers & Coordinators
Foxes’ Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust
*Flying Snakes and Green Turtles: Tanzania Up Close is available from Orphans in the Wild
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