Some people go on vacation to relax. Others revel in the hard work of helping others. In July 2015, a small group of volunteers from Duluth spent a chunk of their summer reaching out to a community half a world away.
Paul Frost, a project manager at the KA Duluth office, was one of a dozen volunteers from Superior Sunrise Centennial Rotary Club and Pilgrim Lutheran Church who traveled to Tanzania for 2 ½ weeks on a service project to build a water cistern for a Maasai medical clinic in the remote village of Piaya.
PAUL FROST: This began in early 2013. Will Mowchan, pastor at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, joined our Rotary Club and suggested that we could join forces with what the church was already doing in the area to improve maternal healthcare. Once we had a project in mind our club asked if we could get a 5580 District Grant to match what our club of 21 people could put together. Our Club committed to an amount of $5,000. So, although we are small, we managed to combine a successful grant writing plan with our $5,000 and will bring $10,000 of cash and 12 willing workers from our community to theirs.
Q: What is the church’s connection to the Maasai community?
PAUL FROST: They have been involved in his community for many years. Will has been there on four previous mission trips building cisterns at other locations and providing school and medical supplies. The church supports the work of Dr. Steven and Bethany Friberg, missionaries that reside there. Steve and Dr. Nsimba, a Tanzanian, are very proactive working in the remote areas of the country to improve healthcare. Bethany works with women in a beadwork cooperative, which sells its product in the U.S. The project helps women develop economic stability and independence, and helps elevate their status in the community. We traveled with the Fribergs to Piaya, a small Maasai village in a very remote section of the country.
PAUL FROST: Yes, Floyd Cochran from Hunt Electric and his daughter Kylie were part of our group. Also Kent Bergum, principal of Superior Senior High School, and his son Jack were with us.
Q: What were the work conditions like? How closely did you work with the members of the community?
PAUL FROST: The community is involved every step of the way. The teams go only at the invitation of Maasai leaders. The people there pay two-thirds of all the construction costs. Local people lead the work, and work side by side with us. All the work is done using local building materials and local methods. The whole approach drives involvement, and long-term sustainability. Also, when the Fribergs bring in outside help it builds their credibility with the Tanzanian government, and that improves their cooperation.
Q: What was accomplished?
PAUL FROST: The Rotary club portion of the group built the water cistern and placed rain gutters on the building to collect the water to serve the mother-child clinic. We also provided funds for solar power and delivered pencils and dentistry items to the local school. The Pilgrim Lutheran Church half of the group poured a church floor and put a steel roof on a new church there.
Q: Had you ever been to Africa?
PAUL FROST: This was my first visit.
Q: What were your accommodations like?
PAUL FROST: We slept in tents in the Maasai village from July 3-19. Donkeys and goats
could be found munching outside of our tents while trying to sleep. Hyenas were constantly making their eerie calls. The warriors guarded at night to keep wild animals from coming into the camp. We used the mud adobe church, about 16’ x 24’, for privacy from many curious onlookers.
Q: Did the trip change your perspective?
PAUL FROST: It changed some of my preconceptions about the people who live there. I’ve never seen people work harder. And the Maasai have so few material belongings, yet their hospitality and generosity to us strangers was unbelievable. They live so simply, and yet, to wake up to that view of Ol Doinya Lengai every day! How many billionaires have a view like that?