When Wayne and his family decided that they wanted to support some charities, they were looking for organizations that would provide the most value for their money. They ended up choosing Global Aid Network (GAiN) as one of the charities, specifically supporting the Water for Life Initiative project in Tanzania by providing a deep-capped water well to the Nakalonji village.
It was at a GAiN event where Wayne heard about the opportunity to go on a LIFE Team Vision Trip to Tanzania and see the well he gave. He ticked off a box on a response card, indicating that he was interested in learning more. Just a few months later, he was on a plane to Tanzania with a team of other GAiN donors and some GAiN staff.
VISITING THE WELL IN NAKALONJI
To get to the village of Nakalonji from where they were staying, the group had to make a two-and-a-half hour drive on dangerous roads, in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. They followed the road all the way to the end, which stopped right at the village.
Before the provision of a water well, the people of Nakalonji had to walk and/or bike four kilometers away from the village to get any kind of water.
Wayne and the team were able to go there to get a glimpse into what life was like before the village received its well.
“They just dug into the dry river bed in the dry season and they just scoop the water out from there. It was pretty murky and gross looking,” Wayne remembered.
The dirty water that villagers were gathering left them sick. They reported getting cholera (a waterborne disease that can cause diarrhea and dehydration, and can even lead to death if untreated) as a result of drinking the contaminated water.
When the village received their water well, they no longer had to worry about walking too far and contracting illnesses from the water they consumed. So, when the village learned that Wayne would be in town, they took the opportunity to let him know how much his gift had impacted their lives.
“A lady [from the water committee] was there with all the village leaders and she had three pages that she read out about what the [water] well meant to them and how it had changed their lives,” Wayne recalled. “When she read those three pages of what the well meant, you just kind of stand there and go, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’ It’s just a well, right? Here in Canada, what would that mean to us? Not that much, right? But in that remote area of Africa it means life. It saves their lives and increases productivity of the people and the ladies have more chance to go to school and all of those different things.”
Wayne was also presented with a gift from the villagers – a rooster that they decided to call “Little Wayne”, as a way to thank him. While he couldn’t take it back home with him to Canada, he knew that the locals would be offended if he refused it, so he accepted the rooster and took it back to the hotel.
“I gave it to the kitchen staff and they were very happy. My wife was worried I was going to bring it home whereas the kids wanted me to bring it home!” The words of affirmation and special gift from the villagers demonstrated the appreciativeness and gratitude of the people of Nakalonji.
“It was a bit humbling actually because I didn’t want to be put up on a stage and have everyone look at me and say, ‘Oh, there’s the guy.’ I would have rather just gone and seen the well and stayed in the background a bit. Ray (GAiN Executive Director and CEO) had to point me out to them. But [it ended up being good because] I actually got to speak to the locals. I told them, ‘I would think of you when I was at home in Canada. I could try to picture what it was like here. I could picture people coming up to the well and getting water and taking it back. But [it wasn’t] until I actually got here that I could now see who you are and I know who you are now.’”
Wayne couldn’t help but notice the sense of community surrounding the wells. He was impressed by the way that communities worked together to help one another.
At a nearby village that also had a well, he noticed that stronger villagers would stick around to pump water for villagers who could not pump water for themselves.
And while visiting another village that was waiting for their new well to be completed, he witnessed local ladies preparing food for the well drillers so that they would not have to stop to cook on their own. “They were totally invested into the well. I thought that was cool. [The villagers] took ownership by all of the things they were doing there and that was really neat.”
After the village of Nakalonji received their well, the JESUS Film was shown in the village. In that village, 291 people came out and were exposed to the story of Jesus.
Community development trainings were also held in Nakalonji to round out the wholistic impact of the well. Ninety-nine locals learned about simple but life-changing hygiene practices, such as hand washing and waste disposal, through the local hygiene and sanitation training. In a gender sensitivity training, 109 men and women attended a facilitated discussion on gender roles and expectations, giving women a safe space and opportunity to have a voice. And finally, a water committee training was hosted for seven villagers who were elected by their village to manage and care for the well.
To help understand the full scope of what GAiN does in Tanzania, the team got a chance to see what an actual showing of the JESUS Film looked like in a remote village called Kitandi Shuleni.
“It was pitch black out. There were no streetlights, there was no street, no sidewalks. It’s just a village that is one-third rubble. People are sitting outside cooking on these open fires and [the local team] gave us a phrase to say to go out and invite people to come to the movie. So we walked out in little groups, walking down the dusty lanes. That really struck me how they were living with just about nothing.”
Five-hundred-thirty-nine people showed up and after the film was finished, eleven people made decisions to follow Jesus. Many people who attended asked for prayer from the team.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
Through his partnership and trip with GAiN, Wayne was able to not only see how God is transforming lives wholistically in Tanzania, but also build a relationship with the locals. He had the opportunity to see how his donation of a well made a lasting impact; revealing hope and restoring life to a remote village that was once just a vision in his mind.
“[My experience] was way better than I expected. I never imagined it would be like how it was. I didn’t think I’d fall in love with the people of Africa so much. It’s life-changing, actually, just to see the work that is being done there and how it affects their lives.”
When reflecting on what he had seen, Wayne said: “You look at the surface of the country and the buildings and the lack of things. We have so many things here. They don’t have any of that. But once you scratch the surface there’s so much joy there and happiness. And they had that spirituality that we don’t have; that ability to worship and pray. I thought, ‘Man, they have more than we do, actually.’ We have all of these [material] things but those things stop us from seeing God as clearly [as they do]. That’s what really surprised me — seeing the depth of their worship. That joy that is just below the surface.”