By: Bob Treitman
As the chair of the Programs and Policies Committee for Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FoTZC) and a Director since 2006, I am immensely proud of the commitment we have made to ensure that the projects we undertake and support are determined collaboratively with the communities, thoughtfully considered (with our mission in mind), implemented with an emphasis on balancing cost and quality, supervised with appropriate oversight, and lastly monitored for sustainability.
FoTZC’s goal is to “collaborate with Tanzanian communities to overcome economic and social challenges through a working partnership that directs resources toward sustainable projects. Special focus is given to proposals that support education and women’s empowerment.”
The collaborative working partnership is key to the success of our projects. To foster and maintain this relationship a sub-group of FoTZC Directors, travel to Tanzania biannually at their own expense to meet with the leaders of the communities in which we work and listen to what their most urgent needs are. In addition, if we have ideas for new types of projects (e.g., COCOBA), then we will present those ideas to them to gauge their response. I’ve been fortunate to participate in two of these trips, and found them to be invaluable. There is no substitute for meeting with, and listening to, the community leaders.
We also use these trips to explain to the community leaders that we can’t undertake all of the projects immediately, since our funds are limited. We ask them which are more urgent/important to them and prioritize projects accordingly. This dialog led us to branch out from our original focus on building schools to our decision to construct the Sukenya Dispensary, which has been an amazing success. We’ve also heard (and observed) that access to clean water is a huge problem for these communities. In response, not only have we included rain-water collection and storage systems on most of the buildings we’ve constructed, but we’re now funding borehole (well) drilling, with solar- or wind-powered pumps and storage tanks.
Potential projects are then brought back to the entire Board for consideration and prioritizing to create a multi-year plan and schedule. Among the factors that go into this plan are budgets, cost-efficiencies of synchronizing construction projects, balancing projects among communities, our goals, and priorities for the communities.
But as has been oft-repeated, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. And so, we know that we have to constantly be re-evaluating the overall plan as we work our way through the projects. We have a part-time staff member on the ground in Tanzania whose job is to routinely visit the communities, monitor progress on our projects, and provide the Board with her evaluations. We also receive and review regular progress reports from a local microfinance consultant who we've hired to lead the COCOBA project, as well as from the contractors who are building the classrooms, teacher houses, dormitories, and health facilities. From time to time we’ll hear directly from the community leaders if there are urgent needs.
The Board meets four to six times per year to review the projects and reports, compare where we are against the multi-year plan and our budget, and make adjustments where it makes sense to. For example, in 2015, we learned that the boys’ dorm at the Soit Sambu Secondary was destroyed in a fire. We were able to fast-track the construction of a new dorm and raise the necessary funds through a matching-grant campaign earlier this year.
As a donor, I greatly appreciate the Board’s commitment to being responsible stewards of its limited financial resources. It’s personally fulfilling to be part of this organization which has accomplished so much and provided opportunities for so many, and done so with an eye on getting the most appropriate impact. I’ve participated in many long discussions about which projects will be funded, and have never failed to be impressed with the thoughtfulness of the opinions and suggestions. I consider my donations to FoTZC to be an investment in Tanzania’s future.