The creators of Journeys of Solutions are helping an African village and other travelers who dream of doing their own improvement projects.
On his walking safari in Tanzania, Jim Coyne was fascinated by the zebra, giraffes and hippos. He was also fascinated by the Masai people he came to know as he camped in their villages.
One night, he and his fellow trekkers and their guide, Rich French of Pack, Paddle, Ski adventure guides, pitched their tents in Bulati, a tiny settlement of Masai families with a school. They were practically in the back yard of the assistant head teacher, Ernest, who talked with them about the students.
“Ernest asked if there was anything we could do to help,” says Coyne, of Mendon. “... You could have just put this behind you, probably. I might have if I had not been asked (to help). It’s a little different when someone reaches out to you.”
That’s because, he said, it’s difficult to know how to help, as much as they wanted to pitch in. They were just hikers, not an organization. They decided they could gather school supplies.
Now, their efforts have blossomed into an improvement project that will affect Bulati’s future — and other communities around the world. The group has also started a nonprofit organization, Journeys of Solutions, to help other travelers who are inspired to do good works.
Best of all, says Coyne, in Bulati, villagers are deciding what will benefit them most. They are guiding improvements.
“We wanted to make sure that what we’re trying to do is in tune with what they really need,” says Coyne.
He ushered in the new year in Bulati with Denise Doyle, of Brighton, meeting with village elders, finding out what is needed. This African visit was a “listening tour,” Coyne says.
First up is the school supplies. Journeys of Inspiration climber Linda Artruc will deliver a package to each of the 600 children at Bulati school, with notebook paper, a pen and pencils. She asked the Livonia Junior High School community, where she’s a teacher, to help and was answered by donated supplies that filled 17 giant duffles. They also donated many used soccer jerseys for Tanzanian teams.
Next come long-term, larger projects.
Bulati is 50 miles from the nearest town, Keratu. Water is scarce; it’s a 12-mile ro
und trip to a water source. A cattle-raising tribe, Masai kids attend school but as needs to help their families grow, enrollment drops off. There are 295 kids in first grade and just 17 in grade 7.
In the rainy season, the dirt roads are impassable. Teachers in Bulati live there, sometimes without their families. Villagers have decided they most want a home that would house two teachers’ families finished, says Coyne.
“They think it will be a boon,” he says, for retaining teachers.
Masai villagers will gather stones for the house; workers from Keratu will build it. A local consultant is managing the work. After the house, the group wants to build a school kitchen. The current kitchen is made of twigs and is unstable, but is used to cook noontime meals.
Finishing the teachers’ house will cost about $8,000 and will deplete the Journeys of Solutions coffers. Once Journeys of Solutions is officially incorporated, the group will reach out with more fundraising, Artruc said. All of the projects will cost about $125,000 to complete in Bulati, says Coyne.
Coyne said they’re working closely with the community. He’s been learning as he goes along.
“This is sort of a training ground,” says Artruc.
The goal, says French, is that Journeys of Solutions will become a resource for other travelers who have their own ideas to help people in areas that touched them in Africa or elsewhere. They know how to do it and can lead them down the path.
“The idea is to provide a structure and encouragement and support for people who have a dream and a desire to do something inspirational like that,” says French. “So many people want to do something, but don’t know how.”
Kris Dreessen can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 253, or at email@example.com.