Friends of Tanzania / Marafiki wa Tanzania: 1991 to 2020
The Beginning and Goals of Friends of Tanzania: In early 1991, four Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Tanzania participated in planning meetings for the 30th anniversary celebration of the U.S. Peace Corps in Washington DC, and attended sessions on how to start a “Friends of” group. On August 3, 1991 during the anniversary event, this group of individuals, along with 3 others who had been meeting and planning, held a gathering for people interested in Tanzania. Forty five people who had served and worked in Tanzania --mainly RPCVs-- attended this meeting, during which the group agreed to form Friends of Tanzania (FOT) with the following three goals for the organization:
- To identify and support worthy projects in Tanzania
- To collect and disseminate information on the life, culture and development of Tanzania
- To bring together people interested in supporting Tanzania
The group also approved the draft plans for a Board with a specific committee structure. They then formed what would become the first Board of Directors in 1992. Others volunteered to serve on additional committees to assist with FOT's goals, and many donated start-up funding. The group contributed $250.00 for FOT to support its first project, WAMATA: an AIDS support program for women in Kagera.
During the next several months, the FOT Board developed Bylaws, filed Articles of Incorporation in Washington, DC, and obtained 501(c)3 (tax exempt) status from the I.R.S. The Board held competitions to name the FOT newsletter and to develop a logo. It established the system of FOT committees, shared the work of the fledging organization, and reviewed and funded its first projects.
The Board: The number of board members increased to nine, and then to its current number of fifteen members. More than seventy five people have served on the Board since 1991. That number includes over forty Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, fifteen Tanzanians (some of whom worked for the Voice of America), six missionaries, and two former Teachers for East Africa. Over twenty of the Directors served on the Board for four or more years, being deeply committed to the organization. In the early years all Directors were located in Washington, DC, but today hail from a number of locations.
The Members: There has been a slow but steady growth in FOT's membership from 45 people in 1991, to over 425 in recent years. Roughly 80% of members are RPCVs. The remaining members have many and various connections to Tanzania. They include Tanzanians, former Teachers for East Africa (TEAs), religious and secular volunteers, health care workers, tourists, and business people -- all eager to help support Tanzania at the community level.
The Funding: Since 1991 FOT has provided more than three-quarters or a million dollars ($750,000) to help support over 300 small-scale development and educational projects in all regions of Tanzania. Our membership dues fully cover our administrative costs. This allows all direct donations to support projects on the ground in Tanzania.
The Projects: Those projects supported by FOT funding are located in all regions of Tanzania: from Songea and Mtwara in the South to Kagera and Lushoto in the North; from Pemba and Zanzibar in the East, to Kigoma and Bukoba in the West. The types of projects include school construction, small business development, animal husbandry, forestry development, micro-loans schemes, water/sanitation preservation, vocational training and more. Click HERE for project summaries. FOT has collaborated and jointly funded projects with the British Tanzania Society, the Peace Corps Partnership Program, and FINCA International, as well as a number of small NGOs working in Tanzania.
Member-Designated Projects: In addition to projects made possible through the general funds that FOT maintains, there are additional projects funded by FOT members with an interest in supporting specific projects in an area or community where they may have worked. Since this effort began in 2003, more than $300,000 has been raised and donated to worthwhile projects. Some examples include girls’ primary and secondary school scholarships, micro-loans, school construction assistance, teacher training, and scholarships for health distance learning certification. Learn more HERE.
Promoting Tanzania: FOT maintains a very good relationship with the Embassy of Tanzania in Washington, D.C. and often hosts the Ambassador at its annual Winter Party and at educational events. Recently the Ambassador also attended two community events in the Denver, Colorado area. FOT maintains this informative website, and also has a presence on social media platforms, including Friends of Tanzania/Marafiki wa Tanzania on Facebook. Instagram and Twitter are coming soon. Additionally, FOT produces a Spring and Fall Newsletter for its members. In 2012, FOT received the National Peace Corps Association's Loret Miller Ruppe Country of Service Group Award for its outstanding activities and project funding.
The Future: FOT's overall goal for the future is to continue to expand and improve on Our Mission. More specifically, FOT looks to increase its membership, donations, and the number of projects supported. It hopes to continually provide information about Tanzania to its members and the public, and to work more closely with the Tanzanian Embassy, The Tanzanian-American Society, and other organizations that share a deep interest in the country. FOT continues to provide a convenient and satisfying way for our members to maintain their connection to Tanzania.
Click HERE for an in-depth chronology of FOT's history and growth.