DIPLOMAT – BUSINESSWOMAN – PHILANTHROPIST – MEET MARYVONNE POOL
(Posted 16th May 2016)
Maryvonne Pool, the Seychelles Consul to Tanzania and an accomplished business woman in her own right, is many different things to many different groups of the Dar es Salaam society.
For some she is Seychelles’ resident diplomat to Tanzania, representing one of the world’s smallest nations in terms of citizens yet one of the larger ones in terms of geographical dimensions. What is undisputed is that she represents Africa’s friendliest country, where no visitor requires a Visa to enter, a true rainbow state and a fine example how to project a small archipelago into the top tourism league around the world. Maryvonne has for long been an ardent supporter of the Seychelles Tourism Board and many of the mega sized posters for festivals, including the Carnival International de Victoria, were produced by one of her companies and shipped to Victoria for display, free of cost of course to the tourism board and the Ministry of Tourism & Culture.
For others Maryvonne is an accomplished business woman, making a success of all she started, a fine example of how a woman in Africa can make her way and leave her marks, inspiring others in the process.
Yet others do know her as a skilled fisher-woman, often taking one of her ocean going boats out to sea in search of tuna, marlins, sailfish and other species, taking part in competitions from Malindi in Kenya to the Mozambique channel. This clearly is one of Maryvonne’s personal passions but the description does not end there.
There is a side to MP as many of her closer friends call her, few but the beneficiaries across Tanzania have seen, her philanthropic side, her charitable side and that will be the focus of today.
This Friday will Maryvonne launch her first book, titled ‘The Village Heart‘, in which she describes the activities of the African Reflections Foundation, in short ARF, their objectives and mission, their challenges and successes to bring clean water to Tanzania’s rural populations.
Wrote one of MP’s staff as she clearly was too humble to beat her own drum:
The African Reflections Foundation is a Not-for-Profit Organization originally incorporated in New York, USA. From its inception, the sole Mission was to raise the standards of living of the people in Africa; its locally incorporated sister organization has been delivering social services in Tanzania since 2006. ARF is committed to being on the ground and is completely responsible to make sure that donors money and funds raised are well managed and only being used to support the cause.
African Reflections Foundation focuses on four major areas of concern to the rural population:
- Access to potable water as its primary activity.
- Access to adequate health care.
- Access to quality education.
- Economic empowerment particularly of the marginalized groups.
As a volunteer organization is ARF relying on funding from individual members, donations from other NGOs, fund raising activities, gala shows and material and financial support from other benefactors. The funds collected are fully directed towards the earmarked projects. The Founders of ARF in fact match some of the funds to assist in providing for local transportation and logistics to ensure that scheduled work is completed in the most professional and economical manner.
Major projects have been geared towards availability of potable water to the rural population in Tanzania. It is the charity’s firm position that access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and is essential for keeping communities healthy.
After serious research on water problems in the rural areas around Dar Es Salaam, it was noted that Mkuranga District was the first to benefit from these initiatives. Mkuranga District has plenty water underground and has fertile land for cultivation.
The situation in the past for these villager populations had been of uncertainty in accessing this much needed commodity. In the past their source of water came from ponds and rainwater catchment points. That water was generally dirty, but they had no option and in addition they had to walk long distances to fetch the water.
These ponds and catchment points were far and few between and only some had water throughout the year. This necessitated many villages to depend on a single source of water; as a result, the wait for water was long and had huge crowds waiting turns to fetch a single bucket of water. This obviously was not adequate for daily needs.
Enter ARF. The charitable foundation initially started donating construction of shallow wells. These are hand dug involving tedious and risky process. The supplies from these wells are guaranteed during and shortly after the rainy season. At the height of the dry season, they also dry out. The water is not very safe as the dirty water can seep through back to the well, where, if not boiled or otherwise treated, it brings water borne diseases with it.
The grim reality of climate change has not spared Mkuranga District. Places where water can be accessed during the dry season are limited. As depicted above, many villages had to share a single source of water causing congestion and a long time to get water, the time which would have otherwise been used for other productive engagements.
The ARF subsequently embarked on the construction of deep wells to ensure sustained potable water supply. This drilling is however a costly exercise. The depth of the wells depends on the static water level of the well. It uses solar power and therefore can be built deep inside rural villages which have no source of electricity, or where it would be prohibitively expensive to use generators.
Here the school children marvel at the flushing of the well after successful drilling. There is a big contrast between the water from these deep wells and the water from the ponds and rain catchment points whereas the deep well water is clean and free of waterborne diseases.
Installation of Solar pumping systems:
Many of the wells are today are powered by solar systems. The experts employed are in the process of building the structures for the PV modules, followed by submerging the solar water pump thus completing the water pumping system. To guarantee sustainability of these projects the Foundation accesses quality products from BERNT LORENTZ of Germany, the manufactures of the renowned LORENTZ Solar Water Pumps and PV Modules. Their Distribution Partners in Tanzania, SunNRgy Systems Limited, guarantee supplies on demand at reduced prices.
It is another occasion that calls for celebration as the commissioning is underway for one of the wells donated by Ms Karen Flewelling from the United States of America in partnership with the ARF. ARF works very close with Local Government authorities to make sure that there is sustainability of the projects. Water committees are formed to maintain and keep the projects on schedule. The villagers contributed towards the maintenance by donating very minimal amount for the servicing of the pumps which is done occasionally.
Women groups have been formed and have been encouraged to engage in fruit and vegetable farming. Women in turn do have more time on their hands to cultivate, which earns them money to send their children to schools and buy uniforms now that they no longer need to trek for miles at end to fetch but a single bucket of water.
One of the schools in fact took the initiative to build a fish pond. They harvest fish for feeding the school children and excess supply is sold to customers, proceeds for which are spent to procure some school stationeries and equipment.
ARF is looking to work with overseas fundraisers and donors who trust them with their funds as a result of success and accountability. Because ARF makes sure all monies are directed to the cause and projects which allows them to attract more donors. All their staff are volunteers though many have permanent jobs at home. ARF’s Board Members are proud to be associated with the cause and therefore serve pro bono.
The wells assure everybody access to potable water, which has considerably improved the health of the communities.
Women and children no longer have to walk long distances to het water. In the past women had to maintain night vigils to have access to a bucket of water.
For school children, the availability of potable reliable water has contributed to a better learning environment. They don’t have to spend long school hours to scout for water, which was in most cases not safe for drinking.
The book Maryvonne Pool will officially launch on Friday is a traditional coffee table book with many pictures taken over the past years, showcasing the projects and most important, showing the happy faces of the beneficiaries in rural Tanzania and the District of Mkuranga.
Alongside the book launch will the evening at the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel also be used to raise additional funds to bring yet more clean water to rural communities and in particular give relief to the women in the villages who can then engage in income generating activities rather than walk miles and mile every day to bring water home.
On behalf of past and future beneficiaries of MP’s charitable work, no doubt a resounding thank you is due, or Asante Sana in Kiswahili, one of several languages MP’s speaks fluently and which helps to make her the down to earth person she is.