Mission Tanzania

Montecito residents James and Rose Marie Towle have spent a lot of time in Africa over the years and have become quite attached to some of the people they’ve interacted with there, particularly in Tanzania, where their church – Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox – has a mission.

“When James and I were on safari this summer,” Rose Marie informs us during a telephone conversation, “we were involved in some anti-poaching teams with Robin Hurt Safaris. Just before we left, the church approached us and said, ‘You know, there’s an opportunity through the OCMC (Orthodox Church & Mission Center); they’re looking for funding to build wells, clinics, a chapel, the church, and also to fund a school.’ James and I love the people and we thought this would be a very good thing for us to do.”

The Towles ended up pledging $50,000 to build the church, a well, and a small guesthouse so that doctors, teachers, and anyone who comes to do any kind of volunteer work at the mission would have a place to stay. Since that donation, they have become deeper involved, so much so that they are sponsoring a church fundraiser to try to bring in $250,000 to complete the project.

They’ve already found a ten-acre plot of land on Lake Ikimba. “One of the beauties of this project,” Rose Marie explains, “is that only five acres will be for the actual campus. The other five acres will be for the community to farm. They can sell their produce to generate income to support the school and church.”

The fundraiser is set to take place at the church – 1205 San Antonio Creek Road – beginning at 7 pm on Saturday, February 7. It will feature a concert by Jamie Chamberlin, whose repertoire will consist of Puccini and Rossini arias, songs by Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, American show tunes, and five special Greek folksongs arranged by Ravel. Renee Hamaty will accompany Ms Chamberlin on piano. Along with the concert, there will be a Champagne reception with hors d’oeuvres and dessert, all for $50. “We’ll be looking for pledges and are looking to raise $250,000,” Rose Marie reminds.

When asked why Africa; why not in the U.S.? Rose Marie replies that, “America is the land of opportunity. Anyone seeking opportunity can find it here. In Tanzania, there is no opportunity. If someone wants to advance themselves, it’s only by the grace of God that happens.”

Rose Marie also notes that some 90 communities are in need of fresh drinking water, and a well, with updated equipment, will cost only $3,000 to $4,000 to dig. “Most of the communicable diseases in Africa are water borne,” she says, “so by digging a well will help a lot of people.”

Then, there’s the clinic they hope to build in Kazinga, in Kagera, Western Tanzania. The clinic will draw from hundreds of miles, offering critical treatment of what are often minor ailments that become life-threatening diseases for lack of care. Birthing and post-natal care will be offered too. “As we build these projects, we want to be able to invite doctors to come and work there,” Rose Marie stresses.

“The most important thing,” she concludes, “is that when we build, everyone in the community will participate. They’ll be given a choice to make bricks, and gather rocks and/or sand, all of which will be used for the foundation. So, through their efforts, they become part of the project.”

As for the school: “It has received funding to build, but they never got the funding to operate the school. Fifty percent of the population is under the age of seventeen,” she continues. “There is schooling, but it is just primary school, so the opportunity to learn a skill or a language is limited. By staffing the secondary school we can provide a lot of opportunities.”

If you are interested in attending the February 7 concert-fundraiser, please contact the church at 805-683-4492 and ask about Mission Tanzania.