Africa's Promise Village

Group seeks empowerment of Tanzanian tribe

The mission statement of Africa's Promise Village is simple: "See bad, do good." Following this, Donna Gunn and her team of volunteers serve the poverty-stricken villagers of the Maasai in Tanzania, Africa. The group acts as a resource for providing critically needed clean water wells, green energy and educational resources.

Gunn, called Momma Donna by the local parish priest in Simanjiro and a kingmaker by the archbishop of Tanzania, spearheads the nonprofit organization APV as the voice for the Maasai in the Central Texas area. Along with a school superintendent, a playwright, a college professor and a host of teachers, the organization seeks to benefit the less fortunate by providing education to stimulate self-sufficiency.

"We sat around a table and said to ourselves, 'What's the next step?' We're too old to work in the school system," Gunn said. "We were all teachers and all have a heart for children, so we said that we want to build a school for people without resources."

On a trip to Arusha, Tanzania, in summer 2010, Gunn was introduced to the Rev. Peter Pinto, the parish priest in Simanjiro who provides 19 Maasai villages with medical care, food and spiritual sustenance. The Maasai, who are known for their distinctive customs and red-robed dress, lived as a seminomadic people before the Tanzanian government relocated their villages into the Simanjiro.

"They were collapsed into a very limited water supply where the cattle died, which meant the children died," Gunn said. "Water is the basis for everything we need to do there. These people had no resources; they were the ones we wanted to help."

More than 88 percent of water in Africa is underground, Gunn said. In 2011, APV focused its efforts on the construction of a well in Simanjiro that would supply clean water for drinking, cattle, irrigation and eventually a 400-student school for the Maasai. Projected to cost $65,000, the well is the first step in APV's mission to stimulate the Maasai economically.

"What we foresee is that the well allows us to teach agricultural techniques," Gunn said. "These are nomadic people learning to have a whole new way of life. Once we have the water and the kids nourished, we can build the school and empower the Maasai economically."

The volunteers at the nonprofit are motivated for a love for others and a desire to help those in need. Their work motivates individuals throughout the nation to become more aware of the world's needs, Gunn said.

"If any real change in the lives of the people of Tanzania is to be made, it must provide them not just with the opportunity to survive, but also with the opportunity to improve their lives in a manner that will permanently affect themselves, their children and their country," Gunn said. "This is a whole lot bigger than me. I might not be a kingmaker, but I might be able to help the kingdom."

Africa's Promise Village, 15 Monarch Oaks Lane, The Hills, 291-3593, www.africaspromisevillage.org

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