Inside Sky Academy’s humanitarian visit to Tanzania

When students from the Sky Academy, a youth organization based in Wayne, N.J., saw the state of the bathroom facilities at the primary school in Buma, Tanzania, they were “almost shell-shocked.”

“For them, it was like a whole new experience to see people, children, live like that,” said Sami Kuloglu, a mentor at the Sky Academy. “Seeing it, it was almost just like a sense of, ‘How do people live like this?’ They were almost speechless. The bathroom was basically two holes with walls around it. And one hole is for teachers, one is for students, both right next to each other.”

This is not an uncommon situation, especially in developing countries like Tanzania. More than two billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation services, according to UNICEF. Poor sanitation in communities and schools leads to the spread of disease and other negative health outcomes, and impedes children’s education.

While we may take them for granted in America, proper bathroom facilities can make an enormous positive impact on quality of life, development, and prosperity – especially for children. That’s why Embrace Relief works with partner organizations in Tanzania to build modern bathrooms facilities in local schools.

Buma, located several hours away from Tanzania’s capital, Dar Es Salaam, was the site of Embrace Relief’s latest project. Most of the construction was finished by the time they arrived, and so the 12 high school-aged Sky Academy students, including their chaperones like Sami, helped put the finishing touches on the building by painting the exterior. They also had the opportunity to interact with some of the local children.

“You could see our kids really enjoyed being with the Tanzanian kids,” Sami said. “We could really see how much they needed this bathroom. They gave us a tour of their school, and we walked through a number of villages, talking to people wherever we could. We played soccer for the children for a little while. It was really great.”

The new facility is clean, colorful and modern, and can accommodate up to four people at once. It offers a sink for hand-washing, another important step towards good health, as well as a ramp to allow access for wheelchair-bound people. Most importantly, the bathroom is attached to a sewer system, which keeps waste away from the local water supply. All of this will keep schoolchildren and their teachers healthier and safer from disease, reducing the number of interruptions to learning.

During their visit, the Sky Academy contingent also met with village leaders and government officials, who explained the importance of this project. And in addition to their work in the village, the students were also to sample the culture and natural beauty of Tanzania,  engage in a cultural exchange, visiting a number of sites in the country 

The bathroom in Buma is just one example of Embrace Relief’s use of partnerships to help people wherever they are in need around the world. Through our connection to people on the ground in Tanzania, Embrace Relief could identify people and communities in need. Through our network of donors, Embrace Relief provided the funding that built this crucial bathroom facility. Finally, Embrace Relief was able to coordinate with our partners at Sky Academy to provide volunteer support on the ground, while also providing the American-based high school students an opportunity to engage in cultural exchange and demonstrate their humanitarian spirit.

“Sky Academy came to us for help and structure with this trip,” said Sarah Bond, Embrace Relief Clean Water program coordinator. “We didn’t provide monetary backing for this trip, they did that on their own, but we could offer a lot of know-how because of our experience in creating programs like this. We were able to help them envision a group structure, help them develop their short- and long-term planning, and provide some professional support for getting the word out.”

Working together is the hallmark of every single Embrace Relief project, and the result is beneficial for all. Embrace Relief and our partners in Tanzania have developed an even closer relationship; the Sky Academy students helped people and received a one-of-a-kind experience; and most importantly, the children of Buma now have a brighter, healthier future ahead of them.