ometimes it doesn’t take much to make a difference in people’s lives. Just ask Richard Zigler who is organizing a traditional African dinner and silent auction on Friday evening, May 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. The dinner to be served at St. John’s Anglican Church will help raise funds for a number of projects he is involved with in Tanzania.
For the past two years Zigler has been volunteering in Korogwe, a small town of 4,000 people in the Lushoto Region of Tanzania. He is involved with three separate projects through the International Association for Special Education. One raises funds for student fees and tuition, another helps with transportation of special-needs students and the third is attempting to rehabilitate an aqua-therapy pool for children with severe physical disabilities.
“The bottom line for all of these kinds of projects is funding,” says Zigler, who personally funds education fees for 20 students. “The more money that can be raised, the more students who can be given access to an education.”
All students in Tanzania are required to pay an annual education fee of $35. This in an area where the average daily wage is about $1.80 and a quarter of the parents simply cannot afford to send their children to school.
“There are also a tremendous number of AIDS orphans who have no chance because the orphanages certainly cannot afford to pay,” says Zigler. “So you can see the need for some sort of outside fundraising. That’s why were holding this event in May.”
Transportation costs to send children with special needs, specifically those who are developmentally challenged, are very expensive in the small townships and outlying areas of Tanzania.
“The average cost, to and from school, in Korogwe is around 40 cents a day,” says Zigler, who adds that “this may not seem very much by Canadian standards, but it is prohibitive for most parents in Korogwe.”
Zigler’s group is working at the Korogwe Special Unit School that has about 32 students ranging in age from nine to 15 years of age. Students receive functional skills that will enable them to participate at some level within their community… but first they have to get to school and receive an education.”
Zigler is also hoping to raise funds to rehabilitate an aqua therapy pool for children in Zanzibar.
“The pool has not been used for some time and has fallen into total disrepair,” he says. “We want to restore the pool and put it to use. The need is there. The will is there. We just need the funds.”
Those who wish to make a difference can not only partake of a traditional African meal but also bid on carvings, clothing and baskets from the region, while enjoying African drumming and dancing.
“All the money raised – 100 per cent – will go directly to the three projects,” says Zigler, who will be giving a presentation about education in Tanzania. Donations can also be made into the Integrated International Consulting account (#1473669) at the Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union.
Zigler returns to Africa on Oct. 10, where he will be working at Sebastian Kolowa University College in Lushoto teaching and preparing teachers for special needs position throughout Tanzania.