CORNWALL, Ontario - A Canadian mother of three has fallen in love with northern Tanzania’s rapidly expanding tourist city of Arusha.
“I feel Arusha is my second home,” said Alison Fraser, an environmental toxicologist and one of the founders of Mom2Mon Africa. “I have fallen in love with the people of Arusha.”
Mom2Mom is a registered, not-for-profit charitable organization supporting education of children and young women in rural Tanzania.
The mother with a mission teamed up with Tammy Cumming, a University of Waterloo project manager, to start the foundation.
Growing up in Long Sault in eastern Ontario, Fraser, who now lives in Cambridge, didn’t even know where Tanzania was and her knowledge about the vast African continent was very limited.
“Just having one friend in that country and share her stories changed my whole path in life for the better,” she said, adding some day she hopes to take her three daughters to Tanzania to meet the extended “family.”
What started as a small project sending three kids to school in Arusha just a few years ago is now a fully fledged Canadian organization which has 70 students in primary schools, one in secondary school and two in a college.
“Crazy how much can change in a span of just a few years.”
Mom2Mom has built schools in Arusha with monies raised in Tanzania and Canada.
”We are now desperately trying to raise money to put a well in at the school so that we can start a garden and chicken project,” said Fraser.
Tanzanians, she adds, may not have as much as we do financially, but their spirit and sense of community puts Canadians to shame.
“People often say I am helping those in Tanzania and I always say that the Tanzanian people have helped me much more than I have helped them. They inspire me.”
Fraser has been taking Swahili lessons so that she can communicate with the local people much easier in their own language.
“To be ignorant about a situation and not act is wrong,” she said. “To be fully aware and still not act is a sin.”
So she acted in the hope that one day if she fell upon hard times that someone would do the same for her.
Fraser’s first trip to Arusha was in 2013. She now tries to visit the projects annually.
She expects the project to grow one step at a time or pole pole (slowly slowly in Swahili).
Arusha was chosen because they had local persons on the ground willing to participate.
“A lot of organizations fail because they lack involvement of locals.”
Mom2Mom is trying to start a satellite group in Eastern Ontario.
“It hasn’t caught on quite yet in comparison to how well it is supported by the community in Waterloo region.”
The organization is collecting school supplies like pencils, paper and notebooks for students in Arusha.
Suitcases will be taken to Arusha by Fraser later next month.
“We pay no salaries and hold other fundraisers for administrative costs,” she stressed. “We are a real grassroots organization.”
Mom2Mom also pays for uniforms, books and medical emergencies.
When Fraser met school children in Tanzania who were too hungry to learn, she swore she swore she would do something about it.
“It takes a lot of my spare time,” she said. “But, it feels my soul. It inspires me.”
The mother keeps busy running between hockey, highland dance and music lessons.
Fraser funds the trip herself and will take donated care packages for the children as well as food packages and medical supplies.
She is inspired by the stories of the Tanzanian families and expects the projects to grow in a very sustainable way.
On her trip to Arusha next month, Fraser will be accompanied by two board members who plan to climb the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, as a fundraiser for their charity.
“I can’t be happier with the way our projects are doing,” she said. “We have a great team in Canada as well as an amazing support team in Tanzania and worldwide.”