Village Life offers programming designed with sustainable impact in mind. How did this vision become a reality? It was born after Dr. Christopher Lewis, founder and Board Chair of Village Life Outreach Project, witnessed firsthand the harsh conditions in the villages that we now serve. Along with identifying this need for help, Chris also saw how warm, giving, and happy the people of Tanzania were despite these conditions. Let’s start from the beginning…
Chris first traveled to Tanzania in 2003 on a month-long global health elective during his family medicine residency training at the University of Cincinnati. Field experiences in Honduras with his mentor Jeff Heck, M.D., founder of Shoulder to Shoulder, Inc., had sharpened Chris’s global health knowledge, and he was eager to apply those lessons in Tanzania. Chris worked at a local hospital in the rural village of Shirati in the Rorya District. He came to Shirati ready to save the world, but it didn’t take long for Chris to notice a major challenge – a distinct lack of accessible healthcare and other resources for the surrounding villages. The only time these villagers could see a doctor was if they were able to make the arduous daylong walk to Shirati Hospital.
A pregnant mother who would’ve been one of Chris’s first patients died making this trip to the hospital while she was in labor. He never got the chance to help her. This shaped a new perspective for Chris; we can’t go to these areas with the intention of saving the world.
“In reality, on any given trip to Tanzania, our U.S. volunteers are impacted more than any tangible benefit they leave behind. But by working together in partnership with the people we serve, we’re able to build sustainable, real-world solutions that make a difference – while learning important lessons of love, humanity, and community from our African colleagues that we bring back and share with our own friends and neighbors.”
– Dr. Christopher Lewis
When he finished his month in Tanzania, Chris made it a goal to someday return, planting the seeds of what would become Village Life Outreach Project
The mission of Village Life Outreach Project is to unite communities to promote Life, Health and Education.
By partnering with the villages of Roche, Nyambogo, and Burere in the Rorya District of Tanzania, East Africa, Village Life implements sustainable projects to fight poverty and improve health, water quality and quantity, and educational outcomes.
Lessons from Tanzania of love, global citizenship, and social responsibility are shared with the Cincinnati community and beyond through partnerships and service-learning initiatives at local schools and universities.
We believe that by developing partnerships aimed at reducing poverty, disease, and malnutrition, we improve lives in Tanzania and in our local communities.
CINCINNATI: Village Life’s home base is Cincinnati, Ohio. Through strong partnerships with UC Health, the University of Cincinnati, local high schools, businesses, and individuals, we provide significant opportunities for individual and community growth both here and abroad.
TANZANIA: Village Life’s partner villages are located in rural Tanzania. In the Rorya district, villagers work and survive mainly through subsistence farming and small-scale fishing.
Roche is located just a few minutes walk from the Kenyan border. The village is a prime example of just how difficult it is to extend public services such as roads, electricity and plumbing to remote parts of the globe. Home to beautiful landscapes, Roche also exemplifies an age-old Tanzanian proverb, that wealth is determined not by personal finances, but how well one treats neighbors.
Nyambogo sits further from Lake Victoria than the other villages and is also at the highest elevation. Because of its location and terrain, water is at a premium. As is in all of these villages, life in Nyambogo is governed by hundreds of years of tribal norms from the prevalent Luo tribe. The residents of Nyambogo live by the motto “water, the source of life.”
Burere both suffers and benefits from its location directly adjacent to Lake Victoria. Though water is abundant, the lake is home to many diseases, including a parasite that can damage organs and brain development in children. More than anything, the people of Burere work to create a better life for their children and understand the sacrifice necessary to pave the way for the next generation.
Shirati is Village Life’s home base in Tanzania. It’s centrally located to Village Life’s three partner villages and is home to our main partner organization, the Shirati Health, Education and Development Foundation (SHED).