2 minutes reading time (485 words)

A Seattle Family, Tanzanian Orphans, and a Van

A Seattle Family, Tanzanian Orphans, and a Van

A story of how miracles can happen

When the Whitaker family approached me about an opportunity to give back during her Serengeti Family Safari I was happy to help. What transpired turned into one of the best fairy tale charity stories I’ve had the privilege of being a part of during my career. A real organic outpouring of community spirit inspired by one family’s generosity and desire to directly improve the lives of others. 

When a family or group of travelers is interested in making a charitable donation in Tanzania, we often set up a visit to a rural school district. However, the Whitaker family was traveling over the Christmas holiday time period when many of the schools are closed and the children are at home. Through a local colleague we found Elias Japhet and the Pambazuko Orphanage, which he and his wife have been running in the small agricultural town of Mto Wa Mbu near Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Since 2008 they have taken in 16 children, ages 8 to 17, and have been raising them as their own. After communicating with Elias, it was clear that they needed more than the average assistance of school supplies, clothing, or sports equipment. They were in desperate need of a vehicle which they could use to get the kids around town, pick up groceries, and in dire times, get to the local hospital. A van I thought, “What a tall order!”

Elias with the children at the Pambazuko orphanage

What happened from there was purely due to the efforts of the Whitaker family. After putting them in touch with Elias they began communicating back and forth and sharing photos of each other’s family. Through the Whitakers’ determination and generosity they were able to raise the money through their own network of friends and family back home in Seattle in order to make the Pambazuko Orphanage’s dream a reality. On Dec 28th they met with their Tanzanian pen pals and delivered one of the best Christmas presents of all time, as Bob Barker would say, “A Brand New CAR”!!

In Elias’s words:

"Dancing, laughing, jumping here and there was the things covered around our ground yesterday. It was so awesome that Whitaker's family was able to visit our home. We had a great time for sure, their kids Anna and Isaac got a chance to play American hand ball with all my sixteen kids, and we all got to know each other. We all had Irish potatoes mixed with cucumber soup . They took a lot of pictures with the van as well. Three hours they spent with us was like one second. Their desire was fulfilled indeed, and we got a Christmas GIFT from friends all over the world who donated the van, it was very generous from the heart." 

And that my friends, is the power of travel! 

Keeping it wild,

Jeff Stivers

Got questions about travel to Tanzania? Ask me

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