Baylor sophomore helps found nonprofit

The villagers of Toloha, Tanzania dig a trench that will run a pipe up the Pare Mountains. The nonprofit organization Toloha Partnership provided the pipes that will deliver water based on a gravity-fed system.Courtesy of Joshua Spear
The villagers of Toloha, Tanzania dig a trench that will run a pipe up the Pare Mountains. The nonprofit organization Toloha Partnership provided the pipes that will deliver water based on a gravity-fed system.
Courtesy of Joshua Spear

By Sara Katherine Johnson

In Toloha, Tanzania women walk about five miles to get water for their families. Baylor sophomore Joshua Spear helped found the nonprofit Toloha Partnership to help the village.

Joshua and Diane Spear, his mom and co-founder, were inspired by a man named Daniel Makoko. After applying, Makoko was given a Diversity Immigrant Visa from Toloha to Kinston, N.C. The program makes available permanent resident visas to countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S.

Once in Kinston, Makoko attended the Spear family’s Bible study. As he got to know the Spears, he told them about his family left behind in Toloha and his village where people died of water borne disease.

“He shared his heart and became a part of our family,” Diane Spear said.

The Toloha Partnership’s founding goal was to work on bringing water from the mountains to the village of about 10,000 people.

“It’s been a real tangible experience of partnership,” Joshua Spear said.

Diane Spear is the administrative director of Toloha Partnership. She said her role is to carry the torch and not let the passion for the village die out.

For almost 10 years, from the time Makoko arrived, the idea of how to help Toloha never left Kinston. They prayed for direction while they looked for how to act. In May 2012, with a group of seven people, the nonprofit came together with a plan for action.

The government of Tanzania sponsored the group’s travel the first summer in the form of a vehicle and living accommodations.

The team was trained by a Kinston engineering firm to be able to use survey equipment. They used their training to map the whole village.

“We [the organization] exist to better the lives of Toloha,” Diane Spear said. “We plan on it being a long term relationship of knowing each other and helping them thrive.”

Joshua Spear said they made a deal with the village community that they would get the pipe if the people would dig the trenches. In all there was six miles of piping to be installed. The pipe would deliver water based on a gravity-fed system originating in The Pare Mountains.

“We want to empower them to take ownership,” he said. “It’s really meant to enhance the abilities they already have.”

The first summer Toloha Partnership went to Tanzania was about building relationships, Joshua said. The second time they went in summer 2014 they began preparing for the pipe to be laid by digging.

“We predicted it would take six months for them to dig six miles by hand,” Joshua Spear said.

With that in mind, the organization only ordered a third of the pipe to be delivered for the beginning of summer.

“In order to show us they were willing to partner with us they dug for a day for free,” Joshua said. “They dug over halfway to the intake in three weeks.”

Joshua Spear said more people than they could have expected joined to help. After the initial day of digging, Toloha Partnership paid workers in corn.

Another way the organization worked to empower the people of Toloha is by establishing a local water board. The board is made of 15 people elected by the villagers.

Toloha Partnership is sponsoring the board’s costs of attending an educational opportunity put on by Water Service Facility Trust. The board will learn about managing their new water system. This will include materials on health education and specifically water sanitation.

For two weeks in the second summer nine members from Toloha Partnership lived in mud huts along with the villagers working. Once the rest of the members returned to the U.S., Joshua Spear stayed for an additional five weeks with MaKoko.

“The most rewarding part of it all has been being accepted by the people,” he said. “It took a full summer to cultivate. It wasn’t until this last summer that I really felt it.”

In the future, he plans on continuing to help Toloha in a hands-on way.

“I want to spend a year over there as a gap year between undergrad and grad school for sure,” Joshua Spear said. “It’s definitely where my heart is.”

Right now the village is in a basic level of development with the closest city two hours away on foot, Joshua Spear said.

He would like to get Toloha out of a cycle of poverty by using his education in finance and philosophy.

Specifically, he wants to get into micro-financing for women to take on entrepreneurship ideas.

Toloha Partnership’s goal is to continue evolving in how they empower the village as it develops. They want to remain partners even past the completion of the new water system.