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May 18, 2018 11:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport Based Nonprofit Spreads Hope, Health And Happiness In Tanzania

Daeo, on the left, at his high school graduation ceremony. DEBI MAZURA
May 21, 2018 11:09 AM

Just outside the city of Arusha, Tanzania, up a steep dirt road, sits the village of Engaloni, a place where homes are made of mud and fresh water is a seven-mile walk away. The 750 men, women and children who call this small town home survive on very little. Many have never been in a car before, never experienced life outside of their village, and never seen people of different races or cultures.

That all changed in 2006, when Debi Mazura, a retired third grade teacher from Eastport Elementary School, first stepped foot in the African village, located in the northeastern region of the country, near Mount Kilimanjaro.

For the past 12 years, Ms. Mazura, a longtime Eastport resident, has been fundraising and advocating for people who live in Engaloni and similar areas in Tanzania. Her dedication to helping is rooted in her heart and soul, she said, and has led her on a journey to fulfillment and joy.

Over the years, she has taken on many projects, including funding the installation of wells in various areas; building a new church in Engaloni, one designed by Robert Sanare Mollel, a 26-year-old resident of the village; and paying for schooling and medical attention for dozens of young people, including a young man, Daeo, who credits her for saving his life.

She has become a symbol of hope in a place where that can be very hard to find.

A Life Change

It all started on her very first service trip, when she met Father Festus Mangwangi, a local priest in Arusha.

It was a hot afternoon in late August, and Mr. Mangwangi invited Ms. Mazura into Engaloni’s church, which is in the center of the village and is the community’s symbol of faith, family and friendship.

The floor was mud, the walls were crumbling, but the building was crowded with villagers, most of whom were members of the Maasai tribe, an ethnic group known for its unique customs and semi-nomadic lifestyles.

In that moment, Ms. Mazura said her soul was touched and filled with warmth. She knew that her life was about to radically change.

It was her first of what would become many service trips—her commitment to helping struggling communities, families and orphans in Tanzania ultimately pushed her to establish a non-profit, Seeds of Hope, later that year.

“It was the most incredible experience,” Ms. Mazura said, looking at pictures of the church and the people she met there. “It became a dream of mine when I saw the condition of that community and the lives that people had to live there. I just felt that if they had a clean source of water, everything else would take care of itself.”

Water Provides Hope

Now, that dream will soon be a reality. As have many of her other dreams—building a new home for a widow in Arusha, funding local orphanages, schools and medical centers near Arusha, and spreading hope in places where basic necessities are often hard to come by.

After nine years of searching, and praying for Engaloni, an underground source of water has finally been found in the village, which sits at the top of a mountain. Drilling will begin this month, and a freshwater well, located just a mile from the village center, is expected to be dug by early September.

For Ms. Mazura, who has visited the village every year since her initial visit in 2006, the news was overwhelming.

Seeds of Hope has been hiring water companies to survey the area since 2009, all of whom said that building a well was impossible. It wasn’t until last summer when WorldServe International, a drilling company based in Missouri, gave Ms. Mazura a different answer—and hope.

“It was crazy—it was really miraculous,” Ms. Mazura said of the company’s ability to find water where no others could.

When finished, the well will replace the single water tap seven miles from the village center, which residents have been using for the past decade.

Putting God First

The work has been made possible through fundraising efforts by Ms. Mazura, a mother of three, who personally visits almost every business from Center Moriches to East Quogue asking for monetary donations and contributions for Seeds of Hope’s yearly auction, held at St. Mark’s Church in Westhampton Beach.

This year marked the 12th annual auction, which was held on May 10. Funds raised are going directly to finance the well, which will cost a total of $22,000—$10,000 of which has already been raised.

Beyond money, Ms. Mazura points to faith, both her own and that of the villagers, as the reason for the good works being completed.

“They felt that if they put God first, everything else would come,” Ms. Mazura said, explaining that the people from Engaloni had asked her to help them build a new church. “I kept saying, ‘You need water,’ and they just stayed focused on wanting this church built.”

Although skeptical at first, Ms. Mazura took on the challenge, just as she took on the challenge of building a well in the village, and, in 2013, began supporting the villagers in their efforts to build a new church.

Ms. Mazura rounded up $24,000 in funding, and Robert Sanare Mollel, a 26-year-old with a passion for engineering who lives in Engaloni, designed the church. In August 2017, a 24-hour celebration marked the official opening of the new church, which everyone in the village personally helped to build from stone blocks and concrete—a feat that villagers say was all thanks to Ms. Mazura.

“She helped us so, so, so much to build the new church,” said Daeo, a 21-year-old Engaloni resident, in a phone interview while he rode on a bus from Arusha to Engaloni. “Many people go to the church because it is so nice. It is so nice to see the church with our own eyes.”

Daeo, who had difficulty relating his last name, not only credits Ms. Mazura for the new church but also credits her with saving his life.

“Four or five years ago, I was very sick. I had a problem with my heart and had a hard time breathing—I would breathe faster and feel paralyzed sometimes,” he said. “She came to the church, and after finishing the Mass, she took me to a special doctor. We cried so much. I was very, very sick. But now I’m very, very better.”

‘Placed In My Soul’

Sitting in the window of a café on Main Street in Westhampton Beach, Ms. Mazura remembered the day she met Daeo, in the old church. Mr. Mangwangi was administering the last rites to Daeo. But, overcome with emotion, Ms. Mazura refused to give up hope, and instead worked to accomplish yet another dream: to get Daeo the medical attention he so desperately needed and save his life.

After going to multiple hospitals in Tanzania, Daeo was taken to Mumbai, India, where doctors performed surgery to correct a problem with the valves in his heart.

Today, Daeo is happy and healthy. He graduated high school just a few months ago, and is now taking a chemistry class, with dreams of one day becoming a doctor. His education, as well as Mr. Mollel’s, is paid for by Seeds of Hope.

They are two of the 21 children and young people that Ms. Mazura sponsors through her nonprofit. She pays for tuition, books and educational materials.

Just as the church in Engaloni has given villagers a new outlook on life, sponsorship has given many orphans a second chance. It’s all part of Ms. Mazura’s mission to help, heal and spread hope.

“It seems like everybody over there is looking for a sponsor these days. They knew that education is the way out,” Ms. Mazura said. “It’s the most important thing. If they have water and education, that can change the next generation, by getting an education they know they are going to raise up.”

Since first coming to Africa in 2006, and visiting that village of Engaloni, Ms. Mazura has worked hard to try to change the lives of the people she met there. On the front lines, she has helped to build wells and churches and homes, all in an effort to spread hope and happiness, something she says is not only her mission and her dream, but has become her life calling.

“I wasn’t responsible for doing all this work—the idea was truly placed in my soul,” Ms. Mazura said. “With the help of so many people, all of this has been done.”

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Yet more good, honest, loving and genuine people from our community! Shows that life is so much more about power and money.

By Oilbird19 (8), Southampton on May 20, 18 10:27 AM
Life is so MUCH MORE THAN just about vanity and money. What good, genuine, loving and honest people from our community!

The best!
By Oilbird19 (8), Southampton on May 20, 18 10:30 AM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island