What an incredible way to start the New Year for the Valiant Wealth Family Office Team. Doug Vander Weide, his daughter Grace and yours truly, Ginny Shiverdecker, were joined by an incredible group of volunteers from the greater Des Moines area and across the country for another AbodShelters Foundation mission trip. As we arrived at Mount Kilimanjaro International Airport, we could feel this mission’s promise to be true adventure, memorable and perhaps even life changing for many reasons.
To understand why we were in Tanzania, I need to start from the beginning. For those of you who know Doug, you know giving back as a good global citizen is one of his and Valiant Wealth’s core values. It would not come as a surprise to discover that he has forged a relationship with STEMM.org of Sioux City, Iowa. This medical ministry operates in a small rural village called Mbuguni in Tanzania.
Mbuguni is an hour’s drive from urban Arusha over rugged dirt roads. 2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of the first visit when Dr. Steve Meyer orthopedic surgeon and wife Dana, a medical nurse, were inspired to make a difference.
Over the years, STEMM has had an incredible impact on the Maasai people – especially women and children. In the rural areas, life is very difficult with no means of steady income other than farming land made barren by the scarcity of water. Much of the best land is designated to Safari Reserves, which offers very little economic development beyond tourism. Without the aid from friendly foreign missions, educational and medical support is minimal. It is here in Mbuguni that STEMM discovered its purpose to serve humanity.
Doug Vander Weide, who is currently Chair of the AbodShelters Foundation, and Dr. Meyer forged a relationship based on each NGO’s shared purpose and values. Doug made a trip to the STEMM campus last June to learn more about their work and to explore the possible opportunity for a partnership. He learned that the STEMM campus is growing and there is an acute need to provide more housing for teachers, caretakers, agriculture workers who operate the campus.
Through close collaboration, it became clear AbodShelters humanitarian design is a faster, more sustainable and affordable solution than traditional block housing. Dr. Meyer and Doug felt it was a match made in heaven when they met so set in motion the plans to build an Abod Village in January 2017.
Over the weeks of work that went into the build program, it quickly became apparent this would be no ordinary experience. Adding extraordinary energy to the mission trip is the addition of Ty Pennington, TV celebrity of Extreme Makeover fame. Pennington was especially excited to be part of this build experience as Abod’s Goodwill Ambassador.
Ty was very committed to the trip, raising funds to build 5 Abod home in this, the first ever Abod Micro Village. With his encouragement, we took a page from his show and set an extreme challenge for the volunteers. To demonstrate the innovative nature of Abod, the group decided to challenge themselves by building 10 Abod in 10 days. A build like this had never been done before! It would take 30 volunteers from January 2nd through January 11th to complete the project.
In all, 7 homes were built, along with a birthing center. Abod, Doug and myself had already built a birthing center in Asikuma, Ghana in 2016 with great success. This was one of the biggest outcomes from conversations to serve the Maasai people, as they have a need for a safe, healthy place for delivery.
This trip was just the first step for Valiant and Abod in Tanzania with the support of caring people like Dr. Steve and Dana Meyer. Once we understand the culture and the people better, we will work side by side with the Maasai people to offer the stability, safety and security only the AbodShelters can provide. Abod will be adding more homes to the village over the next year and laying out plans to expand the Birthing Centers.
If you wish to join Valiant Wealth as we help the STEMM Village expand, as well as build more Birthing Centers in Tanzania, please contact Doug or myself, or go to AbodShelters.com to donate. Stay tuned in for Part 2 of The Great Tanzania Mission Adventure.