“On our last day on a trip to Africa in 2003, we visited a Massasi village,” said Tim Eustace, speaking at the Bayonne Rotary Club monthly breakfast on July 31. “Our youngest son at nine years old came away from it saying we had to do something about the poverty. We tried to convince him that it was not a good idea and that we couldn’t solve anything on the other side of the world. So Cory went to school and raised $1,400, going classroom to classroom. He came back and said, ‘We have to do something. Take this to your Rotary Club.’ So that was the birth of the Kenya project.”
Eustace and his wife, Kath Palumbo, gave the Bayonne club a progress report about the most recent trip that took place in early July, work Bayonne school children helped raise money to achieve.
“We’ve been doing this for eight years,” he added, “We go there every summer with 15 to 20 volunteers. We built one school, and we’ve started on our second, and with Bayonne’s help, we have built a water source that will supply fresh water to the school and 22 nearby villages.”
Bayonne Rotarian Rev. Dorothy A. Patterson said Bayonne school kids raised more than$6,000 of the $14,000 price tag needed to construct a water system for the school in Kenya.
Rotary is a worldwide organization with local community service clubs in over 211 countries in the world and 1.2 million members. For over 100 years they have lived by the Rotarian Motto: “Service Above Self.” Rotary work includes local and international humanitarian service projects that build good will and peace throughout the world.
The Maywood Rotary Kenya Project was a joint effort between the Bayonne and Maywood clubs.
“It’s a water project that cost a total of $14,000 to build. While this may sound like a lot of money but isn’t, if you consider that we have just furnished water to the school – which has 450 students – and the local villages,” Eustace said. “The school feeds between 22 and 25 different villages. We provided water to the area just by running side pipes. This provides them with fresh, clean water, something they’ve never had at this village before. This was our eighth trip. We never imagined going to Africa every year and working in the dirt. I’m a chiropractor, my wife is a teacher. And we end up being laborers every year.”
Eustace said a group of between 15 and 20 volunteers go to Kenya each year to work on school or school related projects. Although they intended to build the water source last year, he said, they had to construct a preschool and kindergarten first in order to allow the school to be certified.
“They have two classroom buildings for 300 children and they had no running water. So we expand the idea of them being healthier and able to eat better, able to have a better classroom environment,” he said.
Prior to the completion of the water project, kids had to walk a half mile each way with water barrels on their backs, before they could start school.
“So the principal told us that the kids will get much more education now that they have running water,” Eustace said. “This astounded us. We thought we were protecting them from diseases because they say one water source gets rid of the need for three doctors.”
“We could not have done this project without the Bayonne Rotary club.” – Tim Eustace
Indeed, kids were suffering from ringworm and other diseases either because they washed and drank from the river or had no other place to wash their hands.
“Everybody works all day long. This is our vacation. We get up at the crack of dawn and go dig in the dirt,” he said. “I love doing these in-the-dirt projects. When you come home I think I’ve built something that will last forever.”
Barbed wire and hurricane fencing were installed to discourage the animals.
“Believe it or not, when the sun goes down, everything you can imagine is out there – except tigers which don’t exist on that continent,” he said.
The trenches in which the piping is installed run for about a half mile and are put down two feet deep.
“As we learned from our last water systems, elephants can crush pipes,” he said.
Although Eustace had brought a number of experts along with the volunteers, it was a Massasi woman who devised the water system.
“She said what we’re doing wasn’t working,” he said. Her name was Mercy, and Tim called her “our angel in Africa.”
“She said, ‘Let’s just use the water source we have,’ and she said ‘This is the Roman way, the Chinese way. They had running water hundred and hundreds of years ago,’” Eustace said. “She devised the system and she explained to the masons and the teachers what we wanted. The water source allowed the school to build a garden for the first time.”
Bayonne helped make it possible
“We could not have done this project without the Bayonne Rotary club,” he said. “Our fundraising – like all fundraising – is down. You made it possible for us to do this project.”
Bayonne Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan said this was a student council project with student councils in each of the schools gathering money for the cause.
“They do a series of fun days to raise the funds,” she said.
Eustace said the project needs volunteers.
“This changes your life,” he said. “But it cost $4,000 to be a volunteer and this covers meals, air fair, and the luxury tent. We have taken people from eight years old to 85 years old. There is no age limit. We had a retired teacher who stopped coming at 84. The Massasi were stunned at her age because for every one of our years, they count two years – the wet season and the dry season – and they were trying to convince her that she was somewhere around 170 years old.”