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Sending Buckeye Love to Tanzania

Women load water onto donkeys while another woman pours river water into a bucket.
In the rural village of Marwa, Tanzania, women and young girls spend five to seven hours each day collecting the water their families need to survive. But thanks to some passionate Buckeyes, Marwa’s residents now have real hope of having clean, accessible water and a better life—one with educational and economic opportunities never before possible.

“The impact of not having water is severe,” said Michael Hagenberger, associate professor of practice for civil, environmental and geodetic engineering. “The women and children don’t get to go to school or be full citizens because of what they need to do just for basic survival.”

Marwa villagers had a plan to solve their water crisis, but they needed outside expertise and funding to implement it. Hagenberger, School of Environment and Natural Resources Lecturer Joseph Campbell and their students have been working to provide both as part of the Sustainable and Resilient Tanzanian Community program. The interdisciplinary service learning initiative brings together students from across Ohio State and the University of Dodoma to solve engineering and development challenges. 

Celebrating completion of the 28,000-liter storage tank.

In June, a rainwater harvesting system designed by Ohio State engineers and funded by dozens of Buckeyes was installed on Marwa’s medical clinic. It collects water through a series of gutters and stores it in a 28,000-liter tank.

During the two rainy seasons, the tank will collect enough water to meet the clinic’s needs all year. Plus villagers no longer have to pay the clinic for the water they use, a charge that prevented some from accessing the otherwise free healthcare.

Patrick Sours (’17, civil engineering) recalled the villagers’ reaction the first time it rained after the system was installed. “Seeing the excitement on the faces of the doctors and nurses made all the hard work that the team did worth it.”

More than 100 donors gave $10,250 total—more than twice the original goal—to fund the system. Thanks to their generosity, a second rainwater harvesting system will be installed on one of the village’s schools in 2018.

The donations were raised in just one month using Buckeye Funder, the university’s online crowdfunding platform that was established to connect individual donors to causes they care about. In fiscal year 2017, 177 donors gave $15,855 via Buckeye Funder to support several College of Engineering service projects, outreach efforts and student conference expenses.

Village women sing and dance during a celebration.Villagers celebrate the project's successHagenberger was touched to see that every alumnus who participated in the two previous Tanzania trips made a gift to support the project. “You get a sense of what the impact is on the students that even a year or two after graduation, they’re still compelled to give.”

While the Buckeyes have many more projects to tackle before Marwa’s water woes are solved, the village celebrated this initial success with a special ceremony. The women sang and danced, while some balanced buckets on their heads—a symbol of what they hope will one day be just a memory.

Civil engineering major Jasmine Johnson witnessed the power of paying forward. “You could not only see, but almost feel the amount of appreciation the villagers had for us being there and working our hardest to bring clean drinking water to Marwa.”

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,

This story was originally published in the 2016-2017 issue of Forward, the College of Engineering's giving impact report. Read more giving stories and the full report online.