My reasons for starting ‘Water Aid Matters in Africa’


My name is Eliza Swanton and I am the director of the charity Water Aid Matters in Africa, previously known as Pipe Dreams. I first visited Tanzania, a country in East Africa over 7 years ago in September 2002. I was blown away by the scenery the life and the people almost immediately. I clearly remember being on the bus heading from the village where I was volunteering to the town on the local bus looking out the window seeing views like I had never seen before. All the while I was thinking this place is going to be part of my life, and my childrens’ life for a long time yet and bubbling over with excitement at what I was seeing. I have been back every year since that first visit and for the passed two years I have been living in Tanzania. Sometimes when I am pulling my hair out because I am waiting again for an hour or so for a bus to take me from Longido, this local village, to Arusha I look at that view and think but I will never get tired of looking at that.  

Despite this beauty it hit me how poor it was and I was not surprised to learn that it is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, where 90% of its population live on less than a £1.00 per day. A lot of areas in Tanzania don’t have access to safe clean drinking water. In some villages 4 out of 5 children do not even reach their fifth birthday due to water shortage related diseases.

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This was brought home to me when I went there a year after I had first visited and the people in Longido village were noticeably quiet. I asked my friend that was escorting me round the village what was wrong and she told me they were very tired as there had been no rain for so long. This made me feel obviously very sad so I asked what could I do, just buying food on that occasion was not the answer. My friend told me a well was needed and so I promised to return with some money to install one.

That same year a Masai gentleman from the village came to England. I had a big party and visited lots of volunteers that I and this gentleman had met in Tanzania. One of the volunteers friends Charlotte Hurst asked the Masai man to come into her school called Latymer in Hammersmith. He went in and spoke in an assembly about the need for water and the problems the Masai face due to such a shortage of it. He went there did this talk and then a few months later Charlotte Hurst called me to tell me they had managed to raise £3000. With the money raised we installed two water projects in Longido district providing water to over 4000 people. Both projects included a pump, troughs, bore well, tank and of course pipe work.

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Because I felt it was important that the local people didn’t just take the money from us but actively went about getting more on their own initiative, I encouraged them to do so and, in the case of both projects, they succeeded in matching what we had raised for them, which enabled us to embark on more water projects. I felt it was an important step because it allowed the local people to really appreciate what they had contributed towards, take ownership of it as well as look after and maintain it. I believe that with both projects such an approach has had the desired effect, which was demonstrated when they came up with a rotary system of guards between the members of each of the communities to protect the water projects, and by the fact that they funded any repairs themselves, never asking for any more money.

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Tanzania Water - Further Information

Our Aim

Water Aid Matters in Africa Organise trips in Africa and help fund water projects, we are a UK based charity that is helping bring water to african people.