Soapbox Cincinnati: Lessons Transcend Language in Village Life Outreach Project

Emily Roush was worried. As a graduate student in the University of Cincinnati’s architecture program, she had the chance to work on one of two projects over the course of her second and final year of study.

One of the options involved staying in Cincinnati. The other had the potential, the slimmest hope, that she might travel to Tanzania to help build a health center in the remote villages of the country’s Rorya district. Surely, in her class of 30 students, there would be stiff competition for what Roush saw as the adventure of a lifetime.

As it turned out, just six of her classmates chose to work on the African project, a part of the non-profit Village Life Outreach’s work to provide life, health and education, in particular those underserved in East Africa. Of those, she was the only architecture student interested in working on the ground in Tanzania. So the Hillsboro native and Arizona State graduate got busy.

She made a two-week visit to the health center site in the fall, not long after choosing the project, to do field research and assessments to bring back to Cincinnati. Roush, 26, traveled alone and worked with villagers and others already on site, using translators to sift her way through Swahili and Luo, the two main languages of the region.

Her first thought when she saw the sweeping vistas and wide open spaces of Africa? “It’s real,” she says. She returned to Cincinnati even more determined to bring the health center to life.

By spring 2010, she was ready to start her six-month journey. Back in Tanzania in March, she lived with a Tanzanian family, built relationships with villagers and got hands-on construction experience. “I was impressed with the people of the villages,” she says. “They really banded together.”

After three months, she came back to the States for a family wedding and a funeral, then returned to Africa with her now-fiancee, and Village Life Outreach Project executive director, Richard Elliott. When she returned to Cincinnati to start school in September, Elliott stayed behind, helping with construction and coordination.

The Roche Health Center is just one of a series of Village Life Outreach efforts. From mobile health care to a range of education projects, the non-profit focuses on new approaches to improving and sustaining community health and well-being.

Roush hopes to return to Tanzania after she graduates and marries Elliott. She wants people to know that there is more to Village Life’s mission than providing support for villagers.

“The most meaningful thing for me are the relationships I built with people,” she says. “We have a lot to learn from them.”

Do good:

• Limit malaria’s reach. For $25, you can sponsor a mosquito net for a family of four.

• Do lunch. For $50, you can buy school lunches for six children in Tanzania for an entire year!

• Drink coffee. Visit Coffee Emporium on Central Parkway to buy  Village Life Outreach Project-branded Peaberry coffee from Tanzania. A portion of the proceeds support Village Life’s work. You can also order the coffee online.

By Elissa Yancey

Original Story: http://bit.ly/lL1El8

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