Tandana Foundation is making a difference in the world and closing in the gap between two very different cultures. Tandana Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps American students, adults, and senior citizens create a healthy living environment for the people living in Ecuador and Mali Dogon Country through building, gardening, providing water, healthcare, education or just anything that would help make their lives better.
“The Tandana Foundation focuses on building strong relationships with a small set of communities in Ecuador and Mali, then collaborating with those communities on projects that are important to them,” founder of the Tandana Foundation, Anna Taft said.
In 2006, after volunteering as a teacher in Ecuador in 1998, Taft began the Tandana Foundation in order to create opportunities for people from the United States and Ecuador to become friends, learn from each other, and work together on projects. Also, because of the strong relationships she built with students during her teachings, she also wanted to encourage them to reach their goals and dreams. Since the beginning, Taft has taken groups to and from Ecuador and, most recently, Mali. In 2014, she hosted 15 groups comprised of 232 volunteers.
When finding volunteers to take, she looks for attributes such as a positive attitude, flexibility, and a great desire to participate. But, a volunteer has to have more than just the desire to travel, but needs skills and ability to work. A good candidate loves to feel dirt between their fingers, loves the feel of a hammer in hand, or knowledge in health care.
“The most important part of our work is our approach, based on friendship, respect, and partnership,” said Taft. “We have multiple conversations with community members in order to discern their priorities and discuss possibilities for collaboration. Community members in Ecuador and Mali have given us great feedback on their appreciation.”
The Tandana Foundation frequently helps a tree nursery in Ecuador. The forestry technician, Matias Perugachi wrote about his appreciation. “To all The Tandana Foundation staff, the volunteer groups who have come, and others who will come in the future. To the medical professional, to all the people from distant countries who support our children with scholarships, may God fill you with blessings.”
A health care professional wrote, “I am Maria Esther Manrrique Chuma, assistant nurse at the Gualsaqui Health Center. It is great to have the help of The Tandana Foundation, an organization that has offered excellent support for our public health work in the communities served by the Center. In addition, we have seen the profound respect The Tandana Foundation has for the cultural beliefs that the communities maintain. The community members have shown their appreciation by offering and sharing local foods when the volunteer medical teams and center staff arrive to offer health care.”
Not only does the foundation focus on making the residents’ lives more comfortable and beautiful, they also help educate their children in secondary school as well as helping sending them to college. “We want to be able to support more students with scholarships, at least 100 students in secondary school and 20 students in universities,” said Taft. Currently, the foundation supports 95 students in the secondary schools and 15 students in their endeavor for higher education.
Additionally, a goal of the foundation would be to partner with all 25 communities in the Quichinche parish and similar number of communities in the Wadouba commune in Mali and broaden their area to be able to spread their work and help other communities. During the years in operation, The Tandana group has made over 23 trips and would like to increase the trips to cover these areas. Building true friendships with these communities is always the goal but to help them and see them smile when volunteers leave is always priceless to everyone involved.
In the spring, The Tandana Foundation will be hosting a Health Care Volunteer Vacation March 14-29 for volunteers. The next opportunity for volunteers is set of October where they will host another group of healthcare providers as well as hosting a Gardening Volunteer Vacation. They also organize customized trips for groups, such as school groups, friends, hospitals, garden clubs or whatever other organization is willing to help.
For more information regarding the Tandana Foundation, email them at email@example.com or attend an open house November 23 at 3 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 2933 Lower Bellbrook Rd., Bellbrook, Ohio. For information regarding volunteering, visit http://www.tandanafoundation.org/volunteer_vacations.html.