Save the Rain employs 180 female builders to construct residential tanks. A fraction of the construction team is a small group of men who build large rainwater harvesting systems at schools. Each man joined Save the Rain at a different point in their life. However, they all share pride in their work and relief for having a good, steady job. Along this journey, these men became fathers. They grew up to understand responsibilities– to their families, their community and their country.
These four men are pillars for Save the Rain. Some of them have been with the organization since the beginning. Two of them read and write well. The two that can’t can recite every detail of constructing a large-scale rainwater harvesting system by heart.
For these fathers, Save the Rain is more than a job. They see all Tanzanian children as their own and work tirelessly to provide life-sustaining opportunities for kids in need.
Livingstone is just 27. His daughter Faith is seven and Junior, who’s seven months old, has cheeks as chubby as his sister’s adorable gap-toothed. He hands Junior over to Joseph, who melts as the tiny tot grins at him. Joseph is the patriarch of Save the Rain and the figure whom all these men came to seek a better life. Livingstone started working with Save the Rain when he was 20. He and his wife had just got married, and he was working the land on his father’s farm. For each generation, the returns diminish. His prospects here were limited – and limiting.
When you farm, you depend on rain, says Agaeli. Sometimes it’s not enough, and then there’s not enough to eat. Other times, there’s too much, and it washes your whole life away. Like Livingstone, he was a farmer, but his family is considerably larger. Agaeli has six children ranging in age from three to 17. With so many mouths to feed, there’s much less margin for the misfortune of a bad harvest. Both of these men have the rain to thank for changing their lives.
Fatherhood was a goal to work towards for Hilary. He came from Kilimanjaro to help his aunt in Maji ya Chai. She helped him find work, and he set himself new targets. After achieving his goals, he felt ready to get married and start a family. His first child, Alice, was born ten months ago. “Being a father means that I’m now an adult, and I have people depending on me,” he explains. Hilary wanted to be sure he could provide before bringing little Alice into the world.
Nicodem’s journey has been anything but planned, and it would’ve been impossible to predict the curveballs fate has thrown his way. He’s incredibly proud of his children. “I love them, and I know they love me,” he states. Vivian and Dylan’s mother left when Dylan was nine months old. Nicodem married again, and along came Queen and Alice. His new wife wanted him to return Vivi and Dylan to their mother, but he fought to keep them, even taking the matter to court. His wife left, and Nicodem became the sole parent of four kids. What he knows about fatherhood, he’s learned the hard way.
Before Save the Rain, Nicodem had only a bed to his name and couldn’t afford a pencil for Vivian. Now, he’s built a house and proudly looks after his elderly mom. As Agaeli says, your job is a measure of your personality – your dignity. What you lend your energy can come to define you. Livingstone has manifested another destiny for himself by stepping away from a life of doing what his father did. He has secured a brighter future for his own family. His daughter will only know days spent in a classroom and not walking for water.
All of them are fathers of daughters. When we ask Nicodem what he thinks of the belief that educating a girl is a waste of time and money, he is quick and sure in his answer: “I’ll be front of the line making sure my daughter goes to school,” he says. And Vivi is a testament to his conviction. Before the rainwater harvesting tank, she had to walk for water. Exhausted and often late for school, Vivi was coming 58th in a class of 60. She’s now coming in fourth place.
More than a job
Being recipients of residential tanks, each father knows the difference clean and safe water can make for communities. They know this is more than just a job. Nicodem remembers going to Lositeti, where women began walking for water at 4 am, returning at 3 pm. He watched students fetch water in the mornings before school. They were hurrying, tired, anxious because they still would be beaten for tardiness. After Nicodem and his team finished their work, all of that changed.
Hilary explains, “It has taught me that all people are equal, and we should love and help one another. It’s important because we are one, and when you help one person, you help the whole community.”
Water is essential to life, and the difference between not having it and having it changes everything. Each tank they construct, they’re building a family, a village, a better future, possibility, hope, dignity and equality. And to be the maker of these things is the greatest possible act of fatherhood. It’s work like this that makes a man.