Imagine it: 120 girls and 30 buildings on a 15-acre ecoVillage in Karatu, gateway to the nearby Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park.
On one end of the property sits an ecoFarm with a barn for cows and chickens and an aquaponics food production system. On a hilltop, an ecoLodge overlooks the Rift Valley, offering expansive views for visiting tourists, many who have come on safari. Other elements of the village include a job training center; a preschool; a kitchen and dining hall; and living quarters for long-term volunteers.
This vision of the Maasai Girls Rescue Center’s permanent home is fast becoming reality, with construction currently underway on the farm.
“For me, it’s a dream come true,” said Rick Morro, a retired Scottsdale businessman who founded MGRC after travelling to Tanzania in 2012. “The ecoLodge for visitors will produce enough revenue to cover our annual operating expenses so we no longer have to rely on donations.”
The ecoVillage masterplan (pdf) was designed without charge by ClarkeHopkinsClarke, a globally renowned architectural firm in Australia. Dean Landy, a partner in the firm, has experience leading One Heart Foundation to support vulnerable children in foster care villages in neighboring Kenya and Uganda.
“We’re building on what has worked in the past – for us and for others – to create a self-sustaining community” – Rick Morro, MGRC founder.
EcoFarming combines modern science and innovation with respect for nature and biodiversity. Our vision of sustainabilityand food security is one in which food is grown with health and safety first.
Now under construction on three acres, the ecoFarm will feature a barn for six dairy cows, 150 chickens, gardens, storage and two caretakers’ homes. The cows are zero grazing, meaning food is brought to them rather than turning them out to graze in fields.
An aquaponics food production system also is planned. Aquaponics uses recycled water, about 90 percent less than traditional farming.
MGRC has always been committed to growing our own food in harmony with the surroundings. Our founder Rick Morro began his work in Tanzania by developing a drip irrigation farm for two schools at a different location. Later, in Longido, he developed a small farm and raised livestock at the compound that served as the center for five years prior to the move this year to Karatu.
EcoLodge operates as social enterprise
“Purpose-driven travel,” “voluntourism” and “impact travel” are terms for a growing sector within the tourism industry that caters to people who want to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
MGRC’s ecoLodges will offer that experience to socially conscious tourists visiting Tanzania’s wild game preserves. By interacting with the girls, staff and local community members, visitors can observe and learn first-hand about the Maasai people and the region.
At a 40 percent guest occupancy rate, income generated by the lodge will cover the annual operations of MGRC.
Tanzania’s tourism sector has long been one of the nation’s largest industries. More than one million people typically visit each year, most coming for a wildlife safari.
Though the pandemic reduced international tourism, travel is picking up again and expected to flourish in 2022, just in time for the ecoLodge opening.
Of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, three are located in Tanzania: the Ngorongoro Crater (just 50 kilometers away from the MGRC site), Serengeti National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Tanzania has six World Heritage Sites.
Raising girls as our own daughters
Our girls come to us alone, struggling for survival, many suffering physical and emotional trauma.
We want to raise them as we would our own daughters.
In a home, not a dormitory. With consistency and love from caring adults – Tanzanian house mothers, social workers and a paternal presence in their lives. Nutritious food and adequate healthcare. School and homework. Playtime and sports. Options for their future.
Currently more than 50 girls are staying temporarily in a closed hotel MGRC is leasing in Karatu less than a mile away from the ecoVillage site. It’s an ideal location and facility for the time being.
Later this year construction will start on five homes on the permanent site, eventually expanding to ten homes for 120 girls, with a playing field. Each home will shelter 12 girls and two house mothers. Girls will be grouped by age so they can help each other with schoolwork and learning life skills.
A vocational training center also will be built. Older girls will be taught skills to prepare them for hospitality jobs at the ecoLodge. Some will continue their education to secondary school and university, with ever-expanding career options.
Their paths will lead the girls and their community up and out of poverty.
MAKE AN IMPACT
Your ecoVillage investment will generate a positive, measurable social and environmental impact.