Chole Mjini Treehouse Lodge dating from 1994
In 1992 Anne and Jean de Villiers commissioned the beautiful dhow "Mama Chole" from the traditional boatyard on Chole, which began a relationship that led to the building of the Chole Mjini Treehouse Lodge and the Chole Project.
Anne and Jean de Villiers were first introduced to Chole in 1992 when they commissioned a beautiful dhow “Mama Chole” from the traditional boatyard on the island. As they got to know the community and it seemed that a business on the Island could provide life changing opportunities for the villagers . Re-visioning "hotel" in 1994, the Conservation and Development Co.Ltd was born and Anne and Jean started building the Chole Mjini Treehouse Lodge (www.cholemjini.com).
And so they embarked on the journey of using the business to bring real benefits to the community, later adding Kitu Kiblu Whale Shark Encounters to conserve the marine and cultural environment. Both organisations have a commitment to employ locally, procure locally and raise funds to support development.
How we do it
When the Chole Project started in 1997 no one from the Chole community had ever completed secondary education or had formal salaried employment. Twenty five later, Chole Mjini and has a growing reputation in tourism Tanzania both for the Treehouse lodge and for Kitu Kiblu’s responsible marine encounters. From the start, the Chole Mjini Trust has worked with the community both to raise money and develop the community’s own capacity to manage funds for development projects such as building classrooms and school teachers housing, the Health Centre, Kindergarten and the Adult Learning Centre. At the heart of the project is the local community, with priorities agreed through locally elected Board of Trustees and village elders, and an executive committee made up of new young graduates.
The Chole Mjini Trust assists the local committee with administration, reporting, accounting and fundraising, and has set up the UK-registered charity the Chole Mjini Trust Fund which facilitates donations, creates transparency and independence from the hotel business and provides income for projects. Now the local community prepares annual budgets which they present to the Trust. An annual signed contract lays out the terms of operation and funds are transferred and reconciled quarterly. Fundraising is largely from guests of Chole Mjini Lodge who after seeing the Chole Project, make regular monthly or annual donations. Our model is powerful as it functions in a very remote area where few NGOs, aid agencies or government can reach.
What we need
Reflecting the choices of the people of Chole priority is given to education. In the words of the founding village chairman, the late Mzee Bacha, Chole needs help with education because they are ‘too short’ and cannot access opportunities outside their community. Education has helped them ‘grow tall’ and access influence. Our priority is to support the community by funding secondary and tertiary education, a dream which is out of reach for this subsistence community without outside support.
By early 2021 more than 160 students that have completed secondary level education, 24 that have passed into further education, 40 have tertiary certificates and 18 have university degrees. Chole alumni are now employed in National programs, the civil service and as teachers in secondary schools, while others work in the district hospital and private sector. We hope to create a self sustaining legacy by continuing our support for two generations.
Last year, our provisional budget was US$40,000 which is not enough to cover the basics. Much of our maintenance has been deferred and we are unable to fund vocational training for the high percentage of students that fail to progress in formal education. Our stipends for the growing number of students eligible for secondary and tertiary education support families to educate their children away from home but they are still vulnerable, often staying in poor living conditions due to the limited level of funding we are able to provide. The Health Centre on Chole is now managed by the District and is functional at a low level, also in need of refurbishment and supplies of equipment and basic pharmaceuticals.
Our basic project activities are stable and well maintained at an expenditure level of about US$55,000 per annum. Donations have been affected badly by the COVID crisis; any help that you can give would make a big difference.