Welcome to Walk Around the World. I first conceived of creating a travel blog with a purpose in 2000. I had just gone through a divorce and was looking for some meaning in my life. When I learned there would be a total eclipse of the sun in Africa in June of 2001, the universe, like the finger of God, was pointing exactly to where I needed to go.
I had been a teacher for a number of years up until then and I envisioned that I would explore Africa and visit local schools along the way to make connections and see if I could contribute anything to them. I was conducting an experiment in connectivity. While it’s impossible to be everywhere and do everything, it is exceedingly possible to be somewhere and do something. The whole point of starting Walk Around the World was to explore those possibilities and help connect the world by living globally while acting locally. This was before Facebook or I had ever heard of the word “blog,” but I wanted people to share an intimate experience together and make direct connections while demonstrating how incredibly simple it is to be helpful and do good in the world. It was about making connections and connecting in such a way as to feel and be part of something greater than myself.
So I purchased a top model Sony video camera and laptop, got every health shot available (except Japanese Encephalitis) and made the trip to Africa, arriving in Zambia on June 7, 2001, two weeks before the eclipse. I had brought along an FTP program on a floppy disk that I loaded onto computers in an urban cyber cafés so that I could upload my “reports” of what I had seen and done.
One of the first places I visited was the community of Nakatindi, west of Livingston, Zambia. I rode bikes there with a couple of Dutch guys I had met, who were also in Zambia for the eclipse and we subsequently traveled together for a couple of weeks. When we entered the village the children immediately descended upon us. The children mentioned their school and led us to it. The condition of the school was appalling as the roof and wall had collapsed during the heavy summer rains. A temporary building was being rented while the community waited for materials to rebuild their school. We met George, a resident of the community, who taught at the school as a volunteer. We also met Cathy, an young Irish volunteer for VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas), who was also a teacher at the school, in addition to coordinating the restructuring of the school.
We asked Cathy and George what could do to help the school and were told that anything like books, paper, pencils and craft items would be helpful because they had almost nothing. Most of the children who attended the community school were orphans and had no one to pay the costs of books and materials necessary for their education.
So we went to the local market and bought up all the notebooks and pencils we could find and brought the materials to the school the next day. It was such a simple and small act, but it was also very instructive. It taught me that helping the local economy was the best way to help a local community. In other words, using local resources and buying local goods was the best way to help the community overall as well as the school and children we were attempting to benefit.
The next occasion to put these concepts into practice was in the village of Mang’ula, Tanzania.
In Mang’ula I met John Mansur Mwakalinga and his friend Kenny Mleke, who had started a small pre-school called the Gift of Language School. The school was housed in a small brick building with a dirt floor and a sagging tin roof. The door consisted of a few planks of wood cobbled together. There were no hinges for the door – which had to be moved manually to the side to allow entrance. There was a single desk in the single room of the school, so the dozen or two students who attended had to sit on the dirt floor. Many parents were unwilling to continue sending students to the school because of the lack of desks. This, I realized, was another opportunity for me to be helpful. I had seen some carpenters working in their shops during my tour of town and asked John about the possibility of having one of them make desks for the school. John told me that he had already spoken with them and that it would cost about 5,000 Tanzanian Shillings (just over $5 USD at the time) for each desk and that each desk could hold four students. So I provided the $25 to cover the costs of the desks.
Upon my return to the U.S., I sent John and Kenny $500 USD to begin construction of a better school building. There was also a brick maker in Mang’ula. Having local craftspeople involved, like the carpenter to build desks, and the brick makers to make bricks, make a community more economically vibrant, making projects like the school more successful. The best way to foster development in poorer nations like Tanzania is by developing and promoting local businesses to those communities succeed. While charity and donations are helpful, they do not sustain a community. Assisting communities develop new businesses that will benefit the entire community is the best way to eliminate poverty, increase health, and promote educational opportunities – which in turn allows for greater development.
I later discovered that sometime in 2003 a Canadian man learned about the Mang’ula Gift of Language School from the original walkaroundtheworld.com website and traveled to Mang’ula to assist with that school, and later with building a new school. This made me realize and that it was possible to have a website project that was based on connecting the world and doing something positive to help. It made me realize that this could be done in a way that was entertaining, educational, and inspiring.
Walk Around the World, LLC was established in the spring of 2016 to develop and promote educational and economic development in local communities, by looking at those communities holistically and recognizing that the local economies, health, and educational opportunities are all bound together. Walk Around the World is not a charity, but is a business designed to help develop and establish local businesses in communities of poorer nations so that the entire community can benefit.
As a result of my experiences with John Mansur and the Gift of Language School, and John’s tireless efforts to help his country over the last fifteen years, beginning in late 2015, we discussed ways to work together on a new development project. After much discussion, planning, and research, we agreed to create a new agricultural, economic, and educational development project in Tanzania – the TuKAoNe Project. In the summer of 2016, Walk Around the World, LLC became a 49% shareholder in Tukaone Projects Limited, a Tanzanian company established to develop agricultural, economic, and educational development in Tanzania, initially in the area around Hembeti, Tanzania.
This is what we hope is the first of many projects that Walk Around the World can develop and promote throughout the world.
It’s difficult to accurately describe synchronicity. Words don’t fit nearly as neatly together as a resonating universe does. My experiences in Africa deeply affected and enriched my life. I found myself in the right place at the right time and I think my little experiment was successful. It has it been a source of inspiration in my own life. I hope it inspires you as well, and that you will join us in our efforts.
– Jeremy Theoret, Founder & Managing Member of Walk Around the World, LLC; Director, Tukaone Projects, Ltd.