With my first book, I give a cut of royalities to my friend Kieran’s charity aidconvoy.net (with both he and it appearing in the Albanian chapters), and I wanted to do something similar for another charity with my second book. The cover of The Return of the Mullet Hunter was designed by my London-based friend Phil Hatchard, who helped to set up Hoja, and so the way forward was obvious.
The Hoja Project was founded by Phil and a team of others in 2005, and works in Tanga Ward, one of the poorest parts of Tanzania. It aims to provide a range of development opportunities from education to health information to small business loans. The impact of Hoja’s work has been great – whether on improved exam results, families being able to set up businesses to make ends meet, or improved agricultural techniques.
Phil has been involved right from the beginning, going out to Tanzania a number of times, maintaining the Hoja website, and financially supporting its work through his own online shop. Rather than witter on too much about Hoja’s work myself, or merely point you to their website, I’ll let Phil explain a bit more in his own words, which he has kindly written for me:
“Hoja is a very special project. It was set up by my friend Oswin in his own community, with the full support of the local leaders and the involvement of many local people. It’s very much their project with a bit of help from outside, rather than being something an outside organisation decides for them. It’s also way off the tourist track, in a region that doesn’t get noticed as much and is rather short of projects like this.
And they do a huge amount with very little. Hoja students achieve the best results in the region, average family income is now well above that of surrounding villages, and local agriculture is growing. One big aim is to make the project as sustainable as possible. The small business loans, for example, already pay for themselves, as once they are repaid the money can be lent again to other people. It would be wonderful to say the same about our other programmes.
I’m incredibly proud to be able to say I helped set this up, but it really is Oswin’s baby. As a largely remote volunteer I’ve been able to drift in and out of involvement with it when other aspects of my life have taken priority. Oswin has dedicated his whole adult life to making a very noticeable difference in his community, and I’m always in awe of what he’s achieved, largely through boundless determination and enthusiasm. He doesn’t even just run Hoja any more – he’s the co-ordinator for all of COCO’s southern Tanzanian projects.”
Although established independently, Hoja is now a part of Coco (Comrades of Children Overseas), a charity based in Newcastle that was set up over a decade ago. Hoja is one of a number of different projects that Coco supports across Africa.
If you’ve bought The Return of the Mullet Hunter then Phil and I (and indeed Oswin and everyone else involved in Hoja) are very grateful for your small contribution to such a good cause. But obviously you don’t need to buy my book to be able to support the work of Hoja. You can find more – and donate to Hoja – both on their own website and Coco’s website.