Pat Irwin ’13 is the creator of the Arusha Watoto Project in Tanzania, an initiative funded and managed by his U.S.-based nonprofit organization: Selfless Solutions.
After his graduation from Dickinson, Pat Irwin ’13 began working with the Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) at the University of Pittsburgh. He had planned to start medical school after a year of working, but decided to fulfill his desire to travel since he had opted out of studying abroad in college to focus on studying for the MCAT. Traveling abroad to African seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Pat decided on a program at a charity hospital in Arusha, Tanzania, where he met a local man, Seth Emmanuel, who was teaching and feeding 40 needy children through his project Mother’s Mercy Children’s Center. Seeing the tremendous need at the center, and he joined the project.
“We built a brand-new facility and increased the daycare’s capacity to 70 kids who come there every day to learn and receive meals,” Irwin said. “We now have a paid staff of three professional teachers and a matron who cooks and cleans for the children. We’ve also hired a social worker because the majority of our children have rough home lives.”
“When I was working as a volunteer in Tanzania in the fall of 2018, I was inspired by the numerous individuals and projects that were dedicated to improving the well-being of their communities,” he continued. “However, these efforts were often disjointed and lacked the resources and knowledge necessary to fully achieve their goals. I realized that these issues were not unique to Tanzania, but prevalent among charitable projects everywhere.”
As a result of this experience, Irwin founded the nonprofit Selfless Solutions and launched the Arusha Watoto Project in Tanzania, of which Mother’s Mercy is a part. The nonprofit collaborates with local organizations and businesses in Arusha to help meet indigent children’s basic needs while providing quality education and healthcare services. To date, Selfless Solutions has reached over 100 children through its partnership with Mother’s Mercy and has sponsored 25 children to attend one of the best primary schools in the Arusha area.
“I decided to create Selfless Solutions, to equip individuals and organizations with the resources and knowledge needed to produce effective change,” he said.
Selfless Solutions creates and develops projects that prevent or alleviate the pains caused by poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, environmental degradation and poor access to quality education and health services. Selfless Solutions also offers services to help clients fully implement their missions, including project design, marketing strategy, fundraising, digital content creation, etc.
“One of the main reasons I started this is because there are so many people in Tanzania and at home who are trying to do good work but often can’t get their projects to reach their fullest potential because of a lack of resources, knowledge gaps, etc., and a lot of times similar projects could help them by working together and pooling resources,” said Irwin. “So we’re ultimately trying to be the entity that supports these projects and connects them with the people and resources they need to be successful.”
“When you’re a volunteer who truly cares about making a positive change, you recognize that you won’t always be around, so you’ve got to spend a great deal of your time and energy ensuring that your local partners agree with and can see your vision so they have that to guide implementation when you’re not around,” he said.
“I firmly believe that many of the problems facing the world today are rooted in our inability as individuals, organizations, countries, etc. to look outside of our own immediate needs and understand the effects our actions have on the larger world to which we are all connected,” he continued. “I also believe that as a whole we can, and are, learning to look outside ourselves more and more. And by doing so, and sharing what we have with others, especially those who are most in need, we can all become part of the solution, a selfless solution.”
To learn about Selfless Solutions you can visit selflesssolutions.org.