Ann Wells channels her passion for the people of Tanzania into good works
Ann Wells had recently moved to Darien when she had a visit from Father Dennis Mnyanyi in January 2008. She wasn’t sure how to entertain this acquaintance from a rural village in Tanzania, but they ended up visiting Wells’s sister in her New York office at Morgan Stanley. “There was this very nice man dressed in his priest’s robes standing beside a sign that read, ‘Did you make any money today?’ He was literally and figuratively on the other side of the planet.” This encounter was a pivotal one for Wells, who had lived in Tanzania in the 1990s and often wondered what she could do to help the people there, who she describes as “wildly generous, incredibly disciplined and very hopeful.” Mnyanyi gave her his answer. “He told me to identify organizations affecting positive changes for these people and get supporters behind them as they have no voice.”
Wells embraced that mission and went on to establish UNITE the World with Africa, a grassroots group that supports the health, education and financial needs of women and children in Tanzania with fundraising and training. “It’s a portal through which local residents can be of meaningful service and share our time, resources and talents,” says Wells.
Wells rallies volunteers committed to raising money and awareness for the cause. She also assembles teams to deliver supplies to Tanzania, including medicine, bed nets and computers. “It’s too expensive to ship to this part of the world,” she says. “The best way to get things there is to carry them in.” Training is a critical part of UNITE’s mission, too. For instance, the group’s director of public health—Meg Domino, who also is director of community health education at New Canaan CARES—will head to Tanzania in May with a team of midwives and nurses to teach birth assistance. To further aid these people, Wells founded the Ashe Collection, an online store featuring art, fashion and jewelry made by African craftsmen.“The work they produce is fantastic,” she says. “We want to get it out into the open and empower these people.” ashecollection.com