Our Founders

Don and Joann Tolmie first visited Tanzania in 1999 as guests of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. They quickly recognized the tremendous challenges faced by children with disabilities. Joann’s late mother, Mabel Swanson, taught physically disabled children in Illinois. From her mother, Joann inherited a love of education and heart for serving people with disabilities.

When Don and Joann learned that Tanzania had no primary schools specifically for the physically disabled, they felt called to act. Working in partnership with the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and with the financial support of family and friends, the Tolmies funded the construction and operation of Faraja Primary School. The school was formally dedicated on July 29, 2001.

Since the opening of the Faraja School, the operations have been supported financially by the Faraja Fund Foundation. Many of the Tolmie family members, friends and business associates are generous donors to the Foundation. 

Don and Joann have made more than 30 trips to Tanzania. The highlight of their trips has always been visiting with Faraja Primary School students. These personal relationships have inspired the Tolmies to remain actively involved with the school and the Faraja Fund Foundation well into their retirement years.

Don and Joann’s sons—Dave, John, and Paul—and their families have been an integral part of the Faraja School story since 2001, providing personal support and leadership for the Faraja Fund Foundation. The entire Tolmie family has embraced school’s mission and Mabel Swanson’s legacy.

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