Milford Attorneys Find Their Passion Helping Ugandan Villagers Get Clean Running Water

Milford Attorney Jane Holler and her husband, Attorney Dan Marecki formed the non-profit Uganda Farmers, Inc., 11 years ago. The non-profit brings much-needed water to rural Ugandan villages. Here the couple are seen in Ihunga, in western Uganda, with several villagers a few years ago.
Milford Attorney Jane Holler and her husband, Attorney Dan Marecki formed the non-profit Uganda Farmers, Inc., 11 years ago. The non-profit brings much-needed water to rural Ugandan villages. Here the couple are seen in Ihunga, in western Uganda, with several villagers a few years ago.

Milford attorneys Jane Holler and her husband Dan Marecki formed Uganda Farmers Inc. 11 years ago. The nonprofit brings much-needed water to rural Ugandan villages. Here the couple is seen in Ihunga, in western Uganda, with several villagers a few years ago. Courtesy photo.

What began as an opportunity for Milford attorneys Jane Holler and her husband Dan Marecki to help women open businesses in Uganda more than a decade ago turned into a labor of love to provide running water the past 11 years to the poor East African country.

Holler and Marecki, practicing attorneys for more than 25 years in Milford and Massachusetts, met Ugandan priest George Muganyizi when he spoke at the Milford church the couple attended. They became quick friends with Muganyizi, who invited the attorneys to visit his village in western Uganda. The short-term mission soon turned into a long-term passion.

The couple, who owns Holler & Marecki, said the priest told them of the need for running water for villagers throughout the country.

"We had the opportunity to say yes, so we did," Marecki told the Connecticut Law Tribune Monday.

The attorneys specialize in personal injury and real estate law. They incorporated a nonprofit, Uganda Farmers Inc., at the end of 2007. They run the venture, but they take no salary, have no paid staff, and use 100 percent of the money raised to fund projects that bring drinking water to remote villages.

To date, nine water systems are up and running with clean water thanks to the work of Holler and Marecki's nonprofit. In total, 25,000 people have benefited from the running water. Each project, the couple said, costs about $50,000 and helps between 2,500 and 4,000 people.

More than $500,000 has been raised in the past 11 years through word of mouth, by local bar associations and through an annual 5K race held every October in Milford.

Marecki said the nonprofit teams up with a professional drilling company, which surveys villages to discover the best way to achieve its mission. "They find the sources of water and dig a bore hole and get running water," Marecki said. "They will pump out the well to the highest point in the village, where it is stored in large water tanks and gravity fed to various points in the village."

The couple has been to Uganda at least once a year over the past 11 years, including several visits last year. Its 10th project will culminate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 19 in the small western village of Fort Portal. The water system in that village will help 2,500 people, including a secondary school, primary school and orphanage, Holler said.

The trip will be special for 17-year-old Tolland resident Danielle Burns, who will accompany Holler. Burns, diagnosed with cancer last year that is now in remission, had always wanted to open a water well in Africa. The nonprofit Make A Wish Foundation contacted Holler and Marecki and introduced them to Burns. Within six months, Holler said, Burns was able to raise more than $11,000 toward the project.

Holler and Marecki said the joy of giving back is the reason they got involved in helping Ugandan villagers in the first place.

"We love that we can make such a big difference to so many people." Holler said. "Part of being a lawyer is helping other people."