Education, Economic Security, Leadership
I have traveled to Tanzania 8 times, and I have funded my trips either through personal savings, or through fellowships or grants from Harvard University to conduct research and continue my work with AfricAid.
I was 11 years old when I first went to Tanzania, and was struck by the poverty I saw there, particularly among children my own age. I remember buying a t-shirt from a young boy who couldn’t be in school because he had to sell items by the roadside to support his family, and became determined to do something to help. I soon learned that 95% of Tanzanian girls are unable to complete a high school education, mostly because they can’t afford the school fees. As a result, I formed AfricAid (www.africaid.com) when I was 16 to provide educational opportunities to young African women and enable them to transform themselves and their communities.
I’ve now traveled to Tanzania 8 times, including teaching at a girls’ secondary school, and spent 3 weeks in a remote Maasai village filming an ethnographic documentary about the return to the village of its first secondary school graduate. I spent the first half of 2009 conducting focus group discussions and meeting with students, parents, teachers and education officials in Tanzania. But most importantly, I have spent countless hours with the girls AfricAid supports, gaining insight into the challenges they face, and learning from them. Last year, I became AfricAid’s Executive Director, assembling a staff of 5 interns, an IT specialist and volunteer consultants.
There’s nothing more rewarding than coming back here to Tanzania year after year and seeing the young women who AfricAid supports flourish!
When these young women start school, they arrive shy and scared, without any confidence whatsoever. Many are afraid to raise their voice above a whisper. By the time they graduate, they are confident and articulate, and they know exactly what they want to do with their lives. It’s amazing what four years of education can do for a young woman here!
Since I’ve been working in Tanzania for 9 years now, I have seen these young women grow and flourish. Just today, in fact, I met one of the young women I taught in 2005 in the streets of Arusha. She is now in teachers college, training to become a teacher. Just 5 years ago, she had little hope for her future, and now she is going to be reaching hundreds of youth through her work.
This type of work can be tough and exhausting in so many ways, but it’s so important for people to know that, if they stick with it for long enough, they will start to see the results of their efforts – and there is nothing more satisfying than that!
I think that one of the most important things for people to know about this type of work is that there are so many opportunities for true partnerships, and meaningful relationships. I have worked so hard over the past decade to support young women in this country, but they have, in turn, done so much to support me. I have learned an infinite amount from them, so the relationship has really been a two-way street, from which we have both benefited immensely.
We are working hard at AfricAid to create the opportunity for real partnerships, and we are particularly doing that through AfricAid's newest girls' scholarship and leadership training initiative, Kisa Project (http://www.kisaproject.org/), which connects youth and families in this country with young leaders in East Africa – allowing people to develop a meaningful relationship along the way!
There are many ways for people to become involved in AfricAid's work. We are encouraging families, youth groups, school clubs, and office groups to join together to become Kisa sponsors. These sponsors enable a young woman in Tanzania to complete her education, while also completing a 2-year leadership training program that culminates in a community business or service project. Their sponsorship therefore reaches dozens of other young women in the process! Plus, they have the chance to develop a meaningful relationship with their partner student in Tanzania through the Kisa website. To learn more, visit http://www.kisaproject.org/.
For youth, we work hard to support them in their efforts to start an AfricAid club at their school! AfricAid Clubs find creative ways to support students in Tanzania, while also learning about life in Africa and developing critical leadership skills. For more information, visit: http://africaid.com
We also have an ongoing internship program in Colorado for college and graduate-level students interested in learning more about international nonprofit work.