AfricAid Hits the Road!
“Girls face a lot of challenges. We need your support in mentoring our girls, inspiring them to know the importance of education. Be a friend to them by creating a safe space and they will open up to you.”
Judith Merinyo, Director of Student Sponsorship, Project Zawadi
AfricAid’s impact is growing steadily with the Kisa Project and Binti Shupavu programs underway at 42 Partner Schools in two regions of Tanzania, serving 6,000 girls overall. There are now 2,000 Kisa Alumnae, and the first 350 girls graduated from Binti Shupavu last year. One of the most frequently asked questions posed to AfricAid is “How do you reach other vulnerable girls who are not in Kilimanjaro or Arusha?” This query prompted the management to think of ways to reach more girls without incurring extra cost or taxing limited resources. One solution: a partnership with another like-minded organization.
Project Zawadi is an NGO with offices in Arusha, Tanzania and St. Paul, Minnesota. The goal of the organization is to significantly improve educational quality, safety, and access for students in its program areas. They do this in three ways: student sponsorship, teacher training and professional development, and model schools (the community driven pilot program for 4 primary and 2 secondary schools began in Fall, 2018). Project Zawadi’s base of operations is in Nyamuswa, which is in the Mara Region of Northwestern Tanzania. It is geographically isolated from the rest of the country, bounded by Lake Victoria and the great plains of the Serengeti. There are about 30 smaller villages in the area.
In December 2018, AfricAid and Project Zawadi cohosted a one-week camp where three Mentors from AfricAid met 21 girls who are sponsored by Project Zawadi. The Mentors spent four days with the girls and taught them different lessons from AfricAid’s curriculum. At the end of the “Mara Camp,” AfricAid Mentors offered one-on-one sessions with the girls where they talked about specific individual challenges and came up with a plan for how to solve those challenges.
AfricAid and Project Zawadi are working on plans for a follow-up trip and are looking forward to a continued partnership in the future. Stay tuned for updates. “AfricAid is interested in developing more relationships with other NGOs in different parts of Tanzania in order to reach as many girls as possible,” says Devotha Mlay, Director of Programs.
Read Kisa Mentor Agatha Chaima’s account of time spent with Project Zawadi!
Agatha’s Travel Diary: A Drop of Hope
With great excitement, we three Mentors Diana Rose (Binti Shupavu), Sarafina (Kisa), and myself (Agatha – Kisa) set off on our journey. We considered this trip an opportunity to give back to our country by helping more young girls understand their rights and potential, create goals and set strategies to achieve them, and develop the resilience to tackle any situation. We chose basic lessons from Kisa and Binti that included internal motivation, priorities for young girls, being true to yourself, health and wellness, and study skills.
The trip itself was eye-opening! We use the word “safari” all the time as it means “journey” in Swahili. In this case, the bus ride was kind of like what tourists would call a safari because we saw so many animals, including lions, antelope, rhinos, and giraffe! (The three of us are pictured at the top of this article at the second gate to Serengeti National Park. We drove on roads right through the park on our journey.) The weather was favorable to everyone as it was warm, but there was still a cool wind drifting in the bus window. After eleven hours, we ended our trip at the bus stand at Nyamuswa. A man from Project Zawadi took us to Ikizu Secondary School where we settled in for our four day stay.
On Monday morning, we awoke to rain, but it did not hold us back in our work. We gathered the 21 beautiful and modest young girls who came from two different schools and started to get to know them. As expected, girls were quiet and shy at first. When they did talk, they bent their heads down. The truth is their culture has shaped them to be quiet, humble, and to see themselves as inferior, thinking that they have nothing of value to share with others. But we could tell that they still had big dreams (for themselves) and big expectations (for us as Mentors) they wanted to share. It was a matter of building trust.
We Mentors understand that it can be strange for a girl to express her feelings and challenges to an outside person for the first time. We took the time to create a safe environment for them as they tried to share, telling them that everything they discussed would remain a secret so that they could open up. Happily, it worked, and the girls freely expressed themselves. With each day, they came out of their shells. Before we went to Nyamuswa, these girls had no one to talk to or share with, so we felt like we gave them a drop of hope just by listening.
We started by having the girls write down what they hoped to learn during the week. They told us: knowing more about menstruation and tools to use during menstruation, the importance of girls’ education, abstaining from sex, avoiding early pregnancy, and how to achieve their goals in life.
The girls went on to list their priorities and share them with the Mentors. For example:
“I want to become a good tailor so my priority for now is to learn different styles so I can become competent in my career.”
“My priority is to study hard and become a parliament speaker.”
We noticed that the girls from Mara had some difficulty understanding us, even though we were instructing in Swahili. They also had different issues and experiences than many of our Scholars back home in the Moshi area. But, the determination they have in the face of so many challenges is something that Tanzanian girls share across regions. Even when it might be easier to quit school, we found these girls to be proactive in solving problems. Here’s how one girl who was struggling to make ends meet supported herself financially and continued her education:
“I have established a vegetable garden at home. I use the money I get from selling the vegetables to cover my basic needs.”
Overall, the week left a big impression on both us and the girls. After the program finished, they went home and told their relatives about what they had learned.
“Thank you very much for your work. Today I was visiting the girls houses and you know what – their relatives are so happy about what you have taught them. They are even asking when you are coming again.” Adrian Maganga, Director of Teacher Training
DianaRose, Sarafina and I can say that it was a joy to see the impact of what we did by partnering with Project Zawadi. We feel we have built a lasting relationship with these girls, way out in this remote part of the country. Believe it or not, we have been able to stay in touch with them – they have called us to share how their lives are going. We can’t wait to see them again one day!