Books of Hope

September 11, 2014

MELISSA

In 2013, I wrote a blog asking for help in setting up mini-literacy centers in government schools we work with. A lot of you responded by donating books from your home, boxes of pens and pencils, sharpeners, writing tablets, cash donation for bookshelves, new leveled readers, teachers’ guides, and a lot of moral support. The Literacy Resource Center was the Teachers Training Program’s first attempt at providing tangible inputs (things they can hold and see), a deviation from the program’s capacity building focus.

As sending boxes of books through the post is a costly affair, I eagerly awaited for TFFT staff and supporters traveling to Tanzania who so willingly agreed to carry them in their luggage and becoming “book mules” in the process. Because the Literacy Resource Centers seek to service 111 government primary schools and approximately 8,000 K-3 pupils, we decided delivery would happen only when we have amassed a good number to enable borrowing and rotation of resources between the 4 centers. The good news is this: that point had been reached and we have delivered the first tranche of books and resources in June and July!

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WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water came through with more than 4,000 leveled readers to complete the rounded up book donations from you. WaterBridge Outreach is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote multicultural literacy, education, and development. This non-profit organization (with whom we were able to connect with through a meeting arranged by Toni Mathis, a TFFT supporter and sponsor) donates books in English and local languages and fund water and sanitation projects in communities and villages in developing countries.

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With your and WaterBridge’s generous help, TFFT was able to provide each of the 4 Literacy Resource Centers with more than 1,500 leveled readers and storybooks and resources for making teaching aids, plus a bookshelf to keep them all. I know that this number is still small compared to the number of target users but I am celebrating this wonderful progress nonetheless. We will continue to seek help and as we get them add to what was donated.

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Meanwhile, we press on with building the capacity of K-3 teachers in Meru District in teaching early literacy to complement these resources. The Teachers Training team will be carrying out a series of trainings from this month to November that seek to train 333 K-3 teachers on the building blocks of reading.

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Monday was International Literacy Day, and I hope that this blog would put a smile on your face knowing that you have helped in putting a book to a child’s hand and aided a teacher with some resources in this corner of the world. Nashukuru sana!

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Introducing Anton

September 2, 2014

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Today we have the pleasure of introducing you to Anton Asukile, our new Partnership Development Manager. In this new role, Anton will work with our partner organizations (schools, orphanages and child care centers, and other local NGOs), forge new community, corporate, and government partnerships to support TFFT’s work, and help host any 3rd party visitors to see TFFT’s work (supporters who travel for safari, collaborative work with international organizations, etc).

To get to know him, read his personal introduction below. We are so grateful to have Anton on our team!

 

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I was born and raised in Iringa region (Southern Highlands of Tanzania). I spent most of my secondary studies in boarding schools. It was one of the greatest moments of my life, making a lot of friends from different areas of Tanzania. This cultivated in me the understanding of people with different backgrounds and an attitude of valuing every kind of people.

I love meeting and making friends of new people, and it has been one of may greatest joy to be among friends, to the extent that sometime I think I am more connected to friends than some of my family members! But don’t worry I am working on balancing it.

I love music and singing, I normally don’t get tired at music practices in my church wishing to keep it on even 24 hours. Also I like swimming but I am imagining the cold water in Arusha swimming pools!!!

Well, one morning sometime in May this year when I just opened my email, I just noticed among other emails, an email from one of famous vacancies adverting websites. The email was notifying me personally that there was a vacancy related to my skills. The vacancy was from TFFT.

I was very inspired by a statement on the second paragraph on the job description sheet. The statement stated: TFFT believes in the power of education and that geography should not dictate an individual’s potential.

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I felt, wow! This is what should be in the mind of every child in Tanzania. I thought that if all children in Africa should be installed with such understanding that geography should not dictate their potentials, they would be very inspired and put maximum efforts on their studies and developing their talents, regardless economic status of their families, their schools or their countries.

I was inspired because I am a personal testimony of this reality. I grew up without knowing any of my parents, I never experienced the love and life with father and mother and I don’t know them at all….!! (Don’t feel sorry of me, I have enjoyed a lot of ‘supernatural grace’ in turn!)

But regardless of the many challenges I have been facing, I recognized one thing which I took a hold of it in school, “I was smart, a quick learner.” I took it as a shield against any challenge I would face. I would put more effort on my studies so that I pass. Through that, occupying a number 1 in classes was my culture since primary school to some of my courses at college. Leading in pass mark was my greatest happiness and comforter. My point is that, regardless of all the hardships, a child enabled to invest in his/her own inborn potential, will fly on eagles wings.

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So I took a hold of the job description, going through it and was so moved that this should be my next place to be. I had all the requirements listed and also I was in need of a room to do more on what I am capable of. I felt that TFFT will be the right place for me to contribute my skills and participate to enable more lives transformed.

I believe there are more than enough of resources in Tanzania; I believe Tanzanians has enough ability to contribute to solve their own challenges. Only they need is being strategically mobilized to do so. And that’s what we are going to do. We will focus on funds contributed by Tanzanians in our coming year to support to our programs.

Everyone has something to give and has the ability to help another, though the level differs. And with giving you prosper even more, it’s a natural principle just like gravitation force! I wish African leaders would embrace this fact and we would also begin sending charities to poorer nations, would come out of dependence shortly!

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Though we are still a small team of staff but we are the one to make the foundation for greater impacts, change more lives of our OVC and hence transform the society. I feel great to be a part of those who are making such an impact we see ahead.

Photo credit: The beautiful portraits of TFFT scholars in the post are by Nate Kaiser of Image Is Found.

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Food For Thought Friday

MEGHANN

We’ve all heard it before, you are only as strong as your weakest link…right?! So why so often do we accept mediocrity? For a month now I’ve been focused on this topic, racking my brain, going back and forth about where I stand on the situation.

Today, literally today, my mind is made up. I will not be one of those who accept anything mediocre. If your weakest link is weak, pull them up or let them go, don’t let it compromise what you are working so hard to achieve.

Last week I spent 5 days with some fabulous Global Shapers, 350 of us from over 150 countries in 9 regions of the world, converging on Geneva to see how our collective power can help change the state of this world.

350 Global Shapers come together to build the ideal city!

350 Global Shapers come together to build the ideal city!

This week I had the opportunity to meet with Dick Law from Arsenal Football Club and learned about how the team and administration’s DNA is focused on QUALITY and the pursuit of it. I’m sure right now you’re thinking, how on earth does all this come together. Well here goes – not anyone I met at the World Economic Forum or anybody involved with Arsenal accepts mediocrity. In fact, in both places it was highlighted to me that one shouldn’t accept anything less than excellence and TFFT’s focus on QUALITY education is what is going to set it apart and ensure those scholars in our program and the teachers and administrations we train will be among the best.

Arsenal Training Centre - where QUALITY is a part of their DNA

Arsenal Training Centre – where QUALITY is a part of their DNA

If you’re interested in reading more on high performance, I suggest looking at Rasmus Ankersen’s The Gold Mine Effect. The concept isn’t one just for sport, it transcends sport and is relevant in a boardroom, classroom, and even within your home!

#FoodForThoughtFriday

At the Global Headquarters for The World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland

At the Global Headquarters for The World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland

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TFFT Scholars Take the Lead with Community Service

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An exciting achievement last week for Full Circle! One of the clubs that we support at Usa River Academy completed their first, student-led community service project! Last year, students participating in the workshop Uswege and I ran with RENEW Organization, students identified the need to educate their fellow students on environmental issues. Their idea for the project: distribute dustbins (trash cans) to other schools and talk to students about the impact trash can have on the environment.

Well, after a lot of planning meetings, discussions, brainstorming, scrapping and changing ideas, visiting possible partner schools, more meetings, and some practices, the project was ready for implementation!

Students visited and identified Arusha Secondary School to be their target school. They presented the idea to the environment teacher and head of school and were approved! They wrote rap songs, created pamphlets for distribution, and prepared speeches for the school.

Once we arrived at the school on Friday morning, students began recruiting help for their work from the student body (with the approval of teachers, of course). The students had seen that the problem at Arusha Sec. wasn’t just a lack of dust bins, but an attitude by students that their school environment wasn’t their responsibility. Because of this, student involvement in projects was vital. Usa River Academy and Arusha Sec students worked together to paint the bins with behavior change messages, cut the grass around the school, and sweep the sidewalks and pavement.

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After painting the trash bins, our students were called to address the student body. They introduced themselves, their club, and their cause. The favorites (not surprisingly) were the dance illustrating picking up trash, and the rap about caring for your environment and school! Suffice it to say, our students are far more talented than I am. Most importantly, the school was very happy with the result and students reacted extremely positively.

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By the time we left, the grass was cut, the sidewalks clean, and the dustbins ready. And we were covered with paint…some is still around my nails as I’m typing this. A lovely reminder of a great day watching our students do what they do best when given the opportunity, taking the lead!

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A TFFT Summer

Elizabeth

Wow, who knew two months could go by so quickly! I have loved every minute of my time at TFFT, and man has it been busy. From writing blogs to inform our awesome network of supporters what we’re up to, to calling sponsors, to working on the Gala, helping with RIDETZ, to learning and understanding the world of donor databases; I have had a chance to do it all! TFFT not only taught me the inner workings of a non-profit, but also what it really means to have a work family. I can’t imagine having spent my summer anywhere but here (well maybe in Tanzania, but I’ll get there one day!)

When I first found out that both Meghann and Kaitlin were going to be gone in Tanzania this summer I was worried about how much I would actually be doing. But let me tell you, even from Africa Meghann and Kaitlin make you feel important. Maggie and I held down the fort and looked forward to our daily photos of the kids as well as the RIDETZ riders. If those photos aren’t enough to make you fall in love with TFFT and Africa, I don’t know what is.

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June was filled with RIDETZ and the database. Between following RIDETZ and entering and editing database information I was quite busy. I was impressed with the huge stack of thank you letters Maggie and I mailed out to the people who donated to RIDETZ. A stack of well over 100 letters shows how amazing all of our riders, their friends and families are.

July came and the entire US team was finally home from Tanzania! It was great getting to spend time with everyone. With July, Gala planning had begun! While I knew a lot of work went into planning the event, I did not realize how much work it actually is! From meeting with committee members to contacting magazines event calendars, we have been on a roll. All this work just makes me even more excited to come back for the Gala in November! SAVE THE DATE – Friday, November 7th! Charlotte, NC – 8th Annual S.O.S Gala

A highlight this summer was having Kona Bourne visit the office. Kona wanted all the attention, but when it came to taking photos, she would not sit still. The best pictures I got were ones of her walking away or turning her head away from me. It was all fun and games until she ate Meghann’s mom’s lunch…but that’s okay Kona we still love you!

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After our last “official” day, Meghann took Maggie and I out to dinner to celebrate the summer. While we missed having Kaitlin and Kelly with us (Kaitlin was a little busy getting ready to get married), we had a lot of fun. I have had the best summer working with this group and I definitely will miss seeing everyone’s faces each day. But don’t worry; this is not the last you will see of me!

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Africa descends on DC

MEGHANN

Last week was particularly interesting for our TFFT team and monumental for US-Africa relations. 47 of 54 African heads of state convened in DC for a Summit to encourage collaboration between our country and the African continent. I was fortunate to be able to attend the US-Africa Leaders Summit, by invitation from Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, the Tanzanian Ambassador to The United States.

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(Panel Discussion)

My focus was mostly around the sessions regarding Tanzania and the potential that exists there, where the private sector is investing currently and where the opportunities lie. You might be wondering, why an NGO would care about what the private sector is doing?? Well – it matters not only for economic development in general for the region, it matters because TFFT’s role in all this is creating a well educated work force to fuel the growth of these private sector companies.

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(President Kikwete addresses the audience)

The Corporate Council on Africa in partnership with the Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Tanzanian Investment Center put on a session about “Doing Business in Tanzania.” I was truly shocked to hear how small America’s presence was in Tanzania and Africa in general. Tanzania has the largest growing middle class in the world, and is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in East Africa. The UK, China and India all come before the US with regards to FDI.

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A big highlight of the day for me was meeting H.E. Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania. He was only meant to speak to our group for 10-15 minutes and he stayed on for an hour plus pitching Tanzania as a place for growth and opportunity. He talked about energy and power being a welcoming sector. It was shocking to hear that only 36% of Tanzanians have access to electricity, and it is all because the country isn’t producing enough power. He then focused on opportunities that exist and are growing in the agriculture sector, infrastructure needs, the strength of our tourism industry and the mining sector, not just looking at the traditional gemstones but also other minerals that can fuel technology advances in the coming decade.

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(View from the Atlas Mara event)

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(Bloomberg Event at the Carnegie Library)

All in all I walked away pretty excited about working in Tanzania, and where it had the potential to go in the next 10-20 years. Our Tanzanian Ministers were talking a big game about becoming a middle income country by 2025, and inflation rates dropping from 6.4% to under 5% by next year. As President Kikwete said, “we must seize the moment.” Are you ready? TFFT is!

US Africa Summit Selfie

(The Ultimate TEAM TZ Selfie- Ashish Thakkar, CEO Mara Group, Meghann Gunderman Bourne, ED of TFFT, Susan Mashibe, Founder, Owner and Executive Director of VIA Aviation, and Mohammed Dewji, CEO of METL Group Tanzania!)

To read more from the Summit take a look here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/us-africa-leaders-summit or you can peek into my Twitter coverage here: http://twitter.com/TFFTAFRICA

 

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Tanzania Dreaming-Anna’s Kwaheri

ANNA Kwaheri

These past five weeks have been amazing. I fell in love with Arusha, and The Foundation for Tomorrow (TFFT) so much that I contemplated “accidentally” missing my flight home. Instead, I will just have to plan my next trip back to Tanzania. There will be so many things I know I will miss when I am back in the dala dala  (public transportation) was always fun despite the complete lack of personal space. Honestly, the times I had my hair stroked or sat next to a man and his chicken only made the experience better! I occasionally rode piki pikis –no helmets (motorcycles, sorry mom and dad!). Ah.. and the food; while an omelet cooked with fries (chips mayai) might sound strange, it should be on every menu in the U.S. ​

Of course I will miss the scholars the most! I loved having looked at a pamphlet or a poster of our scholars and finally being able to put names to their faces. Through tutoring I discovered English frequently doesn’t make sense, and I had to review long division, but I cherish the sessions I spent with the scholars. I couldn’t have asked for better students. They are such bright and excited students who really showed their passion for learning. It was so much fun to watch the kids race to write on the board and to participate. It made being a part of an organization that promotes education even more worthwhile than I could have imagined. image The scholars are fortunate to receive a good education, but they’ve also been blessed with such caring and hardworking people who have offered them so many opportunities. The Foundation for Tomorrow really is a family. Every time I would mention to a scholar that I was working with TFFT, their eyes would instantly light up. It’s obvious that the affection the staff has for the scholars is fully reciprocated. image When I applied for this internship, I had really hoped to gain knowledge on the inner workings of a non-profit. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to be involved in various aspects of TFFT. Whether I was attending an office meeting, tutoring scholars, or taking trips to schools, I have learned so much this past month. I have been given the best of both worlds by being able to experience the business side of a successful non-profit, while also getting to know our scholars. I couldn’t have imagined how much this month would mean to me before I had departed for Tanzania. From what I have learned, to whom I have met, I know I will constantly have Tanzania on my mind! image

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Wedding Bells are Ringing for Kaitlin!

The past 12 months TFFT has been doing some serious celebrating for our scholars and our team!  This weekend wedding bells are ringing as we take a breather to celebrate Kaitlin becoming Mrs. Perez! 

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We are pleased to announce that TFFT’s Director of Communications and Donor Development, Kaitlin Rogers is marrying the love of her life, Marcos Perez this weekend!  If you are familiar with TFFT, you know that Kaitlin has been an integral part to the growth and success of TFFT over the past 4 years, and we couldn’t be happier for her!

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While Chicago is stealing Kaitlin away from us (geographically speaking only), we are excited to see how she further engages and increases our network in the Midwest!  Not to fret, Kaitlin is staying on our team, and will still grace all our lovely partners and donors with her positive attitude and infectious smile!

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From Charlotte, Tanzania, and everywhere in between, congratulations to the future Mr. & Mrs. Perez!

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Tufundishane!

MELISSA

In the beginning of the year as TFFT team was strategizing for our respective programs, there were 3 things that the Teacher Training Program identified as essential to enhancing our service to the teachers and schools we work with: (1) to diversify our means of providing training to teachers; (2) to provide a venue where teachers and schools can share the best practices and innovations; and (3) to encourage teachers to network with each other and build a community of practice. The biggest question then was how can we do these 3 without bleeding out our budget (and our fundraisers in the US!) knowing that face-to-face meetings between teachers and schools to achieve the second and third goals would mean a lot of money given that schools are situated in different areas of Tanzania. The answer came in the form of a newsletter for and by teachers. Thus was born Tufundishane! Tufundishane, a Kiswahili word, means “let’s teach each other” in English.

We recently released the maiden copy of Tufundishane! and the response from the teachers and partner schools was fantastic. Aside from articles coming from 2 of our partner schools, this issue also features tips on using formative assessment strategies and importance of school clubs. There is a section too for literary contributions from students. The newsletter is also generating interest on TFFT programs from non-partner schools.

When we first broached the subject of this newsletter to the schools they readily said yes but I know they were unsure of how it would look like or how it would help them. But with the first issue in their hands, teachers this early are now submitting articles for the next issue!

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Busy Bees

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I think I say this every year, but wow…I cannot believe that the 4th of July has passed and summer is halfway over! June was a quick month for TFFT as a whole, and we were all busy bees. 12 brave, enthusiastic riders traveled to Tanzania and took on RIDETZ, the 400 mile, cross-country bike fundraiser, which Kaitlin led. Meghann also was in Tanzania – meeting with the TFFT team over there, checking up on things, seeing the scholars, etc. This meant that Kelly, Elizabeth, and I were holding things down in Charlotte by ourselves. It was definitely different not having Meghann and Kaitlin’s smiling faces in the office every day, but we were all able to get a lot done from different ends of the world!  And we did get to see them some during some Skype meetings!

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June was filled with database, database, database. There has been a lot of editing, clean-up, information entering, etc…and while it was not the most exciting thing to be working on, it will definitely benefit TFFT in the long run – something I have to remember on days where I’m staring at the computer screen for too many hours! I’ll admit, there were a couple days when our eyes glazed over and Elizabeth and I had to take a quick ice cream break!

I learned a lot in June as well. While my knowledge of the database expanded more and more, I also learned more about the inner-workings of nonprofits. TFFT is applying for a technology grant, so I was able to sit in on a meeting and learn about the many steps that need to be taken in order to even apply for a grant. I learned some new nonprofit lingo, and also was able to hear how TFFT team members describe our different programs, and how technology can enhance them further.

One of my favorite projects this summer was working on a “What’s Next” packet for RIDETZ riders.  After having the trip of the lifetime, Kaitlin thought of tons of ways for the riders to stay involved, and we worked on putting them all into a pretty packet to mail out.  This was my first time using InDesign since high school yearbook, so it took a bit of getting used to, but it was fun to do a project that involved my creative side!

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Another thing I did this month was work with the Myers Park High School TFFT club some to promote their graduation caps and gown drive. For the third year, they are collecting caps and gowns worn by MPHS grads, and these will be taken over to Tanzania for our TFFT scholars to wear in September!  If you have any gowns hanging in your closet collecting dust, feel free to contact us, we would love to pick them up and put them to use!

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Overall, it has been a great past month.  I have learned a lot about TFFT and nonprofits in general from the US team, and I have gotten to know some of the TZ team members a little better as well.  I’m excited for what the next few weeks bring, and I’m excited to have Meghann back in the US office!  Speaking of, she just walked in with the office mascot, Kona!  I’m off to see if Golden Doodles can input information into the database…we could use a extra pair of hands/paws!

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