“It takes a whole village to raise a child”: Robin’s influence on our Whole Child Program

August 9, 2019

I have been working with The Foundation For Tomorrow for three years now and I would honestly say that my experience has been truly rewarding. There is nothing so fulfilling in this lifetime than transforming the lives of young generations and this is what TFFT allows you to do. As a Psychosocial and Health coordinator, I primarily work to ensure the physical and mental well being of our scholars.

My background in Social Science Studies and my work experiences have in many ways molded me to fit perfectly in working together to address vulnerability through education, which is TFFT’s goal. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Management studies which I obtained from The United States International University – Africa in Nairobi. I went to a university that fosters multiculturalism and diversity. For me, this was an opportunity to learn and be challenged in my ways of thinking and perspectives. Having been born and raised in Arusha, life in the Nairobi city was in itself a culture shock.

I went to high school in Dar es salaam, and for all 6 years of ‘O’ and ‘A’ level, I was a boarder.  During this time I developed qualities of leadership, assertion, and, most of all, my interest in pursuing a career in Psychology. For ‘A’ levels I focused on 3 subjects: Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I chose these subjects just for the love of science, little did I know that they would be a strong foundation to a career in Psychology. 

Before completing my degree, I worked as an intern at the Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, popularly known as Selian hospital. I worked in the Hospice and Palliative care department. That was the most difficult task I ever took, but I can not underestimate the value and significance this work has had in my entire life. It was not only physically taxing, but more so emotionally draining. It is through this work that I learnt to self-rejuvenate. 

Immediately after my degree, I worked with an Educational Psychology firm whose target is to help students with maladjustments and psychological disorders.  We worked with a number of schools and I had what I now call a “privilege” to interact with children from ages 7-20 years. It was to me a privilege because I had an opportunity to shape early school experiences for young minds who are challenged by dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD. These children also happen to be victims of bullying, segregation, and loneliness because of their conditions. I assisted these children with an Individualized Educational Program that helped them learn at their own pace. Helping children overcome these problems meant working in partnership with their parents, to first educate them about the disorders and to then work together to counter them. There were success stories out of these efforts and I happily remember receiving calls from some parents asking about when I am going  to work with their children again. 

Upon my return back home, I joined the Arusha Mental Health Trust in the Counseling Department. Here I received more clients of different ages, sex and cultures; with a wide range of issues such as anxiety attacks, drug abuse, phobias, PTSDs and marital issues. The spectrum of issues raised during these sessions naturally forced me to broaden my thinking and change my perspective in life. It was a pleasure serving at AMHT and indeed one of the milestones in my life thus far. 

My passion for working with children was sincerely ignited after the work I did in Nairobi. Before then, I had no vision whatsoever of working with children and young adults. Therefore, joining  TFFT was a continuation and growth opportunity of what had been planted in me not so long ago.

Robin visiting with a guardian of one of our scholars

The Psychosocial and Health position at TFFT is somewhat different from what I was used to. It is a combination of all my work experiences in one bowl. With TFFT’s approach to provide holistic intervention in the community, my work does not end with the scholars but extends to their parents and guardians. We developed a positive parenting training manual that guides us as we offer seminars on positive parenting skills that are relevant to our context. In 2015, The Foundation For Tomorrow took an initiative to offer interest-free loans to the women/mothers of our scholars to start an income-generating activity, with the aim of improving and sustaining their livelihoods.

You might be asking yourself why The Foundation For Tomorrow goes to these lengths when its primary aim is to offer quality education to children. Well….TFFT has decided to adopt the Whole Child  approach towards education. The Whole Child approach is an effort to transition from solely focusing on academic achievement of a child, to an approach that will prepare them to be resilient in the face of challenges, develop a well rounded perspective towards life, and recognize opportunities and go for them with confidence in their careers and as a member of society. 

Our scholars are guaranteed quality education from our partner schools, and those struggling academically are attended to with due diligence by TFFT. We address disciplinary and behavioral issues through case management sessions and counseling and wherever convenient and appropriate, we invite their parents or guardians in during these sessions. We monitor their health progress and make sure that they are attended to in case of physical illness. The scholars are also mentored and coached by their peers. We seek opportunities for them, such as seminars and courses on entrepreneurship, life skills and career guidance. We also teach them about their rights and protection. TFFT shares this knowledge with their parents and guardians because we know that “It takes a whole village to raise a child”. This is what the Whole Child approach is all about. 

Robin at work with TFFT’s Livelihood Initiatives project

What keeps me going here at TFFT are the testimonies of positive impact that the scholars and guardians have seen as a result of my work. It  motivates me to know that the positive parenting seminars, financial literacy workshops and business trainings that we offer to the guardians of our scholars have been beneficial. For example, one guardian started one small business and now runs three concurrently (Mama Kennedy Lomboi). It is indeed heart soothing to know that because of counseling interventions, one of our scholars has been able to move past the trauma he went through after losing his mother (Philimini Julius).