Hello! My name is Miller Bianucci and I am humbled and overjoyed to continue my involvement with The Foundation For Tomorrow in an official capacity as the new Marketing and Communications Associate. Anyone who knows me knows that my introduction to Tanzania and TFFT has influenced the trajectory of my life.
Here is how my story with TFFT began…
My mother, sister, and I first volunteered at The Nkoaranga Orphanage in 2007 when I was 15 years old. That summer we got to know Mary’s sweet spirit and quiet confidence, Tumaini’s beautiful and bright smile, and Andrea’s laugh. Over the next few weeks, we grew to know and adore all of the children for countless reasons and wondered about their growth and development into the future.
When we were driving home from the orphanage one afternoon, we came across two young men looking for a ride. They turned out to be two of TFFT’s first employees on the ground in Tanzania. They told us about the work they were doing for the children we were working with and suggested that we contact Meghann when we returned to the states. If I were to point to one event that transformed my life, it would be this chance encounter.
By the time our summer drew to a close and it was time to leave Tanzania, we had come to understand that the children phase out of the orphanage at five years old, often without a safe or stable place to return to. Due to their status in society, lack of economic resources, and poor support infrastructure, educational opportunities are inaccessible to most of the children. At this point, we were eager to get involved with TFFT. We attended the inaugural S.O.S gala in the fall, where we met Meghann and had the opportunity to learn more about her vision for combating vulnerability in Tanzania. Although many volunteers come and go from the orphanage year round, Meghann decided to act and has made a lasting impact on these children’s lives. She tackled the problem head on so that these children could receive educational opportunities, psycho-social support, health care, and mentorship and coaching so they would be able to lead productive and meaningful lives as engaged citizens. We were relieved to have found a sustainable way to support these children.
We returned to Tanzania for six weeks nearly every summer until I went to college. I have fundraised extensively in my home and school community since I became involved in TFFT, participating in many Team TFFT events, including RIDETZ and the Kilimanjaro half marathon. TFFT instilled in me a passion for education and a curiosity to learn about the inequalities and injustices within the education system.
Confident that I wanted to pursue a career that involves education and research in East Africa, I studied Sustainable Development at The University of St. Andrews and then pursued two masters degrees at The University of Oxford, one in African Studies and the other in Comparative and International Education. Throughout my studies I focused on the ways in which African knowledge has been misunderstood and rejected while Western knowledge and standards prevail. I became invested in decolonisation processes that surround knowledge production and education reform.
I carried out fieldwork in the Serengeti and explored how and why African people have historically been excluded from conservation, due to racial colonial prejudices. Working with students at a Singita Grumeti’s Environmental Education Center, I found that education provides a powerful platform for local interests to be realized and actualized in this space. Each students’ voice and action challenges prejudiced understandings and helps to reshape and reframe the story today.
The following year, I researched resilience among students in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I challenged an International Development concept which maintains that there is a negative relationship between adverse contexts and the learning aspirations of students. I explored students’ educational responses in the face of civil war, the Ebola virus, and the devastating mudslide that have affected Sierra Leone in recent times. I found that students’, adapt, rather than flounder, in the face of adversity through strategic learning processes and navigational pathways based on their hopes for a different future. This study demonstrated how youth seek to play a role in shaping the future of Sierra Leone, arguing that challenges can provide a rich source of motivation for students.
These experiences further reinforced what TFFT has taught me about the power of education. I believe in education because it allows students to understand the context in which they exist, explore the circumstances that create such conditions, and recognise their agency to respond and act, reshaping the narrative.
I am excited to be working with the US team in our Charlotte office and I look forward to communicating with our colleagues in the Tanzanian office. Most importantly, I am thrilled to be supporting students like Tumaini and Andrea in my new role! I knew many of our scholars when they were young and full of dreams and hope. It is extremely fulfilling to see that those dreams and hope are still in tact, and are in fact being pursued, stretched, and achieved with TFFT’s help. TFFT prepares Tanzania’s youth for promising engagement and the ability to act as change agents in their communities. As the Communications and Marketing Associate, I look forward to being actively involved in communicating our work with the TFFT family. Countless testimonies of positive impact spur me to action and make me want to work harder to expand our breadth and depth. I hope to cultivate an even wider support system so that TFFT can continue to make it possible for other children to reach their goals, achieve success, and ultimately be happy and healthy individuals.