In April 2009, Neema and Upendo snuck away from their Massai village with only a bag of beans in their possession. They soon were to be circumcised and married, and for several years they had planned this escape. With money from selling the beans, they boarded a series of trucks and busses, and finally arrived in Moshi, Tanzania, a town unknown to them. The police took the two 15-year-old young women to the local jail where they spent two nights. From there they were taken to the Moshi juvenile detention center (Juvi as it is called). Here their lives began to change. A CCS (Cross Cultural Solutions) volunteer at Juvi immediately focused on the girls, bringing them clothes from other volunteers, teaching them some basic English and telling Grace Lyimo, then a CCS administrator, about the girls. With approval from local government authorities, the girls began to study each day at the rural Kilimahewa school. Their desire to learn was immediately apparent. Soon after, two CCS volunteers, who learned their story, agreed to sponsor them at the Notre Dame Academy.
At first, the going was rough since neither girl had received adequate schooling in either Kiswahili or English. But a combination of their persistence, the work of the teachers at Notre Dame, extra lessons at Kilimahewa during breaks and the supervision of Mama Grace, the girls are thriving in their new lives. They still face uncertainty during breaks from school when they must stay at the juvenile detention center. But think of what might have been if not for their own courage, the concern and support of others, and two very different schools – one the simplest of roadside buildings with no real staff or support, and the other the remarkable product of educators committed to nurturing the entire person.
Education is empowerment.