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Our Blog is Back

What to do when I can’t sleep anticipating the next page that will be written in the EdPowerment story left off nearly two years ago? Resume the story, of course.

In September 2011, EdPowerment was celebrating the joy-filled appearance of water on the grounds of the Kilimahewa Educational Center. Although water might have seemed peripheral to the educational focus of EdPowerment, it served as the wellspring – literal and symbolic – for the intellectual, physical and even psychological nourishment and nurturing that was to come.

Today, June 19, 2013, EdPowerment remains in some ways the same organization it was when founded. Our mission to bring educational opportunity where none exists has not changed. Our three focal programs – Long-Term Sponsorships, support for the community-based Kilimahewa Center, and a pioneer program of advocacy and support for the autistic and otherwise intellectually disabled (ACT) – remain our core; and the same management team is working together harder than ever… boosted by our invaluable Operations Administrator, Tom Kway.

What has changed is the scope and impact of this small, personal, hands-on, grass-roots initiative.

(1) Our sponsored students now number 35 and include three university students studying computer science, law and medicine. Literally each student has a story that could featured in any human interest publication. And while not every story will end with some kind of miraculous triumph, each member of EdPowerment’s sponsored family will gain passage to a purposeful life because of the intervention made possible by our supporters.

Not only have we supported students… we have also bolstered some of the schools they attend. We have purchased hundreds of texts so that book:student ratios can approach a reasonable number such as 3:1 versus over 10:1. And when one of the secondary schools our students attend was given desktops from another NGO, we jumped in to fund a qualified instructor so that the computers would not become dust-covered objects as happens in too many cases.

Thomas Massawe, one of our first sponsored students, will graduate with a B.S. in Computer Science this fall. Here he stands with Program Manager, Jillian Swinford.

(2) Kilimahewa Educational Center now consistently serves over 60 local teenagers, who have been excluded from government schools, with a staff of Tanzanian teachers, a full battery of books and supplies, a formalized curriculum, refurbished classrooms…. AND, as of today, 10 laptop computers that will open an avenue into the world outside of village confines. Water enables a lunch program, sanitary toilets … AND vegetable gardens that serve as both a source of food and agricultural-based education. Today, June 19, 2013, we are also completing a chicken coup to begin yet another kind of learning – husbandry. We start with broiler chickens – and will expand into layer chickens. Yes, there are different kinds of chickens… as a girl from New York, who knew?

(3) In business, the apt expression is “bang for the buck.” This describes our outreach for the intellectually disabled in Moshi and the surrounding villages. In a society still marked by stigmas and beliefs such as disabilities come from witchcraft or disabilities are contagious, the impact of our ACT workshops for teachers, parents, health providers, and society in general can not be overstated. Hundreds have attended our forums (I think they total 7) and in a few weeks our third Resource Fair will once again unite groups and leaders serving the disabled. No other organization in this region provides this kind of advocacy for an otherwise shunned population.

And speaking of no other organization… just a little over two years ago, we met a young couple – both occupational therapists – Brenda Shuma and her husband, Anthony, who had poured their energies and vision into creating a place where the disabled and their caretakers could learn life-altering strategies, The Gabriella Children’s Rehabilitation Centre. Struggling to survive, the Centre, with the support of EdPowerment and another NGO now services more than 25 families and other local children and undertakes outreach services throughout the community. The Gabriella Centre even hosted an unprecedented two weeks of diagnostic services last summer thanks to a U.S. professional volunteer whose visit EdPowerment facilitated.
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This recap of nearly two years certainly can’t replace the missing blogs that communicate the every day stories – some amazing, some heart-breaking, some inspiring and many frustrating – that mark our path since September 17, 2011. But from here we can move forward to share the lives that we impact each and every day. Karibu tena – welcome back!

Tom Kway and one of our recent Form 4 Secondary School graduates introduce Kilimahewa’s teens to computers.