In 2009 Moira Madonia, then a U.S. high school educator, ventured to Tanzania to teach English in a tiny village community center for “leftover” youth who no longer attended school. These young teens were typical in many ways – funny, distracted, awkward, eager. For them, however, the future held no promise, and so a certain helplessness hovered over this little classroom. Squeezed together on benches, their only respite from domestic chores was to come to Kilimahewa for few hours. Maybe one day some good could from the bits of knowledge they learned there.
When Moira returned home and resumed her teaching career, she couldn’t simply leave behind these young people, whose lives so starkly contrasted with those of her U.S. students. Neither could Jillian Swinford and Kerri Gilbert, educators who had come to Kilimahewa in 2008.
In 2010, the three joined forces. They formed EdPowerment, a 501c-3 non-profit, to address the full spectrum of educational need they confronted at Kilimahewa.
In a three-pronged approach, they began:
Two teens, Veronica (13) and Thomas (18), who were at a dead-end in 2010 and assisted Moira at the Kilimahewa Center, are professionals. Tom earned a BS in Internet Technology and now trains teachers in computer use with Moshi-based ACTT, while Veronica just completed a BA in Education from the University of Dar and is beginning a teaching internship. They are the first two of the 65 students who have been or continue to be served by Tomorrow’s Scholar Leader Sponsorship program.
The Kilimahewa Center has transformed from a two-room roadside building to the officially registered KIWOCE Open School that offers a full range of academic, computer and life-skills courses and other services. In 2017 over 300 teens, young adults and motivated professionals came to the Center to improve their skills and hence their chance at self-sufficiency.
Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT) is a registered Tanzanian NGO that acts as a leading and formidable voice for those with autism and intellectual disabilities in the Kilimanjaro region. Its seminars, forums and mobile platform educate all stakeholders, including government officials, to develop effective strategies for this population in schools and the workplace.
EdPowerment’s Board is an active management team whose training and experience uniquely qualify them to address the needs of the full learning spectrum. Moira travels to Tanzania several times each year and when in the U.S. she skypes with students, teachers and staff regularly. Jillian and Kerri both have spent extended periods of time in Tanzania, while fellow Board members, Cocoa McGovern and Stacy Lauren, travel to Tanzania annually to strengthen our programs, support staff and motivate students.