Monday, October 31, 2011

TFFT through the lens of Kaitlin Rogers

Before working for TFFT, I worked as a family portrait photographer. The opportunity to create images for families is a blessing, and I love that
the resulting images become personal artwork and family heirlooms for their children and grandchildren.

I now work for The Foundation For Tomorrow as Director of Communication and Donor Development. My work for TFFT initially began as a photography assignment, but when that project came to a close

I was not ready to walk away from TFFT leaving just the images. The process of making those images changed me. Like during my family portrait sessions, I was photographing adorable children. Unlike my family portrait sessions, I was photographing adorable little children who had been orphaned or abandoned.

Often, when I am behind my camera, focusing on a child, caught up in their spirit, I wonder, “Who will this child become? What are her dreams? What mark will he leave on this world?” As I photographed the children at TFFT’s partner orphanages, the same thoughts flashed through my mind, but this time instead of swelling with joy and hope for their potential, my heart felt heavy with sadness as my “Who will this child become” shifted to, “What will become of this child?”

Photographing TFFT’s Scholarship Students, however, was much more uplifting. These orphaned and abandoned children have the opportunity to receive quality education and benefit from the comfort and support of the family TFFT has created for them. Our sponsors and the many families that contribute to our efforts make it possible for TFFT to provide scholarships to 76 children.

Orphanages are still overflowing with children, though, and it may seem like 76 is not enough.

The Foundation For Tomorrow makes a promise to each of our Scholarship Students. We promise that once part of our Scholarship Program, we will provide each child with support through Secondary School graduation, an average of 12 years. Throughout their 12 years with TFFT, each child costs TFFT approximately $21,000. Therefore, we accept new children slowly so that we can be certain that we will be able to fulfill our promise.

However, orphanages are still overflowing with children. How could we grow faster?

In 2011 TFFT opened a Scholarship Endowment. This fund will act as our safety net, our security blanket, and our parachute. As soon as we significantly grow this reserve, we will be able to more quickly accept the many children who deserve to be part of our program. We have added the option to contribute to our Scholarship Endowment online if you would like to add a stitch to our security blanket.

Now that I have the pleasure of working for TFFT, I look at our Scholarship Students, and I can’t wait to watch who they each become, to cheer as they accomplish their dreams, and to know that TFFT gave them the chance to leave their very special mark on our world.

My involvement with The Foundation For Tomorrow began behind my camera. I was in Tanzania volunteering my time as a photographer, and upon my arrival I quickly realized that The Foundation For Tomorrow was something unique. The time I spent with TFFT’s scholarship children and in TFFT’s partner schools and orphanages profoundly impacted me. The scope of the issue was overwhelming, but TFFT’s approach was brilliant.

I am a photographer who loves children.

What could this possibly have in common?

Photographs represent moments in time, glimpses into someone’s day, and tickets to foreign places.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TFFT Form 4 Graduates Holiday - By: Josh Nassari (Scholarship Program Director)

Dear Friends,

As you may all know from my last blog post, this year we had three Form Four (end of O-Levels) graduates and eight Primary School graduates (USA equivalent of Grade 7). I am writing now to tell you about the exciting things that our Form Four graduates will be doing over the school break while they wait for their national exam results. Once they hear their national exam results they can move forward with their A-Levels (the last two years of high-school). Everyone here at TFFT is very proud of Isack, Ombeni, and Vaileth for completing Form Four and now we want to welcome them in the real world.

Before they took their exams Isack could not stop talking about how he wants to learn driving and basic car mechanic, and Vaileth has always talked about how she wants to attend computer classes while Ombeni seemed to be ok with whatever was going to come up. Since we want to keep the graduates busy during their break and empower them we are going to find them job placements and their salaries will be going towards learning a new skill, whether it be driving or computers.

Isack comes from Lushoto. He is one of the first kids that joined the TFFT Scholarship program from Irente Children’s Home in Lushoto. Now he wants to return to the center and work there. He is hoping to work at the store, assisting with purchasing items for the children and learning administrative skills. Three days a week he will spend working and the other days he will spend his salary learning how to drive and take computer classes. He is really excited about learning how to drive and use computers and knows that these are essential skills for future success.

Ombeni is going to be placed at Matonyok Parent’s Trust. This is one of TFFT’s partner orphanages that we work with in the Arusha area. Matonyok has lots of projects going on right now, including: producing bricks for sale to the community, a cow project, a horticulture project, and they are starting to classrooms as a start to their very own school. Ombeni is going to be the right hand man at the site and help where help is needed a few days a week. His salary will be going towards computer classes. He has also expressed interest in driving classes, but he has decided to first dedicate his time to computers and once he masters the necessary skills he will begin driving lessons.

Vaileth has continuously expressed interested in office management and administration. We have decided that she is going to work at the TFFT office in Arusha and help with all of our ongoing projects, including office management, the Full Circle Program, and Tutoring Program for the smaller children. We are very excited to have one of TFFT students join our office team and learn about all of the programs running. Vaileth will also be attending computer classes in town, which she is very excited about.

These experiences will allow all three of the graduates to hold real jobs and earn a salary. They are excited about paying for themselves to attend driving and computer school. We at TFFT strongly believe that this program is not only going to keep the students occupied while they wait for O-Level Results, but also empower them. We hope that they gain some real life skills and become excited about their futures and employment opportunities.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running for a Ride – Chicago Marathon by Meghann Gunderman

My friend Lauren Fischer’s Blog inspired me to try and take in all the sites as I ran 26.2 miles in the Chicago Marathon. It is very easy to forget what you see as your body starts to react in anger to the many miles you are putting on it. I signed up to run Chicago back in May thinking it would be a wonderful way to get “my people” behind the work The Foundation For Tomorrow was doing. I find these days people are more inclined to support friends charitable passions when they are seeing them exert some sort of energy outside a donation letter. For me, fundraising is nonstop, it’s my job and what I do to help keep TFFT up and running. At this point all of my friends know what I do and know about The Foundation For Tomorrow, my thought was that running a marathon would get them even more engaged and potentially a little enthused to see me in pain…this enthusiasm turning into some cash. This in fact was very much the case. My friends came out in person and through their donations to wish me well, cheer me on and send funds enabling TFFT to serve more children.

SO, lets get to the good part: 4+ months of training ,Friday nights lost due to 6am Saturday am runs, a great running group, friends made along the way and an awesome boyfriend at my side as we start October 9th off with a 4:45am wake up call!

The Charlotte crew got to the start with a solid hour to go. We all met up at Buckingham Fountain around 6:30am. The sun was rising over Lake Michigan as the excitement builds. The crowds were starting to get me nervous, excited and nervous but nervous none the less. I had done a marathon before but it had not been for over 5 years ago so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

There was plenty of music to wake us up at the start line, Music and the smell vomit were what I recall of the start. Really?? were people that nervous? I thought we were about midway back in the open corral but geez the gun went off and I didn’t even know the elite runners had started. We just started walking forward as a mass crowd. It was only then I realized we were pretty far back. It took me a solid 15 minutes to get to the start line. I crossed it right at 7:44am. We were off, running out of Millennium Park. Mile one done- slow and steady at 10 minutes, so many fun faces standing on the bridges, hanging signs, cheering us all on. It was congested but everyone was still in good spirits. We were going right through the heart of the city. The crowds were insane. It was then I started to get a bit worried, crap - I should have told those who were cheering for me which side of the road to stand on. I think being a spectator at this point was harder than being a runner..all fighting for prime watching position. 2 miles in feeling good.

5km came right after we ran over the second bridge- love the water and this city but definitely should stay on the carpeted parts of the bridge, kind of slippery. I was starting to find my way, dropping my pace down to 9:45 a mile. I crossed the 5km mark at 8:14am.

It was here I realized I should start looking out for people. My mind was in a state of frenzy trying to recall what miles markers my friends and family said they would be at. I just kept scanning the crowd, getting a kick out of all the funny signs people made. There were nice, inspiring ones, encouraging us to keep going, there were massive cut outs of peoples faces, one lady had a sign with her number on it informing us all that she thought nipple chaffing was “sexy”. The ones I wasn’t as keen on were the ones reminding us we had 20+ miles to go..I even saw a guy hold one up that told his wife she had laundry to do when she got home, so she better hurry up. I noticed throughout plenty of people held signs saying “Congrats or Well done Complete Stranger.” I got a kick out of those ones…just grateful to have the consistent support from the Chi.

At around mile 5/6 we were passing Lincoln Park Zoo. It was kind of nice, thoughts of relaxing in the park brought me some peace. That was shortly overturned by the well dressed, preppy folks that were way to fresh faced and perky for my liking. It was 8:42am, I felt strong, I had brought my pace down to 9:09 at the 6 mile marker but realized I still have 20.2 miles to go.

Mile 8 I had been looking forward to since before the start. I heard about you guys.. It’s Boystown..I loved the energy.. Men in tutus, Elvis singing, plenty of bands and cross dressers to put a smile on my face!

I crossed the 15km mark at pace was back at 10 minutes a mile..I had a little bathroom break in there..yes it took me 8+ miles to find a porta potty without a line! Loved it though because then I started drinking more water again- refreshing!

At this point I was more determined to find Ben (“BBE” – Best Boyfriend Ever) than I was to get to the halfway point. I wasn’t exactly sure what intersection I told him and I know my estimated times were way off..ekk.. will we ever see eachother?? RELIEF ..Mile 10..there he was all clean and fresh with him RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING FLOURESANT PINK SIGN! Thank you -Thank you!

I was good, almost halfway there (20km) in 2hrs and 2 minutes through, a little over 10 minutes a mile at this pace. It wasn’t ideal but I was known for negative splits so I was confident I could still get my 4 hour goal.

Starting to feel some hip pain but it was all problem, HALFWAY at 9:53am..2hrs and 9 minutes..slowing down, whats my issue now?…almost 11 minute a mile. Legs starting to really feel these miles…but in my head I was all confused 13 miles..thats nothing for me..I trained, this is mine..right? Maybe not so much!

Mile 14- Charity village –Mr. Rogers, no not the guy with the trains, Kaitlin’s dad! Something great to focus on..seeing another friendly face and getting inspired by all the charities represented in the race. I started to focus on all the peoples choices in running attire and the charities they were running for..lots of people had the names of people they were running for on their shirts, they had the mission, visions and goals for all that inspired them plastered across their was really cool to see how many people who were running were doing it for something greater than themselves. I was pretty pleased to know I was in good company. Then you had the ones that make you laugh.. The weirdos that have to make you wonder “What were you thinking”… Full on costumes, cave men, people in tutus, bananas even.

25km -15.5 miles – 10:22am – 11:56 pace – my legs are NOT cooperating at all! Shortly after the joy of Charity Village my muscle above my quad seized up –Really?? This has NEVER happened to me.. I’ve heard about it happening but in the 19+ years I’ve competed as a runner I have never had this happen. I was hydrating. A good amount of electrolytes and water.. I ate PLENTY before the race..protein shakes, weight training twice a week. I was strong..but I definitely didn’t feel strong! Then the sign "The last ten miles is all downhill"..come on – really? Do you think that inspires us..10 miles more..That sucks.

The light came shortly there after at Mile 16 when I saw Adam Rubin and Kaitlin Rogers. The TFFT crew arrived. Kaitlin had not only made a sign complete with a TFFT logo but also a stenciled of a runner and pictures of our kids. I loved it. I loved seeing them, the only bright spot in a dark moment for me. I tried to put a brave face on but I think they realized I wasn’t feeling it. I tried to just let them talk and get my mind off of things. Kaitlin informed me this was the “hood” we were running through– It’s no Unga Limited (Arusha’s hood) but I guess it works for Chi town. It was actually really a lot more friendly than expected. Lauren F had warned us on her blog the crowds thin out here but in fact people were still out in full force. Maybe more just out on their stoops thinking we were a bit off for running these long miles, but nonetheless they were out and keeping us runners entertained. I made a game out of finding the next kid with a garden hose trying to keep all us crazy runners cool. I felt like a pin ball being bounced around the back streets of Chi town…left-right-left-right..focus on the water. At one point we passed Church’s chicken. I thought I was going to vomit at the smell, not so appetizing at 17 miles in. It came right at the point a women was waving her cow bell at me with one hand, smoking her cig with the other – thank you ma’am for that breath of fresh air!

Mile 17 Kaitlin and Adam still running with me..thank god. They make me think that Mandu and Matayo are running by my side. For those of you who have never met these two, they are two of our TFFT Scholars, two big personalities. Mandu is half Kenyan, 10 yrs old and a rock. He had rickets as a child and couldn’t walk, now he could walk right over most of our middle schoolers. Matyo is lanky, squirrely and always in the thick of it. Both images make me laugh, smile and realize there is greater meaning to this mile than putting one foot in front of the other. While I don’t have any biological children, I have 76 kids I call mine, personalities that make me melt, that make me wake up in the morning and know I am on the right path. Thank you TEAM TFFT for reminding me mile 17 is just a number. Nothing more and that I can do this.

Mile 18 – BEN, yes finally ..again! Love it. Though it was obvious on his face I wasn’t looking that great. He took a little stretch with me at this point. I think I clocked in at 15 minutes that mile, probably the hardest point to get through. The sun was out, it was a little after 11am and I had been running for almost 3 and a half hours..this just isn’t natural.

Mile 19 I felt like I was in Mexico –vamos vamos – the crowd was really engaged. I tried to focus on this instead of the pain in my 7 minutes, walk a minute, keep going at this and I can get it done!

Ahh – then the nice man with his icepops – it was such a relief I never thought I would have at this point! GRACIAS

Wait – Kaitlin you’re still with me..the non-runner had been so freaking supportive she was still with me – Asante Sana Kaitlin Rogers for that commitment! A true friend at my side. Mile 21: CHINA TOWN – dancing dragons and a lot of interesting smells. Mile 23, rounding a corner and heading towards the finish. Kaitlin leaves me after a 7 mile jog, but not before we toast our accomplishment with a cup of beer passed out to us runners! At this point I was just thinking..5km..not that bad, a piece of cake..I can muscle though this. 24.85miles – equivalent to 40km – 12:29am and still pretty slow with my run/walk effort. At this point it was truly pride.. I was not about to finish over 5 hours. I don’t care how bad I feel or what muscles tear, I was going to get in. I was already almost an hour slower than the first marathon I ran. Just get it done! The last few miles that is all I could think of – keep your head up and look for people turning right. I knew that as soon as you take a right turn it was up a hill to the left and you’re done! Those last two miles I dropped my pace to right about 10 minutes a mile. I am not sure how I did that but I was determined and more focused on my 5pm massage then anything around me.

Ok – so these last two miles are taking longer than expected. I knew I was looking for a sea of people turning right but when?? Where is Roosevelt? Come on, make me a happy girl and show me that turn. I knew there was a hill but I didn’t care, I just knew it meant relief. At this point I kept my eyes pealed all I could see though were confusing signs, 1000 meters right next to 1 mile to go. Ummm.. 1600 meters is 1 mile – that is a BIG difference in my life now, I need to know when to kick it in to high gear and muster all the strength I have left. Is it 1000 meters or 1 mile, how far am I from the finish???? 800 meters/Mile 26..ok, whichever it is, I can do this – I was an 800m runner in highschool. I was about at the top of the bridge/hill. I knew I could give it all I had left, inaccurate signs or not…Bliss..I see the words FNISH LINE as I take a left off the hill and give it all that I can.

Mile 26.2: 4hr, 59 minutes and 42 seconds according to them 4 hrs and 57 minutes on my watch..oh well – not pretty – not fast but RELIEVED!

I didn’t run this marathon for myself. I ran this marathon for The Foundation For Tomorrow, for our 76 TFFT Scholars and the thousands other that benefit from the services our team provides. The inspiration, goofy faces, heart wrenching pasts of my kids helped me muscle through the physical pain. That pain is nothing compared to growing up without parents to love, support and care after you. I’m so thankful TFFT kids came into my life. On a daily basis they make me want to be a better person, fight harder and talk louder- enabling them the same educational opportunities we are provided here in the West. They inspire me to work for a world that allows them to dream as big as any other child in this world!

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. May it continue to build steam and push on forward!

I have high hopes for you nuggets!

“Kid you'll move mountains

So... Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O'Shea,

You're off to great places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So... Get on your way.”

Dr. Seuss – Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Monday, October 3, 2011

TFFT Kids Go Green! By Melissa Queyquep

The Full Circle Program started the third term with the theme Environment. For September, sessions focused on the “Natural Environment” and “Biodiversity”. Japhet Jonas, the Program Coordinator of the Roots and Shoots Club, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute Tanzania, came to present to the older primary kids and the secondary students about the Environment and Biodiversity. Japhet surely got the kids’ attention when he presented the status of Tanzania’s environments and the challenges that currently beset them. Occasionally you could hear them gasp and let out yelps of concern. After the presentation, the kids were grouped and each given an environmental case study to analyze. Group leaders presented their groups’ thoughts about the case assigned to them. Japhet Jonas will be seen by the kids more often soon as a Roots and Shoots Club is on the process of being established/revived at the Usa River Academy.

Class 1-3 kids busy coloring pictures of elements of nature/environment. After this activity, they were asked to explain why these are their friends.

The same theme would be covered this month of October and exciting sessions are lined up for the kids like making recycled paper, environmental projects, and also story-telling sessions using stories that highlight the importance of caring for the environment. September had been particularly busy with graduation and also the students’ schedules being revamped due to the remedial program instituted by the school. With that being said, we are excited about Usa River Academy this term. They hired a new school manager and with that many changes will come. One such change is that TFFT has been given our very own room to conduct our Full Circle sessions in! We are also looking at the possibility of making the Full Circle sessions available to other students aside from our scholars, this term.

Japhet Jonas from the Jane Goodall Institute Tanzania presenting to the class 4-6 and secondary level scholars about biodiversity and the state of Tanzania’s environments

Groups for the work that followed JJ’s presentation were a mixture of the older primary and secondary kids. Here, Mary, Richard, Juliet, and Helena are shown working together on a case study.

Nicemary presenting their group’s thoughts on the case study assigned to them during the session facilitated by Japhet Jonas

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ISM Teachers to Help Out in TFFT Programs By: Melissa Queyquep

It all started in the kitchen of Gina Kirkpatrick, a Science and Maths teacher at the International School of Moshi (ISM-Arusha campus). Over beef burgers and beers, John Lane, a fellow teacher, talked about The Foundation for Tomorrow and what it does. John Lane was a volunteer teacher at Matonyok Parents’ Trust, one of TFFT’s partner orphanages, and remains one of its ardent supporters. Turned out Gina and their other ISM co-teachers had long been looking for a way to forge a closer connection with the local community.

That conversation culminated in a meeting with TFFT’s Melissa Queyquep and Joshua Nassari last Monday, 19th September. This time over coffee, TFFT and the “ISM 4“ discussed how they could work alongside each other particularly in the Teacher Training Program. All four teachers come with skills gained from years of teaching that the Teacher Training Program need—expertise that could enable our teachers to provide meaningful learning experiences to their students and enliven interaction in their classrooms. Kirkpatrick is a Science and Mathematics teacher in the secondary level, Shawna Spady and Lane are both teaching in the primary level, while Chelsea Koenigs teaches in the early years level. More meetings will take place in the next months to firm up plans but initially the group talked about teaching strategies for Science, Mathematics, and Reading both for primary and secondary levels as the most urgent topics.

Subject-based training has been in the drawing board of the Teacher Training Program for some time but for lack of resource persons who can help out gratis, this plan had to be shelved. Now that our teachers had been given the basics in the past workshops, this offer of help from the ISM teachers could not have come in a more opportune time.

During the meeting, the four were also given information about the other programs that TFFT run. Interest had been sparked as well in the Full Circle Program and plans are underway on how some of them could come and co-facilitate some of the Full Circle sessions.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Teacher Training Program had good Samaritans offering help. Cristina Claxton of Amani Children Center in Moshi also lent her support and expertise particularly in Special Needs Education in the first teacher training held last year. Indeed we are blessed to have found kindred spirits willing to offer their time and skills for the cause we are championing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Usa River Academy Graduation - by Josh Nassari

Hello TFFT Supporters,

Big news for you here!

On Saturday September 10th, Usa River Academy held a graduation ceremony for 2011 Standard 7 (equivalent to middle school) and Form 4 students (high school). It was a great day! Eight TFFT Class 7 students received certificates showing that they have completed primary school and three Form 4 students from TFFT graduated. All of the TFFT students and staff attended this very exciting event, and this time round the TFFT Executive Director, Meghann Gunderman was even able to attend the celebration.

Many family members of the graduating students attended the event. We were very pleased with the turn out. You wont believe that even Vialeth and Rachel's bibi (grandma) who is in her 90s attended. It was a great opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate the TFFT student’s success.

During the graduation there were many presentations and performances. The TFFT kids were not behind or shy, and in many cases they took lead roles. We were very proud to see them up in front of everyone singing, acting, dancing, and speaking. It was a true illustration of how confident the TFFT students have become and the leadership role they have taken on at school. I truly realized how TFFT has helped give these students an opportunity and laid a foundation, but now they are building their futures and taking advantage of every situation. Their personalities are growing, each student becoming an individual, and their self esteem continues to impress me.The party was full of smiles and laughter. We brought two cakes, one for Standard 7 and one for Form 4 graduates to show them how proud we are of them. They shared with all of the TFFT students and it turned into a big party. The school slaughtered a cow for the graduates (a big honor in Tanzania) and prepared lots of food. Parents, teachers, students, and the TFFT team sat together and ate. And go figure.. Lomyanki was the first one in line to get food and coca cola baridiii (cold- not very common in these parts)! Students ran around playing and celebrating

their great accomplishments. Overall it was a perfect day!

I couldn't blink staring at Richard Francis acting with his amazing Sambaa accent , Veronica, Paulina, Lomnyaki, Miriam, Ashura, Julieth, Rosemary, Isack, Ombeni all singing and dancing, Nancy'sspeech to graduates and of course Nancy and Irene's dance.

Congratulations to Vialeth, Isack, and Ombeni our Form 4 graduates. We are looking forward to watching you accomplish great things in the future” By the way, Isack and Ombeni have planned to go to driving school right after they finish their exams in three weeks. After that they must wait to hear back about their exams before they are able to go onto two years of A-levels.

Congratulations to our Standard 7 graduates – Wema, Jesca, Joyce, Caren, Ombeni, Redson, Salvatory, and Amani! We are very proud of all of you and can't wait to find out how you did on your national exams.” Once these students receive their results they will begin Secondary Schoo, first 4 years of O-Levels and then 2 years of A-Levels. They will all start Form 1 at Star High School in January.We know they are all very excited to join secondary school. TFFT is planning to enroll them in pre-form 1 course between now and January so they enter secondary school well prepared.

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation."

Nelson Mandela

Thank you to all of the TFFT sponsors who have helped these students accomplish so much. You are part of their success and should be proud of your dedication. Asante sana!

Josh Nassari

Monday, September 12, 2011

Incentivizing Teachers by Melissa Queyquep

TFFT-Star High School Teacher Incentive Program

In an effort to make sure the teachers implement the key points from the teachers training in June 2011, TFFT has cooked up a program where teachers are incentivized for their efforts to improve quality of instruction in their classrooms.

Starting October, TFFT and SHS will be conducting monthly in-classroom observations, evaluating the teachers against a range of criteria including lesson planning, use of teaching aids, and incorporation of group work and other participatory techniques in their lessons, and from the observation results select the best performing teacher of the month. The “Teacher of the Month” will be awarded a certificate (framed and displayed in the Faculty Room) and a book of their own choosing. The real reward, however, goes to the students who we hope will reap the benefits of improved classroom experiences.

It is hoped that injecting friendly competition among the teachers and recognizing their efforts to improve would increase their motivation and get them excited about their work. This is in recognition of the observation that aside from the Big 3* among the “Why-It-Would-NOT-Work” reasons we usually get during discussions with teachers, what hampers implementation of what they learned from the training is lack of motivation.

The monitoring team from TFFT and Star High School will also conduct post-observation conference with the teachers to discuss the results of the observation and to suggest improvements. Goal setting will also be part of the conference, with the teacher setting goals for their professional improvement, which will then be revisited in subsequent observations.

* Big 3: Overcrowded syllabus, lack of resources, lack of time for planning due to too heavy teaching load

Monday, September 5, 2011

What I've Learned by Adam Rubin (TFFT Full Circle Program Director)

It would be impossible for me to accurately reflect on the last 8 months running the Full Circle Program, a time which I’ve learned more personally and professionally that I did throughout 4 years of college. I can’t say enough about the TFFT staff and everything that they’ve taught me. Every member of the staff works together and truly respects the advice and opinions of one another. This provides for a working environment that encourages creativity and development, which has allowed for TFFT’s programs to be what they are and experience continual progress. I really feel lucky to have worked with these people; to gain this experience and have the opportunity to share so many ideas, in and outside of the office.

I think the first thing I can take away from this job is that sometimes you need to step back and remember that we are always learning, no matter how old we are or how much we think we know. There came a time during the first term of Full Circle while teaching the kids about Life Skills, where I realized how little time I actually spend thinking about and implementing these same skills. Life Skills are so built in to western education and most kids are socialized and subconsciously raised thinking of these things, to the extent that I think we may overlook the necessity to spend time directly covering these concepts. All of the sudden, I found myself reviewing my own lesson on Decision Making when trying to decide in March if I was going to stay until September. For one of the first times in my life I really understood my Goals and Dreams, and what exactly I needed to do in order to accomplish them. Beyond the individual level, I realized how important all of these skills and concepts are to success of TFFT and any organization, and I saw these different elements at work. Ironically enough, I was learning and truly understanding the very same lessons that I was teaching to the kids. From this I took away: never take for granted something you are sure that you already know, and don’t be afraid to re-examine something which has long been internalized within your thought process.

The first time I came to Tanzania was in 2009 as a volunteer for Support for International Change, teaching about HIV/AIDS at schools in the community. I was sure when I finished that program and came home that I wanted to dedicate my career to fighting HIV/AIDS, perhaps directing an organization like UNAIDS. I’ll always have a personal connection to this cause and continue HIV/AIDS programs as I am now, but TFFT has helped me to realize and focus my desire to work with kids and in the education sector. My time here has allowed me to learn so much about the discrepancies in the education system, problems I intend to address when I can eventually start my own NGO. TFFT has given me an insight and experience that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and was a huge step forwards in achieving the goals that I have set for myself.

Both times I have come to Tanzania have been with Support for International Change, the first time as a volunteer and the second time as a Program Coordinator. During the two months I was here as a volunteer and 3 months as a coordinator I felt like the biggest impact transgressing was that which others were having on me and how my life being affected as a result. Not until recently, during Full Circle second term, did I realize and come to understand the potential impact I may be having on others. Talking to our kids after they didn’t meet their expectations academically and felt like they failed. Trying to refocus them on how they can improve both academically and psychologically, trying to maintain their self-esteem and to make sure they know success can’t be given or taken away by teachers but can only by proven by how hard they work and if they believe in themselves and adapt new study habits and work together with their teachers and their friends.

This was a big turning point for me: Academic Progress Day walking around Usa River Academy individually with Julieth, Sophia, Rosemary, Ashura and Paulina. Letting them explain what they really thought the problem was and why they struggled. Hearing from Ashura that she uses the diary I gave her to help her on bad days and to write down her secret thoughts, along with goals and dreams so she can keep track of them. To see a definite change in the confidence and emotional expression of our kids. To see the kids realize that their emotional well-being could be affecting their academic performance and to watch them grow throughout the year.

There are so many things I will never forget and so many memories. Taking the secondary students to Nkoaranga Orphanage for community service projects; the “Together We Can Make It” mural they painted and seeing them care for the babies and help the mamas. The Girls Empowerment Workshop with class 4-6; and seeing Ashura lead the other girls in the “We Can Do It” pasha. Making the Dream Tree with class 1-3, where Yusuph told everyone “My name is Yusuph and I am beautiful”. Holding hands with Rachel and Rose as we walk into the Dream Clinic for their checkups. Coming on a Saturday and making hygiene posters with Sophia, Julieth, Paulina, Miriam and Rosemary, without even needing to ask for their help. Hearing Rosemary tell me “I don’t think I can be first in my class. But I’m going to be first in the Full Circle Program. I know I can do it”. And then to actually see her achieve it. Giving Student of the Week certificates to students who could never expect it and thought they could never be anything in class; to see the smile of surprise, disbelief and pride on Neema Samson’s face. Julieth’s smile, Esther’s giggle, Rosemary’s laugh. Sarah’s greetings from afar, Sophia’s trust, Nicemary’s ambition. It’s so much to leave behind and so much to look forward to. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of our students. These kids have all the potential in the world, they just need a voice of reason to remind them that their futures lie beyond the boundaries of school; within the choices they make, the goals they set, and most importantly the vision of themselves that they hold within and project to others. A hand to hold is not always enough, they need to be listened to and challenged to understand themselves before they can know what to expect from themselves. They need to cry freely and let go of pain which they’ve bottled up, instead of hiding it behind a nervous smile or playful anxiety. They need to know that they have the ability to change the circumstances of their lives, and that they are the only ones who have control of that.

I think this is the greatest lesson I have learned in my time here. You can only help someone to realize what they are capable of doing, but that is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. You can’t expect a kid to succeed without any self-confidence, and you can’t expect them to have that confidence until they know and believe in themselves. They need to know that they should be working hard in order to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves, not to avoid scold and disappointment. I’ve realized how critical it is to focus on praise and positive reinforcement, and to always keep encouraging. If you’re looking to build a self-esteem which never even knew where to start for children that never had the chance to grow up with these lessons, first they need to know that it is possible to feel good about themselves. I hope that these lessons resonated with our kids, and I can’t wait to come back and see how far they’ve come.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Child Rights Seminar for TFFT Partner Orphanages

This past Saturday we held a Child Rights Seminar for women who work in our partner orphanages. We brought in Mr. Steven Ndosi, a facilitator at MS TCDC Center here in Tanzania. We covered a LOT in one day. Our goal was that those attending will leave with a deeper understanding of child rights and be able to apply those rights in practice when working with younger children.

We looked at how childhood experience impacted youth as well as core assumptions with both rights and needs of children. We also reviewed Child Rights Implications for professionals and systems working with children and practices respecting and listening to the child.

It was also very important for us to do a brief overview of the general principles and implementation of UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified international human rights instrument in history. It sets out minimum legal and ethical standards as well as aspirations for all state parties wit respect to the rights of children. In essence it is a vision with legal standards. This convention address social rights, economic rights, cultural rights, protective rights as well as civil and political rights.

Governments have the primary responsibility for ensuring that children’s rights are realized, they must create the legislative and policy environment to support and implement children’s rights. However, many other actors also have responsibilities. Parents or in the situation of most of our children, the matrons of the orphanages they are a have the primary day to day responsibilities for their own children. But communities, religious leaders, professionals, including health professionals, as well as civil society organizations at local, nation

al and international levels also have a part to play.

What happens if governments violate children’s rights?

Ratification of The Convention is no guarantee that governments will cease to violate, abuse or neglect children’s rights. In many countries that have ratified the CRC, children continue to be discriminated against, forced into armed conflict, sexually exploited, denied education, exposed to violence, denied access to health care, exposed to living and working conditions detrimental to their health and well-being, forced into bonded labor, die of preventable disease and are denied a voice in matters of concern to them.

The Convention on the Rights of the Children is often described as a “soft law”. No sanctions can be brought against a government that violates children’s rights. Constrictive dialogue with governments to press them to make changes is the only answer. Exposure, both internationally and nationally as well as a heightened awareness and understanding about the way in which these rights are being violates is a step in the right direction.

To see a complete listing of the rights in laymen’s terms check out

We then reviewed the ACRWL (African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of a Child). The main reason for having a separate ACR

WC was the feeling that Africa was under represented during the drafting process of the convention on the rights of the child. The UNCRC was perceived to negate the role of family in its treatment of the upbringing of the child and in matters of adoption and fostering. The African conception of the community’s responsibilities and duties and particularly the difficult socio-economic conditions of the continent made it necessary to have a separate document.

To read more about that please see

Additionally in 2009 Tanzania passed The Tanzanian Child Act. This landmark legislation effectively domesticates the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and provides the legal framework through which the rights of the country’s children can be protected and realized. To read more on that please see here.

We then spent some time discussing Advocacy for Child Rights. Adults in positions of professional responsibility have a duty to help educate others about Childs Rights and foster sustainable change for children. One key strategy for achieving such change is through advocacy. Advocacy comes in many types and forms, and can target all levels of the social ecology to effect change. Furthermore advocacy has no prescribed or clearly determined method, it can occur through a variety of mediums, e.g. radio, newspapers, magazines, discussions, and posters. Often children themselves are relatively powerless in advocating for the protection of their rights, as they lack access to the appropriate channels that influence public agendas and debates. That is why early childhood professionals can play an important advocacy role in partnership with children and on their behalf.

Moving forward we have asked those who participated in our seminar with Mr. Steven Ndosi share this information with the institutions they work with so that all of their staff can fully understand how to protect orphaned and vulnerable children throughout Tanzania.

I want to thank our Learning and Evaluation Director, Melissa Queyquep and our Scholarship Program Director, Josh Nassari for coordinating this seminar.