For this update, I would like to share my personal experience with the challenges African students face in terms of meals. Before I became the Operations Manager for AfricAid, I spent 8 months volunteering in Uganda. I spent a lot of my time visiting primary and secondary schools to play soccer and interact with the kids. When I first heard and saw how little food children receive at school, I was heart broken. Many girls I met told me about their daily one hour walk each way to and from school. This walk was normally done after they finished their morning work of collecting firewood, washing dishes, preparing tea and collecting water, which left them exhausted once they finally arrive at school. With many schools not having the funds to provide a lunch, most students grew tired and had a difficult time focusing in class. As school is already expensive for many rural households, families do not have enough money to contribute to the school for lunch expenses, making school meals a distant dream. These same issues are occuring in many rural and semi urban locations throughout Africa, Tanzania being one of them. When I joined AfricAid's team and learned of the School Lunch Program, I was so pleased to learn that we are providing lunch for students at Losinoni Primary School in Tanzania. Even better, we are involving the community in the effort with students' mothers making bracelets to sell here in the US as contribution to the food costs! This program is truly making a big difference in the lives of the 650 students. Imagine what it would be like to try to focus and keep up with your studies with an empty stomach. Now students at Losinoni are receiving higher marks and are able to concentrate in class. Thank you all for making this happen and we look forward to continuing this project in 2014 and years to come!
Even ten years after my first visit to Losinoni, a trip to this small Maasai community never ceases to feel exciting, inspiring and like a true adventure. My visit to Losinoni this past week was no different. We arrived at the school on the dusty road, lined with acacia trees and dotted with young boys herding goats across the grassy plains. A chorus of blue-uniformed students was there to greet us, in addition to local education officials and school committee members. We were greeted warmly with a welcome song prepared by the students, each verse describing the past AfricAid contributions they were most grateful for.
The dynamic Head of School, Mr. Ezekiel, gave our small group a tour around the school campus, showing each section with pride. He showed us the classrooms AfricAid supporters had previously built, the solar panels installed for a computer and photocopier, and the kitchen where the school lunch is prepared each day. With visible excitement, Mr. Ezekiel shared how significantly the school lunch program has boosted attendance at the school, through the support of many friends, including an AfricAid supporter who has run races to provide over 30,000 lunches at Losinoni. We also spent time with the moms of the students, who make beaded keychains and bracelets for AfricAid to sell to raise money for the lunches -- and who have also come together to pay the salary of the cook as their way of contributing further. All of us were excited to come home with bags full of beautiful beaded jewelry, each hand made with so much love and care.
We had the chance to see the almost-complete renovation of a classroom, made possible by the generosity of two AfricAid supporters who asked for donations to Losinoni in lieu of gifts for their wedding. Afterwards, we all gathered into a classroom, where the school committee members and local leaders had prepared snacks and soda for us, including the most generous gift of all -- a goat to share together. During the celebration, we had the chance to share our gratitude and congratulations for the hard work of the school leaders, and Mr. Ezekiel shared an inspiring report with us. I was particularly heartened and inspired by the section that described the magnitude of the impact AfricAid supporters have had at the school over the past several years:
"The above mentioned achievements have resulted to better standard seven examination results. The number of pupils selected for Secondary School increased from 13 in 2004 to 75 in 2012 which is an increment of 83%. The above progress for standard seven examination have set a new record for this school when compared to our past achievement of only 25% selected for secondary school. This is an obvious outcome of AfricAid support as earlier mentioned."
Even though the school's leadership has achieved unheard-of results for a rural Maasai school, they dream of even larger impact. Most immediately, Mr. Ezekiel hopes to provide a library for the students of Losinoni, creating a shared space for students to read and learn computer skills. With his vision and leadership, I have no doubt that he can make this dream a reality, and I hope that AfricAid can play a role in supporting him.
Although the sense of adventure when visiting Losinoni has remained the same over the past ten years, so much has changed along the way: an entire community has come together to make a new future possible for a generation of young students.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The alarm clock goes off. You wake up, shower, go downstairs, eat breakfast, get your packed lunch, grab your backpack and catch the bus to school. You attend a few classes, have recess, more classes, and then lunch and recess again! Then more classes, home for a snack and homework. If you are lucky, maybe some after school activities and then dinner and bed. And so the cycle continues...that is the case for many of us in America.
However, attending school is not so easy in other places, particularly Tanzania. It is not uncommon for children to have to walk 20 kilometers just to attend school, and then also to return home after the school day. 20 kilometers is roughly 12 miles - I think that is a long distance, and I have at least three meals a day plus snacks. Some of these children make this commute with a single serving of porridge as their whole day's nutritional intake. AfricAid aspires to provide these sorts of children a nutritious meal while at school in order to feed their hungry bellies.
It is estimated that over 29 million primary school aged children, more than half are girls, are out of school in Africa. There are a myriad of obstacles and barriers to entry including distance, fees, uniforms, etc. Providing school lunches ensures and encourages that bellies are full and minds are supported. Lunch meals promote attendance - they help the students and their families. There is a solution to feeding the hungry minds and hungry bellies in Tanzania and we are excited to be part of it!
20 bags of Haskings
2 bags of beans,
60 liters of cooking oil
These simple ingredients come together to feed over 950 students each day at Losinoni. We are so thankful for your support of this program. We hope to continue to feed the bodies of the students so they can better feed their minds with knowledge!!
Dear AfricAid supporters,
Happy 2013 to you! I'd like to thank you for your very generous support of our school lunch program at Losinoni primary school in Tanzania. Losinoni is a very rural, Massai community just north of Arusha where many children walk 1-2 hours to school each day. With such long walks, the children need nourishment at lunch-time in order to concentrate and learn.
The Losinoni school lunch program is an ongoing program that feeds the entire school, 950 children, a nutritious lunch each day for the cost of $25 U.S. We are proud to partner with Losinoni school on this program and have worked to keep the cost of the program flat even with rising global food prices.
We plan to continue the program throughout 2013 and thank you for your ongoing support. So far, we haven't missed a day for lunch for these amazing children.
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Interim Executive Director