Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
Since our big bash to open Amahoro Secondary School in January, school has been in full swing! The first term ended in May and the students enjoyed a summer break in June. Classes started back up in July. The teachers and villagers are thrilled about the school - parents never imagined they would have a secondary school right in the village.
Lucas met with some of the parents recently (see pictures) to discuss ways in which the parents can best support their children to be successful in school. Among the ideas they shared, parents are committed to making time after school for students to study. They are also going to make sure their children get up and out the door each day to arrive at classes on time. (You know how hard it can be to get teens out of bed! In Tanzania they're up with the roosters, but getting the sandals to the sand for the walk to school can be a challenge!)
The teachers are grateful for the opportunity to be teaching in such a lovely, tree-rich environment. There is always a breeze up at Amahoro and the views of the surrounding hills and forests of Gombe are stunning! But, most of the teachers are either staying with families in the village or commuting from town (not a short distance!). This set-up may ultimately result in disconent, unmotivated teachers or resignations. Our next initiative will be to work with the village and town governments to fast track the building of teachers' houses near the school.
In addition, we are planning to launch a campaign to help the school finish up its laboratories so that they have the mandatory labs and equipment to properly teach Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. Keep an eye out for information about those campaigns in a forthcoming update.
As part of the Girls Education International expansion into Tanzania, we have 15 girls studying at Amahoro Secondary School. Project Wezesha continues to support all students in our scholarship program by paying for additional support classes (what they refer to as 'tuition') throughout the year. In this way, our students can stay after school and work with teachers to really dig deep into the subjects that present them with the most challenges academically.
My next trip to Tanzania will be December, at which time I'll be identifying teachers who wish to be involved in a two-way teacher training program with volunteer student teachers from other countries. It will be an ambitious project, but it's the area through which I think we'll see the most impact on education. Walls and books only do so much - the teachers really create the learning opportunities and if they're not motivated, prepared, inspired, and supported then things continue - status quo. We prefer to move education forward to ensure that more of our students reach high school, college and beyond!
Thank you so much for all of your support!
Rai Farrelly and Lucas LameckCo-Founders, Project Wezesha
Greetings Project Wezesha Supporters!
This is sure to be my favorite update so far. After four years of fundraising, planning, negotiating, (struggling), and succeeding - we are so excited to share the news that Amahoro Secondary School is open! There are 70 Form 1 students currently studying in our completed classrooms! Of this cohort, 15 are newly added girls for our Girls Education International Scholarship Tanzania program! We really couldn't be more happy, excited, and hopeful!
In January 2015, I traveled with two friends to the Kigoma Region. For the first few days, we met with leaders at the district level - planning the opening party, budgeting for the festivities, negotiating PW's contribution and the government's contribution, and much more. We visited the site of the school and met with the enthusiastic and proud new Head Master, Mr. Kumenya, as well as the local village leaders who have been working with us since the beginning. Village 'Diwani' (Chief) Patrick Maganga was on hand all week - preparing the final details for the opening, including finishing the latrines, building steps into the classrooms, and staying on top of official business (organizing entertainment groups, arranging the schedule of events, staying in close contact with district leaders, etc.). He is a model of what true leadership should look like! Thank you, Diwani Maganga!!
One of the final hurdles to overcome prior to the opening of the school was completion of the latrines. I'll admit - I was very impressed when I finally saw them! Our top supporters, Shelmina and Minaz are responsible for the completion of the latrines. (Thank you, Shelmina and Minaz!!) The latrines come complete with porceline base toilets and a state of the art system for storing waste - which will last up to 70 years before it has to be cleared out by truck! Not just your average hole in the ground! Of course, our fabulous builder Isaya Lameck brought his A-Game to finish them, and his crew of laborers put in many hours digging deeper and deeper through very rocky soil. It was one of the toughest parts of the overall job!
The party was a smash! There were entertainment groups from the village and neighboring towns. They brought in an MC, a DJ, and set up a big tent for the VIP guests. Parties like this are a very big deal for villages and they let it show!
There was a theatrical song and dance performance, dancing by youth hip hop groups, and even some dancing by our current scholarship students. Interspersed with the entertainment were speeches by the village and district leaders. The village exective officer read a speech prepared by Lucas which outlined the timeline of the project, acknowledged the many contributors - near and far, and ultimately celebrated the big opening day!
The District Commissioner, Ramadhani Maneno gave a big speech about the promise of the future with education at the helm. He told the crowd of over 1,000 that I would be back in the future with volunteer teachers of English, Science, and Math to help build capacity ... no pressure! (Any volunteers?) This summer, funding permitting, I plan to return with 4-5 of my MA TEFL student teachers who will complete their English as a Foreign Language teaching internship in local primary and secondary classrooms. If this pilot goes well, we expect great future teacher collaborations in the future!
After all the dance, music, and speeches - they revealed the beautiful foundation plaques on the wall of the school. And then - the feast! All villagers and VIP guests were treated to a celebration lunch. Lucas showed that his skills even extend to being an event caterer and food server! He was tireless in his efforts to make sure this entire celebration was a huge success. By the end of the day, needless to say - we were all an exhausted group of planners and supporters!
But enough reading ... take a little break from whatever else you have to do right now and watch this video mash-up of the celebration!
Thank you very much to everyone who has collaborated, contributed, and cheered along the way! We'll continue to work with the leaders and the headmaster to continue this school's development - building laboratories, finishing additional classroom spaces, and of course - getting the football pitch ready for matches! So - we'll take you along for the journey for as long as you'll let us!
Rai Farrelly and Lucas LameckCo-founders, Project Wezeshawww.ProjectWezesha.org
Greetings and gratitude from Lucas and me! I'm happy to share some updates with you about the progress toward opening Amahoro Secondary School in Mgaraganza Village, Tanzania.
This past August, I traveled to the Kigoma region to visit with Lucas and check the progress of our project. I was a little surprised to see that very little actual work had been done since his April update. In other words, construction was at a standstill - halted due to lack of funding. As usual, the wheels were set into motion when I arrived.
Meeting Local and Regional Leaders
The first line of business was to visit the regional leaders from various Ministries in the government. I was invited to a meeting in Kigoma town to address the leaders and share my gratitude, concerns, and hopes moving forward. We expressed our gratitude about their recent commitment to contributing to the construction of teachers' houses and laboratories* for the school. We noted our concerns about the pressure of fundraising and challenge of meeting the opening day deadline. We stressed the need for the government to continue their support until the end. We also shared our enthusiasm for the possibility of teacher education and teacher exchange in the future (my 'pet' plan for ensuring quality education at this school). They applauded our efforts and echoed our hopes and excitement.
*Note: Recent legislation in Tanzania mandates that no school open without laboratories in place. While this places a huge obstacle in the road for opening schools in villages, it aims to address the current plight of village schools, which is the prevalence of unmet promises by school administrators and leaders to follow-up on the construction of laboratories. Most village schools never see spaces for students to explore physics, chemistry, and biology to the extent necessary for measurable success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
We also met with the Kigoma District Commissioner, Mr. Maneno who guaranteed his support for this project. Mr. Maneno is new to his position as of this year. He made a trip to the village to visit the school and meet with the local village leaders. He was very impressed by the work that had been completed thus far. He gave speeches of praise to the local leaders, community members, and workers. He also promised to do everything in his power to make sure the school opens in January 2014.
Of course, we had our own meetings with the village leaders. We discussed my concern over the delay in work in recent months. We identified a breakdown in communication between political leaders in town who disperse the money, and the village leaders who sign for and collect the money. Our faithful Chief Maganga stepped in and made some phone calls to make sure the funds would be released. This money would allow our builders to complete the entrances to each classroom.
Meeting with the Children
Our most important stakeholders are the children. There are a handful of them who are present at the school for every gathering of the leaders (mostly because they live next to the school). The kids showed us their twist on using the classroom space in the months leading up to the school opening (see photo).
In the month after my visit, Lucas rallied the students of Mgaraganza Primary School to come and do a clean up at the secondary school. They came with brooms and tools to prepare the assembly area in front of the classrooms. Of course, they didn't harm any of the lovely trees that will shade them as they have their daily morning assembly!
Meeting with GlobalGiving Volunteer, Janet Chapman
In September, Janet Chapman - a UK-based volunteer with GlobalGiving and the communications manager with the Tanzania Development Trust - visited Lucas and took time to learn about our project. She met the village leaders and Lucas, and made a video allowing us to introduce our new Headmaster, Mr. Kumenya. We hope that her response to the visit is positive and that she can help us garner more international support to complete the school.
At present, my plan is to be in Tanzania again this coming December/January for the opening of the first phase of the school!
But, we're not there yet. The missing pieces at the moment include the latrines that are required before a school can be open (for obvious reasons). If you can chip in today, you can help us channel money to the project so that we can get them into place on the school site. Every little bit counts, as you know! (Why didn't I think of the Ice Bucket Challenge!?) As always, we can do NOTHING without you! Thank you so much for your support thus far. Please spread the word wide and far.
With much gratitude,
Rai Farrelly and Lucas LameckProject Wezesha, co-founders
Again, I send out heartfelt gratitude on behalf of Lucas, me, and the residents and leaders who will benefit from the opening of Amahoro Secondary School! I'm excited to share pictures from Lucas of the progress made through April (see above and below - windows and doors and floors, oh my!). By the time I arrive in Kigoma in August, I'm sure the updates and photos will truly astonish. I, for one, can't wait to see the completed classrooms - ready for their first cohort of eager learners!
But ... we're still rounding the bend with construction - which means that there is still material to be purchased, builders to be paid, and of course our night watchman, Kalekwa, to be compensated for watching over the materials and keeping the local kids out of harm's way. (We love Kalekwa!)
Speaking of Kalekwa, during our first year of construction on Amahoro Secondary School, Kalekwa's wife died suddendly during the birth of their third child - a lovely daughter. We were all very sad for his loss. Kalekwa chose to stay with us at the school site, leaving his two sons and newborn daughter in the loving care of the women in his family. His salary as a night watchman was indespensible and with this income, he supports his small young family. We are happy to share the news that this Spring, Kalekwa married once again. Lucas shared these pictures you see (below) of our friend on his happy day!
As for Amahoro Secondary School, we hope you'll continue to support us in the home stretch (yes, home stretches are longer in Tanzania)! Here are some ways you can help:
PS - As the sole fundraiser for Project Wezesha in the United States ... actually, in the world ... I do realize that being asked time and again for money can be annoying (imagine being the one who has to ask 4 times per year, at least). So please, do know that I appreciate it more than words can really express. I wish I could carry you all in my case when I go so that you could see the hope and happiness on the faces of everyone that I come in contact with as I make my way around the villages, visiting old friends, meeting new ones, and sharing stories from near and far. One day the sounds from these classrooms will be those of songs, sciences, histories, maths, and laughter - rather than those of hammers and saws. And then together we can say - we did this!
Thank you so much!!
Rai Farrelly & Lucas LameckCo-Founders, Project Wezesha
We are so thrilled to have you on this journey with us! I just got off the phone with Lucas. He's in Tanzania and I'm in Armenia and together, we do our very best to keep this project up and running ... racing to the finish line! I love hearing his voice because his smile comes right through with words. I'm (we're) the luckiest to have such a loyal, capable local partner.
In my conversation with Lucas, I learned that four of our classrooms and two offices are completely finished!! That means that not only do they have walls and roofs, they have windows, doors, completed floors (the expensive part), and plaster on the interior and exterior! The final touch - blue paint for the exterior - is coming soon. But structurally - they are complete - ready for desks, chairs and students.
In addition, as promised, the Tanzanian government is installing latrines for the school - obviously required amenities before a school can open.
I told Lucas that our supporters (and I) would love to see pictures, so those are coming soon and I'll send another update with them when they reach me.
Also, I'm starting the planning for my next trip to Tanzania - in late June/early July. It always helps me feel connected to the project, the community and you when I can be there in person. It allows me to keep the relationships strong and give you the honest, transparent updates that you absolutely deserve for all of your support thus far.
US-based members of the Board of Directors for another nonprofit in the area paid a visit to our school recently. They were in disbelief when Lucas told them that since 2010 we had raised 16 classrooms, plus 4 offices. They were in disbelief because their project has only completed 4 classrooms since 2007. They insisted that Lucas take them to our site so they could see for themselves. They really couldn't believe their eyes. It gave them the confidence they needed to make some organizational changes within their own nonprofit - including replacing their director and installing more 'checks and balances' for the allocation of funds and labor on their project. This made Lucas and I very proud - because we knew what was happening in the other project. Now, that organization can continue with integrity and serve its community better. You know what that makes us ... a successful model and 'Agents of Change' - we couldn't be more happy about that!
In terms of completing our entire project, we are still in need of financial support. We're not there yet. The exact budget to completion is not precise because the government is helping us with some components (raw materials), while we're covering the rest - including the most important parts: skilled labor, a watchman, and Lucas' salary ($100/month). The Government is moving rather slowly on their contribution of materials, but they are making it happen.
The part that is in our control, is that which we raise - so if you want to help us cross the line even sooner, then please consider giving us a little boost. As you know, every dollar counts and they all go straight to to project and the people needed to complete the project.
Thank you for all your fabulous support and continued interest in what we're accomplishing in Tanzania!
Cheers and Asante Sana,
Rai Farrelly & Lucas Lamek
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Co-Founder, Project Wezesha; Treasurer, Girls Education International