Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
I've said it before and I'll say it again - talking to Lucas Lameck always puts the biggest smile on my face. Lucas is the heart and soul of Project Wezesha. Today, he updated me about some of our students in the scholarship program - students that you help support!
Here are some of the highlights:
Kiza and Hajira are rounding the bend in secondary school. This month, they will sit for their Form 4 Exit Exams. These exams are difficult and stressful and let's be honest, most students are not well-prepared in village schools to take a national standardized exam. But we think Kiza and Hajira will do their best and lay out some nice options for themselves. If they do well, they have the choice to go on to high school. If they don't pass, they can let us know what next steps they wish to take - and we'll try our best to support them!
For some of our students who didn't pass secondary exit exams, that next step was vocational school. This past year, our former student Diana graduated a program offered through the Vocational Education Training Authority (VETA). Now, using her newly developed clerical skills, she is working in Mwanga market as a secretary. Lucas told me today that she is so happy because she is making money for her family, who still lives in Kiganza village.
Amosi, one of our bright young students from Kiganza village also finished secondary school. He has since taken a job as a teacher in a nursery school (pre-school) in Tabora! We're so excited that one of our graduates is a school teacher, and can only imagine what an impact he's having on these cute little learners!
Several of our other scholarship students are still studying in Form 2 or 3, and a few of them are staying at the top of their class in their respective schools, including: Simoni, Ezra, George, Ezekial, and Rahma.
In December, I'll be travling to Tanzania again. When I'm there, I'm hoping to meet with Saidi in Arusha and Tumsifu in Dar es Salaam to see how our first high schoolers are doing! I'll also check in with Dibeit by phone (but by all accounts on Facebook, he seems to be doing well!). I have to say, knowing them from the time they were 10 and 11 years old in a village without electricity to now being their friends on Facebook while they live in cities and go to high school - well, it's pretty incredible!
In 2008, when we started supporting students by paying school fees and mentoring them on their options, we figured we would help a handful of students. Thanks to your support, we've helped dozens and we hope to continue!
Please consider sharing this project through Twitter and Facebook (share buttons below!) and encourage friends to chip in. Funds pay school fees, buy textbooks, and pay for additional support (tutoring) between semesters to make sure they are coming in on level for the next term.
Asante Sana for your contributions! Stay tuned from some 'notes from the field' in January!
Co-Founder, Project Wezesha
Dear Friends of Project Wezesha,
Greetings from Summer Time! We have a few updates to share with you.
We are very proud to announce that as of this week, our three young men - Dibeit, Tumsifu and Saidi found out which high schools they will be attending starting July 18th. School assignment is based on secondary school exit exams, and the fact that these three are going all over the country speaks to how well they did!
Dibeit was selected to attend Mahiwa High School in the Lindi Region of Tanzania. He will study a PCB combination - Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. Tumsifu was selected to attend Kibiti Secondary School in the coastal region just outside of Dar es Salaam. He too will take on the ambitious PCB combination. Both of them have goals of becoming doctors! We’re hoping they excel in their high school program so we can continue to help them pursue university studies.
Saidi was selected to attend Karatu Secondary School in Arusha - a lovely, cooler region of Tanzania that many know as the jumping off point for climbing Kilimanjaro or entering the Serengeti. He will study a HGE combination - History, Geography, and English. Saidi dreams of becoming a teacher in his future. He tried that role on for size recently when he was tutoring our other scholarship students during the winter break. We are also hoping that he’ll go on to a teachers’ college.
Our recent graduates, Hindu and Khadija, continue to do everything together. They had a job in Kasulu, but the commission nature of the work wasn’t proving very lucrative for them. They are in the process of shifting to Dar es Salaam to give their best shot in the capital.
It’s really amazing to see these young men and woman moving around the country with such confidence and excitement. They all come from Kiganza village, with the exception of Tumsifu who comes from Kagongo village. Both villages, nonetheless, are very small. The majority of people don’t get to attend secondary school; there is no electricity in either village - with the exception of a few homes or shops that have cleverly harnessed solar power or gas-powered generators. Electricity is coming, however. There are power lines slowly making their way from Kigoma town, through Mwandiga and beyond to the villages with which we work.
Some of the challenges we still face as an organization are worth sharing with you. First of all, this program is still run solely by Lucas Lameck and me. Lucas has the responsibility of paying school fees for many children spread throughout various villages and schools - within and outside the Kigoma region. He does most of the travel by foot, which can be very exhausting during the period in which fees are due.
Fortunately, Tanzania is ahead of the game in terms of people being able to wire money through their mobile phones - so reaching the schools in other regions is not a problem. We still have secondary students studying in Kibondo, Dar, and Lugufu. Of course, even though we can send fees via mobile, Lucas still goes above and beyond to meet headmasters at our students’ schools.
In March, he traveled to Kibondo and Lugufu to uncover the students’ needs and challenges and to share those concerns with the headmaster. Among the main issues are the teachers’ English language proficiency and lack of access to textbooks. The students’ own lower proficiency still makes studying in English a challenge. Additionally, most students walk long distances to school - up to an hour each way. Lucas shared that he encouraged the students to study hard and continue to pursue their dreams. They are all well aware that this work is difficult and it requires that they dedicate themselves as much as they can to their studies.
In April, Lucas also met with our students’ parents. They all expressed their joy at the support they are receiving from Project Wezesha and Girls Education International. They are happy the program is moving forward and some even said that the opportunity is a ‘savior’ for their children and their families. Lucas encouraged the parents to make sure their children get out the door on time to make their first classes. He also urged them to carve some time in the day after school for the students to study. Lucas encourages the parents by reminding them that without education, the community will not have doctors, nurses, pilots, and engineers. Lucas is always good for a motivational speech!
During June, school is out of session and all of our students were given financial support to secure tutoring. These extra sessions serve to review what they covered during the previous term, and to prepare for what’s to come. They all value these sessions so much and say that in large part, this is what keeps their heads above water. Project Wezesha also purchased many textbooks for the students to share. They have texts to support their study of all subjects: chemistry, physics, math, English, civics, biology, and more!
Lucas reported that many of our scholarship students in secondary school are doing very well. We have several A and B level students! Simoni is one example - his teacher shared that he is the top of his Form Three class at Kagongo Secondary. His teachers say he is very bright and they are happy to have him in class.
Lucas is working on his next manager report and will have additional details on students’ scores and general well being! As for myself, after two years as an Assistant Professor at the American University of Armenia, I am moving home to the USA to take a tenure track position at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont! I’m hoping that this move will help me establish valuable connections for outreach and fundraising. I’m also hoping to involve some of my future MA TESOL students in teacher exchanges with Tanzanian counterparts - mutual learning for increased educational opportunities in Mgaraganza, Kagongo, Kigalie, Kalalangabo, and Mtanga - our primary village partners!
We’ll share more very soon!
Thanks for your ongoing support and continued investment in these young people’s lives!
Rai Farrelly and Lucas Lameck
Co-Founders, Project Wezesha
Season's Greetings Project Wezesha Supporters!
As we round the bend in 2014 (that was fast!), we are celebrating here at Project Wezesha because this has been a great year of success stories for us!
Hindu and Khadija
In our November update, we shared the great news that our students, Hindu and Khadija were graduating from their programs at the Vocational Education Training Authority. Well, they did and we are so happy for them (check out their graduation pics)! Project Wezesha supported them through 4 year of secondary school and 2 years of vocational training, and now, they are leaving our scholarship program. What the future holds is yet to be determined, but you better believe we'll be close by to see what's next for these determined, bright young women! Thanks for your part in their success.
Dibeit, Saidi, and Tumsifu
In 2011, three amazing young men - Dibeit, Saidi, and Tumsifu - began their studies as Form 1 students in secondary school, with the help of Project Wezesha. Now, join me in congratulating them on their graduation! Their ceremonies were held in November!
Dibeit: Due to his excellent performance on the secondary school entrance exams, Dibeit was selected by the government to study in Dodoma, Tanzania at a boarding school. He studied hard and stayed focused, even though he was half way across the country from his family. He remained among the top of his class throughout these four years.
Saidi: Saidi began his studies in Kiganza village, but at the insistence of his father (for the betterment of his education) we brought him into Kigoma town and paid half of his school fees for a private secondary school - his father paid the other half. He believed in Saidi so much that it was worth investing his small income to give Saidi the best shot possible at a better life. Both of his parents spend most of the year very far from their home village, living at the farm. Saidi and his siblings live with their grandparents most of the time. While studying in town for the past 3 years, Saidi has been living with Lucas. Saidi has made his whole family proud and the future impact of his education on all of them will be a great story to share!! Lucas attended Saidi's graduation and captured some great shots of the ceremony and his proud family!
Tumsifu: Tumsifu began his studies in Kagongo village, but like Saidi, it was important that he move to a secondary school that could really tap into his potential. At Mlore Secondary School, he thrived and held a spot at the top of his class. He has been dedicated to his studies and has high hopes for his future. He wishes to continue his studies through high school and into university with the ultimate aspiration of becoming either a doctor or an engineer.
The Cycle of Education - Our Graduates return as Teachers
Since graduation, these three young men have returned home to their villages (Kiganza and Kagongo). But, eager to keep their brains working and stay connected to their studies, they have volunteered to help us fill a big gap in our program - tutoring our current students. All of our students put two things on the top of their 'wish list' when we discuss what would help them succeed in secondary school: 1) textbooks and 2) after school tutoring.
Textbooks are expensive and most students don't have them. They take notes from the board, written by the teacher, who has the only text in the room (and often limited English language proficiency). This is their only resource from which to study later - and sometimes, the notes don't make sense when they read them later. So far, Project Wezesha has only been able to keep up with school fees; textbooks have been just out of our financial reach.
Providing after school tutoring has also been a challenge for us. Finding a qualified teacher who is willing and able to offer after school study sessions for our students wasn't as easy as we thought. Most teachers charge per subject and per student, again pushing it just out of our reach.
Well - problem solved! Dibeit, Saidi, and Tumsifu are now earning a monthly stipend from Project Wezesha to offer supplemental study sessions to our Form 1 and Form 2 students on the topics that are most challenging for them: math, chemistry, biology, physics, civics ... and taught in English! They teach groups of students at a time. The income they are receiving is more than their families have been bringing in from subsistence farming and fishing - and, it doesn't depend on the weather! Rain, Shine, or Drought - there are students to teach! When the time comes for them to leave for high school, we'll see which of our next graduates can step in to help out!
Is it Worth It? We Think So!
Lucas had a focus group interview with our students this month to see if, after one month, the investment is worthwhile. He asked the students if the support they were receiving was useful and accessible. They unanimously reported that it was great. They said that Saidi, Dibeit and Tumsifu were clarifying things so much! They hailed their teaching abilities and said that they would continue to be lost if not for these young teachers. Bravo! Bravo!
Thank you to everyone who has supported us along the way so that we can support the students! They literally are the future and as we invest in them, we invest in a better world!
As the end of the year approaches (rapidly) and you consider last minute recipients for your end of year giving, please do keep us in mind. Project Wezesha is a very small scale nonprofit operating with almost no overhead. Your contribution to our scholarship fund goes directly to Kigoma where Lucas distributes the money to pay school fees, pay our new tutors' stipends, and take his salary. In other words, it's all invested in education! We hope that with these recent graduations, we will be able to add more students to our scholarship program, but we need your help to make that happen.
If you are still looking for last minute gifts, give the gift of education. You can make a donation to Project Wezesha in honor of a loved one. You can choose to send them an e-card or print a card at home to mail.
If you have a little extra motivation, you can even build your own online fundraiser and grow a larger donation through an event, such as a holiday party! On the project page, just click the green fundraiser button under the Donate button - then get creative with your page!
We (Lucas and Rai) are indebted to all of our supporters for helping us make this happen. The two of us are simply the instruments of your kindness.
Happy Holidays and much love, joy, and peace in the New Year!
Rai Farrelly and Lucas Lameck
Co-founders, Project Wezesha
Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
Greetings and apologies for a long overdue update on our scholarship program. It's amazing how life as a college professor can sweep me up at times! But, at long last - I have put in the hours to edit and compile video footage (interviews) with some of our students from this summer. So, keep reading!
Congratulations to Hindu and Khadija!
First, however, Lucas and I are happy to share some wonderful news! Our amazing students, Hindu and Khadija are graduating from their programs at the Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA). They began studying together two years ago and both pursued careers as administrative assistants.
Before they entered VETA, neither of them knew how to type or use computers. During this program, they have learned about shorthand, typing, using MicroSoft Office, communicating via email, and browsing the web for information. Each of them participated in two field placements (internships) in the Kigoma Region.
During their first internship, they worked in offices in Kasulu, about 3 hours from Kigoma town. In the second internship, Hindu traveled to Morogoro while Khadija worked in Kigoma town. In addition to computer skills, they learned important administrative duties - such as taking phone calls, making appointments, announcing visitors to their supervisors, and much more! They became members of an office community and developed skills that will serve them in various types of office settings around the country. In addition, both of them have continued to develop their English language skills and overall confidence.
Without doubt, both of these young women would be married and living in the village today, likely with children, if you hadn't helped us continue their support beyond secondary school. While we were committed originally only to support students through secondary school, we quickly realized that continued support was needed to really impact change. Following in the footsteps of Hindu and Khadija are Diana and Ismael, who have also continued their studies in VETA. Diana is studying clerical work and Ismael is becoming a car mechanic. Updates on them are coming soon!
Please, join me in congratulating Hindu and Khadija on their graduation (The ceremony is in December!) and let's wish them great success in finding a job that taps into their many new skills!
Insights from Our Students
Our next update is from Kagongo Secondary School. In August, Lucas and I went and visited with our new Girls Education International Form 1 students, and we also met with 6 of our current Project Wezesha students. These 6, Marieta, Olivia, Sango, Simoni, Mahamudu, and Ahmadi wanted to share with us some of the challenges that students are facing in the village schools. In this video, they share their honest views on the situation. I admire their willingness to speak candidly and their ability to think critically about the roots of their problems.
Before you watch, I have to also be an advocate for the teachers, who come under harsh judgement by the students at times. In many cases, it's true - the teachers are not performing at their best. The reasons for that vary from insufficient governement support (large class sizes, no textbooks), to disenchantment with living in the village (they don't get to choose where they work). Of course, other factors such as personality, motivation, and organization are likely contributors.
Two of our students mentioned that teachers come and go. The reality is that student teachers do come for their teaching practicum and internship on a short term basis. This seems to cause confusion for our students - understandably so. But, all student teachers do teaching internships. The key is to organize them well so that they compliment student learning and support existing curricula, not lead to disruption. But - this is work for another phase of our longterm vision!
For now, please take a moment to hear what our students have to share. And remember, at the end of the day - they still choose education over no education, even if the reality of their situation is less than ideal.
With sincere gratitude,
Rai Farrelly & Lucas Lameck
Co-founders, Project Wezesha
Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
(Today is a big day - please read all the way to see why....)
It's June, which means that our students are only reaching the halfway mark in their school year (they start in January). The older students are gearing up for the often stressful mock exams, during which they simulate the state exams that determine whether or not they will pass secondary school with marks high enough to go to high school. In October, our Form 4 students will take the real state exams and then wait patiently for the results.
When we started our scholarship program, we faced disappointment alongside many of our students when they regularly failed to make the marks required to attend high school. We weren't disappointed in them, of course. We were disappointed in the system. We decided at that time to support them with funds to pay the fees at a local vocational school so they could continue their education beyond secondary school.
Two of our young ladies, Khadija and Hindu have been thriving at VETA (Vocational Education and Training Authority). They have been boarding at VETA in Kigoma town and studying computers and clerical skills. (*Note - both of them would have been married by now were it not for being in school - and neither was ready for that.)
Last fall, they traveled together to neighboring Kasulu town to complete a field internship. Again, this spring they have a similar opportunity. With this project report, we are seeking specific funding to support these girls as they near the completion of their program and earn their certificates. The funding needed by each isn't much - $200. This covers transport to and from Kasulu, work materials, and room and board while they work for the month.
Of course, in addition to supporting Hindu and Khadija, the funds we raise through this project continue to support the other students in our program - who range in their level of study from Form 2 to Form 4. It's an ongoing effort that we must sustain for as long as we have students in the program - which we hope will be for quite some time! As students graduate, more will be admitted. And as such, we continue to see education rates rise in rural Western Tanzania.
And so we still need you with us!
There is one great way that you can help us today. June 25th is a YouthSpark Bonus Day, which means that Microsoft is matching at 100% all donations between $10-$1000 per donor, per project (until the $200,000 runs out). Our project is part of this great campaign! In addition to 100% matching of donations up to $1,000, projects with the most unique donors will earn an additional $2,500 - so tell your friends! Every $10 donation will count! And, an additional $2500 will go to the project that raises the most money.
The window of opportunity for this Bonus Day is narrow: 12pm (EST) on June 25th (Wed) to noon on June 26th (EST). And - only as long as funds last, so dive in right at 12p (EST) to make sure your donation counts! (That's 11am in Texas, 10am in Colorado and Utah, 9am in Washington!)
Please post a link to our project on your social networking sites (see sharing buttons below), share this project report with friends, and ask as many people as you can to chip in just a little to help us generate the funds we need to continue supporting these students!
Thank you so much!!
Rai Farrelly & Lucas Lameck
Co-Founders, Project Wezesha
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