What is your fondest memory from your time volunteering abroad with IVHQ?
There are so many incredible memories from my time volunteering abroad with IVHQ, that I really can’t choose just one as my fondest. I see the entire experience as one of the fondest memories of my life. Every visit back to Tanzania, (three trips and counting), has been a new learning experience. Each time I return, the generosity of my friends, the beauty of the country, and the feeling I get every time I walk into a classroom is representative of my volunteer experience, and is a direct result of what I gained. There was an indescribable feeling that came with volunteering in Tanzania with IVHQ – freedom, happiness, warmth, the feeling of somehow being home; it was all somehow rolled into one feeling that became a sense of clarity and purpose. I was finally able to realize who I am and who I want to be. That is something I could never have done as an ad exec in New York. I was able to redefine my life purpose and refocus my energy on what fulfilled me, which is enabling opportunity for impoverished children through access to quality education. I was inspired by my volunteer experience, which fueled my entrepreneurial and creative side, and energized me to use my time and skills to create something that would hopefully make an impact on entire communities for generations to come.
Why should you be the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year?
During my original volunteer program in 2010, I decided there was an opportunity and great need to end the vicious cycle of poverty in Tanzania, through child sponsorship. I truly believe that the best way to raise the socio-economic standing of a family is to educate the children, giving them a chance to become business leaders, politicians, or social entrepreneurs.
I decided then and there I could help make a difference on the families who touched my life and the children who deserved a chance to succeed. I came home and founded Cheti, a 501c3 organization dedicated to increasing access to quality education for impoverished children of East Africa. We are a team of six women, (five of whom, are prior IVHQ volunteers), who dedicate all of our free time to making this mission a reality. During this time, I have left a full-time job twice to manage and grow our organization and impact on the ground, never receiving a salary. Since our organization’s inception, we have worked with two schools, found individual sponsors for 93 nursery and primary students, enabled the construction of eight classrooms and multiple facilities, purchased land, three school buses, provided HIV tests and thousands of books. Overall, our work has impacted over 2,000 individuals across the Arusha region. This year, we were also able to hire our first part-time coordinator locally in Tanzania. He is responsible for managing our programs and communications between the schools and students we work with, and our US-based team.
In 2012, we were selected by Stay Classy, (a US-based Philanthropy award), as a Regional Finalist for Best New Charity. We also won a $10,000 ad grant from Google and have been recognized through grants from Glenda G Morgan Charitable Foundation and the Florida Fellowship Foundation. Additionally, I am a Starting Bloc Fellow (BOS’12), a fellowship program created to support and enable social entrepreneurship.
What benefits will the award money have for your designated project?
The award money will go towards helping us provide a well for the 250 students at Jue School. We have been working with this school for several years now, and after the construction of their new classrooms, they are now in dire need of water. Around 50 students live at the school campus, and over 250 students attend daily. Meaning there is a need for cooking, cleaning, basic hygiene needs, and of course, to drink. The award money will go towards constructing this necessary well.
What is your long-term vision for this project?
My long-term vision is to enable thousands of impoverished students to reach their full academic potential. I believe access to quality education should not be dependent on where or to whom an individual is born. It is a human right. If the students I help reach their full academic potential, they will have a chance to break through the trap of poverty and hopefully pull others through. I want to make it possible for one generation of students in Tanzania to get into quality primary schools, enable them to attend good secondary schools, and, with extra help, potentially reach college. What happens next will be up to them. I truly believe, however, that the educated generation of children raised by farmers, small-business men and women, and pastoralists will grow up to be leaders, business men and women, politicians, teachers, doctors, and hopefully even social entrepreneurs. We could change the face of Tanzania with one generation. That is what it is all about. It is about creating a tomorrow where the average citizen earns over a dollar a day, is less likely to transmit HIV, more likely to postpone marriage have less children, and is able to help and educate others. Above anything else, my vision is to enable access to the impoverished children to create for themselves a stronger, less corrupt, more efficient Tanzania.