© 2015 Kilimanjaro Children's Fund. All rights reserved.
OUR PRESCHOOLS - 13 NOVEMBER 2017
After a long year of working to regain my health, Shannon and I have both returned to formally working as a doctor and a nurse at a clinic in Haines, Alaska. This is a great community and I have many wonderful memories from the years that I lived here. When I left to live in Tanzania in 2009, this is the community where friends and acquaintances worked to form the non profit organization that continues to fund the work that we do in Africa. This has not been an easy year for Shannon who has traveled back and forth many times to Kenya, Uganda andTanzania to be sure our projects are moving forward and that the children we are still caring for are doing well in their various schools and training programs. My medical condition and immune suppression have ''grounded'' me in America during this time. My health is far from 100%, but I am doing well enough that my doctor will consider allowing me to visit Africa in January if I stay healthy and my current medicine regimen can be pared down. I am most hopeful that this will happen since I do miss the children terribly.
Many people who support our work do not know that besides the children we care for and the medical work we do, we also have a number of preschools that we directly support either by ourselves or in collaboration with other organizations. Originally it was a preschool that tempted me to make the move to Africa since my initial work was with a preschool organization. That was the Kilimanjaro Children Foundation whose board of directors is based in Chicago. We are no longer directly involved with them, but applaud the good work they have done over the years.
Presently we are directly involved with five preschools in and around Moshi, Tanzania. One of them has a direct link to the Kilimanjaro Children Foundation as the principal from there opened her own small school when she left their organization. By accident Neema opened her school, Grace Foundation, just next to a house we rent in Majengo where a number of our children live who are in local schools. And keeping things in the ''family'' Neema hired Claudia as her assistant teacher at the school. We worked with Claudia for many years when we were involved with the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre as she was a teacher and care giver there. Presently we are helping Neema by covering rent, salaries and needed supplies for the children.
We have also been involved for years with a larger preschool name Vision Trust and this is managed by a man named Deo. We partner with an organization in New Zealand, The Empowerment Project, and have provided Deo with help to pay rent and ongoing expenses for the school. His school is larger and has 60+ children at any one time and is located in an area of Majengo in Moshi - about a half mile from the house we rent. Deo has managed this preschool as a ''labor of love'' and works as a teacher elsewhere to obtain the money he has needed to keep the place running. Like the Kilimanjaro Children Foundation and Neema's preschool, his clientel are from one of the poorest regions of Moshi so this school gives the children from here at least a chance to make it to and then to succeed in the public schools.
The preschool we have supported the longest is in Njoro, another poor area in Moshi. It's name is Future Hope and its founder's name is a woman called Teacher Happy. An American volunteer, Debbie Pilson, worked with us years ago at this site that she continued to help there for a few years after her return to America. Presently our non profit pays their rent, part of the teacher's salaries and the food budget for the 30+ children who attend. Teacher Happy has graduated many classes of students who have gone on to excell in the public school system.
The newest school we are connected to is operated by an organization named Daraja. This school was once part of Komboa, a street organization that we supported. Komboa had some financial difficulties this year, but the preschool was ''rescued'' from closure by a volunteer from China named Penny Guo. With generous support from The Empowerment Project from New Zealand this preschool has moved to a new location and is doing very well.
Besides these preschools we have also worked with and offered direct support to another small preschool in Pasua, which is another area of Moshi. The founder, Moses, named the place Mzungu Trevi, after having some help from a man of this name in starting the place. Moses did not initially intend to ''really'' open a preschool. He thought that it would look good on his resume when he tries to sell his art work to tourists in town. Eventually the school got ''under his skin'' and he found himself intensely committed and dedicated to helping the kids from his neighborhood get a head start on their needs to enter public school. We have partnered with him on a number of projects including providing supplies and needed construction at his school. Moses also runs ''sports camps'' for the poorer children in town and we have done these camps with him in the past. The largest camp we did together several year ago involved the entire soccer community of Moshi. Treasures of Africa Orphanage hosted this week long jamboree on their property and it was a great success.
Preschools are important in Tanzania since children are expected to have some basic reading and math skills before they even enter first grade. If these skills are lacking, they have little chance of ''catching up'' since the teachers are overworked and underpaid as in many other places in the world. So when students start behind - they stay behind. Imagine a school system that does not allow a large percentage of children to even enter high school! And then those that do make it to high school face incredible odds in a system that allows less than 10% of all students to go on to higher education. Because of this we have always thought that one of the best ways to give the children in the poorer areas a head start so that they at least begin their academic careers with a competitive base is by supporting preschools.