Friday, September 6, 2013


Zawadi in Kiswahili translates to gifts, and this morning I woke up to learn that the students of Mtanga Secondary School finally received our zawadi! Better than coffee or any old alarm clock, this email from the former District Director jolted me awake, or alive I should say. He specifically recounted in his email the system they created for distributing the school supplies to the students. I am relived, hopeful, and ecstatic at the effort the administrators made in order to be fair with the students.

With this email, I uncovered some disheartening news as well. Of the 70 students I said goodbye to in mid-March, only 46 still remain in Form One. I understand in Tanzanian culture, school costs money, time, effort. Many students walk miles every day when they could be working and helping their family financially. Despite recognizing these cultural struggles, I still have a hard time fathoming the lack of encouragement in these students. I sincerely hope that these supplies encourage the 46 other students to return for their first day of Form Two come January, as the end of the school year is soon approaching.

A brief timeline of 6 September 2013 at Mtanga Secondary School:

The boxes arrived at Mtanga via Mr. Colins Kajisi, the former District Director. As you can see, the condition of these packages was one of the biggest factors I worried about through this project.

The students and administration were gathered and debriefed on the supplies, their origin, their purpose. 

The school supplies were arranged on desks and numbered. 

In lottery fashion, each student then picked a covered number and selected the supplies that matched his/her number.

Bibia with her new folder and backpack!

Despite my effort to ship equal amounts of "boy" and "girl" supplies, I was reminded that it matters very little to this culture. A gift is a gift, as it should be. 

During the duration of collecting the school supplies, raising the money, shipping the supplies, I feel as though I mostly focused on the needs of these students. In my own mind, my entire focus was centered on their life that lacked so much. However, these pictures remind me of some of my own earlier revelations, despite what these children lack, they make up for in their exuberant personalities. Thank you, Mtanga, for reminding me why I loved you so much to start this project in the first place. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Off they go!

Early this afternoon, a three month project finally came to a close. Well, a year long project, if we start back at the very beginning. Either way, I was gifted with a concluding sense of success this early afternoon when I finally shipped over 100 pounds of school supplies to Mtanga Secondary School in Tanzania! 

Why the long wait? After I raised the money I needed during my July 21st fundraiser, I contacted my friends in Tanzania. Unfortunately, many Tanzanian systems are still in need of major developments, the postal service being one. The field director was very persistent in trying to open a PO Box for the organization, however the Post Office was out of registration forms, which are needed to open the box. It took a few weeks for the forms to come in, but alas, they did! My friend sent me her address right away, and finally I made it to my own local Post Office with three large boxes. 

Even as my project was down to its final minutes standing in the post office, I happened to strike up conversation with a wonderful woman waiting to meet with the postmaster. She was so intrigued with my cause she asked to take my picture and send it to the newspaper. This small, yet substantial run-in is just another reminder that these types of experiences never come to a close. There is ample opportunity in this world to inspire others through goodwill and determination. 

As I've mentioned a few times already, my Educakes fundraiser was an even bigger success than I had planned! Many people were curious as to what I would do with the extra money. Well, after so much stress, a spa day was really feeling deserved...... just kidding! I headed over to Five Below's Back-to-School sale and purchased 30 backpacks! Of course, I received a few expected crazy stares and a joke about needing a different bag for everyday of the month, however, I walked out of Five Below feeling excited for 30 Tanzanian students. 

My Tanzanian adventure will never fully come to a close, but I do feel as though this chapter is at a rest, which is why I've started researching for the next part of my life story. A new adventure is slightly in the works, and I'll post more later when details become concrete :) 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sweet Success!

So, today was the big day. After starting my morning with a two hour Praxis exam, I had to quickly transition into my role as teacher/baker/fundraiser chairperson for my anticipated Educakes sale. Despite my nerves, I have to say, the day couldn't have been a greater success. The thunderstorm predictions proved false, and with the beautiful weather brought many beautiful hearts that helped support my cause throughout the afternoon. During our five hour sale, we sold about 150 cupcakes and raised enough money to ship the school supplies to my students in Tanzania!

Not only do I hope these school supplies help the students' educations, but I also hope it shows them that even though we are continents apart, they are still very much apart of who I am.

As for the next Educakes sale, as was asked by many today, I think we definitely need to give it a few months! However, I'm definitely open to suggestions as to what we can raise some more money for!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Educake yourself!

The flyer is finished and word will hopefully start to spread throughout the area! I have already received so many generous donations, not just monetary, but in cupcakes as well! If you believe your time and money would be better spent by donating a treat for us to sell on the big day, please feel free to contact me at 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Wow, I can't believe it has been almost four months since I've been home in the states! As is too often true, time has slipped away so easily. However, the chaos of every day life has not imposed on my thoughts and memories of my time in Tanzania.

As I mentioned to so many of my friends and family, I never expected to be so "Tanzania sick" when I returned home. For the past few months, I have struggled with feeling a lack of closure on the experience. Like, its unfair of me to hop on a plane and leave this culture, these wonderful people behind. So instead I have decided to take on a project, the next phase in this cultural experience.

I headed back to my big-hearted seventh graders who wrote letters to my Mtanga Secondary School students back before the bulk of this journey began. I recruited them to help, and they more than willingly obliged. As a collective, during one of the last days of school, we spent some time cleaning out yucky lockers. Students sorted through crumpled papers, moldy snacks, long lost winter scarfs, and best of all, gently used school supplies. Any supplies deemed valuable yet unwanted, students donated to large brown boxes. I took these boxes home, filtered out any un-useable item, and neatly packed the rest into two large boxes. All together, thanks to my generous soon-to-be-eighth graders, we collected over fifty gently used binders, 15 folders, 8 notebooks, bags full of pens and pencils, various sticky notes, and a large pile of loose leaf paper, all of which will be sent to my students at Mtanga Secondary School. While I did have to toss out some of the donations (I don't think Mtanga students need the wool caps), I love that my students acknowledge that there are others that need these things more than they do.

Unfortunately, as I went to research my shipping options, I came across a semi costly hurdle. I understand that overseas shipping is pricey, but I wasn't quite expecting $900.

At about this time, I started wishing that I had found closure after my trip, saving myself from this oncoming headache. That lasted a few deep breaths and one reminder that I am doing good in the world, specifically for people I have come to love. Instead of giving up, I went back to the drawing board and redrafted a new plan, this time for fundraising our project.

Educakes, delicious cupcakes for education, also known as my new project, will be sold to earn money to ship our school supplies to Tanzania. As of right now, I will be selling these treats on July 20th in New Hope, PA. Over the next couple weeks, I will be posting updated information about the Educakes plan, hoping many of my followers and supporters will make it out for this little event. Please stay posted and contact me if you have any questions!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Full Circle

This post is a little later than I would have liked, but an essential one. Back in December, I had my students from Pennsylvania write to my future Tanzanian students. At that point, I was still blind as to what my timeline in Tanzania would be like. I had no idea whether I would even be able to deliver the letters let alone get a response from my Tanzanian students. However, I was ecstatic to find the time at the end of our program to have the students complete the task. Two months ago, I blogged about my Tanzanian students excitement about writing to American students.

Well, last week I was finally able to bring the lesson full circle. I delivered the American students their letters, making them equally as excited as the Tanzanian students were. Kids dwelled over their letters, reading them multiple times over. I've also noticed the letters and hand drawn pictures decorating the front of their binders and notebooks. Again, this lesson reminds me of the similarities between all children across the globe. I am blessed that I was able to give students in both America and Tanzania the tools and ability to reach out across the world and make a new friend.

While visiting my past students, I was able to share something else with them as well. When leaving them in December, they gifted me with a farewell video. In return, I created them a video about my time in Tanzania. Now that they have seen it, I'm happy to share it with everyone!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kwaheri Tanzania

For about nine weeks I've waited for this day to come. In about twelve hours I will leave Tanzania behind as my plane departs the Dar airport. I am so excited to be heading back to America and reuniting with my family and friends. However, I'm also surprised about how hard it is to say goodbye to so many amazing people.

Last night, our Kilwa roommates met us in Dar for one last dinner together. The few days apart already felt like too many. For the first time I realized we were no longer 4 strangers from around the world. Over the past couple months we've created a family dynamic, helping each other when needed and laughing together daily. The boys constantly killed bugs and hunted for mice, while us girls kept the house tidy and nagged them to help. The little moments that drove me crazy are in the end the moments that defined us as roommates and friends. Last night after dinner, we faced the dreaded goodbyes. There was an awkward minute of not knowing how to start the inevitable, then the first of the hugs, and with them, the first of the tears. It took about fifteen minutes and a few rounds of hugs and tears for the boys to leave us in the lobby. I truly hope the four of us have a chance to be together again someday, but I am also thankful for modern technology that will give our long distant friendship a chance.

The boys also brought some inspirational news on their visit. After our stay at Sultan's, they went back to our Kilwa house for a night. As their bajaj pulled up to the house, they said kids came running yelling, "Jamie and Morgan are back!" I feel so sorry for their disappointment, because I know I wish we could have one more play date, also. However, I'm so glad to hear they really prize our short time together. Said also said he heard them doing the hokey pokey in our yard, which really touches my heart. I know it's only been nine days, but hearing these stories gives me hope that the village kids will hold onto our memories for a long time. I know I will.

And one final note for anyone that has ever donated clothes to the Goodwill, or any similar organization. Please keep donating! In Africa, you see the benefits of such donations. Most clothes are either second hand or personally made at the tailor. Countries like Tanzania aren't developed enough yet to mass produce clothing for their citizens. Many depend on the clothes we are giving away. One t-shirt we saw on a man was for a Caribbean wedding last summer, so donated clothes can actually travel here fairly quick! Today, as we packed up our hotel room, we gave the maid some clothes and sandals that we no longer wanted to hang on to. She jumped and shouted her appreciation, even started hugging us. The quality of life here is lower, but doesn't need to be ignored by those of us more fortunate.

Well, see you tomorrow, America!!!