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.