Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's in a sign?

IDENTITY. For the families, teenagers and teachers at Kilimahewa, this is no longer the school that no one knows exists. Although you can still pass it quickly on the main road, you now will know it is there - the Kilimahewa Educational Center - because we have a sign! Our logo is the sunflower - a symbol of light, growth and nourishment, because sunflower oil has many important uses throughout this region. This sign gives a name, and pride, to the place where teenagers come each day to learn and discover a path with a future.

Better than oil!


Can you really put yourself in their feet and think of living without water at the turn of a knob? No flush toilets, no showers or baths, no way to quench thirst and no liquid for cooking. What you would get, however, is exercise, because to fill your bucket you would walk sometimes more than a mile to the nearest stream. For some, there may be a public spigot in walking distance - but this water costs money that the poorest of poor do not have.

In these exciting days for Kilimahewa, the Maji Drilling company showed up late last week - amid all of the building repair work - and began to drill the bore hole in search of water. Although it is not an educational project, EdPowerment committed to this endeavor early on because water is essential to uplift the poor in this community. It will facilitate healthier lives and a better food supply for our students and their families. In turn, this will allow for greater financial support for the school. In addition, without a better water supply, it is impossible for us to provide decent toilet/sanitation facilities and develop an on-site lunch program in which women can prepare the local makande dish of maize and beans for the students.

Drilling itself, however, is no guarantee of water. And so today, when we in the States got the email - we have water - it was time to celebrate. Mama Grace was so upset that she did not have her camera to capture the event - the children and teachers ran out of the classroom, community members gathered, and her cell phone began to ring from places near and far: all this in a community of limited communication. Mama Grace said they called it a "river" and it truly will be a river of life for these people.

Huge challenges remain - further drilling is necessary, the water must be tested, the proper pump determined and then a security system put in place, in addition to system for allowing access to the water - but with some kind of contribution from the community. But for now, the possibilities are endless.

Sweat equity

Our "fundi" (contractor) from the Karanga Vocational School began a "makeover" of the Kilimahewa school about two weeks ago. Although the "kids" hated to be out of school - this is Tanzania where school is a blessing - Mama Grace divided them into teams to help clean up, fix and improve their school. I am going to share a few pictures with you to see this process. Don't really have the before/after shots yet, and we are still waiting on a few things such as the new desks and blackboards (in this regard, TZ is just like our contractors here - all done except for.....) but already the atmosphere is clean and more fitting for a place of learning. The students are joyful and the best piece of news is that a new teacher who has a good command of English and readily connects with the "kids," has joined our community.

We think that this formula - students who want to learn, teachers qualified to teach, an atmosphere conducive to both, and support from those with resources - will make Kilimahewa a model - albeit a small scale model - of effective education in Tanzania's poor communities.