Felicia is the founder and executive director of Brighter Tanzania Foundation. She resides in Madison, Wisconsin with her boyfriend, a neurotic dog, and a klutzy cat.
What do you do for Brighter Tanzania?
That’s sort of a long answer. As the executive director, my main focus is the overall strategy and operation of our programs, ensuring we’re adequately staffed, and seeing that we are achieving our mission. It’s my job to make adjustments to our strategies so we don’t stray from our original plan, or even adjusting the plan to better fit our needs. Because I have such a broad job definition and we’re such a small team, I end up wearing a LOT of hats, and do everything from writing facebook posts to planning events to devising funding strategies.
How did you decide to start BTF? What was the driving force behind your decision?
I knew for quite a while that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector because it’s always been really important to me to help others and make their lives better. When I finished college I looked for non-profit jobs for quite a while, but I didn’t want to take just any job, I wanted to get a job where I would find meaning in my work. Unfortunately, I was under qualified for many of the positions I looked at. Some of my coworkers at the time had encouraged me to start my own organization, but I was against the idea because I knew it was a lot more work than most people realized.
After visiting Tanzania, however, things really changed. Knowing that Grace was so keen on helping her community was probably the biggest factor. And I loved the idea that I could have a job doing exactly what I wanted - something meaningful, something that would help people. After speaking to a couple of friends and family members who were totally behind me, my mind was pretty made up.
What interests you in Tanzania?
I think the better question is, what doesn’t interest me in Tanzania? I love everything about it! It started when I was a kid: my favorite animal for many years was the cheetah. I wanted so badly to go on safari so I could see them in person, and the idea just grew on me. As I got older, I became interested in human evolution, and one of the research sites I became most interested in was Olduvai, located in Tanzania. I figured if I wanted to make a career working in Olduvai, I should probably learn the local language - Swahili. After that, my love for Tanzania spiraled, and I became interested in not only the language, but the culture, the history, the food, and most importantly, the people themselves. Tanzania’s recent history is sad because it's very much a history of colonialism, but the upside is that so many cultures and traditions have been woven into the more traditional Tanzanian lifestyle. Today there is such a rich diversity of colorful cultures all over Tanzania; it’s just so interesting to experience it.
So you speak Swahili?
Kidogo tu. Which means, just a little. I took 3 semesters of Swahili in college, but I’m not very good at it! When I was teaching at Arusha Integrated School I spoke Swahili to a few of the students who I thought were not understanding the lesson because it was in English. They told all of their classmates, and the next class period, I was bombarded with “Speak Swahili!” In an attempt to satisfy them, I tried to tell them “I speak just a little Swahili, but poorly.” Instead, I managed to say, “I am talk Swahili very little, but bad.” Needless to say, this resulted in a lot of laughs from the students, and I mostly stuck with English for the rest of my stay.
What BTF project are you the most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of the Sponsorship Program. When we started planning it, I don’t think anyone realized just how big a project it was going to be, or that it would evolve so much as we developed it. I’m super happy with what we’ve ended up with, and I know there’s still room to improve it, so I’m really looking forward to that.
What is the most difficult or challenging part of your job?
Remaining focused! I’ve always got so many things going on at once, I have a tendency to jump from project to project. Everything is so interconnected that working on one thing makes me start thinking about something related, and eventually it’s like, “How did I end up working on writing this brochure? I was supposed to be researching grants!”
Where do you see the organization headed in the next five years?
We have a lot of goals for this organization, and we plan to implement quite a few programs to get there. I think in five years Saving Grace should be serving all primary grades, and our real-world learning program should be underway. We will then be providing for approximately 100 to 125 students, and we will likely be employing at least 5 Tanzanian teachers to achieve this.
We’re also currently working on developing a program for educating American youth on Tanzania and the problems of poverty and inadequate education. Through this program we hope to create partnerships with different schools. Some of our other programs currently in the works include parent assistance, continuing education grants for teachers, college scholarships for BTF-run school graduates, and a community education program to help adults develop basic skills for acquiring better jobs.
Although I don’t think all of these programs will be implemented within the next 5 years, we will do our best to lay the groundwork for all of these projects and more. We’ll just keep moving forward until we reach our goals.
What is the most rewarding part of working for BTF?
By far, the success stories I get from Grace. I love hearing about kids who come to our school and turn things around - grades, behavior, whatever. It lets me know that we’re succeeding in helping these kids, and I’m confident that they will go on to make something of themselves.
Union Day celebrates the formation of the United Republic of Tanzania by the two independent states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in April of 1964, spurred by the Zanzibar revolution in January of the same year. This was "the first political union between independent countries ever to take place on the African continent in the post-colonial era" and remains an influential political relation even today, sparking conversation and debate in Tanzania and throughout the rest of the world.
One note of contention among Tanzanians today is the reason behind why these two countries united. Julius Nyerere, the leader of Tanganyika, and Abeid Karume, the leader of Zanzibar after its revolution, were behind the decision to unite their independent countries. However, the motivation behind each is still unclear. According to some stories, after the Zanzibar revolution Nyerere casually mentioned the union to Karume, who immediately agreed. Others are convinced that Nyerere proposed the union after being prompted by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who did not want Zanzibar to become controlled by communists. A third suggestion is that Nyerere's interests happened to coincide with the United States and Britain's interests in East Africa, which led both to work toward the same goal. Whatever the true reason, Nyerere's work at uniting Tanganyika and Zanzibar has lasted beyond his death. In his obituary titled The legacy of a great African, Gamal Nkrumah writes: "It was to Nyerere’s credit that he managed to unite this most ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse of nation-states and make it one of Africa’s most politically stable countries".
Union Day is celebrated in Tanzania in a variety of ways. According to Mwalimu Grace, “People celebrate by showing different culture and swahili ngoma. The president must be there.” Ngoma in Swahili translates to both “drum” and “dance;” each is used in a variety of ways in Union Day celebrations. Grace notes that “they use different drums for tradition and for enjoyment.” In Dar es Salaam, the capital city, Union Day is celebrated with speeches and a parade, and “dignitaries from nearby countries join Tanzanian government officials in these festivities” . Some celebrations include military demonstrations in addition to dancing and other traditional presentations.
Children performing at the 49th Union Day celebrations .
This year’s Union Day festivities have been cancelled by president Magafuli, who has ordered that the money be used instead to expand a stretch of road from the city of Mwanza to the Mwanza airport, which should help alleviate traffic jams in the area. As part of his focus on efficiency and money-saving measures, this is the third national celebration Magafuli has canceled in order to cut “unnecessary government spending” and allocate this money to infrastructure improvement projects [5, 6].
Tanzanians are getting behind Magafuli’s leadership style, and so are we. His anti-corruption stance, his money-saving goals, and the pay cuts he’s implemented since taking office will help the Tanzanian economy and equalize income disparity.
Happy Union Day, Tanzania!
 Godfrey Mwakikagile, The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?
 Gamal Nkrumah, The legacy of a great African
 Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition.
 Shawn Mubiru, “Kids steal show at 49th Union Day celebrations”
 Daily Nation. “Magufuli cancels Union Day celebrations to ‘save money for road project’”
 Mail & Guardian Africa. “Magufuli strikes again - cancels celebrations marking Tanzania's key Union Day to 'save money for road project'”
Wondering what’s so great about Tanzania? Here are 10 reasons you should consider a trip to the nation of freedom and unity:
The Tanzanian people are some of the most hospitable people you will ever meet - and I don't just mean those working in the hospitality sector. Nearly everyone you encounter will welcome you with open arms, making sure to ask if you're thirsty or tired, or just offer you a bite to eat. Often after just one interaction, Tanzanians will act like you’re old friends when they see you in town, and in many instances go out of their way to help you. While this hospitality is sometimes extended in the hope of receiving some cash, most Tanzanians are genuinely generous people just trying to give you a hand.
Not only is traditional east African food delicious, but it has been heavily influenced by Indian and middle eastern cuisine, resulting in wondrous variety. Depending on where you are in the country, these influences may be more or less prevalent; for example, on areas along the coast, spicy foods are a favorite, and further inland more traditional African staples like ugali, a type of porridge, become more common. Be sure to sample favorites like chapati, coconut rice, kachumbari, and mandazi, and don’t forget to have a cup of chai!
Tanzania is home to some of the best safari country in the world, the Serengeti. Tourists flock to Tanzania between July and October to catch a glimpse of wild elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, and of course the wildebeest migration. Nothing compares to seeing a large predators up close and personal. If you happen to safari off peak, it's still a wonderful way to enjoy the fantastic scenery of east Africa.
The city of Stone Town, Zanzibar, is overflowing with beautiful architectural wonders. Here, Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences meld together with more traditional African architectural styles. With such gorgeous doors, arches, and spires, it's hard to walk through the city without stopping to admire the buildings.
Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most climbable mountains. As many as 35,000 people flock to Tanzania each year to experience this amazing trek. An average climb takes about a week, depending on your physical ability. The summit is known as Uhuru Peak, and offers some amazing views, especially when you get to watch the sun rise. If you don't have time for a full climb, you can always go on a one day base-hike and experience all of the lush flora surrounding the mountain.
So often vacations get bogged down by sight seeing and itineraries you forget to relax, so caught up in getting everywhere on time. Not so in Tanzania. Generally speaking, most locals operate on “Africa time,” preferring to take their time getting from place to place. This comes from the tradition to greeting and making small talk with neighbors and acquaintances you encounter in your travels throughout the day; to skimp on the small talk is considered extremely rude. While it can be frustrating at first, Westerners quickly adapt and often enjoy operating on Africa time - you might even bring it back with you!
Anyone who drinks beer should try Tusker at least once. Tusker beer is available at pretty much any corner store or bar you visit in Tanzania, and EVERYONE drinks it. Although it does come from Kenya, you can’t ignore its ubiquitous presence.
Tanzania has a huge variety of ethnic groups, and as such, numerous cultural traditions. One of the best known groups in Tanzania is the Maasai, a nomadic herding people. In many areas of northern Tanzania, you can visit the Maasai people and learn about their heritage, partaking in such traditions as branding or the adumu jumping ritual.
Tanzania knows how to party! Whether you’re in Arusha or Dar, you can find a trendy club (or two or three!) to hit up at night. You’ll dance to Bongo Flava, east Africa’s own derivative of American hip hop music.
Swahili... and many other beautiful languages
While most of us grew up learning French or Spanish as a second language in school, I think it's time to recognize the beauty of east African languages. Swahili is the most widely spoken Bantu language, as well as the national language of Tanzania, although over 120 separate languages are spoken within the country. Because of the trading history of Tanzania, the Swahili language is peppered with loan words, many of them Arabic in origin. In fact, until quite recently, written Swahili utilized the Arabic alphabet. Not only is Swahili a beautiful language to listen to, it's also a fun language to learn!
Last week it was announced that newly elected President John Magufuli will be abolishing secondary school fees in Tanzania, effective January 2016. This move has resulted in a lot of controversy, namely resistance from school administrators who fear they will not be able to run their schools adequately without tuition from students. However, the vast majority are pleased with the president's decision, as it means greater educational opportunity for millions of children. We fall into the latter group; compulsory secondary education without school fees enables more children to attend secondary school, increasing their knowledge as well as their opportunities in life. Eliminating fees increases the chances that underserved groups will be able to enroll and attend school beyond the primary level, which currently only 25% of the school aged population is able to do.
Although tuition for secondary school enrollment has been abolished, this does not eliminate expenses associated with attending school such as books, uniforms and school supplies. So, while this is a huge step forward for the Tanzanian education system, there are still thousands of impoverished students. An increase in secondary school enrollment also begs the question - how will this be funded? Without increased funding available, schools will either have to increase the number of teachers or make do with a higher student-to-teacher ratio. Eliminating fees for secondary school is a step forward for Tanzania, but change can’t stop there.
A positive effect of this presidential action is the potential to not only increase the educated populace but the percentage of English speakers as well. Currently, Kiswahili is the language of instruction, with an English class being taught at some, though not all, schools. Higher enrollment in secondary school means a higher percentage of the population learning English. In the western world, speaking English is something we take for granted. For individuals in the developing world, proficiency in English can mean the difference between poverty and prosperity. Education and professional opportunities available to bilingual English speakers are remarkably higher than for monolingual Kiswahili speakers. Not only could obtaining an English speaking job bring someone out of poverty, it has the potential to bring Tanzania as a whole out of poverty. The current education system creates only a small amount of educated, truly qualified professionals. At independence, there were just a handful of doctors and engineers left in the country. While there are more degree holding individuals in TZ today, the "brain drain" is still a detrimental phenomenon - educated individuals are emigrating away from their homelands in search of more prosperous opportunities. Needless to say, the infrastructure has severely suffered due to this.
With summer halfway over, we thought we’d take a minute to update all of our followers on our fundraising progress.
To date, we’ve raised over $700 towards building the library. This means we are over 70% funded!
The library is going to be a great resource for Saving Grace students. At present, the students lack any reading materials, so they don’t get practice outside of class time. With the installation of the library, students will be able to bring home books to practice their reading and comprehension skills outside of the classroom. Access to books also means access to new ideas and a great way to engage their imaginations.
We recently launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds in order to install a water tank. As of today, we’ve raised $120, which is 24% of our goal reached.
The water tank is extremely important. In order for Saving Grace to register as a boarding school, certain qualifications must be met, including access to safe, clean water. By installing a water tank, we are ensuring this access, as well as the success of the school. Clean water not only means the ability to board students–it is a necessary component for personal hygiene, cooking, and drinking.
While this is a great start, we are still far from raising the $30,000 we originally intended to raise this summer. We are presently working on some great fundraising events for the fall. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!
Recently, the first dorm room at Saving Grace was completed. This was a huge accomplishment, as it brings us one step closer to boarding students in need, particularly orphaned children.
However, in order to begin boarding, the school needs to be registered as a boarding school. Registration requires the school to meet certain requirements, such as having beds, proper dishes and other utensils, proper cooking equipment, and finally, a safe, reliable water source.
To date, we have fulfilled all but one of the requirements–a water source. Therefore, we have launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise the necessary funds for a water tank.
Learn more on our IndieGoGo campaign page.
Water tanks like the one that will be installed at Saving Grace.
Over the last few months, the staff at Brighter Tanzania Foundation have been working diligently to raise the funds necessary to finish the first dorm room at Saving Grace Boarding School. Two weeks ago, that goal was finally achieved.
Last week, Grace was able to purchase the mattresses, bedding, carpet, and draperies needed to finish the dorm room. It is now ready for students to begin moving in. However, before this can happen, Saving Grace needs to be registered as a boarding school. Luckily, this is a fairly easy process in Tanzania, and requires little more than proving to officials that the school has obtained and will provide the appropriate materials to adequately care for its boarding students.
When boarding begins, four students will share the dorm room with Grace and her two children. While that may sound cramped, this arrangement is in the students best interests. By having their teacher nearby at all times, Saving Grace students will always have a mentor at hand, to provide guidance and activities to help develop their potential. Moreover, by emulating the home environment most of our students are used to, we can provide a space where students feel safe, loved, and appreciated.
Take a look at the photos of the completed dorm room!
Today is the official start of our biggest fundraising campaign to date. Over the next two months, we’ll be sharing lots of updates on our progress.
So far, we’ve contacted about 50 corporate sponsors. In the coming weeks we will be canvassing in and around our corporate headquarters in Middleton, Wisconsin. As our funds grow, we will let you know exactly what they will pay for.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of things you can do to help us out and spread the word:
– Are you following us on social media? We have a Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter,Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn and an Etsy shop too!
– Tell your friends about us! Word of mouth really does help.
– If you’re in the Madison area, we have regular fundraising events! Contact us if you’re interested, and we can let you know when the next one is.
– Donate – even a few dollars helps!
– Stay in touch. We’re setting up an email list, so if you want to keep updated on our progress, you can sign up for the email list here.
– Give us your feedback! We’re a budding organization – and we always want to know how we’re doing. Questions and Suggestions are always welcome – drop us a line!
– Volunteer! You can do this from anywhere in the world.
– Choose us as your nonprofit of choice on Amazon Smile. For anything eligible that you order, Amazon will donate a portion of the sale to us.
Whether you help a little or a lot, everything is appreciated.
Contributed by Jane Leuchter, Research and Compliance Director
WOW! On behalf of everyone at Brighter Tanzania, I want to thank every single one of you that helped out at the Book Fair. The sales in our honor totaled $886.80!
Thanks to your generosity, there have been a lot of changes and improvements in the school recently, including hooking up the electricity, obtaining bunk beds, and having more students enrolled than ever before. We are in the process of raising enough funds to create a library, dining room, and another classroom.
All of your help has done tremendous things for these students! Keep an eye out to see what else we will have in store for you all!
Contributed by Nicole Owen, Development Director
Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.
Phone: (608) 886-9160
8383 Greenway Blvd PMB 633
Middleton, WI 53562