Brighter Tanzania Foundation

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  • Wednesday, October 19, 2016 7:14 PM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    It’s the final countdown!

    In only 21 days I depart for Tanzania once more.

    The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic preparing for this trip. Even though my airfare was purchased months ago, there is still a lot of planning to do! I recently purchased a train ticket to get to my departure city, round trip bus fare to get to and from Nairobi, and bus fare to return from the airport when I arrive back in the US. I’ve still got to arrange transportation between the train station and the airport, from downtown Arusha to the school, from the school to the hotel pickup in Arusha, and from the bus drop off to get home!

    With so much travel planning still happening, I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to laying out a plan of action for Grace and I to get to work when I arrive. As discussed in my previous post, there are a lot of projects I intend to work on during the course of my stay at the school. Once I’ve laid out a schedule for working on everything I can be sure that my trip will really be worthwhile.

    One incidental plan I hoped to accomplish while visiting was helping Grace get the library completed. However, our crowdfunding campaign to invest in the library isn’t attracting as much attention as we had hoped. Given the small amount of funds raised to date, Grace and I may focus our energies on purchasing books for the forthcoming library, as we have decided that we will use any funds collected from this campaign to do at least that. Although we won’t have a permanent place to keep these books, the students will still benefit from the addition of reading material to their school.

    As I count down the days to my departure, there a few things I will be focusing on:

    • Gathering the necessary supplies to bring with - things that can’t be purchased in Tanzania or already play an important role in my regular management of the organization or the school.
    • Creating action plans for each day I am working in the school, including lists of items to purchase for organizational purposes. In addition, I will be in contact with Grace to get input on what she believes are the most important projects for my visit.
    • Reviewing Swahili phrases and important vocabulary - the students at Saving Grace have a limited English vocabulary, so it will be necessary to converse with them in Kiswahili much of the time.
    • Preparing the BTF staff for my absence. Unfortunately, I will have limited internet access during my stay, and cannot be in touch with US-based staff as often as I normally would.

    This trip should result in a lot of changes for the better, and help us take the next step forward in our development plan. Hopefully, more trips like this can be planned for the future to better integrate the management of the organization with the daily realities of the school.

  • Monday, October 17, 2016 6:57 AM | Emma Hill

    The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was established by The United Nations’ (UN) International on October 17 1993. It has been observed each year since. It raises awareness of the need to eradicate poverty especially in developing countries. [6]

    Poverty is expensive.

    Poverty (defined as inadequate income, nutrition, and basic resources) deprives individuals of their potential in 5 ways: [1,2,3, 4]

    • Impoverished children lack the nutrients they need to grow into physically and mentally healthy adults.
    • Impoverished children lack the social supports and education needed to maximize their potential.
    • These children often lack physical or social access to jobs that pay living wages, assuming they had the required education.
    • Poverty limits access to medical resources.
    • Children who grow up with the stress of poverty have been shown to suffer long term health problems and reduced cognitive development. Adults, likewise, suffer from the chronic stress of poverty, leading to an increase in serious health problems and emotional disorders like depression.

    Parents and families who are below the poverty line often lack the tools and resources they need to provide for and protect their families. When people don’t have enough to provide for themselves, they don’t often have enough to share. Severe poverty makes it very difficult for communities to develop economic resiliency, and inhibits the growth of local social and economic networks. Finally, severe poverty deprives nations of the income potential of millions of people, and the waste of this human capital contributes to global food shortages. [1,2,3, 4]

    Poverty poses very broad problems, so various global and national NGOs, like UNESCO and other major organizations, have decided to focus on 17 sustainable development goals. As you can see here, theses are broad, far-reaching goals.


    Eradicating poverty is a huge challenge. Brighter Tanzania Foundation focuses on alleviating poverty through education and investing in the local economy in Arusha, Tanzania. All our school’s supplies, maintenance, and labor needs are met by local businesses. Donations to BTF go directly to Saving Grace Day and Boarding School, and from there, out to the rest of the community. That money spreads when businesses pay bills and pay employees. 

    Local farmers bringing their goods to market. 

    Brighter Tanzania also offers education intended to build the foundation for academic, emotional, and economic success. The academic portion is a standard primary education- literacy, numeracy, and creative expression. Saving Grace also incorporates what we call the “Real World Learning” program. This program teaches “soft-skills” like empathy, work-ethic, integrity, as well as basic trade skills like sewing, cooking, etc. This dynamic combination of traditional academics and our “Real World Learning” ensures our students have the skills to succeed in secondary school, or contribute to their family’s income by aiding the family business, or finding gainful employment. We encourage all our students to advance their studies, as every year of education has significant impacts on income and access to healthcare, quality food, and better jobs. [5] However, we must be realistic. Some of our students may be required to contribute to the family’s income. We strive to develop well-rounded youth capable of meeting and overcoming life’s challenges.







  • Tuesday, October 11, 2016 7:25 AM | Emma Hill

    It’s the Day of the Girl today. 

    Started in 2011 by Plan International and the United Nations. The day is also known as International Day of the Girl and International Day of the Girl Child. [1] [2]


    This day highlights the importance of girls in the world. Girls’ health, education, and access to rights, and ability to advocate for rights denied in developing countries has a complex and long-term effect on the quality of life in countries striving to develop. When girls’ overall social and physical well-being are ignored, when child marriages are common, developing communities have higher rates of domestic violence, maternal mortality, infant mortality, child undernourishment, and lower rates of primary school participation and completion. [1] [2]

    Each year, The Day of the Girl has a theme to focus global development efforts. In the past, themes have revolved around ending child marriage, and the importance of education. This year the theme is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. Data gathering is the theme this year because meaningful data on the challenges of women and girls in the world is vital for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. [1] [2]

    Improving the lot of girls in a community has the potential to break the cycle of poverty. Education is a key tool in forcing the betterment of girls. Child marriage (under 18, often under 15) is a common problem in developing areas, partially due to cultural and financial pressures. Child marriage increase the risk for domestic abuse, material mortality, and offspring who don’t become vaccinated or encouraged to complete primary education. Girls who complete primary education and participate in secondary education are significantly less likely to marry under age against their will, and are far more likely to provide adequate nutrition and healthcare to their children, as well as encourage them to complete primary education. [1] [2] [3]

    Thousands of events are held around the world to commemorate women’s achievements and celebrate girls’ potential. These events take on local flavor and significance. Among many others, they include a live stream with First Lady Michelle Obama and Glamour Magazine to promote #letgirlslearn and a UN sponsored concert in India. [1] [2] [3]

    Here's some key data on girls around the world. 

    Image result for day of the girl image

    Image result for day of the girl unesco

    Image result for day of the girl image




  • Wednesday, October 05, 2016 6:00 AM | Emma Hill

    Happy World Teacher’s Day!

    World teacher day is a wonderful day every year when students, parents, policy makers, community members, and teachers can reflect on the importance of teachers.

    World Teachers Day was started by UNESCO in 1994. UNESCO wanted to raise awareness of teachers’ contributions, the importance of pay that recognizes the value of their work and setting high standards for teacher training. They also sought to increase the number of teachers. [3]

    Teachers are a vital component of our society, as they are the cornerstone of any child’s education. It’s been well demonstrated that education can significantly increase a child’s health and earnings throughout life. Educated people can then go out and strengthen their economy and community. It all starts with teachers who believe in the potential of their students. [1]

    grace and queen.jpg

    Here we have a picture of Grace with one of her students, Queen. Grace is a fantastic teacher and BTF is lucky to have her.

    Yet all the anticipated good education could bring won’t manifest if the teacher is poorly trained. There’s a shortage of teachers in developing countries, and one of the tactics used to increase the number of teachers is to reduce the required qualifications. Fortunately there are a number of organizations dedicated to providing teacher training in developing areas, such as Education East Africa ( and Global Partnership for Education (

    Organizations like these make teacher training accessible to communities that otherwise couldn’t afford it. They not only provide high quality, engaging training, but metric-based assessments. Another organization, the Common Wealth of Learning (, is dedicated to equipping teacher training institutions with more and better training materials so they can produce higher quality teachers. Developing countries, and Tanzania in particular, need more teachers to reach educational goals. For example, for Sub Saharan African countries to achieve universal primary education, they’ll need over a million new teachers. If Sub Saharan African countries want to take their education victories to the next level and achieve Universal Secondary Education, they’ll need almost two million new teachers. [2]

    Grace with students.

    Why We Celebrate Grace on World Teacher’s Day

    When Brighter Tanzania was founded, people often asked why Felicia jumped at the opportunity to help Grace start a school – “What if she just takes the money and runs?” “How do you know she’s actually using the money for what she says?” Well, the reason is Grace herself. She is an incredibly dedicated and talented woman.

    Grace grew up extremely poor and had a hard time getting through primary school because her parents couldn’t always pay the fees. Even though they couldn’t always afford it, her parents stressed the importance of education to Grace and her siblings. Her parents taught them that education was the best way to escape poverty. When Grace finally completed her secondary education, she worked as a housekeeper to put herself through college to become a teacher.

    Grace has been teaching since 2008, primarily 1st grade. The students love her and really seem to look forward to coming to school. Even from this great distance, we can see that Grace cares deeply about her students. She’s always sending emails to update us on the kids she’s the most worried about. Sometimes these emails come in the middle of the night because she’s awake thinking about them.

    When Brighter Tanzania opened our first school, Saving Grace Day and Boarding School, back in 2014, deciding on a name was simple. In addition for being the catalyst for this entire project, Grace enrolled all of the students, taught everything, rented the school building, and purchased all of the supplies herself. We wanted to honor Grace and her dedication to education and her community, and she was therefore the namesake for the school. Coincidentally, the school can also be considered a Saving Grace for the students.





  • Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:00 AM | Emma Hill

    World Gratitude Day was started in 1965, at a United Nations Meditation Group gathering in Hawaii. The Group hoped to spread a practice of gratitude to the member nations of the Meditation Group. Soon after, many of these nations adopted gratitude day on the 21st of September. Today, Gratitude Day is truly a worldwide celebration.  

    World Gratitude Day is an international holiday dedicated to taking a small moment to be grateful for the good things and people in your life. Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” helps people identify and cherish sources of well-being and happiness. Without gratitude, it is far too easy to take the blessings of friends, family and resources for granted.

    Today, all of us here at Brighter Tanzania Foundation are celebrating our gratitude for the wonderful people who have donated their time, resources and love to building and maintaining Saving Grace School. We are also grateful for the opportunity to know and work with Grace Lazier, Saving Grace’s teacher, and to be a contributing part of the lives of the children she educates.    

    We’re grateful for the privilege to know such fun and vibrant kids, like Mathayo and Dorcas (left) and Zainabu (right).

    Personally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with Brighter Tanzania because I know educating and supporting children is a very effective long-term strategy to reduce poverty.  Children empowered with education - literacy, math, history, science - earn far more as adults. They even have a better foundation for identifying local problems and finding creative solutions. It means a lot to me to be a small part of that.

    In the meantime, while the children in Saving Grace learn, the school also benefits the local economy. The school needs supplies, like food, office supplies, clothes, blankets, furniture, cookware, and other things. Many of these things are supplied by local vendors, purchased with donated funds.  When compassionate, generous people donate money, it goes to supporting these amazing kids.


    Great resources:

    Global Poverty and Education

    International Workshop on Education and Poverty Eradication

    World Gratitude Day History

  • Monday, September 12, 2016 6:40 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    My trip to Tanzania is just 58 days away!

    I never thought I would be this excited to travel somewhere I’ve already been before. There are a multitude of reasons for this excitement (namely those I outlined in my first post) but today I wanted to touch on my reason for visiting Tanzania.

    And I know it probably seems fairly obvious. As the Executive Director, I need to make sure I’m keeping up to date on everything happening in the school. But the other reason I’m going is actually to lend Grace a hand.

    Although Grace is a really talented, hard-working woman, she’s only one person. For the last 2+ years she has been operating the school entirely on her own, often for little or no pay. When Nikki and I taught in her class back in 2013, she was so grateful for the burden we lifted from her. I remember one morning when I arrived before her and began taking attendance; the look on her face when she stepped into the classroom and saw that everything was already in order was absolutely priceless. She thanked us for months after we left, and asked again and again when we might come help her with her class again.

    Since leaving Arusha Integrated and beginning her work with us, Grace has had little such help. She does have a friend who is a fellow teacher and has helped out on occasion; unfortunately, this friend can’t help on a regular basis.

    We have considered the use of volunteers to help teach in our school, but each time decided it wasn’t right for us. Namely, the reason for starting the school and this organization was to help people locally, providing jobs with decent salaries; voluntourism, though great for other reasons, isn’t a solution to our problem. A few people have suggested local volunteers instead, and while we are open to this idea, we have yet to find anyone willing to devote so much time and effort to us without compensation. So, until such a time as we can afford a second teacher salary, Grace will likely remain the only teacher in the school.

    In order to aid Grace in the meantime, my visit will be aimed at creating systems of organization for Grace to follow. I intend to devise specific filing protocols, as well as implement a variety of procedures regarding student sponsorship and accounting practices. These protocols will help our US team more easily process any paperwork Grace submits to us, as well as streamline the work.

    The other goal of my visit is to help Grace further develop the curriculum for our Real-World Learning program. This program is still in its infancy, and because we haven’t had a staff member devoted to working through and implementing the program, it has only been partially integrated into the Saving Grace curriculum. We’d like to see a full integration by next year.

    By working on these projects instead of helping Grace teach her classes, I will effectively remain in the background, and not disrupt the regular routine of our students. Additionally, by limiting the number of visitors, the students will not become accustomed to having people come and go from their lives, as is often the problem with volunteer-centered work in a foreign country. It is extremely difficult for children to form a bond with a volunteer, only to have them leave a few weeks later and never return. However, because I intend to have repeat visits, we are not worried about this issue, and I intend to form relationships with all of the students in order to best understand what they need from the school and from the organization.

    Although my stay is only for two weeks, I hope Grace and I can get a lot accomplished to make sure that things continue to run smoothly for her when I leave. Grace is very excited for my visit as well, both for personal and professional reasons, and I really hope we’re able to get down to business!

  • Thursday, September 08, 2016 8:52 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Happy International Literacy Day!

    Today marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. Launched by UNESCO in 1966, International Literacy Day aims to promote literacy worldwide in an effort to empower all people. UNESCO has named the theme for 2016’s Literacy Day to be “Reading the Past, Writing the Future.” This celebration looks back on the past five decades of literacy engagement and progress, addresses current issues, and seeks to find innovative solutions to continue improving literacy rates around the world [1].

    So why literacy? Why not “International Democracy Day” or “International Share the Wealth Day”? Data shows that increased literacy rates are related to increased national growth and wealth, while higher rates of illiteracy are found in countries in severe poverty [2]. Although literacy rates continue to rise, some 775 million people, or one in five adults, are still not literate [3]. African countries are continuing to improve both literacy rates and national growth, but are still behind other countries globally.

    In 2012, Tanzania reported a literacy rate of approximately 85 percent, and the estimate for 2015 has increased to 87 percent [4]. While this is approaching the global average and is above the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, there are still 1.3 million youth in Tanzania who are illiterate [5]. The United Nations has created a set of Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, including “ensur[ing] that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” and ensuring that all children are able to complete a free and equitable primary education [6].

    Looking for more information on literacy? Check out UNESCO’s Literacy site and their page on International Literacy Day.



    [1] UNESCO, “Literacy Day.” Retrieved from

    [2] Ibid.

    [3] UNESCO, “Literacy and Education Data for the School Year Ending in 2010.”

    [4] UIS Data Centre, “Education: Literacy Rate.” Retrieved from

    [5] Ibid.

    [6] United Nations, “Education - United Nations Sustainable Development.”

  • Tuesday, August 09, 2016 1:30 AM | Ellyse Rodriguez

    What do you do for BTF?

    I am the Social Media Manager. (Heyyy everyone on social media!)

    Have you met  any of the Saving Grace students?

    I have not but boy would I love to hug every single one of those munchkins! Being the Social Media Manager, I look through pictures and videos of them every day to see which ones I can post on our social media and absolutely adore all of them. They’re too funny and cute for words!

    What is your greatest accomplishment at BTF?

    Thanks to my family and friends, we were able to reach over our goal of 600 likes on our FB page, which might not seem like a big deal to you but it is a big deal to us. I know this made Felicia really happy as well so we need to keep climbing the social media ladder to help get our name out there and do good for this organization.

    What do you do on your spare time?

    I'm usually working on stuff for BTF but I basically devote the rest of my spare time to my pup, Butler. Other than that, you can find me binge watching anything/everything on Netflix, going to see every current movie in theater (I was a film major- I HAVE AN EXCUSE), chasing Butler around Madison, eating pizza at Grampa’s or a burrito at Chipotle, and traveling to Chicago to see my family.

  • Monday, August 08, 2016 6:51 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Nane nane means “eight-eight”, which in Swahili refers to the date August 8. Also known as Farmer’s Day, Nane Nane day acknowledges and celebrates the accomplishments of agricultural producers throughout the country.

    Week-long fairs and exhibitions are held throughout the country to display and market products. The fair typically starts on August 1st and ends on Nane Nane Day itself with a big closing ceremony. At the fair, people set up booths exhibiting new technologies, ideas, and agricultural solutions. Fair-goers and exhibitors discuss farming, agriculture, and developments in Tanzania’s economy.

    Nane Nane celebrations also include fabric shops, technology stands, housewares, and food vendors selling a lot of delicious Tanzanian food such as chips mayai: fried potatoes with an egg cracked on top.

    In the Arusha region, people visit the Nane Nane area at Njiro to see the exhibits and celebrate the holiday. The Saving Grace students will have a Farmer’s Day celebration when they return from from the August holiday on September 5th.


    "To the Fair! Nane Nane 2014 (Farmer’s Day) – Arusha, Tanzania". Retrieved from

    "Nane Nane". Retrieved from

    "Farmer's Day in Tanzania". Retrieved from

  • Sunday, August 07, 2016 10:43 AM | Kevin Klaeser

    As some of our supporters and followers may know, our founder and executive director Felicia McKenzie will be returning to Tanzania this November for a two week stay. Felicia is very excited for this trip, so we thought we'd share a little bit of that excitement with you by having Felicia occasionally update everyone on her upcoming trip! Check out her first update below, and stay tuned for further details.


    Wow! It’s hard to believe but it’s been 3 years since I returned from my first trip to Tanzania. So much has happened in that time that it’s gone so fast; but at the same time, it’s like a distant memory.

    I've been waiting to make a return journey since before I left Tanzania. It was such an amazing and transformative trip, and has changed the lives of so many people.

    I'm so happy to say I will be venturing back to Tanzania this November! My flight departs from Chicago on Wednesday, November 9; I arrive in Nairobi, Kenya early on Friday, November 11. From Nairobi, I will be taking a bus approximately 5 hours to the south, and depart right in the heart of Arusha! Grace will be meeting me at a hotel drop-off, and we'll head to the school to get me settled in.

    I will be lodging at Saving Grace with Grace and her children for the duration of my stay. It is bound to be a much different sort of stay than my last trip, as I will be the only native-English speaker and the only American at the school! When I travelled to Tanzania in 2013, Nikki and I were lodged at a homestay with a local family and about 10 other female volunteers, all of whom were from the US, Canada, and Australia. Our host family was fairly well-off by Tanzanian standards, and we joked with the staff that we were staying in the mansion. It certainly looked like a mansion. The house was very modern and westernized, with running water, electricity, and an indoor toilet. My stay at Saving Grace, by contrast, will lack such amenities. The toilet is what’s known as a “squatter” because you quite literally need to squat over it. There is no running water at Saving Grace as of yet; all of the water is delivered by truck. Water is stored in a large drum, and accessed by a single spigot. Dining will be quite different as well. At our homestay in 2013, dinner was provided for us every night in a formal dining room, on a beautiful wooden table. We have yet to get a dining table at Saving Grace, so it’s likely I’ll take my meals on the floor!

    Not that any of this is bad. Despite the very different experience I will have this time around, I’m quite looking forward to it. I think it’s important to understand exactly how our students and staff in Tanzania live day-to-day, and the only way to truly understand that is to experience it. My hope is that by living their lives, I can better appreciate the needs of our students and staff, and in turn, help to make the school even better.g will be quite different as well. At our homestay in 2013, dinner was provided for us every night in a formal dining room, on a beautiful wooden table. We have yet to get a dining table at Saving Grace, so it’s likely I’ll take my meals on the floor!

    Of course, I can’t say that this is entirely a business trip. I’m really looking forward to seeing Grace again after all this time. When I left in 2013 she was pregnant with her second child, and gave birth to her just a few months later. Returning to Tanzania means I will finally meet her, and I’m so excited! Seeing pictures of her for the last 3 years makes me feel like I already know her, and I know our first meeting will make me love her even more. I’m also excited to see Grace’s first child, Chris, again. He was a bit shy when Nikki and I were first introduced to him, but he eventually warmed up to us and asked after us for the next year. Hopefully he remembers me as well as I remember him!

    Looking ahead to this trip has made me realize just how little of the local culture I was really able to experience last time. In the meantime, I’ll be brushing up on my Swahili so I can really interact with the people I encounter this time around, and maybe, I’ll even make a new friend or two.

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

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