Fratern’s Tour de America

5 Dec

The long awaited time to return to the US has come. It seems like ages since I was last there but surprisingly it has only been two and a half years. Unlike the previous years when I was a student, my visit this time is work related. It is the first time since I started with The Foundation For Tomorrow that I get to see what the organization does on the US side of things. It is the opportunity to meet with donors, sponsors, volunteers, and members of the board who work so hard to keep our organization moving. Most people who have been through this kind of situation before will agree with me that there is no reason not to be excited!!

After almost a 24 hour flight I arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, the headquarters of TFFT where our big event, the South of the Sahara Gala, will take place the following day- literally in the next 24 hours. This year, the event is even more special because TFFT celebrates the five year anniversary since its inception. Despite the fact that my body is extremely tired, the excitement keeps me going and I am as awake as if I had just finished my morning big mug of coffee.

The first task I embark on is to work on the speech for the big day! This becomes a challenging task because most of the people who will attend the event have probably heard a lot about TFFT. I take my laptop and start to think about what to write but I struggle for an hour without even coming up with a paragraph. I decide to take a fifteen minutes break and then I ask myself this question; what is one word or phrase that describes TFFT’s day to day work? As I ponder around some answers, one clear word comes to mind, FAMILY. This, I believe, is the best description of our relationship with our kids. We just don’t put kids to school but we work hard to make them feel that they are members of one family. As you can guess now, the theme of my speech becomes, “TFFT AS A FAMILY”. Here, we strive to build a relationship with our kids at all levels. I think this is what sets TFFT apart from other organizations. I also decide that rest of the speeches during my visit will be built around the same theme.

After a few hours of working on the speech, as well as helping with the here and there preparations, the hour for the big event finally comes. The room filled with the wonderful displays, happy people dressed elegantly, the sounds of great discussions around the room demonstrate nothing else but a great day for a great organization. By the end of the evening I had met and talked to so many of TFFT’s supporters, and even though I couldn’t keep a track of everyone, it was amazing how everyone thought of our work – it was with the same gratitude.

While in the US I had an opportunity to travel to different areas to talk about our organization –a great experience that will be hard to forget. From Charlotte I went straight to Charleston, South Carolina where I spoke to high school students at Ashley Hall, a private school for girls. Thanks to Anne Rhett and the Bianucci’s family for creating this wonderful opportunity. I then went back to Charlotte where I spent a few days meeting with some of the sponsors and donors before heading to Richmond, via Durham, to visit friends for the weekend. By this time I was grateful that the weather had been nice to me –most days temperatures were unbelievably high. The biggest worry was my next trip, Chicago, where everyone had been telling me to prepare for the worst weather, but even that was not bad at all, apart from the fact that it was drizzling a bit when I got there. While in Chicago, I was able to meet with some of our supporters including some members of CROYA (Center Representing Our Young Adults), a group that is supporting our work in Tanzania. I had the opportunity to hear about what this group does and then I read their book titled, Empowering Teens; A guide to Developing a Community-Based Organization. To my opinion this is what communities around the world need for their youth. It is such a great model of shaping teen’s life – it helps them understand who they are and in doing so they can make informed decisions.

From Chicago I flew to Leesburg, VA to join my American families for the Thanksgiving dinner which was amazing. Celebrating thanksgiving with my American families and friends was such a great moment. The last time I celebrated this kind of holiday (which is my favorite American holiday by the way) was in 2008 at the time when I was still in Graduate school. It surely brought great memories of our time together.

I then left for Winchester, VA where I spent a day with my other friends before proceeding to Harrisburg, PA to visit more friends (Yes! I have a lot of friends, just in case you are wondering). From Harrisburg I travelled to NYC for another big event, 5th Annual Young Founders Fall Benefit, which had a great turnout. Meeting the young professionals at this event prompted me to think about our mission – providing kids with education so that they can one day become professionals. The crowd was cheering and energetic. The event was overall very successful.

After the NY event I had a few meetings the following day which went really well but at this point I was somehow exhausted and overwhelmed. Besides, NY started to get cold, something that I don’t do well with, so I was ready to head south, which I did right after my meetings. From NY I headed to Washington DC then Baltimore, MD and finally to Hanover, PA to visit more friends until I left for Tanzania.

Meeting different people who support TFFT was a great opportunity. I was very pleased to see such a great supporting force behind our work. There is no question that most people are happy with our work and committed to see TFFT grow and maximize its impact on the ground. It actually made me realize how much potential we have as an organization. More importantly, it made me very proud of the team we have on the ground. Our goal is to continue to work hard to get more people involved and committed. In essence, we would like people to OWN our mission and be part of it. This way we can have even a greater impact on the young ones.

By: Fratern Tarimo, TFFT Managing Director

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