Archive | February, 2012

The Bianucci Family

28 Feb

To many people, Tanzania may feel out of reach. It is, after all, more than a hop, skip, and jump away. In a life so busy that scheduling a trip to the grocery store is a challenge, tossing in a trip to a developing country may (understandably!) seem unthinkable. However, today I would like to introduce you to Henri and Susan Bianucci and their girls, Miller and Macon. Over the past six years, Henri and Susan have prioritized coupling travel and service as a way to shape Miller and Macon’s worldviews, minds, and characters.

The Bianucci family first traveled to East Africa to go on safari, and during their stay they fell in love with the culture, land, animals, and people of Tanzania. They returned home with a strong desire to return to volunteer. When they did, they quickly grew attached to the children at Nkoaranga Orphanage (one of TFFT’s Partner Orphanages), and they felt helpless as they witnessed the children’s many needs.

As first year student at Saint Andrew’s University, Miller reflects:

I can never begin to explain the overwhelming chaos that greeted us the first day when we walked through the orphanage gate. Screaming and crying children climbing up our legs, smiling ‘mamas’ who immediately handed us beautiful  babies—we were blown away by the life that was spilling over into every corner of this orphanage.

Miller at Nkoaranga Orphanage, summer 2011

Macon, now a junior in high school, recalls, “I knew I wanted to help these children, but did not know where to begin. I struggled with singling out one certain area of their lives to which I could dedicate my efforts.” She adds:

By chance, one day when we were driving down the orphanage hill, our driver picked up two young American men. We started a conversation with them and found out they were working for a woman from the United States who had started a foundation helping Tanzanian children. My mom got their card and stuck it in her back pocket, and we didn’t think about it again for the next couple of months. Some point when we got home my mom came across that card, and curious, decided to give the person a call. This phone call led us to Meghann Gunderman, a wonderful friendship, and most importantly a safe way to offer help and education to the orphans.

Macon helping with the babies, summer 2011

Susan says:

Meghann has served as an example by making a promise and keeping it and by helping others. TFFT is on ground in country and sees the kids every day. They are there after school every day loving and protecting these vulnerable children who have no one else. That is what I like most about TFFT, their commitment on the ground and their everyday presence, and that when you donate to TFFT, you know exactly where your money is going.

Susan at USA River Academy, where TFFT's Scholarship Students gave the riders a joyful sendoff, RIDETZ 2010

Susan at Nkoaranga Orphanage, summer 2011

People often wonder why Susan and Henri make the journey year after year instead of just writing a check. To which Susan responds, “I don’t just do this for orphaned and abandoned children. I do this for my children as well. They are different children for having been there.” Henri adds, “Whatever we have given to these efforts, we have received tenfold in the positive way these experiences have shaped our girls minds and characters.”

Henri elaborates by explaining that:

The experiences the girls have had in Tanzania, with the orphanage and with TFFT, have provided them a unique educational and growing experience. It has opened their eyes to the privilege with which they have been blessed and their power to make a meaningful and lasting difference for those less fortunate.  In a narcissistic world dominated by things like Facebook and the Kardashians, these experiences have opened their eyes to the truly rewarding nature of service to others.

Henri playing with TFFT Scholarship Students before RIDETZ 2010

Macon proves Henri’s point:

After learning about TFFT I immediately knew where my responsibility towards these children lay. TFFT taught me that the most sustainable way I could help them was by seeing that they received the best education possible. In the future, I hope to continue my support of TFFT, as my passion and love for these children remains the most important thing in my life. The children of Nkoaranga orphanage changed my life, so I hope to help TFFT change theirs.

Thank you Susan, Henri, Miller, and Macon for the inspiring way you have chosen to make a difference! TFFT is so lucky to have you as part of our team.

Are you and your family looking for ways to personally connect with a cause? TFFT would love for you to join our team, and you don’t have to board a plane to Tanzania to do so! Just leave a comment or email us or join our mailing list to get started!

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Telling Our Stories

24 Feb

By: Adam Rubin and Kaitlin Rogers

While we were supposed to post Meghann’s Strategic Planning follow-up  piece yesterday, it isn’t quite ready yet. Life in Tanzania moves at its own pace, and that pace is slooooow and unpredictable and requires patience! Not to worry, that post is coming, and it’s going to be an interesting one, as the team has devoted many, many hours to strategic planning workshops this month.

Today, however, I have something for you that is also very interesting and important. Last month we published Sophia’s narrative and then followed that with this post addressing the importance of honesty. We plan to post more student narratives here over the next few months, but first we would like to back up and explain the writing process that the students went through to produce their narratives.

Adam Rubin, TFFT’s Full Circle Program Director, explains:

I chose this project because I wanted to do something that could allow the students to open up, both to themselves and to one another. I had noticed emotional barriers for a number of our girls in class 4-6 (all of the 4-6 Full Circle participants class were girls). I thought there could be a link between emotional issues that are kids haven’t yet overcome and academic struggles and that the opportunity to share their stories could be therapeutic.

Of course, in doing so, Adam needed to be sensitive to the kids’ traumatic pasts. He had earned the kids’ respect and trust over the months he spent working with them, but as a young, white, American male, he wanted to make sure the girls felt as comfortable as possible being interviewed on some very personal topics.

Adam, Sam, and the girls

Adam, therefore, explains that,

asking the Secondary Students to help me with the project was a clear choice. They viewed it as an opportunity to be role models to their younger brothers and sisters (we even had Ombeni interview little sister Julieth!). Some of the students cried, while others kept a straight face, and others smiled. Some opened up completely and told the truth, while others invented stories of their childhood in what appeared to be either a defense mechanism to avoid a painful past or a recollection of the story that was told to them by family. The entire interview was conducted in Swahili and the answers were also written in Swahili by our Secondary Students. The process took one Full Circle class period, and Fratern (who helped and interviewed Witness Yonah) and guest teacher, Sam Satock, joined me. Sam helped explain the process to our students and answered questions about the interview along the way. Then, Uswege helped to translate all of the stories from Swahili to English. Finally, Anne Rhett photographed the girls, and I combined the stories and photos together into what is now a short collection of their narratives.

Ombeni interviews his little sister, Julieth

As we continue posting the narratives, you will notice that they follow a similar structure. This is because the students all answered the same questions before composing the narratives:

1)     Please describe yourself. How old are you and which class are you in? What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like to do (play, sing, dance, draw, write, study, read, etc.)?   Who are your best friends? What do you love most about yourself (self-esteem)? Please describe your traits (i.e. beautiful, smart, funny, caring, nice) and your skills (i.e. writing, singing, dancing, cooking, drawing). What kind of person are you? What are your best qualities?

2)     Please describe your childhood. Where did you come from? Are your parents still living or deceased? Did you know your parents? What happened to them? What about your brothers and sisters? What was life like growing up? Who took care of you? When you were very young, what were your goals and dreams? Did you think you could achieve your goals and dreams when you were very young? If yes, why? If no, why not?

3)     What was the saddest moment in your life? Please explain what happened and how you felt. At that time, what did you think your future was going to be like? Did you have hope that things were going to improve? Where did you get your hope and inspiration from?

4)     When did you join The Foundation for Tomorrow? Did you stay in an orphanage? If so, which one? How has TFFT changed your life? What has TFFT given you? Please explain the happiest moment in your life. Please explain what happened and how you felt.  How will you use your education? Now, what are your goals and dreams? Do you think you can achieve them?

Thank you, Adam, for thoughtfully designing and facilitating this writing process. We hope to expand on this project this summer using the Literacy Through Photography approach—more on that to come! Meghann will also share the outcome of the meeting she had today in Moshi with the POFO (Positive Outcomes For Orphans) research team, a subset of the Duke Global Health Institute. I can’t wait to hear what TFFT’s team learned about POFO’s work with cognitive behavioral therapy research and intervention for orphans in Tanzania.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuko pamoja (we are united)

21 Feb

By: Meghann Gunderman, Founder and Executive Director

I have been back in Tanzania now for almost a month, and once again I am inspired and excited. Not only have we celebrated our scholars academic success, I have seen firsthand the physical and intellectual growth in all of our children. It is crazy how much growth happens in 4 months (the time between my visits).

I spend most of my days with the team in the office for the first half of the day and then visiting our partner schools or one of our partner orphanages in the afternoon. Interacting with and listening to our children gives me hope and brings me joy.

I have started to read more blogs recently, and one that stands out challenges us to “Choose Joy.”  I love that mentality. In life, whether here in Tanzania or in the West, there challenges, obstacles, and hurdles can get in the way, but you can turn your day around by “Choosing Joy.” I look to my kids for joy, and in turn I see the value in our work. I have yet to be disappointed:

I have found myself more than once sitting on the steps of the girls’ dorm talking about the future with our girls as they wonder, how do we move forward as young women? How do we impact our communities?

 

Our number one student Richard, told us that even in his new, more academically challenging school, he will strive to be number one.

Salvatory Seth (left) and Richard Augustino (right)

Irene Peter found out that George Mavroudis, one of TFFT’s supporters, will take her up in an airplane in a few weeks so that she can start to realize her dream to become a pilot.

Irene Peter, future pilot

Much of my time here this month is also focused on our 3 year strategic plan. We are working with In-Depth Consulting, our stakeholders here on the ground, and our Board of Directors to define our collective vision and to develop a strategy to achieve that vision, identify our threats, implement our mission, and drive results. As I examine our work over the past 5 years, I can’t help but be proud. We have empowered hundreds of children to believe what once seemed impossible. We’ve brought NGOs, the government, and the community together to challenge status quo and look for a plan to not only advocate on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children but to take steps to make real changes.

strategic planning session

A friend here challenged me last week to focus on actions that are transformational. Be confident that we have the power to change policy and improve the QUALITY of education on the district, regional and national level. Moving forward, I hope this will be a theme with my blog posts, I want to be held accountable.

I want you to ask us what we have done this month that is transformational? Keep asking us, “what are your plans?” “How do you plan to do X,Y & Z?”

In return I will share with you guys our steps towards transformation. It is not only affecting change amongst our scholars, we have now taken on the stance to make this difference at the community level throughout Tanzania. The challenge is large, but what challenge isn’t?

While our strategy is not complete and will continue to evolve, I am enthused by the conversation and engagement we have seen this week in our workshops with other civil service organizations, interested individuals, partner orphanages, partner schools, our students, private sector partners and other educational institutions working here in the Arusha area. Tuko pamoja (we are united).

To be continued on Thursday. Happy Tuesday!

See more pictures from Meghann’s trip here and read about the half marathon she and some of our students are training for here.

Extraordinary Moments

14 Feb

What makes your family special? You may eat three meals a day, take the kids to school, and have routine doctors checkups, but is that what makes your family unique? Or is your family is special because of the relationships that exist, the traditions you create, and the everyday moments that are personal to you and the ones you love?

Think of the little “nothings” that you do for your loved ones every day. These moments often come disguised as ordinary because they come and go without even being noticed… they may even seem routine—reading a bedtime story and tucking kids into bed; preparing a PB&J sandwich for lunch; a kiss goodbye; waiting at the bus stop; asking about homework; sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game; etc.

In a loving home environment, these moments are natural, and they happen time and again… every. single. day. However, to many, such moments would in fact be extraordinary.

They would be extraordinary because these “no-big-deal” moments mean:

You are loved. Someone cares for you. Someone looks after you.

These seemingly small acts silently communicate over and over again:

“I love you”

“I’m proud of you”

“You mean something to me”

“You are important.”

Too many kids in this world do not have this.

TFFT is proud to have 82 kids on scholarship. Most importantly, we are proud to personally know the children we support. We aim to provide much more than education, a backpack, food, etc.

A person survives with food, water, and education. A person thrives with love, support, and guidance. We want our TFFT kids to thrive.

We recognize that most of life’s most important lessons are typically modeled in a healthy home environment. Our children suffer from traumatic pasts lacking stable home environments, and Full Circle, TFFT’s after school program, aims to meet the personal and emotional needs of the orphaned and abandoned children we support. This program is custom designed to develop leadership skills and confidence and to provide students with the skills necessary to become independent, responsible, and compassionate adults prepared to live healthy and productive lives.

We make each of our scholarship children a promise:

“We will be there for you. We will support, encourage, and guide you. We will cheer for you and challenge you. We will open your eyes to life’s possibilities, and we will share in your dreams. We will be your family.”

Our team on the ground runs this program and works with the kids daily. We support our scholarships children for an average of 12 years. We attend their graduations, celebrate their achievements, ask them about their dreams, and teach them how to care for themselves. Through Full Circle we strive to provide those extraordinary “everyday” acts.

I hope you will try to be more aware and appreciative of the extraordinary moments hiding throughout your days. Each is a true blessing!

THANK YOU to all who participated in our SHARE the Love Campaign by making Valentines for our kids. We will hand deliver these cards made with so much love and care to our kids in a few weeks, and they will each feel a little more special and loved after receiving them.

We recently read this, and loved the idea of Generosity Day on Valentine’s Day. There is still time to STACK the Love and help the TFFT kiddos thrive by supporting Full Circle! Full Circle costs $265 per child annually… less than a dollar a day can provide a year’s worth of extraordinary moments. We’re closing this page at the end of the day, so head over to donate $10 (the cost of a box of chocolates!) in honor of Generosity Day!

Wishing you Peace, Love, & Hugs,

Kaitlin and TFFT

TFFT Kiddos Continue To Shine

8 Feb

Written by: Josh Nassari, TFFT Scholarship Director

Mambo!!

On Friday February 3, 2012 was a big day at Usa River Academy. It was actually a different Friday. Normally if you step in this school at around 10 a.m. students and teachers will all be in their respective classrooms proceeding with studies, but this was definitely a different one. Even if you hadn’t been to this school before you could tell that something was going on. When we walked into the school compound we were given a sign that we should go directly to the dining/conference hall. The kids were all dressed nicely, the conference hall was well arranged, students were seated according to their grades, and no body was in the staff room.

As we walked into the conference hall, everyone was standing up attentively singing the National anthem and of course the school anthem. Usa River Academy had organized the day to reward the best performers in the last year’s National Exams. These were 2011 Class Four Students, 2011 Class Seven (primary school graduates) as well as 2011 From Two Students.

TFFT was well represented amongst the best performers. There was a total of twelve kids who were mentioned to receive awards, and four (a third) of them were TFFT kids. It’s very encouraging to see an amazing performance from children who were very disadvantaged, children with poor educational backgrounds, and children who have gone through so much in the past. Really, I experience the difference TFFT makes to its scholarship children every day.

Joyce Elipokea received an award as a second student in her classroom in the Class Four National exams.

The Beautiful Joyce

Salvatory Seth positioned as the first student in the class Seven National Exam.

Salvatory with Fratern (our Managing Director) at Graduation in September

Ombeni Elisante was the most improving student in the Class Seven National Examination

Sweet Ombeni

Richard Augustino positioned the first student in the Form Two National Exam.

Mr. Richard Augustino!

They all received certificates from the School Management and handled to them by the Usa River Academy Director in hand with TFFT Director. The Class three students (Age 7-9) were well equipped to entertain the crowd with songs written and performed in French language.

Apart from the above students, Irene Peter emerged as the first girl in the Form Two National Exam. She also positioned the 5th student entirely and she was also the First in English as she scored 90% (A+ according to Tanzania grading system). “There are only four boys ahead of me, and next time there will be no body ahead of me”. This is what Irene keeps telling us, and we are very confident that she could definitely make her dreams come true.

Irene, right, with Nicemary (TFFT Scholar) and Melissa (Teacher Training Director)

Overall TFFT students did pretty well and we are so proud of them.

Go TFFT Go!!!!

TFFT needs your help this February

1 Feb

Hello and Welcome to February!

February is (usually) a very cold, wintry month, and, to be honest, it’s also a tricky fundraising month for TFFT. It’s short, the holiday giving surge has come to a close, and we don’t want to ask the majority of you who recently attended a TFFT event, paid your Scholarship Dues, or made a holiday donation, “hey, will you open your wallet? Again?”.  To you we just want to say shout, “THANK YOU!!” over… and over… and over again. Our reality, however, is that we do still have to meet our monthly fundraising minimum in order for TFFT to move forward.

What’s wonderful is that Valentine’s Day transforms February into a month filled with paper hearts, candy, and L-O-V-E. That’s why this February we are asking you to join our first annual Spread The Love Valentine’s Challenge. We’re asking that you roll up your sleeves and get your family more involved with TFFT by participating in this engaging and unique challenge over the next two weeks.

We created this challenge with a few goals in mind:

– To offer a way for you to directly connect with our students
– To find something fun for you to do as a family
– To spread awareness and to raise some funds during this short month

We hope you’ll join us in one or both of the following ways!

Option One… SHARE THE LOVE:

Make Valentines for our kids!

  • Email kaitlin@thefoundationfortomorrow.org, and we will match your family with one (or many!) of the kids
  • Spend time with your family creating Valentines
  • Take a picture of the process and post it on our Facebook wall, tweet it, or email it to us so we know you’re participating
  • Send the Valentine to: P.O. Box 470836, Charlotte, NC 28247
  • We’ll send the love overseas to our students!
  • We’ll showcase the Valentines here, and the most creative Valentine will receive a $100 gift certificate to P.F. Changs for a night of family fun!

This is such a great opportunity for you to (literally) shower our kids with love, and we really cannot wait to see what you create!!

Option Two… STACK THE LOVE:

Help spread the word about TFFT and help support TFFT by requesting small donations from your friends!

  • Set a goal of recruiting 10, 20, 50, 100 people you know to make a small donation to TFFT
  • Be creative about the amount you request–“kiss your latte goodbye,” for example
  • Set up your very own fundraising page on CROWDRISE
  • Share your Valentine Challenge with your social network
  • The person or family who recruits the most people to donate wins a $100 gift card to The Palm!

The main goal here is to harness the power in numbers and to make a BIG impact with many $1 $5, $10, $20.. donations!

Thank you all for reading this blog, being our cheerleaders, and going out and spreading TFFT’s story with the world!

Leave a comment or email kaitlin@thefoundationfortomorrow.org with any thoughts/questions.

We must also give a big THANK YOU to Peggy Tuttle of Tuttle Design Studios who spent hours creating the custom illustrations you see above. Thank you, Peggy, for bringing our vision to life with your playful drawings!