Archive | March, 2012

Hope Holders

29 Mar

By: Kaitlin Rogers

One of the speakers at yesterday’s symposium referred to nonprofit organizations as “hope holders.” This term struck me.

Hope. What an immensely powerful thing to hold.

That glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. That tiny bud of life after a long, cold winter. That feeling in the back of your throat where the air catches for an extra second as you think, “Maybe. Maybe it is possible.”

When the presenter declared that nonprofit organizations are hope holders, he meant that in a world ridden with too much hatred and crime and injustice, charities represent a promise for a better tomorrow. In other words, these organizations hold hope for the future.

And I agree, to an extent. The work of well-structured nonprofits does provide great hope.

But.

Where do we find the greatest hope?

The children, of course! We find tremendous hope in Joyce’s heart, Athumani’s smile, Richard’s wisdom, and Sophia’s eyes. Yes, children are the ultimate holders of hope. Children are the future.

Children hold the key. The world, however, is the lock, and why should some children enter the world holding a golden key, perfectly fitted for the lock, while others possess one that never seems to fit? This is where TFFT comes in. Together, we have the power to help fit the key so the children can open the door.

Hope lives somewhere else too, though. YOU give us so much hope.

TFFT receives hope every day from the amazing people who align themselves with our mission and who work with us to make it possible.

Receiving an email from a sweet high school sophomore who wants the guests of her sweet sixteen birthday party to make donations to TFFT in lieu of presents gives us hope. Sitting around a table eating lunch and discussing TFFT with a group of inspiring, interested, and motivated women gives us hope. Having meetings over the internet with super talented individuals eager to donate their time gives us hope. Even watching blog stats climb as people use precious minutes from their day to read what we have to say gives us hope!

We each have the power to be a holder of hope, and, thankfully, hope is contagious. Together, and with great hope, we can do this.

Hope you have a great weekend! We’ll be back next week with RIDETZ tidbits and other updates!

Busy Wednesday + a Video

28 Mar

Hello! Today is a busy day for us in Charlotte. We have a meeting at 9am with two very talented individuals (with enormous hearts) who are going to make big things happen for TFFT. One is in New Zealand. One is in Texas. We’re meeting on Google+ to begin a collaboration that has us bursting with excitement. We cannot wait to share the details with you as soon as we’re able!

We are also looking forward to the women’s luncheon we are hosting at The Foundation For The Carolinas this afternoon. We plan to show this video clip, and we thought we should share it with you here as well!

 

Then we’ll end the day at Navigating the Future, Wake Forest University’s Symposium for Nonprofit Organizations. Should be a very interesting day… we’ll be sure to report back. We hope your Wednesday is filled with inspiration!

My First Flight

21 Mar

By Irene Peter, TFFT scholarship student

My name is Irene Peter. I am a Form 3 student at Usa River Academy and one of the scholars of The Foundation for Tomorrow. My best subjects are Physics, Chemistry, English, Geography and Mathematics. My ambition is to become an international pilot.

It was around 6:15am of 6th March, 2012 when Hedwiga came at school to pick me up. It was raining. She took me to the TFFT Office where we met Meghann who took me to Arusha Airport. There we met George Mavroudis who had just arrived. Meghann took some pictures of me at the airport. When George went to check on the plane I took my time looking at some stores selling cultural products around the place.

Thereafter, Meghann came and told me to check in.  I was surprised when during check in I was asked to remove everything made of metal that I was wearing and kept them in a place where I could get them after checking in. When I pass through the door the alarm sounded so I had to go back and remove my watch then it was ok.

After checking in, Meghann took some pictures of me as I was on the way to the plane. She also took pictures of me with George. Then George introduced me to the pilot. His name is Jack.

After introductions I boarded the plane. I was given the seat for the co-pilot! I was handed my earphones and once seated, Jack started to give me instructions. He told me to fasten my seatbelt and to get ready for the takeoff. The whole time Meghann was taking more pictures of me. Then it was time to say goodbye to her. We were about to take off! I was so excited but I was nervous as well.

Before the plane took off Jack switched on the radios and started the engine. Jack started communicating with the tower control and gave them some information about our departure. As a co-pilot, I was hearing all the conversation through my earphones.

When the plane started to lift off the ground, I had to concentrate on what Jack was doing to stop myself from feeling scared. When I looked through the window and saw that we were actually floating on air, a crazy thought came to mind: what if we fall down? I tried to shake it off and think positive thoughts instead and focus on this wonderful opportunity that I was given. Nothing bad will happen. My fear vanished.

While we were flying, Jack had conversations with many tower controls. But after that, he switched off and he started conversing with me. He pointed to me some of the instruments in the plane and explained their functions. I cannot remember the name of all the instruments but I assure you I remember their functions.

When we were about to land I noticed one of the instruments that Jack showed me which shows the distance of the plane from the ground, the number was decreasing fast then slowed down as the plane decreased the speed of sloping down.

Landing the aircraft was not as scary as taking off. After landing we waited for minutes for some passengers to board for. As we were waiting for the passengers I asked them about the function of a locker in the plane. What I understood from George’s and Jack’s explanation was that it is an air filter.

With all the passengers ready, we took off again and flew over Manyara National Park and Lake Manyara. This time around, I let myself enjoy the view and not concentrate much on what Jack was doing. This is my first time to see these places and what a first—to see them from the sky! I took everything in and it was if my heart would burst. I saw the clouds and rivers and lakes and tributaries and rocks!

This was a wonderful gift from George Mavroudis and I will thank God everyday for this opportunity. God willing, this is a memory I would happily narrate to my grandchildren. Thank you, George, for fulfilling part of my goals and dreams. And thank you TFFT for making it all happen for me. Thank you very much!

Strategic Planning Part 4—Implementation Plan

19 Mar

By: Meghann Gunderman, TFFT’s Founder and Executive Director

Since the stakeholders workshops, the TFFT Team has been working tirelessly to finalize our implementation plan. It is one thing to come up with a strategy. It is a whole different animal to implement it.

Right now we are in the throes of compiling TFFT’s Action Matrix. To say this is intricate and detail-oriented would be an understatement! Imagine if our vision–our ideal world–were an amazing feast. Well. Then creating an action matrix is like picking apart that feast to consider exactly which dishes to serve, the ingredients needed to make each dish, and also where each of those ingredients come from—right down to planting each and every grain of rice. That gives you some idea of the amount of detail this matrix holds.

I’m not going to lie, it makes my head hurt to think about sometimes, but spending these past few months focusing on a strategic plan has been exhilarating. It is one thing to dream as an individual, it is another to see that your ideal world is a dream shared by many.  This process has brought clarity, a sense of achievement, a greater understanding of our strengths and challenges, and a path to move forward. It is clearer than ever that we have the ability to affect change, and there are a lot of players in our region willing and able to help us achieve our dreams for orphan and vulnerable children as well as provide QUALITY education for children throughout Tanzania.

Whew! The past four posts have been filled with questions, information, and ideas. What are your thoughts and questions regarding this whole process?

Strategic Planning Part 3 – Our Vision

16 Mar

By Meghann Gunderman, TFFT’s Founder and Executive Director

What is your ideal world?

That is a BIG question. Even if you stop to think about it, it’s hard to put into words, but this is what our facilitators challenged us to articulate during our three-day stakeholder workshop. Representatives from our partner schools, TFFT scholars, heads of our partner orphanages, the TFFT Team, private sector donors, civil society organizations, and other interested parties were all present. Everyone had to sit and think/meditate about what their ideal world would look like.

We then got together in small groups to physically draw what we thought this world looked like. We were all working within the education and orphan/vulnerable children sphere, so in a sense there was a lot of overlap with regards to THAT ideal world–free from stigma, equal opportunity, families, social services, governments, NGOs all working in collaboration, education for all. These were all themes that ran deep.

To give you an idea, the illustrations looked something like this:

When each group presented their ideal world, we finally saw that the facilitators were, in fact, trying to get us to articulate our vision for TFFT. It was idealistic and lofty, yes, but that was the purpose. This collective vision took us all to a place where we hope to one day be:

“A world where orphans and vulnerable children are free of exclusion, disadvantage, and vulnerability and contribute as empowered and active citizens of a just society”

Melissa brainstorms

TFFT scholar, Irene, shares her views with our stakeholders

Daniel takes the stage

This stakeholder workshop was the second step towards developing our strategic plan, and we spent three jam-packed days sharing opinions, discussing our work, and debating how we can advance our impact over the next three years. We even invited the media and received coverage from the national station TGA.

The sessions took us down many interesting paths, which included tons of diversions, philosophical discussions, what if-s, and how to-s. With all this, though, we were able to truly hunker down and devise a plan for progress—a way to move forward—to make our mission more succinct and strategic, setting us apart from other non-profits working in our arena.

A main conclusion from the initial phases of our strategic planning was that, in order for the TFFT scholars to reach their full potential, we need to focus on securing quality education AND the appropriate psychosocial guidance/support. That will be the priority with everything we do moving forward. They will go hand in hand.

What does your ideal world look like?

Strategic Planning Part 2—Getting Technical

15 Mar

By Meghann Gunderman, TFFT’s Founder and Executive Director

Stop and think for a minute and think: who would you identify as an orphan or a vulnerable child?

During our strategic planning sessions, defining OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) was one of the first tasks we tackled as a group, and the debate was quite controversial.

Many governments and NGOs refer to an orphan as a child who has lost one parent. But what about a situation in which a child only has one parent, but that parent has the means to support the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs? Would you consider that child an orphan? Is that child more deserving of support than, say, a child with two living parents who are unable to provide for the child? What if the child is threatened in a dangerous home environment? What if a child has one parent who can provide love but has no means to provide basic food, education, or medical care?

In order for TFFT to create a concrete action plan, it was necessary to define OVC in our own terms. There are so many factors that affect children in Tanzania, and our definition needed to account for this complexity. We have come up with the following:

OVC defined:

Orphans may not be vulnerable. Vulnerable children may not be orphans.

The definition:

  • Neglected/Abandoned and vulnerable to abuse
  • Has lost both parents and has no support
  • Has one parent who cannot provide for the basic needs
  • Has both parents who are too poor to support their needs
  • Mentally handicapped children
  • Children of mentally challenged parents

What do you think? Would you personally add or subtract from this definition?

Photography By Anne Rhett

Strategic Planning Part 1—Introduction

14 Mar

By Meghann Gunderman, TFFT’s Founder and Executive Director

Hello! It feels good to be back in the United States after a whirlwind six weeks working with our team in Tanzania. My time on the ground both recharges and drains me. It recharges me because within seconds of being with the kids I am reminded why we do what we do. Nonprofit work is no walk in the park. There are many bumps in the road. But, man, being with the kids reminds me what it’s all about.

With Bryson at Matonyok Parents Trust, a TFFT partner orphanage

Me and the girls..and yes Amineli

Happy and Rachel in the library during free reading time

Nkoaranga Orphanage

It’s draining, too, though because my time is limited, my to-do list is extensive, and life moves at a different pace in Tanzania. After six weeks, the go-go-go schedule and the time I get to spend with the kids leave me feeling accomplished, inspired…and quite exhausted.

As you know, one of the focuses of this trip was to meet with a team of strategic planning consultants. Strategic planning is really a fancy name for buckling down and closely analyzing where we are, where we want to be, and what steps are necessary to get us there.

The process was comprehensive, eye-opening, and very worthwhile. It started with compiling data months before I even arrived in Tanzania, then we had two weeks of intensive sessions with the consultants and all of our stakeholders (everyone involved with TFFT… our team, scholarship students, teachers, administrators, partners, leaders of local NGOs, etc), virtual meetings the TFFT’s Board of Directors, and follow-up meetings with the team. Even now we are still working on devising our strategy for implementation.

The following pictures give a little glimpse into what this looked like:

Fratern addresses the group

Workshop with the stakeholders

Group activity

Over the next few days I will post about specific parts from the process that I found particularly interesting. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions in the comments!