Archive | May, 2012

Busy Busy

30 May

By Kaitlin Rogers

Life in the States has been even busier than usual as we prepare for RIDETZ, run the Annual Fund, and work on a surprise that we will finally share with you in the next few days! Meghann is en route to Tanzania now, and I leave on Monday. The RIDETZ excitement and influx of photos is about to begin. In the meantime below are some glimpses into our days:

From left to right: Gretchen and Mike’s boys sport their homemade RIDETZ shirts at their fundraising event; accumulating RIDETZ goodies from our sponsors; spending lots to time in FLYWHEEL classes in preparation for RIDETZ; the raffle table at Gretchen and Mike’s fundraiser; Meghann found time to ride a bike during her layover in London (true dedication!); Gretchen, Mike, and I went for a long ride; presents for the kiddos; one of our amazing sponsors; boxes of schwag for the riders; a very full cart of clothes for the kids; an incredible view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Meghann’s airplane window on her way to Tanzania this morning; Meghann’s layover in Nairobi.

Hope you’re having a good week after the long weekend!


Meet RIDETZ Rider, Miller Bianucci

22 May

Miller (left) with her sister, Macon (right)

By Miller Bianucci and Kaitlin Rogers

You may remember first reading about Miller and the entire Bianucci Family in this post. There is something special about this family. Their sense of adventure, their commitment to service, and their willingness to tackle huge challenges have lead them to Tanzania year after year, and their dedication to TFFT is something for which we are extremely grateful. I first met Miller when she along with her sister Macon and their parents, Henri and Susan, rode in RIDETZ in 2010. We are beyond excited to have Miller along with us for the 2nd RIDETZ journey. I know I will rely on her positive attitude and steadfast determination to help me through!

1)            Where are you from?

My family is from Chicago but we have lived in Charleston, SC for the past fifteen years.

2)            What do you do for work?

I just finished my freshman year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I’m studying Social Anthropology, Sustainable Development, and Modern History. I am so thankful to Meghann for encouraging me to look into St. Andrews. This year abroad has hands down been the best of my life and I’m so excited for the next three.

3)            What do you like to do on your spare time?

During middle and high school I was on the track and cross-country teams and have continued to run over here (when its not raining or hailing!). My goal is to run a marathon next year, so I’m preparing for that.

4)            Who is your inspiration in life?

I have to say that Meghann Gunderman is my inspiration and role model. I am so impressed with the amazing job Meghann has done with the Foundation of course, but also her amazing attitude and determination. I am inspired every day by Meghann’s dedication to the children of TFFT and am so lucky to have a mentor like Meghann in my life. Her selfless determination to provide education for these orphaned or abandoned children is remarkable.

Richard, Meghann, Miller, Emily, Lauren, and Macon (RIDETZ 2010)

5)            How did you hear about RIDETZ?

My family and I have been volunteering at the Nkoragana Orphanage in Arusha for the past six years and we’ve been fortunate enough to become involved with TFFT. We are so thankful to TFFT for providing scholarships for the children we’ve grown to know and love. When my sister and I heard about RIDETZ two years ago we convinced my parents to join us in this adventure we knew we couldn’t pass up.

Miller with Mary, TFFT Scholarship Student

6)            What inspired you to want to ride this June?

RIDETZ 2010 was, while it was incredibly physically grueling, the most amazing experience of my life. I have never before pushed myself so hard; steep inclines, deep dust and mud, and rocky down hills made quite a challenging course. I will never forget reaching the top of a hill and seeing the Indian Ocean just about a mile away below me. Completing the ride with such a wonderful group of people was a great achievement and accomplishment.  ‘A labor of love’ is the perfect description of this trip and I can’t wait for round two.

Miller (right) with Macon (left) at the BEACH!! Final day RIDETZ 2010

7)            What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?

Sad to say that I don’t have a bike, the only training I’ve done thus far has been in a gym or spinning class!

8)          What unique ways are you planning on spreading the awareness for what you are doing and fundraising?

I’m reaching out to all of my family and friends asking for their support. I plan to have a spinning class fundraiser at my sister’s gym as soon as I get home to raise more funds and awareness in the Charleston area.


Thanks Miller! You can support Miller in her fundraising initiative here. You have now met all the riders, with the exception of the TFFT STUDENT RIDER!!! We will announce this lucky winner shortly.

The next couple of weeks are crazy for the U.S. TFFT Team (a.k.a. Meghann and Kaitlin). Meghann leaves for Tanzania early next week, and I leave on June 4th. Oy! There is a LOT to do between now and then. If there is something in particular that you would like to read about over the next few weeks, let us know, and we’ll factor that into our blog planning! (Who do you want to hear from? What are you curious about? Anything!)

Birthday Dreamin’

18 May



By Kaitlin Rogers

Last month Meghann and I had the pleasure of meeting Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and hearing him speak about his remarkable organization, Mary’s Meals. As he spoke, he revealed that his genuine vision is for every child in this world to receive at least one meal each day.

He realizes this means providing meals for 67 million chronically hungry children. Yet, his goal remains. Every child in this world should receive at least one meal every day.

The entirety of Magnus’s speech was moving, but what struck us most was this exclamation:

When I share my vision, people look at me like I’m crazy, and for a while even I believed myself to be crazy to have this goal. But then I realized: wanting every child to eat once daily is an enormous goal, but what is really crazy is that, in this world of plenty, there are currently children who do not eat one meal a day.

“That,” he said, “ is madness.”

Thank you, Magnus, for this brilliant insight. What a poignant perspective.

This provided us the assurance needed to tackle our own lofty goals. This mentality is so refreshing. Think of your own goals, big and small, and apply this outlook.



Accepting that the way things are is crazier than the way things ought to be is a relief! It means that our goals are possible because, in some way, the way we currently live makes less sense than the way we aspire to live. The difficulty always lies in dedication to those goals and careful, determined execution, but with that right dose of dedication and execution, our goals are possible.



I recently read a poem by a very talented young poet, Kiele Marston. Her piece concluded with the stanza:

I will stand up for myself and fight now
And live the life that only I allow.


Live the life that only I allow. So much of this life is out of our control, but we do have the power (and we owe it to ourselves!) to allow ourselves to fight for our goals because, often, when it comes to our own goals, we are the ones standing in the way.





Today is Meghann’s birthday. Meghann is someone who thinks BIG, dreams BIG, acts BIG, and loves BIG. She is an inspiration to many. Meghann, as you look ahead to this next year, I hope you will continue to set and achieve sky-high goals. You have created something extraordinary, and this is only the beginning. Love you!

Meet RIDETZ Rider, Denise McFadden

17 May

By Kaitlin Rogers and Denise McFadden, RIDETZ Rider

I had the pleasure of meeting Denise in 2010 when she tackled RIDETZ for the first time. Denise is now back for seconds. This either says something about how amazing RIDETZ is or how crazy Denise is … take your pick :) Either way, we are lucky that Denise has decided to take once again take on this challenge because she is an awesome person to be around. Denise carries TFFT’s mission and kids in her heart, and we are so grateful for the endless support and dedication she has shown her to TFFT since the very beginning.

1)            Where are you from?  

Morris Plains, New Jersey

 2)            What do you do for work? 

I work for Covance Central Laboratory Services in Business Development.

3)            What do you like to do on your spare time? 

Run, Bike, Ski, play with my dog and drink wine! 

2011 Kilimanjaro Marathon

4)            Who is your inspiration in life? 

While of course I would say my parents and family, it is also anyone who strives to challenge themselves physically and go beyond what they think they can do.   

5)            How did you hear about RIDETZ? 

I am one of the board members for TFFT and also did the ride in 2010. 


2010 RIDETZ reunion in Charlotte at TFFT’s SOS Gala

6)            What inspired you to want to ride this June? 

Being part of the ride in 2010 was such an amazing experience and just could not pass it up this year! 

7)            Are you celebrating any milestone with RIDETZ? 

Still being able to get my butt on a bike for 400 miles! 

8)            What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is) 

Along the Delaware River Canal path in both NJ and PA.

9)            What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name? 

Both a Giant road bike and a Cannondale Mountain bike.  Neither one of them have actual names but at times, I have called them many things especially on the uphill climbs!

10)          What unique ways are you planning on spreading the awareness for what you are doing and fundraising?

I am sending my friends and family a letter asking for their support. Between that and my online fundraising page, I hope to reach my $10,000 goal.

Thanks, Denise for all you do for TFFT. See you in Tanzania! We have one more rider to introduce you to next week, and then the next week we will all start journeying over. Be sure to stick around… it’s going to get pretty exciting around here!

Nancy’s Response

15 May

Today you get to hear from Miss Nancy again. As promised, we shared the comments that you left her after reading her post entitled My Christmas Holiday. Nancy took the time to respond to each comment, and you can read her responses below!


I loved reading about your school and home life Nancy, Thank you so much for sharing! Please keep us posted on how the rest of your year goes. And please encourage your classmates to write too:)

All my best,






Hi! Pam,


Hope that you are fine, on my side am good and healthy. I was so excited to read the letter you sent to me. Am glad that you love reading about my school and home life Pam, don’t worry I will keep sharing a lot with you, did you read my blog post about The Hat?? I think you will love reading it too!


I love my school and enjoy the teacher who teach me in different subjects in school. When are you going to visit us?


Lots of love and hugs to you!




Nancy Phelix



Hi Nancy! Your December Holiday sounds like it was really fun and really relaxing. So happy you read and enjoyed The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. I haven’t read it yet, but you just inspired me to pick up a copy and start reading! Good luck with your classes this session. Sending you all big hugs and lots of love from New York.


PS – Eating snacks is one of my favorite things to do too :)




Hi! Sari,


I hope you are fine, on my side am good and healthy. It was happy to hear from you dear one, and it was very lovely and exciting to have a letter from you. It is true that my December holiday was really fun and really relaxing. And about the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, please try to have a copy and read it. Thank you a lot for the good luck wishes, and the love with hugs. Much love and hugs from bunny (rabbit) I mean its me. Take care and enjoy your time.




Nancy Phelix



Nancy! You have such an impressive way with words, and I really loved reading about your holiday break. I hope that you will consider writing more stories about your life for the blog in the future. Many people go to the website to read the blog each day, and I know a lot of people have already read your post, so you can consider yourself a published author :)

Love, Kaitlin







Dear Kaitlin,


I hope that you are fine, on my side am okey and healthy. It was so exciting to read the letter you sent to me. Am now considering myself as a published author & a great designer in the world. Did you read my blog about The Hat? When are you going to come visit us in Arusha? I miss you very much!!


Usa River Academy is good and it gives us qualified education for both levels. I love my teacher especially when teaching in class, I really enjoy and pay attention. How are you doing?? How is everything? Lots of love to you with hugs!





You can read Nancy’s second blog post A Hat her dream of becoming a fashion designer here. We will post responses from Irene, Rosemary, and Sophia as soon as we receive them. The kids absolutely love hearing from you!!

April’s Shower of Training and The ABCs of TFFT’s Teachers Training

14 May

The training participants at SEGA with their certificates; also in the picture (aside from Melissa) is Fran Bruty, SEGA’s Participatory Learning Adviser.

By Melissa Queyquep

TFFT’s Teacher Training Program has been really busy this past month. We finished two training events in 2 partner schools, SEGA and Usa River Academy, training a total of 32 teachers. The training at Usa River Academy marks the revival of our training relationship with the school as we had to hold off last year because of the instability of the school management.

For both schools the training focused on classroom management, lesson planning, participatory teaching techniques, and communicating positively with students. Since joining TFFT, this month’s training has been the most challenging for me not just because I was sick half of the time during the month but because some of the topics were quite “controversial” for the teachers, i.e. lesson planning and managing student misbehavior. In one training, we had a session that was so challenging some teachers ended up defending their ways of dealing with student misbehaviors and questioning the ways of the West in disciplining their children. It drained my energy so much that after the session I had to hie off to the local bar with some friends to recharge and also to dissect the day’s events. Nothing beats Coca Cola (my drink of choice) in making one realize that glitches like this happen in learning events, and they happen for a good reason. After all, as in any social transformation efforts, resistance in different forms always comes with presentation of new ideas or proposing change. The positive takeaway from this experience? The training brought out in the open issues which the school need to address such as discipline policy, teachers’ code of conduct, and even lesson plan format! All’s well that ends well as they say, and so despite that very trying day, I managed to close the training on a positive note. The teachers felt the training was very useful and requested that I come more often.

Usa River Academy and Matonyok Primary School teachers after the training.

For fear of boring you with the mundane, I think I should segue to talking about some pieces of information about our Teachers Training Program. So here I’m giving you….. taa-daa!

The ABCs of the TFFT Teachers Training Program!

A is for assessment.

Our teacher training is needs based and so it is always preceded by training needs assessment. This process involves doing teacher observations, conferencing with the teachers, and a consultation with the school management. Data gathered through these means are triangulated and from the results the training needs of the teachers are prioritized and planned for.

B is for best performers.

We cap our every training event with the recognition of best performers or teachers who actively participated and contributed substantially to the discussions and activities. In any learning event, be it in a roomful of kids or a class of adult learners, nothing beats social recognition as a reward for positive behavior. From the best performers, we usually select teachers to groom as Training Champions for their schools. We provide these teachers additional training to be able to handle trainings such as developing a training plan, methodologies in handling adult learners, mentoring, and other topics that constitute a Training of Trainers.

C is for competition.

Nothing beats a friendly competition to spice up things in our training events. Who can come up with the best lesson plan? Who can come up with the longest list of teaching techniques? Groups scramble for points in every group work I give them—to the point that they even ask me to award points to the first group with complete members in the training room when we start in the morning! I maximize every opportunity to motivate our participants and competition ups the ante each time.

D is for Debates.

In the course of group discussions or during plenary, participants always end up debating. Part of the game especially when more than half of your participants are men, and did I tell you how much Tanzanian men (or Kenyan or Ugandan) love to talk in gatherings like this? A lot! The talk which starts with just sharing views or comments usually ends up with some of them engaging in a debate. I indulge them whenever time permits as we do get good points from these moments too but I have to use a lot of will to get them to stop and get on with the topic.

E is for Energizers.

In one of our trainings, the headmaster thought I was teaching his teachers songs and games to teach their students. He thought it was part of the training, one of the training topics. But energizers are indeed a part of our trainings! Good icebreakers always get trainings to a good start. Action songs and simple games keep the energy level of the teachers high in unholy hours such as after a filling lunch. I’ve regaled my teachers with a Congolese game (meaning of the words used unknown J) and a clapping and concentration game from Botswana. I usually pass on the responsibility of giving energizers to the teachers after the first day of training and boy, do I learn really good energizers from them! In a recent training, the French teacher got us all reciting in French: “Qui a mange le bonbon/Le bonbon de mon papa/Pas moi/Qui donc?” in a round that got our tongues twisted and our bellies aching from laughter.

F is for Food and Follow-up.

Guess which aspect of training we spend on the most? Training meals!!! Trainings are usually done during school break and since we don’t give out sitting allowances, one way to motivate teachers to attend is the promise of good food. I insist on giving our teachers the best food available in a budget that won’t break the bank. Short of asking for a pre-planned menu from the school canteen or from a caterer, I make sure they get meat with their mboga (vegetables) and rice or pilau or chapattis instead of the usual ugali. We usually spend around 5-7USD per participant per day (for 2 tea breaks and lunch)—by US standards I am sure that isn’t much, but our teachers really appreciate it.

Aside from food, F is also (more importantly) for follow-up. After a training event comes the following up or the monitoring. Whenever my crazy schedule permits, I visit the schools and observe classes to check if the training is impacting on the teachers’ teaching performance. One thing that I intend to accomplish this year even if it kills me is getting the school management to do regular follow-ups with their teachers and to share in the responsibility of monitoring and securing results from trainings done. Sadly this is not a practice among school heads here.

G is for Group work.

Cooperative learning is a main feature of our training events. Teachers discuss case studies together and basically work together on activities. This enhances camaraderie among the teachers. After working together for 3 (the shortest length of training we’ve done) to 5 days, the participants usually end up better friends from when they started the training.

H is for Handle setbacks gracefully.

Where would a trainer be without flexibility, sense of humor, and patience in this field and in a country where nothing is ever sure? From the simplest like power going off in the process of doing a Powerpoint presentation to the worst such as finding out 20 of the 25 teachers you’ve trained have upped and left the school or school heads finger-pointing on who should do teacher observations—the ability to handle setbacks gracefully is a boon. My perspectives have widened immensely from my 2 years of doing training with TFFT and I have those setbacks to thank for!

I is for Interaction.

The beauty of these learning events for our teachers is the opportunity to interact with their fellow teachers in a non-work setting. They also get to interact with teachers from other partner schools like the time we did the Usa River Academy-Star High School inter-school training for Science teachers. The trainings also afford them time to learn from their counterpart/s from the International School or specialists from other education-focused NGOs whom we get to facilitate some sessions.

J is for Jump for joy when a training is done.

The sweetest part of the training is the awarding of certificates that marks the end of a training event—another batch of teachers trained, another chance taken to improve the quality of education our children receive. I may not have the jump shots to show for it but deep inside, I am jumping for joy, doing somersaults even. The work is done, time to kick my shoes and relax (before I start working on the training reports) and relieve myself of the stress that comes with planning and conducting a training.


Thanks, Melissa for this breakdown of the training procedure. For anyone who has any questions or thoughts regarding TFFT’s Teacher Training program, ask Melissa below! We have another rider to introduce you to this week. The Annual Fund is still going strong.. we have raised $15,625 so far of our $50,000 matching goal. Will you help us get there?

Meet RIDETZ Rider Ben Bourne

9 May

By Kaitlin Rogers and Ben Bourne, RIDETZ Rider

On this wonderful Wednesday, you get to meet another wonderful rider. Through Meghann, I have been lucky to get to know Ben well over the past year and a half. He is the kind of person who makes just any experience better. He is a blast to be around and making sure everyone is having a good time is always his top priority. He also has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. His generosity never ceases to amaze me. We are so fortunate that Ben is joining us for the 2012 RIDETZ experience. Enjoy his thoughtful responses and make sure you read all the way through… there is a surprise at the end that will blow you away!

1)            Where are you from?

I was originally born in Florida, but our family moved to Charlotte when I was three years old, so the times growing up in Charlotte and seeing the city transform so dramatically over the years has been a wonderful thing to experience. Although I travel quite a bit and have lived in many other places in my years, it will always be a special feeling to come back “home”.

2)            What do you do for work?

I have been an entrepreneur at heart ever since I can remember.  Around 2000, I moved back to South Florida to start a real estate firm at the age of 22 that designed, built, and redeveloped townhomes, condos, and estate homes throughout Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Palm Beach. I have invested  in specialty pharmaceutical, medical device, biotechnology and service segments of the healthcare arena for over 12 years. I also have several holding companies that have interests in everything from large private equity funds throughout the US and Europe to nightclubs to a full line of award winning Sake and liquors, TY KU.

To put it simply, I really enjoy starting or buying/investing in businesses with family and close friends and helping them reach their full potential. I love seeing them become what we all had dreamed they could be. Working in such a diverse arena enables me to meet people of all walks of life from around the world, many who have become dear, dear friends.

3)            What do you like to do on your spare time?

I love to travel. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to experience mission trips to Guatemala City, Guatemala and Madras, India. Having the opportunity to help the orphaned and hurting children of Mexico and Brazil brought me to my knees. I had never seen the pain that existed throughout the world, and to see it at such a young age helped mold me and pushes me to become more involved and to appreciate the multitude of blessings we are afforded here in the US.

I also enjoy tennis, skiing, golf (although my game has a mind of its own some days), deep sea fishing for some underwater beasts (Marlin/Sailfish ideally) and sweating it out in the gym when I can forget the worries of the day and just push myself as hard as possible.

I am happiest when I can wake to the sound of crashing waves and the smell of the ocean. The Italian coast, the Greek Isles, St. Barts, seem to me as close to heaven as there is.

4)            Who is your inspiration in life?

There are several people who have helped shape me as a person. My parents were separated when I was still at a young age and I chose to live with my father. He helped me through many ups and downs as the years went on, and showed me the value of how blessed I was, the countless opportunities I was given.  He taught me the humble satisfaction to never forget those without the same opportunities and to help give them the ability and chance to succeed against what sometimes may seem to be unconquerable odds. My mother is also a dear person in my life with a kind and caring heart.

Me with my dad

My older brother is one of the most passionate and loving brothers one could ask for, as has one of the best business minds I know. He has always lifted me up when I’ve been down, always been someone I could battle the world against. He has always had my back no matter what. He has a wonderful wife and two gorgeous and loving children. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have them in my life.

Me with my niece and nephew, Fairbanks and Mary Pope

5)            How did you hear about RIDETZ?

My family has known Meghann Gunderman, The Foundation For Tomorrow’s Founder, for many years. When she first approached us with her idea of starting a new foundation, we fell in love with her undying passion for helping build a system in Tanzania to help empower these beautiful kids. We decided as a family to help her build the program, if even in the littlest ways.

This past February, after many years of wanting to see her work firsthand, I embarked on what turned out to be the most special trip of my lifetime. There are no words to describe the joy I felt as I first embraced the children I had heard so much about over the years. It was amazing to be surrounded by their unconditional love and the most stunning and beautiful smiles I have ever seen. It was a special thing to meet children we have sponsored over the years for the first time and to see how much TFFT has done to further them in life and reaching their goals.

Finally meeting Dickson after years of sponsorship

6)            What inspired you to want to ride this June?

Kaitlin Rogers, who traveled with Meghann to photograph the first RIDETZ two years ago, published a book entitled 400 miles. I simply could not put it down. Picture after picture, image after breathtaking image. It was something I had to do. My friends who took part in 2010 said it was hands down the experience of a lifetime. I knew I had to do it. I wanted to experience the challenge both mentally and physically and to see this beautiful country while pushing my body to its limits.

7)            Are you celebrating any milestone with RIDETZ?

Although I rode a bit when I was younger, I have just recently fell in love with biking again. I love to be active, but have never been much of a runner. The challenge itself, the training it requires, knowing the kids who will benefit from the awareness of our journey from Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean are all my motivation. When I dive into those clear waters after ten grueling days I hope it will be one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

8)            What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is)

I lived in Miami for several years. Waking up on any given day, riding down miles and miles of sandy beaches, sun beating down on me, seeing the multitude of cultures thriving, and the history of the city itself was such a special thing. Pulling up to a spot on the water after a morning ride, not saying a word, just staring at the ocean feeling the burn–what an unbelievable moment.

9)            What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?

I currently have a Pinnarello road bike. Living in downtown Charlotte, I love hopping on the elevator and just getting on it and going. She is referred to as the “beast motivator.” Long story for another time.

I am also training at a spin place here in town that I have fallen in love with… great instructors, good music, really gets the blood flowing. TFFT held a fundraiser there a few weeks ago which was my first time, but I’ve been back many times since. It’s nice to feel my body building strength and endurance each and every time.

In addition I weight train 4-5 times a week at Just Fit training studios with a close friend who started it a few years back. It seems to be a good balance of cardio and strength training to prepare me for our journey this summer.

10)          What unique ways are you planning on spreading awareness and fundraising?

Being as I am not as die hard rider as some of my friends, I have promised countless pictures and videos to those who will help support my ride. I have setup a page on crowdrise, reached out to friends and family, and I will be offering an all-expense paid trip to Tanzania to see firsthand the unbelievable things TFFT is doing on the ground to the person who helps raise the most money towards my cause.


YES, you read that correctly… an ALL-EXPENSE PAID trip to TANZANIA for the person who helps Ben raise the most money. To enter, you can create your own page through Ben’s Tanzania Challenge Page and reaching out to your network for support (once you’re on the page, just click JOIN THE TEAM) OR you can make a single donation on his fundraising page. The person who generates the most funds (either through a single personal donation OR through the combined total of donations collected from friends and family for the challenge) will be the lucky winner of an all-expense paid trip to Tanzania to see TFFT’s work. For more details, email Told you it would be a WONDERFUL Wednesday :)