Tag Archives: orphans and vulnerable children

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!!


Erasto Introduces Himself as Scholarship Director

8 May

By Erasto Kyando

Tell us a little about yourself- where are you from, what do you do in your spare time/what are your hobbies?

My name is Erasto Felix Kyando, Kinga by tribe, born in July 27, 1986 the second born in a family of three children. I was born in Tanga, the northeastern part of Tanzania and later in 1999 my parents shifted to Mbeya, the southern highland part of Tanzania where they currently live. During my spare time I enjoy reading books and watching movies. My hobbies are traveling, teaching, landscaping and designing gardens because I am a lover of beauty and nature. Furthermore I enjoy photography so much.

How did you first learn about TFFT?

I first learned about TFFT through the vacancy ad on the Arusha Times Newspaper and later further on the TFFT’s website.

What about TFFT’s mission inspires you?

I was very much inspired by TFFT’s mission and the fact that TFFT deals with the less privileged kids, especially orphans. I am very much aware of the challenges these kids face and how their future is at risk. Furthermore, I believe that most of these kids are talented but lacking someone who can inspire them and help them to explore what they have and use them for the good of the entire society.

What attracted you to the position as Scholarship Director?
  • I am passionate about working with children and youth
  • I believe working for the organization would help me grow in this vocation of working with marginalized children
  • I want to share the experiences and skills I have with the kids and youth and contribute to TFFT’s mission
  • It has always been my dream to work directly with the society and have a direct impact on it

Going to the TFFT office for my interview and meeting the staff and the time I was afforded by Fratern during the process to meet the kids in school also deepened my desire to be a part of the group. I am happy to be given the chance to work with TFFT.

What previous life experiences do you believe have prepared you for your role as Scholarship Director?

In primary school I was the Head Prefect, after finishing my secondary education I joined the Tanzania Youth Ministries, a Tanzanian-based Christian organization which strive to “change the lives of the youth so that they in turn change the world.” During all the time I have been involved in this organization I served in different leadership positions including Hai District Chairperson, Kilimanjaro Region Vice Chairperson, Mvomero District Secretary, and “Outreach Program Coordinator” for three years in which I was involved in preaching and teaching the Word, organizing various outreach missions, conducting various fundraising activities as well as coaching and mentoring youths and young professionals within and outside the University.

In the University Students Body, I also served as Deputy Minister for Affiliation and Internal Affairs, responsible for general maintenance of peace and harmony within the University. After graduation from college I worked as a Secondary School Teacher and among my duties were:

  • Teaching and facilitating students in the class.
  • Maintaining and monitoring student’s social, psychological and cognitive development
  • Guiding and Counseling students on different educational and non educational matters
  • Coordinating, inspiring and motivating students to discover and use their talents and potentialities.
  • An overseer of the  daily activities taking place in the class.

Therefore,the above information are part of my experiences which will be very applicable in my position as a Scholarship Program Director.

What are your goals for the year?

  • To identify the kids who struggle with their studies and develop a collective strategy together with partner school teachers for helping them
  • Timely visitation and maintenance of close communication with foster families and partner orphanages in order to identify kids’ social and emotional needs during the period they stay at these places
  • Monitor children’s health by checking in with the schools nurses, responding to their health needs immediately and take them to the hospital whenever they require doctor’s attention
  • Developing a model to identify and promote TFFT scholarship children’s talents and potentials by involving them in different activities that will expose their talents
  • Monitoring and adhering to a detailed budget for the supply of the children’s needs and items in a cost effective way
  • Maintaining a sound relationship with partner schools by handling any TFFT-partner school matters with great care and consideration
  • Conducting research to discover new private boarding schools for future partnership with TFFT

What life skills will you prioritize for cultivating our students?

  • Public speaking skills
  • Leadership skills by encouraging those who have leadership abilities to contest for student government posts
  • Self-reliance skills by holding them accountable for their personal properties, other students’ and public properties
  • Instilling a sense of self-confidence, healthy self image as well as self-discipline such as time management skills

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I believe in positivity and possibility and so whenever a conducive environment and positive inspiration are provided for somebody to learn, one can grow to no limit and do wonders. Therefore I would really appreciate your cooperation in working as a team so that together we can create this conducive environment for these kids to grow. I am looking forward to be the best I can and learn much from the TFFT team. Asante sana.


Thank you, Erasto!! We are confident in your ability to positively shape and guide our scholarship kids to help them each believe in themselves and life’s endless possibilities.

Annual Fund Update: We have almost raised $13,000 for the Annual Fund… $3,250 so far this week! We need to raise another $37,000 to reach our matching challenge of $50,000. You can make your 2012 contribution here.

Tanzanian Culture

10 Apr

By Fratern Tarimo, TFFT’s Managing Director

Today I will try (in every sense of the word TRY) to talk about the Tanzanian culture in relation to TFFT’s work. Last year I had the opportunity to attend the East African Philanthropy Conference organized by the Association of East African Grantmakers, and it was interesting to hear how different participants portrayed the culture of Tanzania (and East Africa in general) as the culture of giving.

Tanzanians are known for being happy and kind people, regardless of the daily issues that we have to deal with. We always try to live together as a community that cares for one another. Tanzania has over 120 ethnic groups with different sub-cultures, yet people tend to live harmoniously, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, because there is a very high tolerance and respect for individual cultures.

This is because we have a unifying culture that binds us all together thus forming the Tanzanian culture.  We are culturally unified by speaking Kiswahili, eating some of the same meals—chapatti (naan bread), rice dishes, ugali (corn meal)—and by embracing the notion that “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is part of our culture to pay for a neighbor’s child school fees, and we constantly make contributions for funerals, weddings, for the sick, and, yes, for education.

People are also very willing to give their time and energy to support different initiatives in their community. There are a good number of families that provide foster care, free of charge, to those children who do not have a place to live or do not have parents/guardians. This kind of practice is entrenched into the culture – it is simply a way of living.

One could easily ask the question, if we all care for one another and support each other, why do we need organizations like TFFT? Why can’t the community take care of needy kids like TFFT scholars and others? To answer this question we must look deeper into what kind of challenges we have in the community and why a helping hand like TFFT is necessary. So far we have seen that it is part of the Tanzania culture to work hard to support kids and those who are in need; however, the resources needed for real support are too enormous for the communities to bear. When a person gets sick, the community takes the responsibility of taking them to a local clinic regardless of the distance or the means of transportation. The challenge comes when they arrive at the rural clinic, and they are faced with a medical person with limited knowledge and limited medical supplies to properly diagnose and treat that person.

Likewise, when a child is old enough to attend school, the community is willing to take them to school because the community cares and thinks positively about education. The issue is that when this particular child gets to school s/he immediately start thinking about the distance they have walked (may be 3 miles) and after staying in school for more than 6 hours with no lunch, poorly trained teachers, no teaching materials, no safe water to drink, and sometimes no proper bathrooms, you can only imagine what that child will do the next day or the following week – may be a no show. Even if this child chooses to stay and struggle to finish a certain level of education, lets say primary school, the probability of him or her to continue with further education is very slim due to poor quality of education received in the first place.

This is why TFFT, the government, and the like, have to intervene. We can all join hands and become part of the community that works together (become part of TZ culture) to ensure that the quality of life, especially in the learning environment, is improved. TFFT highly considers the cultures of the individual ethnic groups as well as that of the larger community in implementing its programs. Each child is dealt with individually and according to their background. In other words, we at TFFT embrace differences while celebrating similarities.

Thank you for being part of the great organization that uniquely supports the children of Tanzania. And thank you for reading my-attempt-to-make-sense-of-Tanzania-culture-blog. If you really want to learn about the Tanzanian utamaduni, or any other utamaduni for that matter, I personally believe that the best way is to see, hear, smell, and live it. So karibuni sana (you are all welcome) to Tanzania.

Thanks, Fratern! Go ahead and leave your thoughts and comments, and Fratern will get back to you there. Hope your week is off to a good start. We’ll be back to introduce the next rider, Eugene, on the blog on Thursday!

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!

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!