The School Fund Summer 2013 Trip Report — Stories from Kenya & Tanzania

Participants: Matt Severson, Connor Ashenbrucker, Judy Severson, Roxana Moussavian, Corwin Garber, Lee Marcus, Jonathan Gilbert, David Zhu, Matthew Hwang, Sarah Ye, Laura Ye & John Medo.

NGO Partners Visited: Tanzania – IEFT, TSF TZ; Kenya – Flying Kites, CTC International, Children of Kibera, WEMA, Kanyala Little Stars, Kenya Connect

Hi Everyone –

It’s been a busy several weeks since we returned from the 2013 TSF visit to East Africa, but we wanted to take a moment to share some highlights. In total, we met with 90+ students and staff from 7 NGO partner organizations (full list of NGO partners here) and TSF’s own Tanzania program.

Week One – Tanzania

The first week was devoted to The School Fund’s Tanzania program in Iringa, TZ.  Judy Severson has fearlessly taken on leadership of this program, which supports 40 students directly rather than through an NGO partner.

In Iringa we were joined by 5 committed US students and their parents, who received an in-depth look at the Tanzanian education system.  Their experience was led by Judy with invaluable support from TSF intern Lee Marcus, who will soon be embarking on his career as a teacher in New York.  The US students’ curriculum culminated with the end-of-week TSF community celebration, where students gave a musical performance for students and stakeholders with instruments brought all the way from the Bay Area.

Corwin and Malcolm, TSF’s resident video and interview experts, rounded out our team and worked throughout the trip gathering footage for forthcoming TSF videos.  This reflection from Corwin aptly sums up many of our feelings from the trip:

“Seeing how these kids learn and what some of them have gone through has made me rethink a lot of things about my own life. Electricity is a luxury, running water is a luxury. Good fortune gives the potential to do great things more easily; it would be a shame to waste that opportunity.”

Other week one highlights include:

  • Interviewing students who have been with TSF nearly since its founding, including Zahra, Shangwe and Yasini

  • Playing basketball and frisbee with scholar-athletes like Elizabeth

  • Visiting Martha’s and Bonifas’ (pictured, on computer) homes and speaking with their parents about how education has improved since they were children

  • Helping students complete a survey in TSF’s Maisha Mikononi Mwako (Life in Your Hands) computer lab at Ummu Salama school

  • Developing TSF’s regional board of advisors with significant help from Fuad Jaffar of ASAS enterprises and Priti and Raj of Sai Villa Hotel

  • Exploring partnership opportunities to facilitate tourist support for local TSF students

2013 Poster Pic 6

US High School Student with TSF TZ students writing on their online journals in Iringa, Tanzania

Week Two – Kenya

We headed to Karatu, TZ, where we met founding TSF student John Medo and his family for dinner at their home. John joined us in a visit to brand new NGO partner IEFT, a high-impact school in rural northern Tanzania, and helped us navigate to Nairobi and beyond.  The four of us were fortunate to get an interview and tour of Kenyan Parliament with the Honorable Ken Okoth, who is a recently-elected member of parliament for the Kibera district of Nairobi and also a co-founder of TSF parter Children for Kibera.  We were based in Nairobi for most of the second week, where we:

  • Visited Google’s Nairobi office and met with Joseph Mucheru, Denis Gikunda and Shikoh Gitau, who heads several student support initiatives in Kenya and is excited to work with TSF.  Google also provided office space for us to meet with leaders from TSF NGO partners WEMA and Kanyala Little Stars, who traveled from the far reaches of Kenya to describe their amazing work and strengthen our partnership.

  • Met up with TSF co-founder Roxana Moussavian and visited TSF partner Flying Kites in surprisingly foggy, lush and cold Njabini at 8000ft elevation.  Students welcomed us to the Flying Kites orphanage for the night with a beautiful song and dance.  It was a privilege to interview students like Ann and Peter as well as Flying Kites’ onsite director Sam, who noted what an honor it is for him to serve as a father figure for so many students because he did not know his own father.

  • Traveled to CTC International in Maai Maihu, where Education Director Ruth Mureithi brought us to two schools to speak with Mary, John and Magdaline about their impressive academic pursuits in physics and biology.

  • Visited Kenya Connect in Wamunyu, where 18 TSF students welcomed us with performances of poetry, comedy and group games.  James Musuaka and Patrick Munguti provided useful feedback on TSF site usability and also brought us to the Machekos School for the Deaf.  Here we met Matua, a talented artist and currently TSF’s only deaf student.

On our final day, TSF all-star and future university student Apollo Oduor and program director Jeff Ochieng brought us to Children of Kibera in Nairobi.

Kibera is known for being the second-largest slum in Africa, yet students like Christian Onyango defy all odds.  We were honored to visit the home of Erik Otieno, where anchovies and ugali, graciously prepared for us, sizzled and wafted in the background as Erik’s mother Lorraine spoke through a translator.  She toyed nervously with strips of magazine pages, which she braids into bracelets and sells, while describing her primary occupation of selling boiled maize at the market. Erik sat stoically, aware of the pride his mother has in him as a Children of Kibera student.

All in all, this trip has left us feeling fortunate for the opportunity to meet so many inspiring students and for the opportunity to help make a difference.  There’s a lot of work to be done — and we’re proud to be a part of it. 


Connor, Matt & The School Fund Team

PS – We’ll continue to update photos and videos to our Facebook and Google+ pages, so please stay tuned

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