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Two Years Later, Progress Surrounds Me

I last left Tanzania in August of 2015, saddened by the uncertainty of when I would be back. Since then, I have completed my final year of undergraduate studies at Union College (NY), followed by a Master of Science degree in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford. Over the past two years, I have done a considerable amount of travelling: ten months in the UK, two months in Albania, and brief trips to Morocco, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Kenya, and Macedonia. However, I have longed for my return to Bagamoyo, Tanzania – a place that I have found unlike any other.

I’ve missed my days of working with secondary school students in the ASFE office, laughing in the shops of artists, and watching dhow boats depart the beach at sunrise. I’ve found that when I tell stories, most have been about my happy times in Bagamoyo. Nostalgic feelings have been frequent: smells that remind me of the local fish market, songs that prompt memories of the drives to work on the Bagamoyo dirt roads, and even simple sounds such as ocean waves crashing on the shore.

After two long years, I am thrilled to be back.

Back at Firefly – my favorite peaceful work spot in Bagamoyo

A lot has changed in two years. Asante Sana For Education has progressed immensely: opening a new office in Bagamoyo, beginning BEE Montessori Preschool, and progressing on construction projects of multiple primary schools throughout Tanzania. To me, these changes are astonishing. In 2015, my brother Jack and I sat in the ASFE office with relatively trivial development goals. From that time, the current progress that ASFE has accomplished would have been considered inconceivable. As of now, I have only been back in Bagamoyo for eight days. Nevertheless, I am reminded every day of a different major accomplishment that this organization has achieved.

I will first touch light on the case of Seratiani. In 2015, ASFE had been in the process of planning an operation for Seratiani’s leg, which was severely deformed by the disease elephantiasis. Truthfully, I was quite skeptical about the practicality of the operation, as it appeared farfetched to find a doctor and hospital that could succeed with such a complex, dangerous operation. However, I was astounded upon visiting Seratiani and her family this past Thursday. Not only was the leg amputation successful, but also Seratiani has superbly adjusted to a prosthetic leg. During our visit, I was overcome by emotion to see Seratiani enjoying simple moments with her young daughter – a daughter that will now be able to return from school every day to the presence of a healthy, joyful mother.

Seratiani enjoying a moment with her daughter, Ruth

With the help of numerous volunteers, ASFE has also opened BEE Montessori Preschool. BEE Montessori Preschool currently schools fourteen 2-4 year old students, yet will presumably expand to twenty students in the near future. Two qualified and dedicated teachers teach at the school, with the addition of a cook to provide students with a daily snack and porridge. Having witnessed the class sessions, I am pleased to see the evident learning and joy that takes place. In addition, BEE Montessori Preschool is attached to ASFE’s new office facilities, giving a background noise of joyous learning for ASFE staff-members during their day-to-day operations. I am excited to witness the progress of the BEE students (and their adorable yellow and black school uniforms) in the near future.

A student of BEE Montessori Preschool engaging during a class session

BEE Montessori Preschool head teacher, Glory, instructing the class through active learning

Finally, ASFE has achieved substantial progress on construction developments for Mnindi Primary School and Magogoni Primary School. Upon visiting both schools, we were greeted by students and teachers grateful for the investment in their community’s schools. Mnindi Primary School appears to be operating smoothly (thanks to the additional support of Room to Read), which grants ASFE pure joy and inspiration for the future. Magononi Primary School has achieved improvements as well, yet we look to strengthen future collaborations between the government in order to continue developments.

Students in a class at Mnindi Primary School

Fiorina – a recent Oxford graduate (and my wonderful girlfriend) here to work with ASFE – explores nearby pineapple fields after our visit to Magogoni Primary School

I want to give my sincere thanks to everyone who supports Asante Sana for Education and our mission to further educational opportunities for children throughout Tanzania. It puts a smile on my face to see the amount of learning opportunities this organization has supported: whether it be children living in remote areas who are now able to attend a primary school in their communities, or our students in the ‘Students Empowering Students’ program who are now capable of obtaining the funds to attend a college or university.

I am a firm believer that education can create opportunities, and in many cases, can be an outlet out of poverty and misfortune. With that in mind, I am entirely grateful for all of you who support ASFE – whether that is committing time on the ground in Tanzania, or donating and fundraising from a distance. With your help, ASFE has supported a significant growth of educational opportunities for children throughout Tanzania.

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