“They walk for miles with 40 lbs of water carried on their head.”
Our school has a travelling exhibit right now, brought to us by Africa Bridge, and showing what school life is like for kids in
Tanzania. It seems like a smart way for the kids to learn a little bit about a different culture (they particularly seem to like the soccer ball made from plastic bags and electrical tape.) What is missing, of course, is the true experience of what it feels like to actually walk those many miles lugging the water. It is missing the bugs and dirt and sanitation issues. Like many movies (The Best exotic Marigold Hotel comes to mind here,) it is a scrubbed up version of the reality.
On the other hand, things like the soccer ball and blackboard show that, while the environment may be different, many
activities are not so far off from what our own children experience in their own daily lives. One of my favorite books, Wake Up World; A Day in the Life of Children Around the World, produced by OXFAM, illustrates this point even more successfully. Kids wake up, eat, get clean, get dressed, go to school, play, help out, dream and sleep much as my own daughter does.
But the darker side of the reality is that many children, especially young girls, are not offered these experiences at all. Many spend their lives taking care of household chores and then being married at an early age to go and do this for their husband. They have no voice, no options, and frequently no ownership of anything, even their own bodies. Their lives are treated as a tool, to be used as needed.
I have been very proud to help support, and sometimes work with, an organization, BRAC, who through hands on work in countries throughout Asia, Africa (including Tanzania) and the Americas, helps to give women the options in life they deserve.
This week, as we celebrate the inauguration of our President, we should remember how valuable and hard won our freedom is. What better way to celebrate than to lighten the load of a child in a country without those freedoms. Below you will find an explanation (from our school newsletter) of the work Africa Bridge is doing and how you can help. You can also link to BRAC for more information about their programs as well. Thank you!
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Happy New Year, I am looking forward to working with your school on some important Africa Bridge
Africa Bridge is a Non-Governmental Organization founded in West Linn by Barry Childs. AB’s work is focused on
vulnerable children in the rural villages of the Mbeya region of Southwest Tanzania. Approximately one out of three
(33%) of the children are orphans due to HIV/AIDS and malaria. All orphaned or vulnerable children are taken in by
other families. We establish income generating agricultural cooperatives for those families supporting orphaned and
vulnerable children. Part of the income from the cooperatives goes to village Most Vulnerable Children Committee
which purchases school uniforms and health insurance for these children. The school uniform enables children
to go to school. The remaining income significantly improves the living and nutritional lives of these families.
AB also builds health clinics and school classrooms for these villages.
This is My School project, part of Africa Bridge, which connects vulnerable schools in rural Tanzania with school
children in the United States. Our goal is to support the educational needs of the Most Vulnerable Children in
Tanzania through the expansion and improvement of their educational facilities and equipment.
Africa Bridge works with local villagers to help the Most Vulnerable Children get the support and resources necessary
to attend school. This effort has been so successful that the number of children attending school has significantly
increased leading to crowded classrooms. US schools partnerships help fulfill the need for more classrooms, desks,
and other school room resources.
These partnerships create an authentic experience for US students to engage in being world citizens and to learn about
the African experience. Contact us for more information. Emily Pollard Emily@africabridge.org
503-699-6162 or Roger Woehl 503-360-3597. Learn more at www.africabridge.org
Past projects supported in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District include partnering with Pakati Primary in 2011 and
Katusyo Primary Schools in 2012 to help construct new classrooms, toilets, repairs, desks, and school supplies.
Introducing the 2012-13 Project: Mpombo Schools.Mpombo Ward has 5 primary schools and 1 secondary
school. This is the second year for AB to work in the Mpombo Ward (out of a five year project). The schools
range in size from 325 to 530 students. Average class size is 75 students per teacher.
Our priorities for the next several years are classroom desks, teacher toilets and completion of classroom already under
construction. Our goals for this year are to secure funding for 250 desks ($10,750) and four teacher toilets ($5,800).
We will be visiting over the next several weeks. Our model classroom will be in the library and I will be
meeting with students to teach a little about Tanzania and Africa. We will learn a little Kiswahili too. Come join us.
Asante Sana (Thank You)
Roger L. Woehl