We don’t take what our staff and volunteers do for us lightly. Without them, achieving what we do at Orkeeswa Secondary would just not be possible. It’s not always blue skies and sunshine working in rural Africa. There are hardships and daily hurdles to overcome, but our volunteers conquer all to help give our students the best educational experience possible.

We are delighted to share some of their stories with you…

JANE WALL School Coordinator 

DSC_0431I am a passionate educator and have worked in a number of different countries over the last 30 years, but it was always a desire of mine to come to East Africa. I’m not sure why, but when I arrived in Tanzania at the beginning of 2011, I felt that my heart was already here.

I spent just over 2 years volunteering in a project just outside of Arusha and during that time heard lots of great things about Orkeeswa – particularly about the friendly, confident, articulate students and the aim to provide a broad education which went beyond that which the Tanzanian curriculum could provide. When my last job ended, I was so pleased to hear that there was an opportunity to work at the school.

I am really appreciating getting to know the staff and the students and learning more about this amazing country and its varied cultures – it is great to see that the students are so keen to learn, but at the same time are also still so rooted in their communities and families.  It is my hope that we can continue to provide a quality education which will enable the students to move on to the next stage in their lives – combining a successful academic outcome with all the skills needed to become successful leaders in their families and communities.

SARA DUPONT Communications Coordinator

DSC_0694Making education accessible to all is what drives me. When thinking about the world and all of its complications, education has long been the only thing that makes sense to me. I believe in human resilience and the ability of individuals, families and communities to take care of themselves, to provide for themselves, to lift themselves out of poverty; education is the means to achieving those things. When approaching the puzzle of an underdeveloped economy, it is best to start at the beginning, best to start by educating a youth that through skills, creativity and leadership can ignite change.

I was not born to be a teacher and so I have found that I can contribute to making education excellent and accessible by connecting people across cultures to worthwhile ventures like Orkeeswa and by telling the stories of the successes, the hardships.  When deciding to come to Orkeeswa I was in part seeking adventure, seeking an opportunity to broaden my perspective, to enrich my own life. Being with students that are so endlessly upbeat in the face of adversity, who are joyous about learning, abidingly curious; they make every day matter. Without knowing it they are making me a much kinder, more generous human being.

I am also inspired to be working with people like Drew and Ellie, Jane, Kirsten and Peter. I am inspired to work with people that put the success of a mission before themselves and that make many personal sacrifices for the work that they love.

ELLIE TURNER Geography Teacher & Volunteer Coordinator

DSC_0137_2I was standing in a classroom in Zambia, 19 years old on a (two month) leave from school attempting to teach English to a class of 50 students and the realization hit me: “What am I doing? Why do I think I can do this? I want to get real experience and then I want to do this properly”.

I have grown up in a family where campaigning for various NGOs is the norm and I knew that I wanted to work overseas in a development capacity. After my epiphany in Zambia, in my first year at university studying for my Geography degree, I then opted for development economic modules and knew that I wanted to do a job “on the ground”. Teaching was my natural choice, and after two years teaching in England, trained to teach to a national exam system, I was looking to come and take my experience and my interest in development education elsewhere. I was further inspired by the fact that there can be up to eighty people applying for one teaching position in the UK, whereas in countries like Tanzania, schools are desperate for qualified teachers. I came upon IEFT and was fascinated by a development NGO focused on education in a rural area, and one which is still young, growing and evolving.

Upon my arrival, my biggest challenge was gaining the respect and trust from the students and proving that I was capable and that I understood the education system they’re in. Whilst it is crucial that the students are taught to the exam, and can apply their learning to the national exam questions, I am equally as passionate about making their learning investigative, engaging and stimulating. This has been challenging in an environment with limited resources, like rural Tanzania, but I have loved being creative in my teaching and using a whole range of materials that I would never have considered as teaching aids in England.

What has kept me going and excited me every day is the sheer willingness of the students to learn, and they will be cooperative with anything you throw at them in the classroom. I have had Form 1 students spontaneously burst into applause after an activity, and Form 4’s (17 year olds) cheerfully miming out how to do a chain survey on the lawn as we don’t have the equipment here to do one properly. The students are the most positive, unfazed and flexible students I have ever met.

ANDREW COLBURN Athletics & Activities Coordinator

Drew PhotoOrkeeswa’s philosophy of education doesn’t end with classroom activities and lectures.  The holistic approach of Orkeeswa secondary encourages students to get out of the classroom and become active in something other than academics.  Our sports program gives kids the ability to develop leadership skills, dedication, and builds confidence within themselves. We have high standards for our student athletes and expect them not only to perform well on game day but to also be role models at school as well as in their community.  Our clubs and activities allow our students to try new things and become an integral part of our school community.  Whether it’s Mali Hai (environmental club) or Ultimate Frisbee, students grow with other students and develop skills that will help them outside the classroom.

My time at Orkeeswa has been an amazing experience.  I have been able to watch the development of our students and how much the after school activities, clubs, and sports help them to become active members of our school community.  Some of our students have a lot of natural athletic ability and to be able to watch and be a part of its development has been extremely rewarding.  These students will often walk for hours before sunrise to make an hour-long bus ride to play for less than an hour.  The dedication of our athletes as well as their competitive nature is amazing.  They are fearless, often playing other teams that have more size and experience, but they never back down and play to the last whistle.  My journey in Tanzania has started and will end with providing an opportunity for young people to develop confidence, become leaders, and to be representatives of their community.

KIRSTEN HICKS Development Director – USA Staff

I joined IEFT because I was seeking a new experience that was both challenging and meaningful. Upon hearing of this organization’s work, I was inspired. When the opportunity arose to come on board their team, I didn’t think twice.

May 1st was an exciting day for IEFT. It not only marked the day that I began my journey with this organization, but it coincided with the move of our office from Boston to New York City.

The Center for Social Innovation (CSI) is IEFT’s new home and we are thrilled to be one of their founding members. CSI is a sensational new complex located in Chelsea, specifically created for organizations that are working within the area of social innovation. We are certain that this move will prove hugely beneficial for our organization, specifically in regards to community collaboration and our own organizational growth.

To those in the know, a life lived in New York is nothing short of worlds apart from a life lived in the rural areas of Northern Tanzania. It was this fact that propelled me to swiftly make the trip to Orkeeswa Secondary School in Lashaine Valley. Prior to my arrival, through research and many conversations, I felt as though I had a good grasp of the school culture, but nothing could have prepared me for the exceptional experience I would have on the ground.

Meeting the students at Orkeeswa Secondary impacted me profoundly. Their energy, laughter and enthusiasm was infectious and the dedication they have to achieve academically is admirable. They really have a zest for life that I wanted to bottle up and bring home with me. The teachers were some of the hardest working I have come across, and the parents, many of whom are uneducated themselves, are supportive and endearingly gracious. The existing infrastructure of the School provides the foundation for an enriched and well-rounded educational experience, as well as a place for celebration and play. I know that witnessing life at Orkeeswa Secondary will only serve to make me work harder for these young people’s future.

IEFT is a small organization that has the capacity to truly change the lives of young people living in rural Tanzania. I value working for an organization where I can actually feel the impact we are making and I am excited to now be a part of making that happen.

I would love to share our progress and our future plans with you all! If you find yourself in New York, please come to the Center for Social Innovation, I would love to meet you!


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