A Summer in East Africa Well Spent
Hi everyone, Erna here. During this visit to Africa, I was excited to see in-person that Asante Africa’s educational programs are thriving. My five-week-long trip offered numerous school tours, interactions with community members, meetings with supporters from local governments, gatherings with regional Asante Africa staff and volunteers, and a global meeting of the Asante Africa Board of Directors.
Kick Off in Kenya
I celebrated my arrival in Nairobi, Kenya by creating a video in Asante Africa’s Nairobi office. It’s always exciting to visit East Africa, work with the incredible staff in the country, and meet new people. In the days that followed, I traveled from Nairobi to Asante Africa’s Kenya office in Maralal, Samburu to visit more rural regions of Kenya and photograph everyday life along the way. Upon encountering three women of the Samburu tribe who were dressed in traditional green, yellow, and red clothing, adorned with brightly colored beads and woven threads, I snapped a striking selfie with them. The colors in the clothing and jewelry of the Samburu culture are stunning. The beautiful young Samburu women were walking 20 kilometers to a celebration where they were asked to sing for a group.
Visits to local schools are always overwhelmingly joyful. We stopped at a primary school to see how our Wezesha Vijana program was going. It’s awesome on all levels! Asante Africa’s Wezesha Vijana Program is designed specifically to involve communities in supporting adolescent girls, male peers, and parents by offering education on women’s rights, reproductive health, financial literacy, and personal safety. This has been a growing program for us over the last 5 years and it’s really paying dividends for the girls in these extremely rural communities. At one of our Wezesha Vijana programs, students dressed in royal blue and yellow uniforms enthusiastically greeted me before showing off their ability to use technology to enhance their educational experience. Digital learning has been extremely important in these remote areas – especially during the pandemic when schools were closed.
Unimaginably Amazing Uganda
Uganda welcomed me along with the entire Asante Africa Senior Staff with elaborate feasts of traditional foods. I joked that “Everyone is gaining weight in Uganda because of how wonderful the food is.” During the first half of the week, Senior Management teams from all three countries came together to synchronize educational plans and ensure they are delivering their programs with the greatest quality. The Directors reflected on Asante Africa’s primary goal to deeply touch and reach the lives of young people. As we grow our impact, we never want to violate our values of quality-contact with our young people, their parents, and their teachers.
In the days that followed, the Global Board toured rural Uganda to visit the local schools. Immediately, we were all reminded of the importance of Asante Africa’s programs, including the Youth Livelihood Program and the Accelerated Learning Program. At the first school we visited, we heard story after story of young scholars who were sleeping in animal sheds before receiving scholarships for school fees. Now, these students are preparing for senior exams and earning “top-of-class” scores.
Asante Africa scholarships, even one-time scholarships, proved to make an astounding difference in the lives of students. Young girls from very poor families, whose parents had no food in the house, often face arranged marriage, just from a survival perspective. When Grace received a scholarship from Asante Africa, she was able to stay in school. She dreams of becoming a teacher one day. When supported through scholarship, these girls are able to attend school and learn skills for a successful future. Without these scholarships, their future as young brides and lives of poverty is pretty much assured.
We took the board members to another school where Wezesha Vijana Program participants (ages 11-14) enthusiastically showed off their incredible accomplishments. Students at this school had started an income generating project: they had built a canteen out of wooden planks and they were selling items like cookies, juices, pencils, and notebooks to the other children in the school. In the spirit of paying it forward, the revenue that they generated was being used to help a fellow student — an orphan — pay his school fees. I am so proud of these young people embracing the “pay-it-forward” values in Asante Africa.
Their Organization in Tanzania
The final leg of my trip was spent touring Tanzania where more than 150 schools have been impacted by Asante Africa’s programs. We visited REMOTE schools where no other nonprofits have ever supported and they were immensely excited that we had programs in their schools.The children were eager to share the skills they had been learning including English, math, science, and ICT through the programs such as the Bridge the Gap Course.
In the town of Dodoma, I, with Theopista Seuya, our Tanzania Country Director, met with several government officials and program funders who were enthusiastic about Asante Africa’s work with young people. Programs offered by Asante Africa benefit rural economies by supporting youth in starting small businesses in the villages where they live instead of migrating to bigger cities. Maria, a graduate of the 2021 LEI Summit, grew her local poultry business and now supports herself and her family. She proudly encourages other youth to create business ideas that generate income and support their family and the local community.
My visits with regional Asante Africa staff, many of whom are program alumni, impressed me on how extremely proud they are to be a part of Asante Africa. Asante Africa is their organization, not some outsider’s. These proud Asante Africa staff members are from the communities where they work, so they are locally respected and appreciated for the difference they are making. As a global team, we are making an enormous difference in the lives of these young people in East Africa. It warms my heart.
Written By: Erna Grasz and Shauna White