Empowerment Through Education
Kilimahewa is the name of a village that lies in the shadows of the beautiful mountain that beckons adventurists from around the world. Extending from Arusha Road into the hills, Kilimahewa and the surrounding villages are populated primarily by subsistence farmers who live in soil, stick, or concrete one or two room structures without running water or electricity. Men struggle to find sources of income, often falling into self-destructive behaviors… women struggle to shoulder the responsibility of both their families and their land… children struggle simply to survive. All struggle to gain an education – to learn fundamental skills that can bring a better life.
In September 2006, a group of local citizens joined Grace Lyimo, whose family owns property in this area, to provide an educational refuge for local youth. The result was a CBO “Company Limited by Guarantee” called The Women and Children’s Center for Education (KIWOCE). Through this organization, Grace and local women, in particular, turned what had become a gathering spot for local brew drinking and marijuana use into a center for learning.
In 2008 and 2009, three educators from the U.S., Kerri Elliott, Jillian Swinford and Moira Madonia all taught at Kilimahewa as foreign volunteers. By this time, a small two-room building with a front porch had been turned into a multi-use place for formal classes, toddler care and sewing instruction. Moira, Jillian and Kerri collaborated after their return to the U.S. and formed a 501 C-3 non-profit with a three-program focus to help the people of these villages. One of these programs was to develop Kilimahewa into a viable educational center that could offer a wide range of students instruction that could lead to productive lives.
While the Kilimahewa Centre for Education expands as an Internet hub, an innovative curriculum of agribusiness and husbandry in also underway to help local “peasants” earn more income in their own environment. Almost everywhere you go in the villages around Kilimahewa, families raise some crops and have several chickens for their own consumption or to earn a few shillings. Few villagers, however, have the wherewithal to build a sustainable business with these vegetables and livestock. Thanks to the 2014 Rotary Global Grant and an earlier grant from 1Ndoto to construct a chicken coop, EdPowerment is developing extensive gardens to demonstrate effective farming practices. Plans also are underway for a rabbit project and fishpond.
Since 2010 EdPowerment has steadily developed a formal academic course instruction at the Kilimahewa Centre for Education by hiring exemplary Tanzanian teachers and providing critical classroom materials. Reading and access to books and other materials are virtually unheard of in Kilimahewa. So in 2011, EdPowerment also embarked on a plan to take the older students to the Moshi library once a week by piled them into the dala-dala each week accompanied by staff.
In 2013 we went a step further. Thanks to a New York City fundraiser at SoulCycle, we embarked on a community library for not only Kilimahewa students, but also for their families and neighbors. At the same time, EdPowerment began to bring laptop computers to the Centre. Villagers literally had never touched this staple of modern life.
EdPowerment’s educational efforts got a tremendous boost in the fall of 2014 when Rotary International awarded a $53,000 Global Grant to the Centre to develop a skills program at the Centre. Under the guidance of EdPowerment Director, Kerri Elliott, a pairing of Internet courses and farming best practice instruction now supplements a core of academic subjects. Powered by a newly installed solar powered electrical grid, Kilimahewa reaches out to village adults, as well as their children, bringing the world beyond Kilimahewa within their reach.