Everyone has potential. Not everyone has the opportunity to tap that potential.
In 2010, a group of educators who had volunteered outside of Moshi, Tanzania, and several globally-minded colleagues formed EdPowerment Inc. to provide A WAY BACK (to learning) and A WAY FORWARD (in life) for those abandoned by formal systems in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. Having encountered the absolute lack of opportunity that beset these children of primarily subsistence farmers, EdPowerment’s founding team resolved to change their possibilities.
Anchored in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, EdPowerment creates educational paths that enable individuals of all abilities to build purpose-filled and secure lives.
In 2009 Moira Madonia, then a U.S. high school educator, ventured to Tanzania as part of a volunteer program. There she taught English in a tiny village community center for post-primary youth who no longer attended formal school. These young teens were typical in many ways, but for those eager to learn, the future held no promise. Squeezed together on benches, their only respite from domestic chores and boredom was to come to the Kilimahewa Center for Education (KIWOCE) for a few hours each day.
When Moira returned home and resumed her teaching career, she contacted Jillian Swinford and Kerri Gilbert, fellow educators who had volunteered at Kilimahewa in 2008. In 2010, the three joined forces to form EdPowerment, a 501c-3 non-profit. The organization's mission was to develop educational paths for these and other vulnerable teens and young adults in this area of Tanzania.
Collaborating with GraceAnna Lyimo (Mama Grace), who founded the Kilimahewa Women and Orphans Center for Education (KIWOCE) on her family’s property in 2007, EdPowerment began a three-pronged approach to service:
- A long-term sponsorship program to enable the more academically gifted and motivated students to re-enter and navigate the formal system through the highest level they could achieve, reaching careers and economic security.
- Development of the Kilimahewa Center for Education (KIWOCE) to teach academics and skills to struggling learners or those with no family resources, so they could seek employment, self-employment or re-entry into formal educational programs.
- An advocacy program, Autism Connects Tanzania (ACT), for the autistic and otherwise intellectually disabled so they too could find a place in the Tanzanian educational system and society. Mama Grace, whose son, Erick, is autistic, was the community activist and driver behind this initiative.
As of February 2021, EdPowerment operates as an NGO in Tanzania, as well as in the U.S. Our new Tanzanian NGO, Educational Empowerment Organization better allows us to develop programs and partnerships, including a relaunched Discovery Scholarship Program that will offer higher education opportunities for exceptional post-secondary school young adults, who could not otherwise continue their education. Meanwhile, over 20 students continue to achieve in Universities, while recent graduates take on careers in medicine, education, agriculture and other professions.
Concurrently, EdPowerment is directly funding staff and other targeted costs at what was KIWOCE Open School for the duration of 2021. As of Spring 2021, however, KIWOCE's owner (our starting point in Tanzania) converted the school to the private, formal Kilimahewa Modern Secondary School. (Please see the KIWOCE NGO page for further information). As a result, EdPowerment will conclude our partnership at year-end 2021.
From 2010 - 2021, hundreds of locals have come to KIWOCE each year to reclaim their future through its low-cost, high quality programs. We are grateful for the immeasurable impact this open educational center has had for so many young people excluded from the formal system.
Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT), now operates independently of EdPowerment funding. It is a leading voice for those with autism and intellectual disabilities in the Kilimanjaro region. Today CAT focuses on vocational and inclusion programs and operates its own Youth Center that promotes workplace opportunities for this population. We are proud to have enabled its establishment and growth.
EdPowerment’s former Operations and Finance Manager died tragically in May 2018. He was our linchpin, handling a multitude of tasks from financial reporting to supervising and mentoring our sponsored students. Tom's vocational degrees prepared him to be our amazing van driver, visiting student families whatever the terrain. However, his motivation took him much further. He learned computer skills (which he shared in the classroom at KIWOCE), financial accounting, and the particulars of the Tanzanian school system. His dependability, smile and kindness made him a source of stability and guidance for our students.