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 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 lack of opportunity for these students, EdPowerment’s founding team resolved to change their possibilities.
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 study in 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 in some of the areas most deprived villages Meanwhile, over 20 students continue to achieve in Universities, as recent graduates take on careers in medicine, education, agriculture and other professions.
In 2021 EdPowerment continues to fund staff and other targeted costs at what was KIWOCE Open School. However, as of Spring 2021, KIWOCE Open School was converted to a privately-owned formal secondary school - Kilimahewa Modern Secondary School. (See the KIWOCE NGO page for further information). As a result, EdPowerment will conclude our partnership at year-end 2021.
Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT), now operates independently of EdPowerment funding. 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.