Who We Are
Everyone has potential. Not everyone has the opportunity to tap that potential. This is especially true in developing societies such as the villages surrounding Mr. Kilimanjaro. EdPowerment confronts this disparity by harnessing both human and financial resources to help those abandoned by formal systems in this area dominated by poor subsistence farmers.
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 to teach English in a tiny village community center for “leftover” youth who no longer attended school. These young teens were typical in many ways – funny, distracted, awkward, eager. For them, however, the future held no promise. Squeezed together on benches, their only respite from domestic chores was to come to Kilimahewa for few hours. Maybe, one day, they hoped some good could from what they learned there.
When Moira returned home and resumed her teaching career, she couldn’t leave behind these young people. Neither could Jillian Swinford and Kerri Gilbert, educators who had come to Kilimahewa in 2008.
In 2010, the three joined forces. They formed EdPowerment, a 501c-3 non-profit, to address the full spectrum of educational need they confronted at Kilimahewa: In a three-pronged approach, they began
A long-term post-primary sponsorship program to enable more capable and motivated students to re-enter the formal system so they could ultimately achieve professional careers.
Development of the Kilimahewa Center (KIWOCE) so that poorly prepared, struggling learners, or those from financially challenged backgrounds can learn skills that will enable them to find employment or start their own local business.
An advocacy program called Autism Connects Tanzania (ACT) for the autistic and otherwise intellectually disabled so that they too could find a place in the Tanzanian educational system and society.
Two teens, Veronica (13) and Thomas (18), who were at a dead-end in 2010 and assisted Moira at the Kilimahewa Center, are professionals. Tom earned a BS in Internet Technology and now trains teachers in computer use with Moshi-based ACTT, while Veronica just completed a BA in Education from the University of Dar and is beginning a teaching internship. They are the first two of the 65 students who have been or continue to be served by Tomorrow’s Scholar Leader Sponsorship program.
The Kilimahewa Center has transformed from a two-room roadside building to the officially registered KIWOCE Open School that offers a full range of academic, computer and life-skills courses and other services. In 2017 over 300 teens, young adults and motivated professionals came to the Center to improve their skills and hence their chance at self-sufficiency.
Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT) is a registered Tanzanian NGO that acts as a leading and formidable voice for those with autism and intellectual disabilities in the Kilimanjaro region. Its seminars, forums and mobile platform educate all stakeholders, including government officials, to develop effective strategies for this population in schools and the workplace.
Board of Directors - US
EdPowerment’s Board is an active management team whose training and experience uniquely qualify them to address the needs of the full learning spectrum. Moira travels to Tanzania several times each year and when in the U.S. she skypes with students, teachers and staff regularly. Jillian and Kerri both have spent extended periods of time in Tanzania, while fellow Board members, Cocoa McGovern and Stacy Lauren, travel to Tanzania annually to strengthen our programs, support staff and motivate students.
President & Founder
Moira Madonia devotes her energies full time to steering the programs, administrative, and fundraising tasks that propel EdPowerment. As a businesswoman and former high school teacher, she believes that the best means to help others is through education. Her BA in English and history, Certification in Secondary School Education and Masters in Global Management all come into play as she works on all things EdPowerment. The mother of three adult children, she takes great satisfaction from spending time in Tanzania, building the relationships, programs and systems that can advance students, teachers, and community members. The classroom, even by Skype, remains her favorite place.
Kerri Gilbert Has been vital to EdPowerment since its start. A special education teacher and learning behavioral specialist with an MA in Curriculum and Instruction, Kerri has led Connects Autism Tanzania’s groundbreaking advocacy, while coaching KIWOCE’s staff in active and differential teaching strategies. In 2014-2015 she oversaw the installation of Internet and agricultural projects funded by a Rotary Global Grant at Kilimahewa. Today she continues to live in the area as the educational lead on another project, offering counsel to our Tanzanian team as needed. Kerri’s laughter, approachability, and ease with all types of learners make her presence prized by everyone.
Jillian Swinford, Secretary
Jillian Swinford, who holds a Masters in Art Education, combines her creative skills with a global approach to learning every day in her classroom at Pulaski International School in Chicago. Each June, she brings her skills and creativity to KIWOCE. Bags, beads and bowls from recycled paper combined artistry with environmental awareness in 2016 and 2017. And who knew Jillian could also teach music as she teamed up with her colleague, Peter, to teach 150 students “Ode to Joy” on recorders this summer? Having taken a year’s leave of absence in 2011-2012 to work with our programs in Moshi, Jillian is a knowledgeable and steady voice for EdPowerment.
An executive skills coach in New York City with a Master’s in Education from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard, she works on organizational and learning strategies with our sponsored students and KIWOCE staff each summer. Planners are now a tool used to structure their time and energies. In 2016 she introduced some of our students to her good friend, Stan Seidman’s book of letters to his grandson, Principles and Parables. Joseph, a sponsored student now in medical school, continues to correspond with Stan, taking Stan’s life lessons with him. When in the States, Stacey stays in contact with teachers and students to offer her encouragement and coaching.
A sales professional from the Boston area, she brings a “get down to basics” approach to working with diverse tasks at KIWOCE and with our sponsored students. She loves being with our bibis (grandmothers) and her friendly manner allows her to maneuver easily among vendors, funds (contractors and workmen) and locals with whom we deal. Her interest in animals and experience in horticulture come in handy when checking out KIWOCE’s and students’ husbandry projects. She is EdPowerment’s utility player.
John was introduced to EdPowerment through his son, Sam, who spent three months as a volunteer after graduating from Rutgers University. A lawyer who works in the corporate sector, John spends hours on this side, checking all our financials and weighing in on organizational concerns. In 2017 John finally made it to Tanzania to get to know the staff and students whom he has followed from the States. For him, the opportunity to observe and connect in person last December brought to life all those names on our spreadsheets!
Our Tanzanian Leadership
(Mama Grace) is the local force behind EdPowerment’s initiatives in the Moshi and Arusha areas of Tanzania. For years Mama Grace has been an advocate for impoverished youth and those struggling with disabilities in Kilimahewa and the surrounding villages. In 2007 she brought together villagers to form the Kilimahewa Women and Orphans Center for Education (KIWOCE) on her family’s property. Professionally she held administrative positions at Cross Cultural Solutions and the Peace Corps in the region. Mama Grace, who has degrees in nursing, midwifery and public health, now focuses on her role as Director of Connects Autism Tanzania, now a locally registered NGO. At the same time, she is a counselor for EdPowerment’s Tomorrow's Scholar/Leader Sponsorship Program and guides the overall direction of the KIWOCE Open School. She acts as a mother to many youth and young adults - in addition to her own four children.
EdPowerment’s Operations and Finance Manager since 2010 died tragically in May 2018, but no discussion of EdPowerment would be complete without including him. He was our linchpin, handling a multitude of tasks from financial reporting and record-keeping to the supervision and mentoring of our sponsored students. Tom graduated from Mafinga Seminary Secondary School, after which he completed motor vehicle mechanics and driving programs at Vocational Education and Training Authority, Moshi. This prepared him to be our amazing van driver, visiting student families however difficult the terrain. Tom's motivation also translated into computer skills, which he shared in the classroom at Kilimahewa. His smile, easy personality and kindness made him a combination of big brother and parent to the youth we serve. Even as we move ahead, we miss him dearly.
Frank Fidas became a part of EdPowerment’s work in 2015 as part of the Rotary Global Grant’s Internet & computer funding. Since assuming his role as IT and Computer Program Manager, Frank has become critical to all aspects of EdPowerment’s mission. In 2017 he took on the responsibilities of School Manager as the Kilimahewa Educational Center received official government registration as the KIWOCE Open School. He actively oversees all aspects of the school’s programs, finances and staff, working with Grace Lyimo, KIWOCE’s Founder, to ensure a quality educational product. In addition, Frank now shares in the supervision EdPowerment’s Sponsorship Program. Frank’s thoughtful presence and dedication is invaluable to all that happens on the ground in Tanzania.