Who We Are
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 to teach 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 – curious, funny, awkward - 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 come to Kilimahewa in 2008. In 2010, the three joined forces. They formed EdPowerment, a 501c-3 non-profit, to address the spectrum of educational need they confronted at Kilimahewa: In a three-pronged approach, they began:
- A long-term sponsorship program to enable more capable and motivated students to re-enter the formal system so they could ultimately achieve employment & careers.
- 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 called 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.
TODAY, EdPowerment continues to support, guide and mentor its family of sponsored students, while more and more alumni have begun careers and trade professions. All are equipped with the educational background and tools to build productive lives and contribute to their communities.
At the same time, we continue our staffing and other operational support of KIWOCE, a full-service Open School and community educational oasis. Hundreds of locals come to KIWOCE each year to reclaim their future through its low-cost, high quality programs.
Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT), now operates independently of EdPowerment funding. It has developed into a leading voice for those with autism and intellectual disabilities in the Kilimanjaro region. CAT assists government school units to set up vocational and inclusion programs and operates its own Youth Center that promotes workplace opportunities for this population. We are proud to have enabled its growth and advocacy.
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 and staff. 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 the Center's staff and motivate students.
President & Founder
Moira Madonia devotes her energies to steering the programming, administrative and fundraising tasks that propel EdPowerment. As a businesswoman turned 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 and grandmother of four boys, she takes great satisfaction from building the relationships, programs and systems that can advance students, teachers, and locals in this Tanzanian community.
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 led Connects Autism Tanzania’s (CAT'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 at Kilimahewa funded by a Rotary Global Grant that she secured. After leading another education-based project in Tanzania, she has resumed her career in the U.S. as an Instructional Coach in Illinois.
Jillian Swinford, Secretary
Jillian Swinford, who holds a Master's 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 for their annual Enrichment Camp. She has even corralled some of her fellow teachers to bring music, drama and videotaping to KIWOCE. Having spent a year’s leave of absence in 2011-12 to work with our programs in Moshi, Jillian is a knowledgeable and steady guide for EdPowerment.
An executive skills coach in New York City with a Master’s in Education from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard, Stacey works on organizational and learning strategies with our sponsored students and KIWOCE staff. Planners are now a tool used to structure their time and energies. In recent years Stacey has visited our students at universities in Dar es Salaam to better understand their challenges, encourage them and share strategic guidance. When in the States, Stacey stays in contact with teachers and students to offer her support and coaching.
A sales professional from the Boston area, Cocoa 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. This opportunity to connect in person brought to life all those names on our spreadsheets!
Mary Munishi took over management of EdPowerment’s Sponsorship Program after the death of Tom Kway, our dedicated Operations Manager, in 2018. Once a sponsored student herself, Mary graduated from the Tanzanian Institute of Accountancy in Dar es Salaam with high honors. She subsequently took on some internship and research work. In June 2018 she rejoined EdPowerment in return for our sponsorship and support as she pursues her CPA. Mary manages the financials and otherwise assists and mentors these students, most of whom are now in colleges and universities. Her dedication to her younger peers, trustworthiness and talent make her indispensable to our mission.
Mama Grace was the starting point of EdPowerment’s initiatives in the Moshi and Arusha areas of Tanzania. In 2007 she brought together villagers to form the Kilimahewa Women and Orphans Center for Education (KIWOCE) on her family’s property. At the same time, she sought to educate her society about the need to integrate and educate those with intellectual disabilities, particularly autism. With a multifaceted educational and professional background, Mama Grace is the Executive Director of Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT) and KIWOCE, both registered Tanzanian NGOs that EdPowerment has supported. (As of 2021, CAT operates independently of Edpowerment).
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 to our students.