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 “leftover” post-primary youth who no longer attended 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 poorly prepared, 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 that they too could find a place in the Tanzanian educational system and society.
Tomorrow’s Scholar Leader Sponsorship program has guided and supported 70 teenagers from secondary education to higher learning programs that will enable them to attain economic security. As of the 2020, roughly 25 students continue in Advanced Level high school, college diploma and university degree programs. Our alumni have begun careers and trade professions: a doctor and lawyer, teachers, ICT specialists, masons, mechanics... all equipped with the educational background and tools to build productive lives and contribute to their communities. All once without a way forward!
KIWOCE is now a Tanzanian NGO that offers a fully registered Open School and Hostel. In 2019 over 250 teens, young adults and even professionals came to the Center for equivalency certificates and other coursework to improve their skills and chance at self-sufficiency. Other locals benefitted from the Center through special seminars, the annual enrichment camp, a Boys & Girls Club, and a library stocked with review books, novels and other materials to support their learning in government schools with no resources.
Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT) has developed into a leading voice for those with autism and intellectual disabilities in the Kilimanjaro region. Its seminars, forums and mobile platform educate all stakeholders about effective strategies for this population in schools, the workplace and home. Today CAT is assisting government school units to set up vocational and inclusion programs and use fundamental tools such as IEPs to better target and teach the cognitively challenged.
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 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 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 spending time in Tanzania, building the relationships, programs and systems that can advance students, teachers, and the 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. Today she consults with other education-based development projects, CAT and KIWOCE, while resuming her professional career in the U.S.
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. Bags, beads and bowls from recycled paper have combined artistry with environmental awareness. 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. 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 advocated for impoverished youth and those struggling with disabilities. In 2007 she brought together villagers to form the Kilimahewa Women and Orphans Center for Education (KIWOCE) on her family’s property. With a background in nursing, midwifery and public health, Mama Grace has held administrative positions at Cross Cultural Solutions and the Peace Corps. She now actively serves as Director of Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT) while steering the overall management of KIWOCE.
Mary Munishi took over management of EdPowerment’s Sponsorship Program after the death of Tom Kway 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 to pursue her CPA while managing the financials of our sponsorship program and otherwise assisting these students, most of whom are now in A-Level high schools, colleges and universities. Her dedication to her younger peers, trustworthiness and talent make her indispensable to our mission.
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 to the supervision and mentoring of our sponsored students. Tom's vocational degrees prepared him to be our amazing van driver, visiting student families whatever the terrain. However, Tom's motivation took him much further. He learned computer skills (which he shared in the classroom at KIWOCE), financial spreadsheet accounting, and the TZ school system's ins and outs. His dependability, smile and kindness made him a combination of big brother and parent to the youth we serve.