For friends and loved ones who have it all, why not give in their honor to those who have nothing at all?
Click HERE to make a tax-deductible donation. Just cite an item (or two) from our wishlist below,
email email@example.com the details of your gift and recipient, and she will mail him/her a letter to be opened over the holidays.
Selflessly serving those who will likely never be able to do anything for you return fosters a deep and unparalleled
sense of joy, contentment and fulfillment. Each and every one of us is wildly powerful, and what we do -- and don't do --
will contribute to either the healing -- or the destruction -- of our precious planet.
Maria, now nearly two years old, is the newest child to join our family at the St Joseph’s Orphanage (SJO) in Tanzania. Maria is extremely malnourished and suffers from flat feet and fluorosis of the legs. (In certain areas of Tanzania, there is too much fluoride naturally occurring In the water, which can make the bones of young children soft and cause them to bend in unnatural ways.)
This week Sister Crispina Mnate, founder and director of SJO, took Maria to see our friends at The Plaster House in Arusha for an assessment. Next steps: Sister will now take Maria to be fitted for leg braces that she will wear for at least a year to correct her flat foot and move her legs into proper position. She will also start an aggressive nutrition-rich re-feeding program with weekly weight checks. While baby Maria has clearly suffered a painful start to her young life, we are thankful that she is now at SJO where she will receive great love and excellent care.
This is "Mamee." Now 45, Mamee grew up with Sister Crispina Mnate and their extended families in their home village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. In 2000, when she learned of Sister's call to save abandoned and orphaned children, she decided it was her life's work to serve Sister's mission. Mamee left home to follow Sister to the Arusha district. She decided never to marry or have children of her own. And she has since been cooking, cleaning, washing, feeding, loving and caring for the now 48 children...ages 1 to 25... who life at the St. Joseph's Orphanage. Here below, just one of countless stories that illustrate how and why Mamee is so critical to Sister's mission:
In 2008, a newborn baby whose young mother died during the child's birth was brought to Sister wrapped in a tattered blanket by a Good Samaritan on a motorbike. When Sister received the ~2 lb. bluish-colored, cold and tiny orphaned child, no one expected a good outcome, instead everyone was anticipating last rites. However, Sister, with her ferocious faith and professional training as a nurse, believed differently. Immediately she baptized the baby " Irene," and gave her to Mamee to love, feed, bathe and just hold close in a secluded room to avoid any cross contamination. Day after day Sister brought fortified milk and porridge and ministered as best she could to Irene while Mamee patiently held the child and protected the space. Many times it was unclear whether Irene would survive, but remarkably, after three long secluded months, Irene was not only alive but thriving.
PLEASE HELP US BUILD SAFE, DECENT LIVING QUARTERS FOR MAMEE.
Unite HAS received a $15,000 matching grant to build new proper staff quarters for Mamee and the now dozen other people who live and work at St. Joseph's Orphanage in support of Sister's mission. To achieve this goal, we have partnered with the crowdfundraising platform GLADITOOD. Every dollar you can contribute will be matched - doubling your impact.
Click HERE for our Gladitood campaign OR donate directly online through this website HERE.
Award-winning American contemporary painter, photographer and mixed media artist Andrea Bonfils has created a unique “Encaustic” work of art by taking an original photograph taken by Unite Founder & Director Anne Wells and adding to it melted beeswax, resin and other natural materials. Andrea has very generously donated this piece to Unite for our fundraising efforts. Andrea’s work is represented by galleries in New Mexico, Connecticut, South Carolina and in the Bruce Lurie Gallery in Los Angeles, is in corporate and private collections worldwide and can be seen at www.andreaartstudio.com.
The cost for the elephant encaustic above is $1,500.
100% will be donated to Unite The World With Africa Foundation
by artist Andrea Bonfils.
See more of Andrea's work, which includes photography, encaustics, paintings and multimedia designs, at www.andreaartstudio.com. For any purchase made before January 1, 2018, that comes through Unite, Andrea will donate 30% of sales to our Foundation.
Unite recently received a fast-cycle $15,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor to construct safe, decent living quarters for those who have dedicated their lives to caring for orphans.
Since she was called to open St. Joseph's in 2000 to raise children who had either been abandoned and left for dead or orphaned by HIV/AIDS, Sister Crispina Mnate has been blessed with a small-but-dedicated team of men and women who have given their lives to serving her mission and the children (some of whom are pictured, right). With this extraordinary team, Unite is committed to providing everything these precious children need grow into independent, happy, healthy, successful adults and leaders of tomorrow.
Every dollar raised in this campaign will be matched by an anonymous donor so you will double your impact!!!
We will rebuild the existing staff house (pictured left), which is dilapidated, leaking, mold infeseted and extremely overcrowded. The new staff housing and volunteer compound will include toilets, showers and sanitation systems; electricity; a kitchen with piped water and stoves; enough bedrooms for the staff, their children and proper self-sufficient guest quarters for international volunteers who come to share their time, talent and expertise. Our goal is to raise the funds and build the compound BEFORE the coming rains in October/November.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation
to help us reach our goal.
Donations can be make online at www.uniteafricafoundation.org/donate/
or by mailing a check to Unite The World With Africa Foundation, 49 Whitney Street, Westport, CT 06880.
We have also partnered with the
crowdfundraising site Gladitood.com
for this challenge.
Click HERE to visit our campaign page.
(We also accept stock donations.)
Since Unite first began working with Sister Crispina in 2014, we have:
Completed comprehensive renovations of both the girls’ and boys’ dorms, the indoor dining hall and laundry facilities;
Installed rainwater harvesting tanks and water purification systems;
Purchased (and continue to fill) water tanks and grain and bean silos;
Built a full-scale kitchen with industrial stoves, an outdoor furnished and covered eating area, a chicken coop and goat pen (and continue to fill them with livestock);
Constructed new toilet and shower blocks for both the boys' and girls' dorms and installed proper septic systems;
Opened an on-site health clinic and connected St. Joseph’s to the local power grid;
Built the adjacent Heaven Pre & Primary School to provide a top-quality English-speaking education for the youngest orphans as well as hundreds of surrounding at-risk village children; and
Built a security wall to enclose and protect the campus (this project is underway).
Construction of this new staff house & volunteer compound is last major building project necessary to make St. Joseph's safe and secure for all the children AND staff living on campus.
Unite The World With Africa Foundation's founding board member David Wells summited Mt. Kilimanjaro with his HIKE FOR HEAVEN team this June to support Unite's work with The Heaven Pre & Primary School. To prepare for this herculean adventure, David spent six months riding a few times each week at the infamously rigorous SOUL CYCLE. Here below, SOUL features David and his inspiring story.
"In the fall of 2016, I made the decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with four friends to support the Heaven School and St. Joseph’s orphanage. I had no prior experience with a climb of this type, so I needed to get in shape… fast.
We had moved to Westport, Connecticut in late 2015 — less than half a mile from the SoulCycle studio. My wife and daughter had taken some classes and they encouraged me to join them. My sister Linda has also been going to SOUL in New York City for years and loves it. Thankfully, the women in my family are the trailblazers.
I went into my first class feeling nervous, excited, and clueless. I had not really exercised for more than 25 years but was reasonably fit... or so I thought. SOUL took it to a whole new level. I felt the effects immediately. I felt (and continue to look) like I'd been through a monsoon after each class – and I keep coming back! I was hooked. The fun, energy, and challenge brought me back. The instructors and staff at WSPT are also fantastic – each and every one of them.
I felt an immediate and sustained impact on my energy level, strength, and lung capacity. I knew I was on the right path for my climb, as well as my health and sanity. I work long hours and travel quite a bit so the efficiency of SoulCycle — spending 45 minutes to an hour on full throttle — is perfect for me. My mind is clearer, my body is stronger, my energy is way level up. I have lost a few pounds and my stress level is down. One of the instructors at Wesport, JULIANNE, shouts out in class that we are “creating energy, not consuming it." I love that mantra.
With SOUL, any concerns I had on my strength to do the hike washed quickly away. My legs, arms, core and lungs were ready — and delivered for me all the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro and the roof of Africa. We successfully completed the climb and reached our goals in the process.
Through our Unite the World with Africa Foundation and a community of committed U.S. donors and volunteers, we're supporting 48 orphans — ages 9 months to 24 years old. Six are now in university, including one who's enrolled in medical school. The purpose of our Kilimanjaro climb (or Hike for Heaven) was to build and expand the Heaven School, a 200+ student primary school in Tanzania that provides outstanding education for these orphans and the surrounding community. We are still raising funds to complete the school expansion. The opportunity to do this work with my wife Anne, and have a seat at the table to engage with extraordinary Tanzanians to make this happen, excites me each and every day when I think about where these amazing children can take their lives.
Back home, SOUL has brought our family closer. A few times, all five of us (me, my wife and three daughters) took a class together, riding side-by-side in the back row. It has shown each of us a different side to the other — a healthy side committed to exercise and fun." ~David Wells
The Greer Foundation recently announced their continued commitment to Unite by providing university/college scholarships for seven children from the St. Joseph's Orphanage, each of whom is now referred to as a “Greer Scholar.” These lucky Greer Scholars are studying Engineering, Tax & Customs, Education & Teaching, Wildlife Tourism Management, and Medicine & Surgery.
Why is this so important?
Tanzania is one of our world’s poorest countries (ranked 156 out of 174 in the UN’s Human Development Index) with 68% of the population living below the international poverty line earning $1.25 or less a day. Nearly half of Tanzania’s 51,000,000 population is age 14 or younger; more than half of all girls have given birth by age 19; and 70% of women are married by age 20.
The country’s formal education system comprises of two years of pre-primary, seven years of primary (Standards 1-7), four years of junior secondary (Forms 1-4), two years of senior secondary (“A-levels,” Forms 5 & 6), and three or more years of tertiary (university/college). However, attaining access to any amount of schooling continues to be a great challenge for the vast majority of Tanzanians. In fact, the average school life expectancy (primary to tertiary) remains just eight years.
Those who are lucky enough to enroll in and complete primary and secondary school and then go on to attend university know that theirs is an extraordinary, precious and rare privilege. The slogan “Education is liberation” can be seen painted on buildings, printed on T-shirts and heard chanted over and over again in classrooms and as one walks through towns and villages.
~Net enrollment in senior secondary school in Tanzania is just 1.9%
and less than ½ of 1% (.27%) go on to university/college.
The good news for the orphans of St. Joseph’s is that they have already overcome many of the core barriers to education that face most impoverished families across East Africa. Thanks to the remarkable dedication of Unite's partner St. Joseph’s founder & director Sister Crispina Mnate, these orphans have avoided the widespread challenges of gender bias, physical threats of violence and abuse, child labor, lack of access to quality schools, pregnancy (for the girls), lack of adequate nutrition and healthcare, and/or a safe home to which to live/return. While each of these children experienced some kind of early childhood trauma and/or loss, their lives at St. Joseph’s have been built upon a powerful foundation of faith, love and hope.
We are so thankful for this powerful partnership with The Greer Foundation. Over the years they have helped us complete the build out of the Heaven Pre & Primary School to provide a top-quality English-speaking education to the youngest orphans from St. Joseph's as well as more than 200 at-risk children from surrounding villages; install comprehensive rain-water harvesting systems to secure water; bring power to the St. Joseph's and Heaven campus; and send many of our oldest orphans to university. Today, their commitment continues to grow. Asante sana!
Hand in hand, Unite and The Greer Foundation will continue to
serve, educate and uplift the lives of these precious and worthy young men and women.
May they each become the great leaders of tomorrow that Tanzania,
East Africa and the world beyond so desperately needs.
This June our Hike for Heaven team (Allie Cunningham, David Doherty, Steve Ho, Steve Stafford and David Wells) traveled to Tanzania under our Unite Tour program with Unite's Founder & Director Anne Wells to meet our Foundation's team & partners in Africa, tour St. Joseph's Orphanage and the Heaven School, get to know many of the children, and... climb Africa's highest peak Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet).
Here, a gallery of images of this amazing team during their time spent at The St. Joseph's Orphanage and Heaven School. Allie Cunningham arrived at St. Joseph's a few weeks ahead of the rest of us to spend time volunteering, teaching the children, getting Unite's student sponsor letters complete and generally supporting Sister Crispina with all the work she faces each and every day. We are so grateful to Allie for also raising funds to purchase bikes for the orphans (a sampling of sizes to share). It is the first time in their lives they have ever had the chance to ride a bike and every one of them, from age 3-26, absolutely LOVE this new adventure. Riding a bike is clearly a timeless ageless joy all over this precious planet! Asante sana Allie! Allie also served as our videographer during the Hike for Heaven and we are grateful for her footage, some of which is shown in our HIKE FOR HEAVEN EY version (link above).
To support this team in their efforts to raise funds for the Heaven School
(building more classrooms and providing professional development for our staff),
please click HERE.
This June our Hike for Heaven team (Allie Cunningham, David Doherty, Steve Ho, Steve Stafford and David Wells) traveled to Tanzania with Unite's Founder & Director Anne Wells to meet our team & partners in Africa, tour St. Joseph's Orphanage and the Heaven School, get to know many of the children, and... climb Africa's highest peak Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet).
They climbed to raise funds and awareness for Unite's work with Heaven & St. Joseph's, and to date, this team has raised more than $31,000! Every dollar raised will be used to further build out and enhance operations at Heaven. Projects will include construction of more classrooms, professional development workshops for teachers and staff and advanced teaching tools and technologies, the development of sports, music & arts programs, and more. Our goal? To position Heaven as a model school for excellence in education in Tanzania.
This HIKE FOR HEAVEN campaign continues... To support our team and honor their herculean effort made in service to orphans and at-risk youth, please click HERE to make a tax-deductible donation or send a check to Unite The World With Africa Foundation, 49 Whitney Street, Wesport, CT 06880. Asante sana! Thank you!
Godfrey Daniel Saitoti, 25, is one of the kindest souls you will ever meet. (Click HERE or on the video above to hear his message to Unite and all of his supporters.) His tremendous spirit, inspirational faith and clever mind defy his small frame. As a young boy, Godfrey lost his parents and in 2000 he was taken in by Sister Crispina Mnate to grow up in shortly thereafter became her St. Joseph's Orphans Center (SJO). Godfrey is now one of the oldest orphans living at SJO with his 47 brothers and sister, ages 1-24. Godfrey's dream has always been to become a doctor and help save lives. We are thrilled to report that he is well on his way!
In Tanzania, the government assigns students who have passed their A levels and performed well on the national exam a place in any given university. The government decided Godfrey should be an engineer and placed him accordingly. Godfrey was devastated as his dream was to become a doctor. With the support of Unite and a number of generous sponsors, Godfrey applied for and enrolled in a 5-year medicine and surgery program at Kampala International University in Uganda.
In August, Godfrey will start his 3rd year. We are so proud of this extraordinary young man who has overcome tremendous odds and hardships and yet still is happy and performing well. Godfrey enjoys the fact that so many of his fellow students come from all around the world. In fact, his best friend at medical school is from Cuba! Grades at Kampala are pass/fail, and we are grateful to report that he is passing! Godfrey tends to be a solitary student but he reaches out to others for help if and when needed. And to avoid the distractions of a busy library, Godfrey will wake long before dawn and/or study into the wee hours of the morning. Godfrey’s classes (listed favorite to least favorite) are Anatomy, Physiology, Immunology, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology.
We were so lucky to see Godfrey this past month in Tanzania as he was home for a school break. Unfortunately, he had surgery for appendicitis just before we arrived; however, he was healing well and will soon start an internship for July shadowing the surgeon who did his operation!
To learn more about Godfrey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 23, 2000, at 6:00 pm I gave birth to my first daughter, Lila Talbott Wells. Until that moment, truthfully, I wasn't very interested in children. Mine or anyone else's. They were cute but distracting, often even a bit annoying.
Then she came and, as it happens with every new mother, my heart burst open with a force of love I had never known possible. 16 months later I was pregnant again, thrilled to be delivering a sibling for precious Lila, and questioning how on Earth I could love another one as much as I did her. February 23, 2003, Harriett Merriman Wells was pulled from my cut belly and whisked to the NICU. A ferocious love literally pulled my broken body out of bed and down the long hall so I could sit with my baby - against doctors' orders. What I knew then was that my love pie did not split to accommodate another child, it grew & expanded. Deep within my core, from a source unknown, flowed more and more reckless LOVE.
Over the years I have continued to fall in love with children... not just my own (our third Katharine Elizabeth Wells came on March 4, 2005), but ALL of the children of the world. And I have learned that my heart is big enough.
My husband David will climb Africa's tallest peak Mt Kilimanjaro in a month to support Unite's work with Sister Crispina Mnate and her St. Joseph's Orphanage and Heaven School. In preparation, he (out of necessity) and I (for moral support) have been going to spinning classes at Soul Cycle, the most challenging and intense form of exercise I have ever done in my entire life (sad, but true). One day, during one class, one instructor said off the cuff, "You must use up all of your energy before you can make more. Trust your body." In that moment, with my burning legs going round and round and sweat dripping from the tip of my nose, I got it.
When my girls were babies I breastfed each of them exclusively for more than a year. Anyone who knows me might just take one look and assume that this was easy given my naturally well-endowed bosom. Not so. Those first few days, weeks and often months were littered with moments of excruciating pain and utter desperation. There were times (now known to be growth spurts) that my babies would suck on my breasts for hours upon hours leaving me exhausted, flattened, cracked and bleeding. They screamed and I wept, unsure I was capable of providing what they needed. New mommies are often advised during these times to supplement to more quickly ease the discomfort, the babies' and our own. Rarely are we advised to wait. To endure. To trust that our bodies, if given the chance, from somewhere deep within our core, will create more.
To me, love is like energy and a mother's milk. It is only after we give away all we believe we have, when we are certain we have not an ounce left within us and when our rational selves are screaming at us to pull back, retreat, protect... that we are able to access that place where supply is infinite. When breastfeeding, the front milk which flows easily and often at the most inopportune times (e.g. at the cry of a strangers' child, which of course reinforces my belief that all women are mamas of the world) is not the most nutritious. Instead, it is the hind milk found in the very depths of the breast that is loaded with fat and nutrients. And reaching these precious life-sustaining droplets takes time, patience, commitment and often a great deal of discomfort. Yet, once shared, the child thrives and the mother, when allowed to honor herself and her body's natural process, will survive and will source more.
One of the many reasons I cherish my work with Unite and return to Tanzania as often as possible is that in this journey I have met countless women who support and care for (in one way or another) children who are not biologically their own. Whether she embraces the weeping child of a stranger, welcomes hungry children to her table even when food is scarce, pays an orphans' school fees or raises children of the less fortunate as her own, never does she turn a blind eye to need. From such women as these who step forward to love and serve as best they can (often with the scantest of resources) and who support one another other in doing the same, I have been inspired and blessed to find and tap my own inner infinite supply of powerful, life-changing, life-giving love. And for that... for them... I am eternally grateful.
Today, with our three daughters, four dogs, and now 47 orphans.... I have a hunch and a prayer that we are just getting started.
EY Transaction Advisory Services (TAS) colleagues to “Hike for Heaven,” scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro to benefit education charity
A group of TAS colleagues are taking volunteering to new heights as they undertake a “Hike for Heaven” up Mt. Kilimanjaro to benefit a school for underprivileged children. They are even using their TAS skills to assist in the school’s expansion—all part of their EY-driven mission of building a better working world.
On 15 June, TAS Partners David Wells and Steve Stafford along with Senior Managers Steve Ho and David Doherty will embark on a weeklong climb of Africa's highest peak (19,341 feet). It’s part of Unite the World with Africa Foundation’s campaign to raise $100,000 to expand the Heaven School in rural northern Tanzania.
In Tanzania, the majority of the population earn less than $2 per day. Securing a high-quality, English-speaking education is often unobtainable, but the Heaven School—a private English-medium school that serves students ages 3–14 in 10 classrooms—is dedicated to teaching these children in need. Heaven was recently cited as a model English-medium school in the region.
The funds raised by our TAS colleagues’ climb will help expand the school’s capacity from 270 students to more than 500. This will allow the school to become financially self-sustaining, having a direct and positive impact on the lives of the orphans and children from surrounding rural villages. It will also provide much-needed employment for the community to serve as teachers, administrators and support staff.
Prior to the climb, David, David, Steve and Steve will spend time meeting with administrators at the Heaven School. There, they will help prepare a strategic plan for the expansion, along with budgets and tracking tools for the school's financial performance. Following their climb, the TAS colleagues’ commitment to the school will continue, through ongoing mentoring and checking in on progress and milestones achieved.
David Wells explained his motivation for undertaking this impressive endeavor. “Access to a quality education empowers people in countless ways—lifting economic standards, creating job opportunities, enhancing skills, fostering collaboration, celebrating our differences and, thereby, promoting peace,” he said. “My parents said to me that the best gift we give our children is a great education. With our Hike for Heaven, we give that gift, and all of its benefits and possibilities, to these children of Tanzania—providing all of us with the building blocks to a better working world.”
Steve Stafford further elaborated: “EY’s purpose of building a better working world has four pillars—sustainable growth, developing talent and leadership, collaboration, and trust and confidence. Our Hike for Heaven aligns perfectly with these core values. Unite the World with Africa Foundation’s efforts to provide education, healthcare and opportunities for at-risk women and children in Tanzania develops and inspires young minds, instilling trust and confidence in themselves and the broader world. Each member of our team is honored to assist and collaborate with Unite’s goal, and we are sure the people who benefit from the hike will contribute to a better working world in ways we can’t imagine today.”
Unite the World with Africa Foundation is a 501c3 tax-exempt public charity. David Wells is the co-founder and treasurer of Unite, a 100% volunteer organization whose mission is to empower education, health, choice and dignity for impoverished communities across East Africa.
11 May 2017
Zillions of people have climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on their bucket lists.
While I love the great outdoors and daily exercise, my pneumonia-scared lungs crave deep breaths of fresh, clean, oxygen-filled air... which is not in the cards over 19,000 feet.
So... for this and many other reasons, I am filled with admiration (and a wee bit of worry) for my husband David and his team who will climb Kilimanjaro in less than 6 short weeks to lead Unite's Hike For Heaven. David and his team (Steve Stafford - NYC, Steve Ho - NYC, and David Doughtery - Dublin) all work in Ernst & Young's (EY) transaction advisory services group. As consultants, they are on call for their clients 24-7, 365 days a year. Truly, I couldn't imagine that such a no-boundaries work life could be possible until we moved from St. Louis to Connecticut 10 years ago.
Next month, these four overworked men (and one beautiful young woman who is an advisor to Unite... I will cover Allie Cunningham in another post shortly) will take nearly two weeks of their extremely precious vacation time to leave their families and embark on the climb of their lives. While I know each has his own personal reasons pushing him towards that summit, none would actually take this time or invest his family's resources in this herculean trek IF it did not somehow serve the greater good. And that it does....
Here, a few reasons why this HIKE FOR HEAVEN matters and why we invite you to SUPPORT these courageous and intrepid souls:
1. The team is climbing to raise money for Unite to complete the build out of the Heaven Pre- and Primary School in Kiserian village south of Arusha in Tanzania. Sponsor them with a tax-deductible donation HERE.
2. Currently, the Heaven School is providing a top-quality, English-speaking education to nearly 200 orphans and at-risk village children. Less than 2 years old, Heaven is already being cited as a model school by local authorities.
3. If this campaign is successful, we will build more classrooms, a school kitchen, dining hall, sports court, additional toilets and more in order to enable Heaven to increase its capacity to more than 500 students, which will also create more jobs for teachers and support staff.
Prior to their hike, David and his colleagues will be working with the executive team at Heaven to create a strategic plan in order to build the school into a profitable business that can not only afford to hire and provide ongoing professional development training for the best teachers but also to support its own operations. Additionally, Heaven will be designed to cover much of the operational costs of the St. Joseph's orphanage, on whose campus the school has been built. Heaven school is a vision of Sister Crispina Mnate, its founder and director, to initially to provide the best education to the youngest of her 47 orphans and then to also empower and uplift the children and families in surrounding villages.
4. Not only are we working to build Heaven in excellence, we are also working to create a school in which teachers move beyond the traditional chalk-and-talk teaching style to use more visual aid and participatory teaching styles. We are now working with renowned African education Astridah Katalyeba to help lead this effort and are committed to providing our teachers the best training and materials that they need to empower their students to become creative problem solvers and life-long learners.
Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University in Ghana, says that Africa will only be transformed by enlightened AFRICAN leaders. We believe that, with your help, such leaders will one day emerge from our Heaven School.
Dear Friends of Unite,
I hope and pray this finds you happy, healthy and well. I am just now home from another whirlwind tour across Tanzania’s northern circuit with a team of magnificent women (each of whom generously sponsor one or more of our children at the St. Joseph’s Orphanage). I am thankful to report this was another hugely successful mission. We spent time with Sister Crispina Mnate and the orphans of St. Joseph’s as well as the headmaster, staff & students of The Heaven Primary School. We took many of the orphans on two field trips: To the “Guggenheim of Africa,” an art gallery atArusha’s Cultural Heritage center, where they learned about various art forms and watched the movie The Lion King on the big screen; and to the Meserani Snake Park where they learned about all the kinds of snakes (they even had the chance to hold one non-venomous ... of course) and go on camel rides! Lots of “firsts” for these kiddos and tons of fun for us all. Later in the trip, while my friends went on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater and on a day-climb of Mt Kilimanjaro, I took our Tanzanian executive team (below) on a due diligence trip to benchmark our performance against other reputable schools and children’s villages. We found that our students are exceeding norms in behavior and performance, including outcomes on critical national exams. In fact, the Heaven School is already being cited as a model primary school and St. Joseph’s the example of a well-run orphanage by local authorities. Additionally, we are already seeing the positive impact of our newest teammate Astridah Katalyeba who brings to Unite and Heaven more than 30 years of experience as an educator in Africa. Astridah is advocating for our secondary school and university students in ways we were not able to before. Astridah is accelerating and supporting Sister’s commitment to making Heaven best in class by organizing and executing a series of faculty training workshops to make the classrooms more participatory and interactive through the use of techology, visual aids and more. We are thrilled with and energized by all the great progress we are seeing, and we are deeply grateful to each and everyone of you who has helped in any and every way to make this work possible. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, ideas and feedback.
Yours in service,
February 14th is not only a day to celebrate your one special love, it is a day to UNITE and celebrate your LOVE for all. In fact, today is also the day of One Billion Rising, a movement to end the oppression, subjection and violence against girls and women on Planet Earth.
Here at Unite, we stand against injustice by fighting FOR the rights of the orphaned, underprivileged, impoverished and marginalized. Currently, our primary mission is to ensure that hundreds of children (girls AND boys) in Tanzania (orphaned and/or at-risk) receive high-quality educations to help ensure their vibrant, successful futures in which they are empowered with CHOICE, DIGNITY & OPPORTUNITY.
To this end, we address zillions of details and challenges each and every day. Yet through the grace of God; the generous support of you -- our donors, friends, partners and supporters; and the trusted partnerships we are blessed to have with Sister Crispin Mnate, the founder and director of the St. Joseph's Orphanage and the Heaven Pre and Primary School; Deb Marshall, Unite's program manager in Tanzania; and Astridah Katalyeba, an expert education consultant who has joined our team to help build Heaven School into a model academic institution for the country... We are seeing real change happen in extraordinary and miraculous ways.
Here, some recent photos from the field:
This week there was much celebration at St. Joseph's Orphanage after receiving the results of the National Exam for our Form 2 students! We are thrilled to report that Esther, Maria, Fidesta, Rose and Theresia (all of whom study at Kilasara Secondary School), as well as Denis and Karoli (all of who study at Adili Secondary School) earned Division 1 placements at the end of 2016! Kelvin received Division II, also very exciting and honorable results.
We are all so very proud these students who work so hard to reach their educational goals.
To better understand what the results mean:
Division I is awarded to candidates who (1) pass in at least seven subjects, which must include at least one subject in civics, Kiswahili, foreign languages, social sciences or technology, mathematics, natural sciences, commercial studies or home economics. (2) pass with grades of A- C in at least four subjects; and (3) reach an aggregate of not more than 17 points in the candidate's seven best subjects.
Division II is awarded to candidates who (1) pass in at least seven subjects, which must include at least one subject as listed above; (2) pass with grades of A-C in at least four subjects; and (3) reach an aggregate of not more than 21 points in the best seven subjects.
Division III and Division IV descend from the above standards.
Here, a story about one of the 48 orphans of St. Joseph’s in Tanzania to whom we have committed our time, talent, treasure, love and support:
On October 15, 2008, a 24-year-old single woman gave birth to her fth child. Like most women living in the rural villages of Tanzania, she had never seen a doctor and delivered at home with only the help of a traditional midwife. However, there were complications, and due to a lack of knowledge and an inability to get to a proper health facility, she bled to death. Her baby girl was born tiny, frail and barely breathing. Friends rushed the child hours away to Sister Crispina Mnate, a Catholic nun and trained nurse who had founded the St. Joseph’s Orphanage (SJO) a few years earlier. Sister received the child, cleared
her lungs and placed her in a room with “Mamee,” Sister’s head matron. In accordance with Tanzanian custom, Mamee—now the “mother”—and the child, now called Irene, stayed in that room for the next three months during which time Sister ministered to them daily. Once it became clear that Irene would survive, Sister went to the village to see Irene’s grandmother. The grandmother refused to take the child, saying she was too old and too poor to raise any more children. That day Sister made a decision that she never had before and never has since: She agreed to take Irene, but only if she could also take Irene’s 2-year-old brother Isaak. Why? She didn’t want Irene to grow up without any “real” family of her own.
Today, Irene and Isaak are thriving at SJO. Irene is a leader amongst her peers and adores playing “mommy” to all the babies. She excels in her studies and is a dynamic and charismatic little girl. Isaak is clever and funny, loves sports and music and is always running around laughing with his siblings at SJO.
Last month, Unite’s Board Members Debbie Wiley and Kim Merriman and I arrived at SJO in time to celebrate Irene’s 8th birthday. We sang, tried unsuccessfully to light an old candle and handed out lollipops. We wanted to do so much more... to run to the local store and buy a cake, a doll, new shoes, etc., but Sister reminded us that indulging in
such luxuries for one would be unfair to the rest. Instead, the best way that we, Unite,
can honor and celebrate Irene, and all the orphans of St. Joseph’s, is to keep working...
to replace and repair the roofs so they don’t have to sleep with buckets by their beds; to install proper toilets, water systems and showers so they can avoid the many illnesses that come from poor hygeine and sanitation; to complete the Heaven School to provide the best education possible for the youngest orphans and surrounding village children; to nd sponsors to cover school fees through university; and to stick with them... to keep coming back, so that these precious children—all of whom are as loveable, talented and worthy as our own—know that they are loved and cherished by a growing family around the world. And so that is what we are doing, with your help.... one step at a time.
Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season. With love & gratitude,