If the Corona crisis has taught us one thing, it is that nothing should be taken for granted and also that we all only have one, precious life. So why postpone dreams and plans unnecessarily? The STEP Africa team is planning to set up several after-school and family centers in Arusha in order to be able to promote and support children and families even more sustainably – a long-cherished dream! In the following a few background thoughts 🙂
Even if the pandemic on the African continent, compared to many other parts of the world, presented itself in a mild form; Even if we are now able to live an almost normal everyday life here in Tanzania, for which we are very grateful, the consequences of the pandemic are fatal, especially in economic terms, also and especially for the African continent. Important economic sectors such as tourism but also many parts of international trade have collapsed to a minimum due to COVID-19. It will probably take years for the economy to recover to pre-Corona levels. And this on a continent where people usually cannot hope for public emergency corona aid, support packages for companies, home office bonuses let alone unemployment or social benefits. STEP Africa also got hit hard by the crisis, but thanks to the support of family and friends, we managed to get through our closing time from March to July without having to cut salaries or even jobs. We are also very fortunate that in the past few months some volunteers have decided to come to Tanzania again, a ray of hope for us and our projects. We hope that 2021 will be a year of many new beginnings and positive developments for you and all of us.
ESTABLISHING A COMMUNITY CENTER – A LONG DREAM
Corona gives you a lot of time to think. I, Kira, have lived in Tanzania for over 6 years and have had close ties with the country for 12 years. I love my work for and with STEP Africa, because it gives me the opportunity to support many meaningful projects and initiatives here in Tanzania. I have the privilege to introduce our volunteers to this wonderful country, to accompany them on their path of experience and to see how the support in the projects by our volunteers and the large network of alumni is continuously expanding and developing sustainably. But over the years we have had to accept setbacks and learn that not every project acts sustainably and in the sense of family-based and fair support for disadvantaged groups. As a volunteer organization, we stand between our volunteers and our projects as mediators, consultants and supporters. Not always an easy task! We have already had to end partnerships with projects that were obviously led out of the wrong motivation – an often very frustrating experience and we more than once asked ourselves, “Why don’t we just do it ourselves?”
We believe that families are the anker of every society and everything should be done to ensure that every child gets to grow up in a family. A point of view that we also continuously convey to our volunteers, because it is them who return home as ambassadors at the end of their stay and tell family and friends about their experiences – and about how critical it actually is to not only help, but to help in the right place.
We, Kira and Upendo from STEP Africa, who as the supervisory team are the main contacts for our volunteers and interns, will in the future take an even more active role in individual projects and thus ensure that family-based support of communities is the most important pillar of our work and the areas of activity of our volunteers. Of course, this does not mean that we are neglecting other areas, on the contrary, we are striving for an integrative concept in which the areas of health care and the formal education system play an important role.
Our partner projects are and will remain an integral part of our work and each one makes an important and valuable contribution to the development of the country. Our task will now be to work towards closer networking and promotion of the areas that are relevant in terms of family-based development. We will play an active role in building the new center for the Gily’s Children Foundation. The center will not only include a preschool and day care, but also an afterschool center for children from the nearby public schools, who will not only find warm meals and safe care in the center, but will also receive tuition in English and other subjects to help them to keep up with peers who, thanks to school sponsors or because of better financial circumstances in the family, are allowed to attend an English private school. We will explain more about the school system in Tanzania in a separate post. STEP Africa and the Gily’s Foundation are pursuing the same goal here, namely to support as many families as possible and to create equal opportunities. There are also plans to set up an evening school for the center, which is aimed primarily at single women who hope for better career opportunities through further training. We are infinitely grateful for our volunteers who, thanks to their donation efforts, were able to lay the foundation stone for the new center of the Gily’s Foundation!
As soon as the new Gily’s Center is built, further centers are planned to be built in Arusha. The “Local Initiative for Families and Education” (LIFE) under the umbrella of the Gily’s Children Foundation and in cooperation with STEP Africa is planning to set up a community center in Njiro, Arusha. In addition to another kindergarten and afternoon care for school children, this community center is also intended to offer a comprehensive range of advice and support for families in need and, in the long term, serve as a role model for the establishment of further centers in various districts of Arusha and regions of Tanzania. The construction of social housing is also planned for families who, due to their low income, have to live together in insecure and health-endangering conditions and in very confined spaces.
If you are interested in supporting the establishment of the center, taking on a sponsorship or finding out how you can actively participate in the development work as a volunteer, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also cooperate with two associations that were set up by our former volunteers.
Kupanda e.V. supports the establishment of the L.I.F.E. Community Centers as one of their main projects, which we are very proud of. We look forward to a long-lasting and positive cooperation. More information about Kupanda e.V. and the concept of L.I.F.E. can also be found on the organization’s website at www.kupanda-ev.de
The association Giving Smiles e.V. is currently involved in setting up a sponsorship program in the Gily’s Foundation and is also planning to support both centers. There is also an active sponsorship with the Cradle of Love Baby Home, our only partner children’s home, which is committed to the reintegration of orphaned children into their families of origin or adoptive and foster families. Giving Smiles plays a key role in supporting the families after the children are returned. You can find more information at www.givingsmiles.org
We look forward to exciting months and years and hope that our efforts and our orientation will find many supporters 🙂 We are also looking forward to the exchange of ideas and experiences and to being able to actively involve our future volunteers and support not just family-oriented projects , but also to be able to further promote intercultural learning!