Brighter Tanzania Foundation

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  • Thursday, September 08, 2016 8:52 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Happy International Literacy Day!

    Today marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. Launched by UNESCO in 1966, International Literacy Day aims to promote literacy worldwide in an effort to empower all people. UNESCO has named the theme for 2016’s Literacy Day to be “Reading the Past, Writing the Future.” This celebration looks back on the past five decades of literacy engagement and progress, addresses current issues, and seeks to find innovative solutions to continue improving literacy rates around the world [1].

    So why literacy? Why not “International Democracy Day” or “International Share the Wealth Day”? Data shows that increased literacy rates are related to increased national growth and wealth, while higher rates of illiteracy are found in countries in severe poverty [2]. Although literacy rates continue to rise, some 775 million people, or one in five adults, are still not literate [3]. African countries are continuing to improve both literacy rates and national growth, but are still behind other countries globally.

    In 2012, Tanzania reported a literacy rate of approximately 85 percent, and the estimate for 2015 has increased to 87 percent [4]. While this is approaching the global average and is above the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, there are still 1.3 million youth in Tanzania who are illiterate [5]. The United Nations has created a set of Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, including “ensur[ing] that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” and ensuring that all children are able to complete a free and equitable primary education [6].

    Looking for more information on literacy? Check out UNESCO’s Literacy site and their page on International Literacy Day.



    [1] UNESCO, “Literacy Day.” Retrieved from

    [2] Ibid.

    [3] UNESCO, “Literacy and Education Data for the School Year Ending in 2010.”

    [4] UIS Data Centre, “Education: Literacy Rate.” Retrieved from

    [5] Ibid.

    [6] United Nations, “Education - United Nations Sustainable Development.”

  • Tuesday, August 09, 2016 1:30 AM | Ellyse Rodriguez

    What do you do for BTF?

    I am the Social Media Manager. (Heyyy everyone on social media!)

    Have you met  any of the Saving Grace students?

    I have not but boy would I love to hug every single one of those munchkins! Being the Social Media Manager, I look through pictures and videos of them every day to see which ones I can post on our social media and absolutely adore all of them. They’re too funny and cute for words!

    What is your greatest accomplishment at BTF?

    Thanks to my family and friends, we were able to reach over our goal of 600 likes on our FB page, which might not seem like a big deal to you but it is a big deal to us. I know this made Felicia really happy as well so we need to keep climbing the social media ladder to help get our name out there and do good for this organization.

    What do you do on your spare time?

    I'm usually working on stuff for BTF but I basically devote the rest of my spare time to my pup, Butler. Other than that, you can find me binge watching anything/everything on Netflix, going to see every current movie in theater (I was a film major- I HAVE AN EXCUSE), chasing Butler around Madison, eating pizza at Grampa’s or a burrito at Chipotle, and traveling to Chicago to see my family.

  • Monday, August 08, 2016 6:51 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Nane nane means “eight-eight”, which in Swahili refers to the date August 8. Also known as Farmer’s Day, Nane Nane day acknowledges and celebrates the accomplishments of agricultural producers throughout the country.

    Week-long fairs and exhibitions are held throughout the country to display and market products. The fair typically starts on August 1st and ends on Nane Nane Day itself with a big closing ceremony. At the fair, people set up booths exhibiting new technologies, ideas, and agricultural solutions. Fair-goers and exhibitors discuss farming, agriculture, and developments in Tanzania’s economy.

    Nane Nane celebrations also include fabric shops, technology stands, housewares, and food vendors selling a lot of delicious Tanzanian food such as chips mayai: fried potatoes with an egg cracked on top.

    In the Arusha region, people visit the Nane Nane area at Njiro to see the exhibits and celebrate the holiday. The Saving Grace students will have a Farmer’s Day celebration when they return from from the August holiday on September 5th.


    "To the Fair! Nane Nane 2014 (Farmer’s Day) – Arusha, Tanzania". Retrieved from

    "Nane Nane". Retrieved from

    "Farmer's Day in Tanzania". Retrieved from

  • Sunday, August 07, 2016 10:43 AM | Kevin Klaeser

    As some of our supporters and followers may know, our founder and executive director Felicia McKenzie will be returning to Tanzania this November for a two week stay. Felicia is very excited for this trip, so we thought we'd share a little bit of that excitement with you by having Felicia occasionally update everyone on her upcoming trip! Check out her first update below, and stay tuned for further details.


    Wow! It’s hard to believe but it’s been 3 years since I returned from my first trip to Tanzania. So much has happened in that time that it’s gone so fast; but at the same time, it’s like a distant memory.

    I've been waiting to make a return journey since before I left Tanzania. It was such an amazing and transformative trip, and has changed the lives of so many people.

    I'm so happy to say I will be venturing back to Tanzania this November! My flight departs from Chicago on Wednesday, November 9; I arrive in Nairobi, Kenya early on Friday, November 11. From Nairobi, I will be taking a bus approximately 5 hours to the south, and depart right in the heart of Arusha! Grace will be meeting me at a hotel drop-off, and we'll head to the school to get me settled in.

    I will be lodging at Saving Grace with Grace and her children for the duration of my stay. It is bound to be a much different sort of stay than my last trip, as I will be the only native-English speaker and the only American at the school! When I travelled to Tanzania in 2013, Nikki and I were lodged at a homestay with a local family and about 10 other female volunteers, all of whom were from the US, Canada, and Australia. Our host family was fairly well-off by Tanzanian standards, and we joked with the staff that we were staying in the mansion. It certainly looked like a mansion. The house was very modern and westernized, with running water, electricity, and an indoor toilet. My stay at Saving Grace, by contrast, will lack such amenities. The toilet is what’s known as a “squatter” because you quite literally need to squat over it. There is no running water at Saving Grace as of yet; all of the water is delivered by truck. Water is stored in a large drum, and accessed by a single spigot. Dining will be quite different as well. At our homestay in 2013, dinner was provided for us every night in a formal dining room, on a beautiful wooden table. We have yet to get a dining table at Saving Grace, so it’s likely I’ll take my meals on the floor!

    Not that any of this is bad. Despite the very different experience I will have this time around, I’m quite looking forward to it. I think it’s important to understand exactly how our students and staff in Tanzania live day-to-day, and the only way to truly understand that is to experience it. My hope is that by living their lives, I can better appreciate the needs of our students and staff, and in turn, help to make the school even better.g will be quite different as well. At our homestay in 2013, dinner was provided for us every night in a formal dining room, on a beautiful wooden table. We have yet to get a dining table at Saving Grace, so it’s likely I’ll take my meals on the floor!

    Of course, I can’t say that this is entirely a business trip. I’m really looking forward to seeing Grace again after all this time. When I left in 2013 she was pregnant with her second child, and gave birth to her just a few months later. Returning to Tanzania means I will finally meet her, and I’m so excited! Seeing pictures of her for the last 3 years makes me feel like I already know her, and I know our first meeting will make me love her even more. I’m also excited to see Grace’s first child, Chris, again. He was a bit shy when Nikki and I were first introduced to him, but he eventually warmed up to us and asked after us for the next year. Hopefully he remembers me as well as I remember him!

    Looking ahead to this trip has made me realize just how little of the local culture I was really able to experience last time. In the meantime, I’ll be brushing up on my Swahili so I can really interact with the people I encounter this time around, and maybe, I’ll even make a new friend or two.

  • Tuesday, August 02, 2016 6:42 PM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Thank you to everyone who made it to our first ever silent auction this past Sunday! We had a lot of fun hosting this event, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s follow up.

    We also want to thank all of our amazing donors, as well as our entertainment.

    First up was The Cameron Kennedy Band, who provided some great tunes for our event. Much to the executive director’s surprise and delight, the band played a LOT of Beatles songs, and got a few of our staff members up and dancing! Check out the clip below:

    You can find more music by the Cameron Kennedy band at the links below:



    Reverb Nation

    We also had a 30 minute performance by 5 members of Monkey Business Institute, an improv group right here in Madison. Everyone was in stitches! The clips below will give you a taste:

    Follow them on Twitter for the latest or check out their website for upcoming shows.

    Our bake sale was quite the hit as well. First time BTF volunteer Ellie did a fantastic job running the sale.

    New BTF volunteer Ben was absolutely instrumental in the success of this event.  He designed the flyers and posters, and was in charge of getting bidders registered.

    And finally, the auction itself! Bids totaled $280.

    We couldn’t do this without the support of everyone who attended the event, as well as the support of local businesses. Please take a moment to support them in return by visiting their websites and social media pages.

  • Wednesday, July 27, 2016 4:34 PM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    We're excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Slickdeals to bring you the best deals and coupons from thousands of online retailers. And the best part? While you save money, you'll be raising money for BTF at the same time!

    Getting started is simple. Just go to Slickdeals Gives Back to register for free, select us as your designated nonprofit and start shopping. Every time you shop via the program you earn points for us, and you’ll even generate double points when you shop at Amazon, Target and Newegg. So you save big and we raise much needed funds. It’s that easy!

    Slickdeals is a passionate community of nearly 10 million users who scour the Web to find the best deals and coupons around. Users have saved an estimated $4 billion since its launch in 1999 and now we're bringing those savings to BTF supporters. With this program, you can find great deals from Amazon on almost anything, discounts on everyday items at Target, and save big with Newegg coupons. All your shopping at these stores earns us DOUBLE points with the Slickdeals Gives Back program!

    How to Sign Up

    Step 1. Go to and register for an account.

     Step 2. Click “select a charity.”

    Step 3. Select Brighter Tanzania Foundation by clicking on our logo.

    Step 4. Verify your zip code and click support.


    Step 5. You’re done! You should see the little heart symbol next to our logo, which confirms your selection registered.

    You have to be logged in to your account in order to collect points for us when using Slickdeals. Otherwise they will not count, so please remember to always sign in.

    We hope you can take advantage of the great deals that are posted by the Slickdeals community on a daily basis and at the same time help us reach our fundraising goals.


    As always, thanks for all you do! 


  • Friday, July 01, 2016 9:29 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    It's hard to believe, but 2016 is already halfway over! With that in mind, we thought we’d update our supporters on our work and accomplishments so far this year.

    Saving Grace is officially registered as a boarding school in the Arusha district. However, with the presidential election and subsequent government transformation initiated by Magafuli, the national government took longer than anticipated to look at our application. This has unfortunately meant that our dormitories have remained empty. Nonetheless, Grace's diligence has paid off, and after a few checks that we are complying with all school regulations, we are a registered boarding school! We are hopeful that we are able to begin boarding by trimester 3, which begins in September.

    After much trouble with the landlord, we are now signed into a 1 year lease at the Saving Grace school location. This will allow us to really settle into the space, make it our own, and continue making improvements. Within the next year or so, we would like to begin working on a library for the students, and add some playground equipment.

    In April, a new computer was purchased for Grace. While it may not sound like much, this is a huge asset for Grace and the school, as it means improved efficiency and it provides us with a better connection. The next step will be to get internet installed at the school; in the meantime, Grace is using a USB internet stick to stay in contact.

    Student enrollment continues to increase as word spreads throughout the community. Parents are excited to send their children to our school knowing that they will not be responsible for exorbitant costs out of their own pocket. We are currently at an enrollment of 56, 3 of whom are sponsored for the year. With the near constant influx of students comes the need for another teacher, who we anticipate hiring by the end of the year. The addition of a second teacher is also important because half a dozen of our students will be moving up to class 2 next year, effectively changing the grade distribution to baby class through class 2. In order to teach all 4 grade levels, a second teacher will be necessary.

    We’ve had a few changes to our staff as well, including the addition of a Social Media Manager and an accountant, a new Program Manager, and a new Development Director. Steph, our former Development Director, plans to relocate to Chile and pursue other passions, but will still be involved with BTF as she has the time.

    Our fundraising progress has been a little slow in the first half of the year. We are diligently working on planning an event for the end of July (check back for details!), and will begin work on a fall/winter event in August. However, we’ve seen an increase in our Etsy sales, and have added some great new items! Check out our shop here:

    We’d like to thank everyone for their support, love, and encouragement so far this year. We couldn’t do it without you!

  • Thursday, June 16, 2016 7:30 PM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Today, and every June 16, we celebrate International Day of the African Child.

    But just why do we celebrate this day?  What does it commemorate?

    On this day in 1976, approximately 10,000 school children in Soweto, South Africa, marched in protest of their poor education and demanded to be taught in their own language.  Afrikaans and English were to be taught in secondary schools regardless of the students mother tongue.  Students found this mandate unfair, as it would severely compromise the quality of education received by those who spoke neither language.

    What began as a peaceful protest soon became violent.  Police arrived to control the students, and the students began throwing stones.  Eventually, this turned into outright rioting, and the police saw fit to use force to regain control.

    Protests continued for 2 weeks following this incident, during which time over 100 people were killed, many of them students.  Many other student organizations staged their own protests in the months and weeks that followed, both in solidarity and to protest the killing of innocent children.  On an international level, South African products were boycotted as people and governments chose to stand with the students.

    The Soweto Uprising is credited as being one of the major driving forces for the end of apartheid in South Africa.  The courage and determination demonstrated by the students that day will forever be remembered as a brave act of protest: protest of their second class status, protest of the status quo.

    The Day of the African Child honors all those who were lost at the Soweto Uprising, all those who participated, and all those whose lives were ultimately changed by the events of that day.

    Today, the Day of the African Child is recognized by governments, NGOs, and others to discuss the challenges African students face in receiving a quality education.  

    If you'd like to learn more about the Soweto Uprising, check out the links below.

  • Wednesday, June 01, 2016 5:15 PM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Kevin is a native Wisconsinite who grew up in the unknown town of Keshena. He likes trying new and unusual beers, and refuses to give up cheese. Kevin currently resides in Madison, but recently purchased a home in the city of Columbus.

    What do you do for BTF?

    I am in charge of IT and web design. I research new technologies that could be useful for the rest of the team.

    How long have you been involved in this capacity?

    I have been with BTF for about a year. Before that I helped in a more unofficial role, mostly offering suggestions or ideas.

    Tell me about a major project you’re currently working on.

    I haven’t started working on any new projects just yet, but I just finished redesigning the website. We did a full overhaul on it.

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    Trying to keep up with how fast technology changes. Shortly after I find something new for the team to use there is a better product on the market. We’ve gone through quite a few in the short time I’ve been with the organization.

    What’s one interesting fact about you?

    I am a third degree black belt and teach martial arts during the day.

  • Tuesday, May 17, 2016 8:40 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Jane lives in North Bend, Washington.  She's a content librarian by day, and a BTF stuperstar by night.

    What do you do for BTF?

    As the Research and Compliance Director, I am responsible for making sure BTF is compliant with operating and fundraising laws related to our 501(c)(3) status. I also serve on the Board of Directors as Secretary. Because we’re so small, I help out in a lot of different departments too - helping write blog posts, running the Etsy shop, and anything else I can do!

    How long have you been involved with BTF?

    I’ve been involved since our founding in April of 2014.

    What do you like most about working with Brighter Tanzania?

    Felicia and I are close friends already, so I love working with her on Brighter Tanzania projects. I also love being able to help others, and knowing that I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life. Hearing how grateful Grace is for our help makes this all worthwhile.

    What’s one interesting fact about you?

    I built a guitar by hand with my father a few years ago. It took us a while, but we did it!

    What’s one major accomplishment you’d like to see BTF achieve in the next year?

    I would like to see us add on a water filtration system and increase the number of students we are able to board at Saving Grace. I’d also like to be able to help Saving Grace become more integrated with the community through increased sponsorship and the parent assistance program.

    How has working with BTF changed you?

    It has made me a lot more conscious about the privileges that I have and don’t even think about. It’s reminded me that I have a lot more than I think I have - these kids have so little, and we take so much for granted.

    Have you met any of the Saving Grace students?

    Unfortunately, no - but I love seeing updates about them on our Facebook feed!

Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.

Phone: (608) 886-9160

8383 Greenway Blvd PMB 633
Middleton, WI 53562

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