Kwanza starts this Tuesday, December 26and continues until Monday, January 1.
Kwanza is a relatively young holiday, celebrated in the US, Canada and parts of West Africa. Maulana Karenga, founded Kwanza in 1966 to celebrate African American culture & community. The holiday promotes the Seven Principles of African Heritage.
1) Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
2) Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
3) Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
4) Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5) Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
6) Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
7) Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Families celebrating Kwanza set up symbolic display: seven candles in a candle holder, vegetables, corn, a unity cup, and gifts on a mat. The house is often decorated with African art, colorful clothes like kentia, and fresh fruit. It's estimated that several million African Americans celebrate the holiday each year.
Photo by Christopher Myers, Wikimedia Commons
Today is Human Rights Day! Every 10 December, we are called to consider a broad range of issues that threaten or protect human rights. Human Rights Day was begun on December 10, 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day. (1)
Human Rights is a broad topic. In recent decades it's been used to describe natural rights, civic rights and political rights. Human rights has often been a central rallying point for a number of social and political movements that sought to eliminate injustices and improve quality of life. This holiday becomes a day for diverse activist groups and people from all walks of life to call attention to their specific focus for human rights. It's also a time to remember past leaders and agents of change.
Here are some notable human rights statements.
The struggle for increased human rights, and better protection for those rights can be so broad it can be hard to relate to. To condense human rights into a single issue, we'll look at land rights in Tanzania. Stay tuned next week for an article about Tanzanian land rights & land use!
Add some East African flair to your Thanksgiving this year with 2 recipes from Brighter Tanzania's cookbook! (Coming soon.) These are great additions to a breakfast, brunch, or even dessert!
Edit: Stick a fork in it, our cookbook is ready for purchase, in softcover and ebook format. (I personally prefer the ebook format!)
East African Chai
Chai is how many East Africans start and end their days. The basic flavor profile below is typical of East Africa. There's a lot of regional variations in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Even towns and individual households have their own twist on this basic recipe. The spices used in East African Chai have strong flavors; slightly different ratios, substitutions, and brew time variations can change the whole experience.
Chai Tea with decorative cream. Photo by Felicia McKenzie.
Mandazi, or “African doughnut” is a sweet, fried dough common to Tanzania and Kenya. They are wonderful with powdered sugar, syrup or a dipping sauce of your choice. Mandazi is often served with Chai.
Mandazi and Coffee. Delicious. Photo by Felicia McKenzie.
Mandazi cooked in a traditional kitchen. Photo by Steph Walczak.
Universal Children’s Day is celebrated every November 20th. This year, Google posted a special google doodle in honor of the event.
Google Doodle celebrates Children's Day (Photo: Google)
Universal Children’s’ day was begun in 1954 by the United Nations. Thereafter, November 20 has been a significant date for advancing the rights and status of children. In 1959, on November 20th, the UN General Counsel adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. In 1989, also on November 20th, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Universal Children’s day is not only the anniversary of these historic milestones, but it also seeks to raise awareness of international child welfare and to encourage activists around the globe to improve child welfare. The political and social agenda behind Universal Children’s Day is, by necessity, very broad. The welfare of children vary widely by country and region, according to available resources, economic and technological development, educational opportunities, medical access, and cultural beliefs about raising children.
In general, the holiday, as well as the Declaration and the Convention, seek to:
Hello from Tanzania!
Things have been going quite well since I arrived on Friday afternoon, and it looks like much of my agenda should be accomplished before I leave.
We have procured a number of items desperately needed at the school, including new teaching books to replace those that had been worn out, erasers, pens, and even a new jump rope for break time.
A local carpenter has been contracted to build two new desks, and we have discussed building the library shelving and a file cabinet for student records.
A few changes have been made to the design of the library, and have therefore changed the design of the bookshelves to A-frames. This does make the shelves more expensive than originally anticipated, but using this style of bookshelf will ultimately give us more versatility.
More updates should be forthcoming!
Today is Election Day here in the US, and although I’m sitting in front of the computer watching the results come in, I think I’m more anxious about tomorrow. That’s because tomorrow is when I finally return to Tanzania. The entire day is bound to seem excruciatingly long; I no doubt will check my email every 5 minutes for updates from Grace, and only give up when it's time to board my flight.
It probably seems silly that I’m so excited for a 2 week trip devoted to working. The thing is, I began this organization because it’s my passion in life.
Having way too much fun with Grace at the snake park back in 2013.
Despite my initial reservations about beginning this journey, I’m ecstatic that I did. I can’t imagine what else I could possibly be doing with my life that could give me so much gratification, or keep me this dedicated and focused. I came to love doing this more every day, even as things continue to get more difficult and convoluted. I’ve learned so much by taking on this role, about myself, about other people, about business, and about Tanzania.
So returning to Tanzania to continue doing something I love doesn’t feel like work to me. Its simply a new challenge, to grow the school, the organization, and myself.
There have been a few changes to my arrangements for this trip, although it shouldn’t impact my ability to accomplish any of the items on my agenda. Grace’s husband is not currently travelling for work, which means she will be staying at home with her family instead of staying at the school. Because the school will now be empty at night, Grace has asked me to stay with her family. They have already set up a room in preparation for me, and it sounds like the entire family is as excited for my visit as I am!
My accommodation change also means that I will not be able to visit the students at the school during class hours until Monday. Although I'm disappointed I won't get to see them in action for a few days, it does mean Grace and I have some time to prepare. I've packed a book to read and a large bag of Lego candy to use for a counting lesson, and we'll have to find a non-disruptive way to work both into the lesson plans for the week.
With all that's been happening lately, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful volunteer staff keeping BTF afloat in my absence. After all, none of this would be possible without dedicated people to carry it out! Asante sana!
It’s the final countdown!
In only 21 days I depart for Tanzania once more.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic preparing for this trip. Even though my airfare was purchased months ago, there is still a lot of planning to do! I recently purchased a train ticket to get to my departure city, round trip bus fare to get to and from Nairobi, and bus fare to return from the airport when I arrive back in the US. I’ve still got to arrange transportation between the train station and the airport, from downtown Arusha to the school, from the school to the hotel pickup in Arusha, and from the bus drop off to get home!
With so much travel planning still happening, I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to laying out a plan of action for Grace and I to get to work when I arrive. As discussed in my previous post, there are a lot of projects I intend to work on during the course of my stay at the school. Once I’ve laid out a schedule for working on everything I can be sure that my trip will really be worthwhile.
One incidental plan I hoped to accomplish while visiting was helping Grace get the library completed. However, our crowdfunding campaign to invest in the library isn’t attracting as much attention as we had hoped. Given the small amount of funds raised to date, Grace and I may focus our energies on purchasing books for the forthcoming library, as we have decided that we will use any funds collected from this campaign to do at least that. Although we won’t have a permanent place to keep these books, the students will still benefit from the addition of reading material to their school.
As I count down the days to my departure, there a few things I will be focusing on:
This trip should result in a lot of changes for the better, and help us take the next step forward in our development plan. Hopefully, more trips like this can be planned for the future to better integrate the management of the organization with the daily realities of the school.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was established by The United Nations’ (UN) International on October 17 1993. It has been observed each year since. It raises awareness of the need to eradicate poverty especially in developing countries. 
Poverty is expensive.
Poverty (defined as inadequate income, nutrition, and basic resources) deprives individuals of their potential in 5 ways: [1,2,3, 4]
Parents and families who are below the poverty line often lack the tools and resources they need to provide for and protect their families. When people don’t have enough to provide for themselves, they don’t often have enough to share. Severe poverty makes it very difficult for communities to develop economic resiliency, and inhibits the growth of local social and economic networks. Finally, severe poverty deprives nations of the income potential of millions of people, and the waste of this human capital contributes to global food shortages. [1,2,3, 4]
Poverty poses very broad problems, so various global and national NGOs, like UNESCO and other major organizations, have decided to focus on 17 sustainable development goals. As you can see here, theses are broad, far-reaching goals.
Eradicating poverty is a huge challenge. Brighter Tanzania Foundation focuses on alleviating poverty through education and investing in the local economy in Arusha, Tanzania. All our school’s supplies, maintenance, and labor needs are met by local businesses. Donations to BTF go directly to Saving Grace Day and Boarding School, and from there, out to the rest of the community. That money spreads when businesses pay bills and pay employees.
Local farmers bringing their goods to market.
Brighter Tanzania also offers education intended to build the foundation for academic, emotional, and economic success. The academic portion is a standard primary education- literacy, numeracy, and creative expression. Saving Grace also incorporates what we call the “Real World Learning” program. This program teaches “soft-skills” like empathy, work-ethic, integrity, as well as basic trade skills like sewing, cooking, etc. This dynamic combination of traditional academics and our “Real World Learning” ensures our students have the skills to succeed in secondary school, or contribute to their family’s income by aiding the family business, or finding gainful employment. We encourage all our students to advance their studies, as every year of education has significant impacts on income and access to healthcare, quality food, and better jobs.  However, we must be realistic. Some of our students may be required to contribute to the family’s income. We strive to develop well-rounded youth capable of meeting and overcoming life’s challenges.
It’s the Day of the Girl today.
Started in 2011 by Plan International and the United Nations. The day is also known as International Day of the Girl and International Day of the Girl Child.  
This day highlights the importance of girls in the world. Girls’ health, education, and access to rights, and ability to advocate for rights denied in developing countries has a complex and long-term effect on the quality of life in countries striving to develop. When girls’ overall social and physical well-being are ignored, when child marriages are common, developing communities have higher rates of domestic violence, maternal mortality, infant mortality, child undernourishment, and lower rates of primary school participation and completion.  
Each year, The Day of the Girl has a theme to focus global development efforts. In the past, themes have revolved around ending child marriage, and the importance of education. This year the theme is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. Data gathering is the theme this year because meaningful data on the challenges of women and girls in the world is vital for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  
Improving the lot of girls in a community has the potential to break the cycle of poverty. Education is a key tool in forcing the betterment of girls. Child marriage (under 18, often under 15) is a common problem in developing areas, partially due to cultural and financial pressures. Child marriage increase the risk for domestic abuse, material mortality, and offspring who don’t become vaccinated or encouraged to complete primary education. Girls who complete primary education and participate in secondary education are significantly less likely to marry under age against their will, and are far more likely to provide adequate nutrition and healthcare to their children, as well as encourage them to complete primary education.   
Thousands of events are held around the world to commemorate women’s achievements and celebrate girls’ potential. These events take on local flavor and significance. Among many others, they include a live stream with First Lady Michelle Obama and Glamour Magazine to promote #letgirlslearn and a UN sponsored concert in India.   
Here's some key data on girls around the world.
Happy World Teacher’s Day!
World teacher day is a wonderful day every year when students, parents, policy makers, community members, and teachers can reflect on the importance of teachers.
World Teachers Day was started by UNESCO in 1994. UNESCO wanted to raise awareness of teachers’ contributions, the importance of pay that recognizes the value of their work and setting high standards for teacher training. They also sought to increase the number of teachers. 
Teachers are a vital component of our society, as they are the cornerstone of any child’s education. It’s been well demonstrated that education can significantly increase a child’s health and earnings throughout life. Educated people can then go out and strengthen their economy and community. It all starts with teachers who believe in the potential of their students. 
Here we have a picture of Grace with one of her students, Queen. Grace is a fantastic teacher and BTF is lucky to have her.
Yet all the anticipated good education could bring won’t manifest if the teacher is poorly trained. There’s a shortage of teachers in developing countries, and one of the tactics used to increase the number of teachers is to reduce the required qualifications. Fortunately there are a number of organizations dedicated to providing teacher training in developing areas, such as Education East Africa (http://www.educationeastafrica.org/training/) and Global Partnership for Education (http://www.globalpartnership.org/).
Organizations like these make teacher training accessible to communities that otherwise couldn’t afford it. They not only provide high quality, engaging training, but metric-based assessments. Another organization, the Common Wealth of Learning (www.col.org), is dedicated to equipping teacher training institutions with more and better training materials so they can produce higher quality teachers. Developing countries, and Tanzania in particular, need more teachers to reach educational goals. For example, for Sub Saharan African countries to achieve universal primary education, they’ll need over a million new teachers. If Sub Saharan African countries want to take their education victories to the next level and achieve Universal Secondary Education, they’ll need almost two million new teachers. 
Grace with students.
Why We Celebrate Grace on World Teacher’s Day
When Brighter Tanzania was founded, people often asked why Felicia jumped at the opportunity to help Grace start a school – “What if she just takes the money and runs?” “How do you know she’s actually using the money for what she says?” Well, the reason is Grace herself. She is an incredibly dedicated and talented woman.
Grace grew up extremely poor and had a hard time getting through primary school because her parents couldn’t always pay the fees. Even though they couldn’t always afford it, her parents stressed the importance of education to Grace and her siblings. Her parents taught them that education was the best way to escape poverty. When Grace finally completed her secondary education, she worked as a housekeeper to put herself through college to become a teacher.
Grace has been teaching since 2008, primarily 1st grade. The students love her and really seem to look forward to coming to school. Even from this great distance, we can see that Grace cares deeply about her students. She’s always sending emails to update us on the kids she’s the most worried about. Sometimes these emails come in the middle of the night because she’s awake thinking about them.
When Brighter Tanzania opened our first school, Saving Grace Day and Boarding School, back in 2014, deciding on a name was simple. In addition for being the catalyst for this entire project, Grace enrolled all of the students, taught everything, rented the school building, and purchased all of the supplies herself. We wanted to honor Grace and her dedication to education and her community, and she was therefore the namesake for the school. Coincidentally, the school can also be considered a Saving Grace for the students.
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