Brighter Tanzania Foundation

Log in
  • 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!

  • Friday, May 06, 2016 10:30 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Felicia is the founder and executive director of Brighter Tanzania Foundation. She resides in Madison, Wisconsin with her boyfriend, a neurotic dog, and a klutzy cat.

    What do you do for Brighter Tanzania?

    That’s sort of a long answer. As the executive director, my main focus is the overall strategy and operation of our programs, ensuring we’re adequately staffed, and seeing that we are achieving our mission. It’s my job to make adjustments to our strategies so we don’t stray from our original plan, or even adjusting the plan to better fit our needs. Because I have such a broad job definition and we’re such a small team, I end up wearing a LOT of hats, and do everything from writing facebook posts to planning events to devising funding strategies.

    How did you decide to start BTF? What was the driving force behind your decision?

    I knew for quite a while that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector because it’s always been really important to me to help others and make their lives better. When I finished college I looked for non-profit jobs for quite a while, but I didn’t want to take just any job, I wanted to get a job where I would find meaning in my work. Unfortunately, I was under qualified for many of the positions I looked at. Some of my coworkers at the time had encouraged me to start my own organization, but I was against the idea because I knew it was a lot more work than most people realized.

    After visiting Tanzania, however, things really changed. Knowing that Grace was so keen on helping her community was probably the biggest factor. And I loved the idea that I could have a job doing exactly what I wanted - something meaningful, something that would help people. After speaking to a couple of friends and family members who were totally behind me, my mind was pretty made up.

    What interests you in Tanzania?

    I think the better question is, what doesn’t interest me in Tanzania? I love everything about it! It started when I was a kid: my favorite animal for many years was the cheetah. I wanted so badly to go on safari so I could see them in person, and the idea just grew on me. As I got older, I became interested in human evolution, and one of the research sites I became most interested in was Olduvai, located in Tanzania. I figured if I wanted to make a career working in Olduvai, I should probably learn the local language - Swahili. After that, my love for Tanzania spiraled, and I became interested in not only the language, but the culture, the history, the food, and most importantly, the people themselves. Tanzania’s recent history is sad because it's very much a history of colonialism, but the upside is that so many cultures and traditions have been woven into the more traditional Tanzanian lifestyle. Today there is such a rich diversity of colorful cultures all over Tanzania; it’s just so interesting to experience it.

    So you speak Swahili?

    Kidogo tu. Which means, just a little. I took 3 semesters of Swahili in college, but I’m not very good at it! When I was teaching at Arusha Integrated School I spoke Swahili to a few of the students who I thought were not understanding the lesson because it was in English. They told all of their classmates, and the next class period, I was bombarded with “Speak Swahili!” In an attempt to satisfy them, I tried to tell them “I speak just a little Swahili, but poorly.” Instead, I managed to say, “I am talk Swahili very little, but bad.” Needless to say, this resulted in a lot of laughs from the students, and I mostly stuck with English for the rest of my stay.

    What BTF project are you the most proud of?

    I think I’m most proud of the Sponsorship Program. When we started planning it, I don’t think anyone realized just how big a project it was going to be, or that it would evolve so much as we developed it. I’m super happy with what we’ve ended up with, and I know there’s still room to improve it, so I’m really looking forward to that.

    What is the most difficult or challenging part of your job?

    Remaining focused! I’ve always got so many things going on at once, I have a tendency to jump from project to project. Everything is so interconnected that working on one thing makes me start thinking about something related, and eventually it’s like, “How did I end up working on writing this brochure? I was supposed to be researching grants!”

    Where do you see the organization headed in the next five years?

    We have a lot of goals for this organization, and we plan to implement quite a few programs to get there. I think in five years Saving Grace should be serving all primary grades, and our real-world learning program should be underway. We will then be providing for approximately 100 to 125 students, and we will likely be employing at least 5 Tanzanian teachers to achieve this.

    We’re also currently working on developing a program for educating American youth on Tanzania and the problems of poverty and inadequate education. Through this program we hope to create partnerships with different schools. Some of our other programs currently in the works include parent assistance, continuing education grants for teachers, college scholarships for BTF-run school graduates, and a community education program to help adults develop basic skills for acquiring better jobs.

    Although I don’t think all of these programs will be implemented within the next 5 years, we will do our best to lay the groundwork for all of these projects and more. We’ll just keep moving forward until we reach our goals.

    What is the most rewarding part of working for BTF?

    By far, the success stories I get from Grace. I love hearing about kids who come to our school and turn things around - grades, behavior, whatever. It lets me know that we’re succeeding in helping these kids, and I’m confident that they will go on to make something of themselves.

  • Tuesday, April 26, 2016 10:47 AM | Jane Leuchter

    Union Day celebrates the formation of the United Republic of Tanzania by the two independent states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in April of 1964, spurred by the Zanzibar revolution in January of the same year. This was "the first political union between independent countries ever to take place on the African continent in the post-colonial era"[1] and remains an influential political relation even today, sparking conversation and debate in Tanzania and throughout the rest of the world.

    One note of contention among Tanzanians today is the reason behind why these two countries united. Julius Nyerere, the leader of Tanganyika, and Abeid Karume, the leader of Zanzibar after its revolution, were behind the decision to unite their independent countries. However, the motivation behind each is still unclear. According to some stories, after the Zanzibar revolution Nyerere casually mentioned the union to Karume, who immediately agreed. Others are convinced that Nyerere proposed the union after being prompted by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who did not want Zanzibar to become controlled by communists. A third suggestion is that Nyerere's interests happened to coincide with the United States and Britain's interests in East Africa, which led both to work toward the same goal. Whatever the true reason, Nyerere's work at uniting Tanganyika and Zanzibar has lasted beyond his death. In his obituary titled The legacy of a great African, Gamal Nkrumah writes: "It was to Nyerere’s credit that he managed to unite this most ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse of nation-states and make it one of Africa’s most politically stable countries"[2].

    Union Day is celebrated in Tanzania in a variety of ways. According to Mwalimu Grace, “People celebrate by showing different culture and swahili ngoma. The president must be there.” Ngoma in Swahili translates to both “drum” and “dance;” each is used in a variety of ways in Union Day celebrations. Grace notes that “they use different drums for tradition and for enjoyment.” In Dar es Salaam, the capital city, Union Day is celebrated with speeches and a parade, and “dignitaries from nearby countries join Tanzanian government officials in these festivities” [3]. Some celebrations include military demonstrations in addition to dancing and other traditional presentations. 

    Children performing at the 49th Union Day celebrations [4].

    This year’s Union Day festivities have been cancelled by president Magafuli, who has ordered that the money be used instead to expand a stretch of road from the city of Mwanza to the Mwanza airport, which should help alleviate traffic jams in the area. As part of his focus on efficiency and money-saving measures, this is the third national celebration Magafuli has canceled in order to cut “unnecessary government spending” and allocate this money to infrastructure improvement projects [5, 6].

    Tanzanians are getting behind Magafuli’s leadership style, and so are we. His anti-corruption stance, his money-saving goals, and the pay cuts he’s implemented since taking office will help the Tanzanian economy and equalize income disparity.

    Happy Union Day, Tanzania!

    [1] Godfrey Mwakikagile, The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?

    [2] Gamal Nkrumah, The legacy of a great African

    [3] Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition.

    [4] Shawn Mubiru, “Kids steal show at 49th Union Day celebrations

    [5] Daily Nation. “Magufuli cancels Union Day celebrations to ‘save money for road project’”

    [6] Mail & Guardian Africa. “Magufuli strikes again - cancels celebrations marking Tanzania's key Union Day to 'save money for road project'”

  • Thursday, April 21, 2016 10:28 PM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

    Wondering what’s so great about Tanzania?  Here are 10 reasons you should consider a trip to the nation of freedom and unity:


    The Tanzanian people are some of the most hospitable people you will ever meet - and I don't just mean those working in the hospitality sector.  Nearly everyone you encounter will welcome you with open arms, making sure to ask if you're thirsty or tired, or just offer you a bite to eat.  Often after just one interaction, Tanzanians will act like you’re old friends when they see you in town, and in many instances go out of their way to help you.  While this hospitality is sometimes extended in the hope of receiving some cash, most Tanzanians are genuinely generous people just trying to give you a hand.


    Not only is traditional east African food delicious, but it has been heavily influenced by Indian and middle eastern cuisine, resulting in wondrous variety.  Depending on where you are in the country, these influences may be more or less prevalent; for example, on areas along the coast, spicy foods are a favorite, and further inland more traditional African staples like ugali, a type of porridge, become more common.  Be sure to sample favorites like chapati, coconut rice, kachumbari, and mandazi, and don’t forget to have a cup of chai!


    Tanzania is home to some of the best safari country in the world, the Serengeti.  Tourists flock to Tanzania between July and October to catch a glimpse of wild elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, and of course the wildebeest migration.  Nothing compares to seeing a large predators up close and personal.  If you happen to safari off peak, it's still a wonderful way to enjoy the fantastic scenery of east Africa.


    The city of Stone Town, Zanzibar, is overflowing with beautiful architectural wonders.  Here, Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences meld together with more traditional African architectural styles.  With such gorgeous doors, arches, and spires, it's hard to walk through the city without stopping to admire the buildings.


    Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most climbable mountains.  As many as 35,000 people flock to Tanzania each year to experience this amazing trek.  An average climb takes about a week, depending on your physical ability. The summit is known as Uhuru Peak, and offers some amazing views, especially when you get to watch the sun rise.  If you don't have time for a full climb, you can always go on a one day base-hike and experience all of the lush flora surrounding the mountain.  

    "Africa Time"

    So often vacations get bogged down by sight seeing and itineraries you forget to relax, so caught up in getting everywhere on time.  Not so in Tanzania.  Generally speaking, most locals operate on “Africa time,” preferring to take their time getting from place to place.  This comes from the tradition to greeting and making small talk with neighbors and acquaintances you encounter in your travels throughout the day; to skimp on the small talk is considered extremely rude.  While it can be frustrating at first, Westerners quickly adapt and often enjoy operating on Africa time - you might even bring it back with you!


    Anyone who drinks beer should try Tusker at least once.  Tusker beer is available at pretty much any corner store or bar you visit in Tanzania, and EVERYONE drinks it.  Although it does come from Kenya, you can’t ignore its ubiquitous presence.

    Cultural Traditions

    Tanzania has a huge variety of ethnic groups, and as such, numerous cultural traditions.  One of the best known groups in Tanzania is the Maasai, a nomadic herding people.  In many areas of northern Tanzania, you can visit the Maasai people and learn about their heritage, partaking in such traditions as branding or the adumu jumping ritual.


    Tanzania knows how to party!  Whether you’re in Arusha or Dar, you can find a trendy club (or two or three!) to hit up at night.  You’ll dance to Bongo Flava, east Africa’s own derivative of American hip hop music.  

    Swahili... and many other beautiful languages

    While most of us grew up learning French or Spanish as a second language in school, I think it's time to recognize the beauty of east African languages.  Swahili is the most widely spoken Bantu language, as well as the national language of Tanzania, although over 120 separate languages are spoken within the country.  Because of the trading history of Tanzania, the Swahili language is peppered with loan words, many of them Arabic in origin.  In fact, until quite recently, written Swahili utilized the Arabic alphabet.  Not only is Swahili a beautiful language to listen to, it's also a fun language to learn!

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

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software