My name is Adam Archer and I spent the previous six years teaching high school students in America. I taught many different social sciences courses and created/advised a Service Club in which students volunteered at many different places in their community on a regular basis. I found this work for challenging and fulfilling and greatly enjoyed my time as a high school teacher.
Time for a Change
Social justice has been an important aspect of my life since my mom first started taking me to a soup kitchen on the south side of Chicago when I was 13 years old. For years, I had thought about taking a year off to volunteer for a worthy cause but was never able to pull the trigger. As my brother prepared for his fourth deployment overseas for the Army, I received the extra motivation I needed to make it happen. The opportunity to be serving overseas at the same time as my brother was not something I could put off any longer.
After researching all kinds of volunteer opportunities both big and small, I eventually came upon The Mailisita Foundation. This foundation "was created to develop a financially self-sustaining Education Center to serve the needs of a growing orphan population in rural Tanzania." Their expressed vision was "To see orphan & underprivileged children in Mailisita are able to effectively compete for scarce secondary school openings."
This was the ticket. I knew that I had wanted to serve those less fortunate abroad. This opportunity afforded me that opportunity but also had a detailed and thorough plan on how this mission would succeed and be sustainable for decades to come. And although I had not taught elementary children before, I felt that my six years as a professional educator would enable me to be successful.
I asked my school for a leave of absence and set about trying to fundraise enough money to make the trip possible. With a great deal of emotional and financial support from my family, friends, acquaintances and total strangers, I raised enough money to be able to spend nine months (an American school year) in Mailisita teaching primary students!
My Year in Tanzania
I asked my school for a leave of absence and after some (ok, a lot) of fundraising, I was able to book my ticket and set my plans in stone!
My nine month job transfer in Tanzania has come to a close. But I am not ready to be done, not yet. At times, I have been a lead teacher, an assistant teacher, a bookkeeper, an office manager, a construction worker, a representative of the Foundation and of America, and a hotel manager. The learning curve was steep but I have grown into each of these roles and experienced more success with each passing month, each passing week. There is still work to be done and I am more prepared to handle it today than I was when I came here (than I was yesterday). My impact and potential to help the children of Mailisita is substantial in the next nine months and I am not ready to let that opportunity pass.
What Are You Supporting?
Its true that we have orphans and HIV/AIDS impacted children at our school. And while the number is far greater than what I have experienced in America, it does not seem to be any different than the rest of Tanzania. The fact is that many children, around the entire country, live in hard and difficult conditions. This is where we can help!
The key out poverty is education, undoubtedly. However, the entrance exams to secondary school and the national tests given at the university level are in English. Unfortunately, many public schools do not provide adequate English education and most students are cut off from future education (and possibilities) by the seventh grade.
Our school is an English Medium School meaning that all classes (except Kiswahili class) are taught in English. This school provides a quality education to these students and offers them a real chance to move on to secondary (we expect this of every student) and to the university level after that. I have seen, and can personally attest to, the quality of the education received at our school compared to the alternative. Our students are far more proficient in English than their peers and, consequently, have a much better chance at continuing and furthering their education. I was pleased to make my own contribution to our English curriculum this year by launching and teaching a new phonics program that the students love and learn a great deal from. We are making a difference!
How Can You Help?
Besides giving up these two years of my professional career, volunteering in another country can be expensive! If you would like to make a donation, simply click the donate button or if you would like to send me a statement of encouragement or advice, I appreciate any help I can get!
(I have been blogging about my experiences in Tanzania over the last nine months; if you would like to get an idea of what it is like here, check it out! www.teachingintanzania.tumblr.com)
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