Naomi Noah is a smart, charismatic Maasai girl who has just started Form One at Lekule Girls’ Secondary School in Northern Tanzania. Naomi’s mom is a single parent living with her seven children in a traditional Maasai home. She never had a chance to go to school, nor did Naomi’s three sisters. But Naomi’s world is opening up for her. TEMBO Canada, a small Ottawa organization, is sponsoring her to go to school.
Furthering her education provides so many more opportunities for Naomi: instead of early marriage and childbirth, she will have time to devote to her studies. Maasai girls are traditionally married as early as age 13, and get pregnant shortly thereafter. Most Maasai women do not have the skills or resources to support their family if the husband is unable or unwilling to provide. But Naomi now has the opportunity to pursue her education and decide what she wants for her future, something that her mom never had.
In the fall of 2018, Naomi attended PASS, an academic enrichment program to bolster girls’ language and academic skills before entering secondary school. The program is taught by Canadian volunteer teachers and by local high school teachers. At the beginning of the program, the girls are shy and reticent to speak but by graduation, they are brimming with confidence and pride and are very excited to embark on their new journey. “The Program goes far beyond helping them to learn basic skills,” says Virginia Taylor, TEMBO’s tireless Educational Director and Board Member. “The girls make lasting friendships with girls from other villages that become their support network during their secondary school studies and they learn that it is important to ask questions in class.” Throughout their school years, the TEMBO sponsored girls have the opportunity to attend a three-week TEMBO English Camp (TEC), which builds on their academic skills and keeps them motivated to succeed.
Successful Partnership Creates Positive Change
TEMBO Canada, has supported girls and women in Tanzania since 2005. The momentum comes from a small group of passionate, committed Ottawa volunteers who have been heartened over the years by the positive changes that TEMBO has made in Longido, Tanzania. This year alone, TEMBO is supporting 135 girls in secondary schools and 12 in vocational training programs. The women in the community are supported through micro-business loans, goat projects, literacy and sewing classes and information sessions on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.
Virginia Taylor attributes TEMBO’s success in Longido to the close working relationship between TEMBO Canada and TEMBO Trust in Tanzania: “TEMBO Trust plays a vital role in Longido by working in partnership with other institutions to build a strong and prosperous community for all.”
TEMBO’s presence is felt everywhere in Longido. In 2015, the TEMBO-funded Longido Learning Centre opened its doors to the entire community. Today it is an active hub featuring programs for children and adults, a computer room, after school programs and more. An exciting new sewing program has become very popular among Maasai women. They are learning how to sew on treadle machines and they are looking forward to making clothes and school uniforms for their children.
More recently, this spring, TEMBO will celebrate the opening of the new Girls’ Hostel, a 12-room facility that will provide safe and secure housing for girls when they are attending TEMBO enrichment programs.
Joyful Concert For Girls’ Education
On Saturday, April 13, 2019, TEMBO is hosting a benefit concert called “H is for Hope”. This is a great opportunity for the public to learn more about TEMBO’s work in Tanzania and have a fun time doing it. The concert features the popular Big Soul Project and Deep Groove Band. Under the direction of Roxanne Goodman, the choir’s repertoire which is rooted in gospel, R&B, and soul will be highlighted by the infectious sounds of African drumming and traditional songs. Doors open at Southminster United Church (Bank and Aylmer) at 6:30 pm for the African marketplace. The concert is at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 (children under 12 are free) available at www.projectembo.org or by calling 613-863-3218.
Mary Lu Beaupre is a TEMBO volunteer who travels to Longido every fall to teach in the PASS program. Last fall, Naomi was one of her students.
Originally published in the April 2019 OSCAR.