Thursday, December 7, 2017

Graduation 2017

Last Friday, Mainsprings and the Joseph and Mary Schools graduated its third class of Form 4 students. These 27 young men and women have now completed their O-Level secondary education and are now awaiting the results of their Form 4 national exams that will help determine where they will head in life.
Mainsprings' four graduating residential girls - Maggie, Julie, Martina, and Siwema

In honor of such a big accomplishment, our Kitongo campus hosted its second major graduation in as many months. As a final send off for our Form 4 graduates- many of whom have been on our campus and in our school for years- nearly 600 attendees came out to celebrate their successes. Joseph and Mary’s 400 students, our flagship campus' 70 person staff,  Mainsprings US-based staff-including CEO Chris Gates, Mainsprings Kahunda Director, Mr. Lyimo, and dozens of government officials and community members came together in honor of the 17 girls and 10 boys who walked across the stage and received their diplomas.

The Magu District Commissioner and several other government officials escorted the graduates as they marched from our central office building to the dining hall where staff, students, families, and community members patiently waited. Cutting the ribbon at the entrance, the District Commissioner officially kicked off the graduation and watched as the graduates danced their way past the invited guests and to their seats.
Just as with our 7th grade graduation in October, our third Form 4 graduation was filled with original entertainment from Joseph and Mary students who used the day to showcase what they have learned in school. Primary School students created skits depicting the history of Tanzania’s past and present political leaders, presented about different science subjects, and performed original songs wishing the graduates off well. Joseph and Mary Secondary School students performed a graduation-themed remix to Jay-Z’s “Forever Young” as well as a wonderful performance of Empire’s “Powerful” by residential girls Happy, Leticia, Zai, and Neema Daniel. A group of secondary students- led by our lab technician Mr. Mikela- made (and subsequently marketed) soaps and perfumes that they had learned how to make in their science class.
As with any major ceremony, our class of 2017 was showered with advice from a host of speakers.  Ms. Atamba, one of our school managers, gave a speech about the history of our organization, how far the students had come and how far they still have to go, as well as our school’s emphasis on co-curricular activities. Athumani and Maggie addressed the graduates and guests on behalf of the whole class and expressed their collective gratitude for the education they received through our many programs- both in and out of the classroom. Athumani, one of our scholarship students, talked about how much Mainsprings, and especially Mr. Samo, has done to empower him. Our Guest of Honor- District Commissioner Hadijah R. Nyembo- spoke to the importance of using their education to empower themselves and their communities as well as to her appreciation to the cooperation between Mainsprings and the Tanzanian government.

The highlight of the day, as always, was the handing out of certificates and diplomas. First, the Office of Student Development handed out superlative awards to various students for accomplishments in leadership, sports and games, cleanliness, arts and music, etc. Mr. Kidapanda then handed out awards for students who excelled in the various subjects taught at Joseph and Mary. Finally, the District Commissioner- who serves as a Mayor to Magu District- handed out the graduates’ diplomas as they each took a turn walking across the stage, shaking hands, and being recognized by all of the guests in attendance.

As a final celebration, all of the guests were treated to a community lunch of rice, pilau, friend chicken, beef stew, fruits, vegetables and soda. Congratulations to the Class of 2017! We are so proud of you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Mama Paulina

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight highlights Mama Paulina, who has been a matron at our Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home on our flagship campus of Kitongo, but who will be moving to our second campus in Kahunda to become the Head Matron of our girls home.

How long have you been working for Mainsprings?:

"I have been working for Mainsprings for four years."

What is your job position and what are some of your responsibilities?:

"I am a matron in the girls' home here in Kitongo, and I will be the manager of the Kahunda girls' home. My main responsibilities are to take care of the girls and make sure of their safety and the campus safety. I also make reports."

What is your favorite thing about working at Mainsprings?:

"I like that Mainsprings takes care of their workers. Also, they help us to solve the problems that we face. We are a family and that's why we end up doing a really good job!"

What are the biggest challenges you face with your job?:

"The challenges I face are normal challenges that all parents have, like making sure the girls follow the rules, do their chores, etc.

 Are you looking forward to your move to Kahunda as a manager?:

"Yes! I am really happy that I have been given this opportunity. First of all, I love to be a matron and I love children. So I'm happy that I have been given this opportunity to continue learning ad have more responsibilities. I'm looking forward to continue learning and growing as a worker and as a person. I'm going to be a manager and I take that position really seriously. I'm going to work really hard to achieve mine and the organization's goals."

What are you most nervous/anxious about with the move?:

"I'm nervous about getting to know my new boss! I'm used to working with Seth, Melinda, and Paula, and now that is going to change. I will now get to work with Mr. Lyimo!"

And finally, what will you miss most about the Kitongo Campus?:

"I'll miss the girls a lot.  I've been with them for a long time and I love them so much. I will also miss my bosses here, and in general, I'm going to miss the people from this campus because we are a big family!"

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Impact of Sports and Games

Sports and Games are vital to students and staff for different reasons at Joseph and Mary.

At Joseph and Mary, we use sports and games as tools for vibrant health. Students who are active show that they are not only healthier, but are also ready to perform day-to-day activities in the classroom without any problems. Sports and games can also be used as a learning platform whereby students are introduced to new games that are not common in our government schools- good examples of what we offer at Joseph and Mary are basketball and tennis.

Apart from physical gain, our students learn leadership skills by being team leaders where they learn different leadership techniques. These skills also promote teamwork because as a team they work towards the same goals and objectives. The skills they learn as leaders and in teamwork will benefit them long after they leave Joseph and Mary Schools.

The above advantages are made possible by integrating different programs into our daily schedule. This year, we created formal sports teams that include tennis, basketball, soccer, handball, volleyball, and netball. Teams are given time three days a week for training. Inclusion also helps us try to nurture young talent by giving opportunities to young kids from preschool through 2nd grade during recess programs twice a week.
By working closely with our partners in the Tanzanian government, our aim is to not only improve the sports and games at Joseph and Mary but also to improve athletics across our whole district. Our aim is to have students from Joseph and Mary playing nationally and beyond. In fact Joseph and Mary is one of the only private schools in the whole country recognized by the government by being selected to be an “Academy” where students of different games and talents will be developed.
Mainsprings residential girl and 2015 graduate, Neema, who was selected to play on the Mwanza Women's Premier Team.

Since the government has realized our hard work in promoting sports and games in our district, the Ministry of Youth Sports and Games is working hand in hand with us. Recently, our basketball team represented our district in the government competition at the national level. Also our school was requested by the District Education Director to train teachers from government schools on basic skills in tennis. Working with the government, we were able to train teachers from various schools around our district with the hopes that they can start tennis programs at their schools.

Most importantly, our sports and games programs give our students a chance to have fun!

Guest Blogger, Mr. Samo, is Joseph and Mary's Dean of Students and Head of the Office of Student Development.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Mr. Jonas

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight highlights Mr. Jonas, who previously worked for Mainsprings as a Secondary School teacher before departing to complete his Bachelors Degree in Administration and Education. With his studies complete, he is now back on the Mainsprings campus, working as our Campus Registrar.

How long have you been working at Mainsprings?:

"Almost three years in total, with a break in between to complete my Bachelor's Degree in Administration and Education."

Why did you decide to do this job?:

"I love the interaction I can have in my job with both the parents and students. I feel this job provides opportunities to help prepare a future generation to be competent and have the skills to live a full life. This is important to me as I want to invest in the future generation. I also felt I was a good educator and I wanted to take the next step in upgrading my skills through first my education, and now in a new and challenging job position. I like that it is a profession that has different activities and will always keep me learning. 

What do you enjoy most about your position?:

"I like when I have a plan, set it in motion, and then see that is has gone well. In particular, I like when I see this happen with the students that I help and then have the opportunity to see them prosper and do well."

What is your favorite thing about Mainsprings?:

"My favorite thing about Mainsprings is that we are provided the opportunity to help those who would not otherwise have access to what we have to offer. I appreciate that Mainsprings provides an opportunity to learn for not only the students and girls, but also to the staff and broader community. For example, they teach us to care about our community, give us opportunities to learn about new technology, and provide opportunities to attend seminars and learn."

What are your favorite activities at Mainsprings?:

"First, I really appreciate the various teaching methods we use and facilities we have to offer. Secondly, I love all of the exposure to sports we have, including tennis! It has been really great having the opportunity to have training and learn alongside the students."

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

"I think currently the biggest challenge is outside of Mainsprings. It is challenging to learn the different laws in Tanzania having to do with my administration job. They are always changing and it is a challenge to stay up to date on best practices!"

What do you want to do in the future?:

"I want to continue to learn more and not be closed-minded in this world that is always changing. For example, I want to continue to learn how to use and apply new technology as it continues to develop. I also want to always be learning new approaches to teach students new skills outside of traditional schooling. I want them to learn not only their academic education, but also basic skills that they will carry with them throughout life."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

7th Grade Graduation 2017

On Friday, October 13th, 2017, Mainsprings and the Joseph and Mary Schools celebrated the graduation of our 7th class of primary school students. This year, 16 girls and 14 boys sat for their national exams and graduated from the 7th Grade at the Joseph and Mary Primary School. This class included four residential girls- Zai, Salome, Vene, and Rachel- from Bibi Mimi's Girls Home.

The ceremony, which was planned by our Dean of Students, Mr. Samo, and the Joseph and Mary School Committee, took place in the school dining hall from 10:00AM until 1:00PM. The event was attended by various government officials and community leaders, including our village chairperson, Ward Education Officer, District Social Welfare Officer, and the District Sports Officer, among others.

As with any good Tanzanian ceremony, the event featured nearly two full hours of entertainment. Students from preschool through 6th grade performed various skits, poems, and songs to wish the graduates well. Bibi Mimi's residential girls Neema, Happy, Leticia, and Zai performed an incredible rendition of Alicia Keys' "Girl On Fire." Zai, sitting at the graduates' table, made a dramatic stage-left entrance while singing, taking the whole dining hall by surprise.

The grand finale of entertainment was a first-ever fashion show put on by Joseph and Mary Secondary School students. The fashion show featured students wearing different types of dress depicting various aspects of Tanzanian culture. The last two students, wearing a suit and a wedding dress and having a mock wedding ceremony, received roaring applause from the other students, parents, invited guests, Mainsprings staff, and the Guest of Honor. Following the fashion show, the Guest of Honor, Magu District Director, Lutengano Mwalwiba, requested an encore performance of "Girl On Fire" with the students in their fashion show outfits.

After the entertainment, various members of our school's leadership team spoke about the history of the school, challenges facing our community, and giving advice to the soon-to-be secondary students. The Honorable Mr. Mwalwiba spoke directly to the students, advising them to listen to their parents and role models, value the education they are receiving at Joseph and Mary, to work hard, and avoid bad groups of friends. Mr. Mwalwiba also praised the holistic approach and services that Mainsprings is doing and promised to lend his full support to our efforts. Lastly, Mr. Mwalwiba spoke to the importance of educating girls in our community and giving girls equal support to boys.

Following the speeches, members of Mainsprings leadership team, government officials and community leaders handed out "superlative" awards to various graduates for achievements in academics, leadership, sports, activism, etc. The highlight of the day, of course, was the giving of the diplomas. Mainsprings Administrative Director Melinda Wulf, Campus Director-Kahunda Mr. Lyimo, and C.O.O. Seth Diemond, joined Magu's District Director Mr. Mwalwiba to hand out the diplomas certifying the graduates' achievements. Congratulations to all of them!
What would a graduation be without food? Following the ceremony, nearly 700 students, staff, and visitors enjoyed a meal of rice, beans, pilau, meat, vegetables, and soda before heading to Papa's Cafe and Bungalows for pictures! It was a great day for all!

Guest Blogger, Seth Diemond, is Mainsprings' COO in Tanzania. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Expanding Literacy In Our Community

Over the last two months, it’s been a common sight to see six students from Joseph & Mary’s Form 2 class walking into Kitongo with an armful of books each Sunday afternoon. This is a result of JBFC’s expansion to the Family Literacy Program, which started in January 2016. The Form 2 students participate in the program, which serves as their mandatory community service project, for an entire year before handing the program off to the upcoming Form 2 class.

The original program –in partnership with Sarah Lawrence College – strives to encourage reading in the classroom and at home. While starting as a way to encourage parents to become more actively involved in their children’s educations and encourage literacy in the community, it has developed into a four-week seminar that parents take one grade at a time. Over these four weeks, parents discuss the challenges that their children face academically, creative ways to support their children at home, and solutions such as buying more books for their homes, encouraging student to attend school daily, and reading with their children themselves.

It is led by Joseph and Mary’s Dean of Students, Mr. Samo and our Literacy Coordinator, Mr. Simon. The Form 2 students participate in many ways including translating, surveying, providing childcare, and cooking. This program has seen great success and each Wednesday many parents arrive to learn more about their child’s education, while becoming part of the solution to some of the challenges they may face.

This past June, students from The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey worked with Joseph & Mary’s Form 2 students to expand this program into the community. Over three days, students from both schools discussed the challenges that the community faces, which range from community members’ lack of access to books to parents not being able to read themselves. What they came up with was partnering with the local Baptist church to create a book nook in their community centre where parents, students, community members, and children, who are not yet in school, can go to read and access books in English and Swahili. The students then scheduled time with the Kitongo Baptist Church and presented the idea to the pastor and some of the church members, officially launching the addition to the program on June 28, 2017.

Under the supervision of two Form 2 students – Emmaculate Immanuel and Peter Nicholas – the program has taken the initial book nook and expanded it. Six students at a time from the Form 2 class rotate going to the church after the Sunday service with an armload of bilingual Swahili-English story books.

Each student finds one or two partners and together they sit and read, often taking turns sounding out words. Participants can ask how to pronounce different words and what they mean in a safe, non-judgmental environment at no cost. If they are struggling with reading in general they can focus on the Swahili text of the book or if they’re striving to learn English, they can focus on that. Typically there are 10 to 12 participants from the congregation and surrounding community that range from toddlers to elders.

This program is looking like it will continue to grow and change to address obstacles, but these first two steps have demonstrated how partnerships and some students creativity can make a huge difference in a community.
This blog was written by two guest bloggers, Jeff DeViller and Emma. Jeff is Mainsprings' Volunteer Coordinator in Tanzania, and Emma is is one of Mainsprings' residential girls. She is currently in Form 2 at Joseph and Mary Secondary School. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Trek Tanzania 2017

Last year, Mainsprings launched its inaugural walk-a-thon, "Trek Tanzania: A Virtual Climb of Kilimanjaro". While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on many people's bucket lists, few get the opportunity to actually travel to Tanzania and take on Africa's highest peak. As many climbers (including our own Administrative Director, Melinda Wulf) would tell you, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of determination over several grueling days to make it to the summit.

That being said, we found out very quickly last year that we have some incredibly active and fit
supporters, who are more than capable of walking the entire route and then some! We had groups of friends and families taking morning walks to get coffee or out for an evening stroll, all while counting their steps to see if they could reach the 89,480 steps it takes to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and back down. Not only were these supporters making themselves healthier during our week-long walk-a-thon, but they were simultaneously making our community in Tanzania healthier by raising money for our healthcare clinic.

We also found out that our teams of supporters were not only competitive with how many steps they were each achieving, but with raising money. Together, they helped us raise over $30,000 for our clinic which provides preventative health services to a community of more than children and families.

This year, we are launching our second Trek Tanzania, but the rules will be slightly different than last year. Instead of running for one-week only like last year, Trek Tanzania 2017 will run for the entire month of October - and yes, even though it is now October 4th and the competition technically started three days ago, it is not too late to register and start tracking your steps and fundraising!

How can you participate? There are multiple ways!

Grab your friends and family and create a team, or tackle the trek solo. Be sure to register yourself or your team (you can do so by clicking here), and use the entire month of October to track your steps and see if you can reach 89.480 by the end of the month. You can also get friends and family to sponsor your virtual climb, which will help raise money for our clinic.

Prizes will be awarded to the team that raises the most money by the end of the month, as well as the team that reaches the summit first. You and your teammates are responsible for tracking your steps via whatever method you prefer (MapMyRun, iPhone Health app, Fitbit, pedometer, etc.). To complete the trek, your team must walk 89,480 steps per team member. For example, if you are a team of five, your team needs to complete 447,400 steps (that's 89,480 x 5 participants) AS A TEAM. This means that some people can walk more than others, you just need to complete the required amount of steps cumulatively. Be sure to let us know when you and your teammates have completed your steps!

Happy trekking!