About Natalie Pruell
Posts by Natalie Pruell:
In 2013, we embarked on our newest bold adventure – partnering with the Tanzanian government to co-manage Oldeani Secondary School (OSS) and provide our community with quality education at the secondary level. With just over 250 students enrolled, the OSS campus was a much different scene five years ago. With infrastructure practically crumbling and classrooms overrun with a growing student body, the environment was everything but conducive for learning.
Recognizing that students deserved more, since starting this journey we have worked tirelessly to improve the conditions and bring students a higher quality education. Since our partnership began, we have completely refurbished the existing infrastructure and expanded the OSS campus with the additions of a library, laboratories, classroom blocks and teacher housing. We have hired more teachers to ensure a student-teacher ratio that allows for more individualized support, purchased additional learning materials, brought tablet technology to campus, and provided OSS teachers with professional development to ensure that they are the best educators they can be.
When asked to look back on her first days at OSS, Careen Charles explains, “it was very different; it was hard to focus because the classrooms were crowded, the quality is much better now.” Form 4 graduate, Josephat Margwe reflected on the excitement he felt when he saw that two science laboratories that were being built. “The laboratories were important for me because I want to study Physics and Biology at University, and without these facilities I wouldn’t be able to.”
Not only are OSS students happier at school, we are seeing the results of these investments through improved student outcomes. Last year, we celebrated a 20% increase in the number of students qualifying for post-secondary school. With more students than ever passing their exams and staying in school, in 2019, we have over 440 students enrolled. We are proud that OSS now ranks as 2nd amongst all government schools in the region.
In just five years, our progress dares us to dream bigger and bolder. We can’t wait to look back on this update in five more!
As we watched Paskalina Karoli approach the graduation stage at Oldeani Secondary School with flushed cheeks and a shy smile to accept yet another award for her achievements, we were reminded of the road she took to reach this proud moment.
Paskalina grew up in a local coffee plantation where her mother and father worked as farmers. From a young age, her love for reading and eagerness to learn the English language made her a stand-out student at Gyetighi Primary School. However, Paskalina understood that even if her parents were able to cover the cost barriers of her continued education, attending Oldeani Secondary School would be a challenge. The two-hour journey from home to school would not give her the time she needed to focus on her studies and master the more challenging curriculum that comes with attending secondary school.
Having followed Paskalina from her first day of Kindergarten, after completing primary school, we selected Paskalina to be a LeMond Scholar. An initiative that covered her secondary school costs and invited her to live at the TCF Scholarship Hostel located next to the Oldeani Secondary School campus – thus eliminating the many barriers that would have prevented her from earning her high-school diploma.
Today, Paskalina says, “living in the Hostel, I never had to worry about food, electricity, or time to study. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it were not for the scholarship.” Paskalina used this leg-up to soar in her studies. On graduation day, she earned 6 of the 9 subject awards for receiving the highest scores in History, Math, Chemistry, Biology, English, and Geography.
We know that her final day at Oldeani Secondary School won’t mark the end of her education as she has big plans for her future, which include a post-secondary degree. When asked what’s next, Paskalina says, “I dream of being an Engineer one day, and I know now that if I put my mind to it, I can get there.”
2018 was another unforgettable year for the Tanzanian Children’s Fund (TCF). We celebrated our 15th anniversary and welcomed back a few familiar faces to our new leadership team. As we reflect on the events of the past year, it is amazing to see just how far we have come in building brighter futures for our community of 10,000.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, our RVCV family sent off a group of eager young adults, hoping to achieve their dream of earning a post-secondary degree. Today, these students are now college graduates! Congratulations to Martin, Asau, and Richard! While these students were away at school, things certainly didn’t slow down at the Children’s Village! We welcomed 82 volunteers to RVCV this year, who mentored our children in secondary school, held the hands of our kids walking to Gyetighi Primary School, and nurtured the 21 children cared for by our daycare program each day.
Meanwhile, TCF celebrated another banner year at Gyetighi Primary School (GPS) and Oldeani Secondary School (OSS). In 2018, we provided a quality education to 480 students at GPS and 376 students at OSS. Working hard to transform both schools into institutions of academic excellence, we were pleased to celebrate a 100% pass rate on the Standard7 National Exam at GPS!
In 2018, we broke records inside our Rural Community Health Clinic. Through the outstanding expertise of our Registered Nurses, Gretchen and Katie, and Nursing Assistants, Richard, Ema and Juliana, we provided care to 7,023 people – treating an average of 21 patients each day! Our healthcare team also administered deworming treatments and vitamins for all 856 students enrolled at GPS and OSS.
This year, we celebrated 10 years of creating economic opportunities for our community since the launch of our Microfinance Program in 2008. In 2018, we welcomed 100 new clients to the program, empowering a total of 720 entrepreneurs to provide for themselves and their families. Once again, the successes of our clients showed us that poverty doesn’t have to be permanent. In recognizing the importance of ongoing education, we introduced a new beekeeping training initiative to teach 30 clients how to harvest beeswax for products such as candles and medicinal creams. We also implemented a grain and seed storage program to promote sustainability of client crop yields.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped make this year so special and successful. With your continued commitment and dedication to our children and community, we believe 2019 will be even brighter. As you may have heard, we’ve got big plans.
When Rob Rosser joined our Board of Directors in 2011, we were given the ultimate gift. Since, Rob has been our biggest cheerleader and advocate—volunteering in Tanzania and sharing our work with others throughout Boston and Bermuda. He has guided us through our toughest challenges and has empowered us to achieve some of our greatest successes.
Below are just a few of the many milestones that Rob has allowed us to accomplish:
December 2011 – For the first time in Gyetighi Primary School history, 100% of Standard 7 students pass the National Exam.
November 2013 – TCF partners with the government to co-manage Oldeani Secondary School.
December 2014 – Microfinance Program empowers over 500 clients to pursue economic opportunities.
December 2016 – We become a family of 97 when we welcome Flavi and Nuru into our family.
January 2018 – Our Rural Community Health Clinic begins treating more than 20 patients per day on average.
As Rob ends his tenure on our Board of Directors, we want to thank him for his dedication and service. Luckily, Rob is very much staying a part of our TCF family, with plans to continue volunteering at the Rift Valley Children’s Village each year to host classes for our recent Form Four graduates, visit his sponsor child, Careen, and to continue sharing his wisdom and joy with our community.
Rob, as you end your final year as one of our beloved Board Members, asante sana for all of your efforts that have allowed us to lift lives, build futures, and create lasting change in an often-forgotten corner of the world.
In 2003, we began pursuing an ambitious dream – help a community of 10,000 find a path out of poverty. Thanks to your continued support, we have made major strides in turning this dream into a reality. By creating a loving home for children and establishing community programs that address the root causes of poverty from all sides, we have achieved unprecedented change.
But we are just getting started.
Over the next year, we plan to invest nearly $200,000 in new projects and expanded programs in order to continue transforming a generation.
Here are just some of our plans for 2019 that need your support:
Launch a Public Health Program
- Hire a Public Health Director to address mental health and self-care needs
- Provide trainings to build awareness around community health and wellness
Support Students at Every Level
- Host early-childhood education classes for over 30 children from our community
- Fund the tuition and fees of 53 students in college, vocational school, and university
Expand Oldeani Secondary School
- Build more classrooms to accommodate a 20% increase in the number of students enrolled since the start of our partnership in 2014
- Hire more teachers to maintain an ideal student-teacher ratio of 19:1
- Provide housing to recruit and retain teachers of the highest quality despite our rural setting
Two years ago, Lucia began refusing all help in coping with the aftermath of the trauma she faced before joining our family. Her struggles left her unable to attend school, most days refusing to go. Even when persuaded to attend, her behavior was often so disruptive that even our most understanding teachers didn’t know what to do.
To ensure her dreams were not sacrificed, we hired a tutor to continue Lucia’s education at home while we leveraged every resource available to give her the help and emotional support she needed. Most days weren’t easy, but as a family we supported Lucia no matter how hard she fought back.
Nearly a year later, we encouraged Lucia attend the Gyetighi Primary School graduation in hopes it would inspire and get her excited about the possibility of returning to school.
It worked. This year, Lucia graduated from Gyetighi Primary School, passing her National Exam with flying colors. Now, Lucia is not only ready to take on secondary school, but says she already has her eye on attending college. With her talent, perseverance, and a family to support her at every turn, we know that even her wildest dreams are within reach.
Stories like Lucia’s remind us that with your support, we can continue to help our children and community overcome any obstacle in their path toward a brighter future.
TCF has accomplished so much in the last 15 years—and it is all because of supporters like you who empower us to help our children and community grow and thrive. But our work together is far from over! As the season of giving fast approaches, here are just some of the ways you can support TCF this holiday season:
Sponsor a Child
All of our children are wonderfully unique, with individual personalities and interests. Becoming a sponsor allows you to become a part of a child’s life and get to know everything about what makes them so special. There are few things as heartwarming and rewarding as watching a beloved child grow up, overcome challenges, achieve successes, and follow their dreams. All the children at RVCV are surrounded by love, and being a sponsor means you get to be a part of the family, too. Learn more about being a sponsor here.
Send a Student to College
At TCF, we believe that there is no greater gift than that of a quality education. With plans to support 53 students as they pursue higher education, we feel so fortunate to be able to encourage them through the college process and watch as they become thoughtful and ambitious young adults. But covering 53 college tuitions isn’t easy, and we need your help to ensure that all our children have the opportunity to earn their degrees! From $50 to cover a student’s application fees, up to $3,500 to cover a student’s whole tuition, no gift is too small to help build brighter futures for our grown-up kids. Check out the College Gift Shop here.
Keep our Children’s Village Running
From breakfast to bath time, caring for all 97 of our kids requires a lot of work… and supplies! Luckily, RVCV is staffed by amazing, hardworking people who ensure all 97 of our children are well cared for. But we can’t do it alone. $2,000 can provide enough rice to feed the children of RVCV for an entire month, and another $600 will allow us to add beans to the plate! Rice and beans are staple foods in Tanzania, and RVCV kids enjoy them in pilau and with vegetables and spices. $1,800 will cover the annual salary of a House Mama who helps keep RVCV running. In addition to performing all the cooking and cleaning for each children’s home, the RVCV Mamas help provide our children with the intangibles of childhood, acting as a consistent source of love and support. Make your donation to help keep RVCV running.
Support Our Community Programs
TCF believes that the solution to generational poverty involves helping the community as a whole. In addition to supporting our kids at RVCV and partnering with Gyetighi Primary and Oldeani Secondary School, TCF also invests in the community through initiatives like our Rural Community Health Clinic and Microfinance program. With the nearest hospital over two hours away on foot, our Rural Community Health Clinic provides free medical care to everyone who needs it and serves over 20 people a day. Want to give our clinic the medicine it needs and provide care to those 20 patients? For $55, you can fill our clinic with medical supplies for the day! TCF also supports the community by creating economic opportunity through our Microfinance program. For just $125 you can provide one of our microfinance clients with their initial loan and empower them to launch their own business! Make a contribution to our Clinic and Microfinance Program today.
To promote the well-being of every child in the Oldeani community, we need to help keep them safe. Just like in our approach to solving poverty, our approach to child protection is a holistic one.
Our Child Protection Officer, Betty Mwaikuka, works tirelessly to counsel and educate community members on how they can find solutions to and tackle problems that put children at risk.
At the community level, Betty leads the Malengo Mamas and Babas, a group that has come together to hold the Oldeani community accountable in caring for children. Through this initiative we are able to equip parents and village leaders with the knowledge and training they need to identify areas of risk, advocate for children, and resolve conflict.
While we recognize that groups like the Malengo Mamas and Babas have the potential to change the way our community looks at the rights of the child in the years to come, we also need to intervene and support students who are at-risk now. “I try to always be present at RVCV and at Gyetighi Primary School so kids can easily approach me when they need to talk,” said Betty.
Whether it is watching for signs of abuse, counseling a student through post-traumatic stress, or following up with parents on cases of malnutrition, we ensure that students get the support they need so that no child in our community feels forgotten or left behind.
It is because of these interventions at both the individual and community level that children and their rights are being protected more now than ever before. Most importantly, children in our area know that someone is looking after them, that someone is rooting for them, and that more change is coming.
Our Student Teacher Program is aimed at tackling two major problems faced by our community: dedicated, smart young adults unable to continue their education due to financial constraints; and not enough available teachers and support staff to give primary school students the individual attention they need. Each year, we select five bright, hardworking Form Four or Form Six graduates to come live with us at the Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV), teach at Gyetighi Primary School, and help provide our children with the support and care they need. After spending one year with us, each Student Teacher is supported through three years of college in a field of their choice.
Today, more than 90 students have earned their degrees through the support of TCF and our Student Teacher Program. Many of our former Student Teachers have earned government scholarships for University, completed their degrees, and some have even come back to become full-time teachers at Gyetighi Primary and Oldeani Secondary School!
This year, we said goodbye to five amazing Student Teachers as they enrolled in nursing school, teaching college and more, and welcomed five equally as wonderful new ones.
Meet our newest Student Teachers:
Julius Petro, age 18, is passionate about finding solutions to problems in his community, especially those faced by children. To achieve this goal, his ambition is to go to nursing school.
Glory Reginald, age 19, is the first person in her family to complete secondary school. The most outgoing of our new Student Teachers, Glory puts everyone at ease with her fearless attitude and humor. Now that she has completed her A-Levels, she looks forward to going to school to receive training to pursue a career in law.
Elizabeth John, age 19, is confident and compassionate. She is the first in her family to finish secondary school. Her ambition is to be a Wildlife Ranger and attend the Pansiansi Wildlife Training Institute.
At 23 years old, Emmanuel Michael is the definition of determination and ambition. He will be the first person in his family to go to college when he leaves to get his degree in Information Technology.
Maria Stephano is 20 years old. She aspires to go to teaching college so she can be the first person in her family to go to college and become a full-time teacher.
Want to support these Student Teachers and the over 38 RVCV students working hard to earn their diplomas? Check out our College Gift Shop to learn more about how you can give the gift of a college education today.