Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Heart for Tanzania

Carlyn Kerney first visited Africa in 2008, when she worked at the Good Hope Orphanage in Tanzania for four months. “The land, culture, and people of Africa have truly captured my heart and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity and ability to help within Tanzania,” she said. That summer her church helped raise money to buy a water cistern for the district of Karagwe, Tanzania. It provides enough water to support a health clinic in the area, serving thousands of people. 1

In 2009, Carlyn went back to Tanzania: "... I spent time in an incredibly rural village of 6,000 people. About half of that population is children. As I talked with villagers, mainly women and children, I soon learned that the children do not have the opportunity of education because they don't have a school. The level of poverty the village is living in is unbelievable and the lack of education is entirely to blame. It has restricted the population from nearly everything. 99% of Kitwe's population are farmers who must sell their crops locally (because they don't have the resources to travel out) resulting in a price that is less than half what the could get at a larger market. Women spend long days gathering firewood and fetching water, children begin bearing children at 12 and 13, and men work on their plots. When I heard and saw of the great need for a school, I made a promise to the community that I would build them a school with the help of my friends and family here. I am currently building a school that will eventually have 6 classroom and 4 latrines..."2

I heard about Carlyn's efforts through Facebook. I emailed her immediately and asked how I could help. In her emails, she shares heartwarming stories of how she has raised money for the village so far. Like using the money she gets back from her recycling every month! Or sending friends home with red cups to collect their loose change. Needless to say, I found her attitude quite refreshing. In a world mostly bent on cynicism and hopelessness, Carlyn sees the impact that little things can make - like an old can or a handful of coins.

And this upbeat, go-to attitude has paid off. She is already making good on her promise to build a school in the small village of Kitwe. "The budget needed is $45,000 and so far, we've raised about $5,000." It seems like there’s still a long way to go, but it's encouraging to see photos of the schoolhouse already under construction and knowing that it is the humble efforts of Carlyn and her friends that are making this dream a reality.

A schoolhouse is a fantastic accomplishment, but I was curious about how it would be put to good use. So I asked Carlyn what will happen when construction is complete? Will a teacher be brought in? What resources are there to support ongoing education? To my surprise, she has a detailed plan for that too. "We will hire teachers from Tanzania and also open up international volunteer opportunities. I hope to get a grant that will cover the cost of salary for hired teachers for 2+ years. All government schools... have tuition fees. But by getting salary covered for the teachers through a grant, we can escape tuition for a while." She also has ideas for implementing student sponsorship programs.

As far as funds go, Carlyn has been thinking a little bigger than a red cup lately. A benefit concert was held last Wednesday at LaSalles in Chico. Four bands (The Kevin Reid Project, Bear Hunter, Magdalena, Surrogate) lent their talents to help Carlyn raise money. Over $400 was raised for the Kitwe Schoolhouse that night!

Obviously, support is needed to help her complete the task. I'm sure your prayers and good wishes are much appreciated. A website will be up and running soon with information on her projects and how people can get involved. In the meantime, if you'd like to contribute financially to this amazing project, you can send a check to:

Cross and Crown Lutheran Church
5475 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(payable to "Cross and Crown Lutheran Church" with "Africa School" written in the memo area)

As Carlyn shares,
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela

1. info taken from the Press Democrat
2. from Bricks for Tanzania Benefit concert (Facebook)
    please also see Chico Enterprise Record

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