“Always be unique and refuse to do anything in the normal way.” These are the take home words that ring in our ears from the special guest speaker at our first staff meeting of 2019.
This advice, encouraging us to be bold and to challenge what is accepted, comes from Violeth Shayo, our former AfricAid colleague who came back to visit us after working one year in rural Tanzania. Violeth took time from her holiday in Moshi to speak with us about her recent experiences working with young girls in the Mwanza Region, which is a great distance away in Northwest Tanzania and borders Lake Victoria. We were all refreshed and fascinated by the unique challenges that she faces in her new job. Those that knew her a year ago noticed how wise and experienced Violeth has become. All of us loved her energy and enthusiasm.
Violeth’s own journey travels from Kisa Scholar, to university, to Binti Shupavu Mentor, to Program Manager of the Kupanda Project for Girls, an initiative of Africa School Assistance Project (ASAP). Like AfricAid, ASAP is a Tanzanian and Denver, Colorado based NGO that works to keep girls in school. The challenge is big: 96% of rural Tanzanian girls drop of out before they finish lower secondary school. The Kupanda Project for Girls aims to raise completion rates to 50% of higher by “building dormitories, providing girls with personal support, academic programs and a leadership and empowerment curriculum.” In addition, “Kupanda includes a strategy for engaging and educating the community (especially men and boys) about the importance of girls’ education.”
Doesn’t a professionally trained AfricAid Mentor sound like a perfect match for this role? It is gratifying to see our Mentors continue to positively impact communities throughout all of Tanzania. Violeth landed this worthwhile job because of the extensive experience she gained by working at AfricAid, presenting our life skills and leadership course and mentoring young girls. Her skills and knowledge prepared her well for the expanded responsibilities and many challenges of a new environment.
Violeth is an excellent role model for all our Mentors as she told us of her successful endeavor to get a job when her one-year contract with AfricAid concluded. “AfricAid was my golden chance to become a changemaker in my community,” Violeth confided. Now, Violeth is making a big wave of difference way over in in Mwanza.
There were many adjustments that Violeth had to make as soon as she started her new job in a very different environment. She manages a school-based program and is very hands-on in engaging with the girls out of school hours. “In general, my life also had to change in broad ways. I had to become a smart problem solver because of the challenges I face every day. I had to be independent and find the way for myself. The girls needed immediate solutions and I was there for them. Therefore, I spend most of my free time learning how to be solution oriented.”
Violeth explained that rural Kupanda girls experience more hardship. “Girls in more urban areas are more exposed to the world and have better educational opportunities than those of Kupanda. Where I work now, the girls come from the interior areas (villages) where there is low level of advancement of science and technology. This geographic isolation makes these girls fearful of socialization with people from other areas,” she said. “I had to work hard for them to trust me.”
How did the working experience at AfricAid help her? “I have been so grateful for my AfricAid experience,” Violeth said with a big smile and her hand on her chest. “I really gained important skills and knowledge that I apply every day. Through training, I learned counseling skills, report writing and about people’s personalities – that has helped me understand how to deal with different people from different culture and backgrounds. I loved getting feedback from my colleagues at AfricAid. It helped me not only to evaluate my work life and make improvements, but also in my personal life. I knew when I was going right and I knew when I needed to change. It helped me improve in my interacting with my new school community. That is so important here.”
Violeth encouraged all of us to try and make the very most of our experience at AfricAid, including our opportunities for feedback and training. We wish the very best for Violeth, who is getting great management, mentoring and personal growth experience in her new position. We start the year a little bolder after listening to our friend Violeth.
Read the profile of Violeth when when she was a Binti Shupavu Mentor.