PPI’s Development Director Visits Schools in Tanzania

Earlier this year, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI) founder Janice Lathen presented me (Lydia Sierra) with a generous offer. She wanted to know if I would be willing to represent PPI at the Segal Family Foundation Conference in Kenya. If I agreed, I would also be able to stop by Tanzania to visit a few of the public schools where Powering Potential has installed SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) Labs.

I’d never even had a passport, and now I had this amazing opportunity to travel halfway around the world! Of course, I said yes. I’d been working with Janice for a while, and I knew it would be incredible to see firsthand the award-winning SPARC Labs.

When I settled in Arusha, I was met by Elibariki Magnus, a soon-to-be college graduate who had attended a PPI administered 5-month training program in 2011 at a school with a SPARC Lab. On a car ride to the first PPI school, we had a chance to talk about how PPI’s programs had affected his life.

“I am a product of Powering Potential,” Elibariki said. He explained that his brother works for PPI’s Tanzanian sister organization, the Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), and said he hoped he would be able to work for them himself someday.

“I have found my calling with my love for computers. I would have been a farmer if it had not been for this experience,” he said.

He told me that he had been raised in a rural village. Shortly after he was born, his mother had carried him into the fields with her so she could watch him while she worked growing the food that would keep their family alive. When he would cry, she would take a short break to breastfeed him before going back to hoe their plot.

I was astonished and touched by his story. He seemed so grateful for the opportunities created by Powering Potential’s work, and I felt truly blessed to have played my small part in it.

Over the next three days, we visited the Potential Enhancement Foundation’s office and Welwel and Endallah, two public secondary schools. From the moment I stepped onto the campuses, I was amazed by how smoothly everything operated. Every student was clean, polite, and well-spoken. Their uniforms were spotless, and the classrooms were pristine. And the administration and staff were unanimously warm and welcoming.

PEF Community Relations Manager Elitumaini Rweyemamu was one of my guides for these visits. It was slow getting anywhere with Elitumaini because he seemed to recognize every teacher and student and took the time to check in on each one individually. It was a joy spending time with him, and a joy to hear so many students vehemently express their love for computers. The passion created by the SPARC labs is infectious!

Help spread this passion by making a tax-deductible donation to Powering Potential this holiday season.


Visitors Inspired By Our Work

“I’m extremely inspired by what PPI (Powering Potential Inc.) is doing. It’s an enormous benefit for the kids to have access to technology. There’s no question that having this access will only enhance their education and their overall knowledge of the world.” — Tyana Kurtz, visitor to Welwel Secondary School in Tanzania.

Welwel is a government-administered co-ed public school located in Tanzania’s northern Arusha region.

In 2011 Powering Potential installed a SPARC lab (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) for Welwel, and for seven years its students have been enjoying access to PPI’s award-winning digital educational program.

Tyana’s daughter and nephew at Welwel School

In August 2018, Powering Potential friends Dana and Bruce Freyer visited Tanzania with their family. During their trip, they had the opportunity to visit Welwel School. We spoke with their daughter, Tyana, to get her impressions.

Welwel Secondary School

“I was impressed by how committed the Tanzanian students are to their education. Some of them have to wake up before the sun is up to walk several miles to school. They really appreciate what they have,” Tyana said.

“Overall, we were impressed by how clean and well-organized the school was. The students were neatly dressed in uniforms and spoke English very well.”

“I knew they would not have access to the same things our children have in the United States, but to see the school and the students front and center, firsthand, was very eye-opening,” she continued.

During their visit, Tyana and her family stopped by Welwel’s SPARC lab and had a chance to talk with some of the students and teachers. Many of the students were very excited to meet Americans, and they had many questions about what life was like in other parts of the world.

“The school can’t even afford to provide lunch, so the students’ families will bring food whenever they can. Many times, students will not be able to have lunch, and will go hungry for the entire day. That surprised me.”

A sign on Welwel’s campus

Tyana expressed gratitude that her husband, Scott, and children, Zachary (13) and Sydney (11), were with her during the visit, and said that she was thankful for the opportunity to see what life was like in other parts of the world.

She also took time to appreciate the similarities. “When we visited the science lab, my son pointed out that he had done similar experiments in the US,” she went on to say. “Welwel’s lab has the same equipment, but much of it is either broken or in very limited supply.”