Shule Direct Installation

“There are a lot of materials from Shule Direct and RACHEL. We can create our notes even when the teachers are not available. I would like to be an engineer and use computers to design buildings.” – Veronica Boniface, Form Two (ninth-grade) student at Welwel Secondary School in rural Tanzania

Veronica Boniface and her Welwel classmates are now engaging with Shule Direct learning tools across 14 subjects, augmenting the classroom materials (view content here).

The students access this newly installed digital content on Raspberry Pi computers powered by solar panels, part of the Powering Potential SPARC+ program. The Shule Direct study tools expand on the RACHEL offline digital educational content, which includes Khan Academy videos, Wikipedia articles, coding programs and many other resources.

The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF) – Powering Potential’s sister organization in Tanzania – completed implementation over a three-day period in February. The PEF team also provides on-site assistance and troubleshooting to ensure the effective operation of these solar-powered computer systems. In addition, the team conducts extracurricular training to help Welwel students explore the technology.

This is the impact of Powering Potential – nurturing students’ natural curiosity and passion to grow through access to computers and rich digital educational materials.

Onward and Upward

SPARC+ Installation Enhances Education at Endallah School

Inspiring Students to Learn, Grow and Imagine

Endallah Secondary School was recently upgraded from Powering Potential’s SPARC program to SPARC+. The basic SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) program was installed at Endallah in 2012 and included a solar-powered computer lab and offline digital educational content.

The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF) – Powering Potential’s sister organization in Tanzania – led the SPARC+ installation, consisting of 15 additional computer systems (for a total of 20) and an upgraded solar-power system.

With the Powering Potential SPARC+ program’s expanded resources, Endallah instructors can now teach the Tanzania Information and Computer Studies (ICS) curriculum to stimulate students’ creativity and help advance the country’s national development goals.

Endallah Secondary School provides education to students ages 14 to 17. This co-educational community school serves 458 students in Endallah Village within the Karatu district.

Installing additional solar panels
Completing the Endallah SPARC+ installation!

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.”

Scratch@MIT Conference

Philip Colligan, CEO Raspberry Pi Foundation and Simon Mtabazi, Tanzanian Educator at Scratch@MIT Conference.


The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), Powering Potential’s Tanzanian partner was invited to attend the Scratch@MIT Conference on July 26-28, 2018. PEF was one of 40 groups selected to present from a pool of hundreds of applicants. “It was an honor for us to go and talk about the work we are doing,” said Simon Mtabazi who represented PEF. He described meeting the CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation as one of the highlights of the conference. “He was really interested in the work we are doing and to hear about the challenges that we face. He asked us to work with their team and let them know how our initiative is going.”

Mitchel Resnick, the leader of the Scratch team at MIT, also stopped by PEF’s table to look at the poster presentation: “[he] came to the booth and we talked about the Pi workshop, teaching Scratch in Ngorongoro District in Tanzania, and the challenges we are facing. We talked about Scratch and an upcoming software update coming out for an online version but we need an offline version. I learned they are working very hard to make the offline version and to translate it into Swahili.”

Mitchel Resnick, Scratch Team Leader, and Simon Mtabazi at Scratch@MIT Conference, July 2018


Simon describes Scratch as “an educational software made for children to understand and play with. But Scratch is also just like Facebook and WhatsApp… [it] has created a Science, Technology Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) community where children and anybody who is interested in learning can share, network, meet people, talk about ideas, and talk about projects on that platform.” Simon emphasized that one of the crucial strengths of Scratch is that it is accessible offline. “We struggle a lot with learning material and connectivity in Tanzania.”

An interesting takeaway and unexpected resource from the conference “was being told by educators from all over the world who attended the MIT conference that we can try to use many online activities even with limited connectivity.” Simon also stressed that Scratch is free and open-source, “so contributing to it, and also distributing it widescale, becomes really easy.” All of the Raspberry Pis used by Powering Potential and PEF “come preloaded with Scratch on them…it’s so light to run and such a powerful tool for teaching.” For Simon it is the philosophy behind the software that sets it apart: “Scratch has evolved from just a tool for learning and teaching into a tool for sharing, a tool for playing, and a tool for storytelling.”


Tanzanian Ambassador to the UN Speaks at Powering Potential Fundraiser

On May 17th, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI) held its annual fundraiser at the Tufenkian Artisan Carpets Showroom featuring an appearance by the Tanzanian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Modest J. Mero, a silent auction, and live entertainment by Tanzanian singer Kokugonza Mugarula. To honor their continuing support, Certificates of Appreciation were awarded to Collegiate Churches of New York, Manny Ackerman, Mary Lennon, Jim Allen and Charles Saaf of Skadden Arps, and Ned Barlas of Akin Gump.

Ambassador Modest J. Mero, Tanzanian Ambassador to the United Nations

To read Ambassador Mero’s comments click here and for more pictures of the fundraiser click here.

Altogether, Powering Potential raised $7,000 that will go towards the expansion of its award-winning SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) program. This money will be used to purchase and install solar infrastructure and affordable Raspberry Pi computers in rural Tanzanian public schools that would not otherwise have access to modern learning aides.

David Saitowitz, Portfolio Manager at Apollo Global Management, and his wife Jessica Saitowitz were among the generous donors that evening. David heard about Powering Potential through his friend Greg Obenshain, who currently serves as Treasurer on PPI’s Board of Directors.

“I was born in South Africa, and though my family immigrated when I was young, I still feel a connection with the continent,” David said. “Africa is home to large populations of underserved people, and while the need is great, we still need the smaller, grassroots, micro-level development projects.”

“Powering Potential is making a big difference by doing exactly this kind of work, and I’m glad I was able to contribute towards its continuing success.”

“The work being done in African countries is underpublicized,” he continued. “There is a lot of good happening abroad that is ignored because people tend to focus on the negative, especially in Africa. It is vital that we spread the message of hope and positivity.”

Powering Potential has been providing rural Tanzanian public schools with modern educational resources since 2007, and has successfully installed solar power systems, computers and digital libraries in 29 schools. To make a contribution, visit our donation page by clicking here.


Pi Workshop in Ngorongoro District

“We were only using our lab for learning other subject through RACHEL but now I know I can do a lot especially computer programming and promise to share the knowledge I received with my fellow students.” – Iri from Kabasa School.

Simon Mtabazi facilitating the Pi-Workshop

Powering Potential Inc. (PPI) has provided 29 Tanzanian public schools with low-watt solar-powered Raspberry Pi computers to date. While PPI plans on continuing to install and upgrade their SPARC labs (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) wherever possible, gracious funding from the Collegiate Churches of New York allowed us to coordinate with our Tanzanian counterpart — the Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF) — to organize an innovative new Pi Workshop program on December 19 and 20, 2017.

The Pi Workshop was developed as a simple and cost-effective way for PEF’s Tanzanian staff to expand the impact of existing PPI SPARC labs. The Workshop was hosted by the Nainokanoka school in the Ngorongoro District, a Tanzanian secondary school with an already-existing SPARC+ lab. Students from other nearby PPI schools were transported to the host school via bus for the two-day event, during which Tanzanian technology professionals worked with local teachers to teach the students about the basics of computer programming, coding, engineering, networking, and more. Check out their Christmas card coding projects. (Click a card once to open it and a second time to see the animation.)

A key attribute of the Pi Workshop program is its emphasis on student-focused (or “indirect”) instruction. Due to a lack of educational resources, especially books, most secondary school education that occurs in rural Tanzania is teacher-focused “direct” instruction. During direct instruction, the teacher reads from the book and writes passages on the board, and the class gives the teacher their undivided attention.

“It was amazing how quickly students learn computer programming and demonstrated their potential.” – Eng. Albin Mathias.

The Pi Workshop, however, was different. Students were encouraged to indulge their inherent curiosity and passion for learning by engaging the technology firsthand: taking risks, making mistakes, and learning by doing instead of by watching and listening. PPI believes that this student-centered approach is the most effective way to demonstrate all the incredible things computers can do. Students left with a newly-kindled passion for computer technology, which will ideally encourage them to pursue rewarding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers, enabling them to positively influence their country’s development.

But the Pi Workshop was not only for the secondary school students — it proved valuable for the attending teachers and facilitators, too, giving computer teachers the opportunity to network and share ideas with their peers from nearby PPI schools. They drew content from the facilitator’s demonstrations and were inspired to integrate the student-focused hands-on learning into their own lesson plans.

“When I came first I thought I knew computer but I just realize I learn computer today.” – Boniface Marwa from Mekomariro School.

In addition to 8 facilitators, the Pi Workshop benefited 24 students and 12 teachers from 12 government-administered public schools in Karatu, Bunda, and Ngorongoro districts of rural Tanzania. View a Tanzanian-produced video of the workshop. We made quite an impact!

Make a donation today so we can continue to provide these incredible services for Tanzania’s underserved student population.

o o o

Swahili is the language of Tanzania. The following African proverbs are a taste of that beautiful language:

“Watu wanaofanya kazi pamoja wanaweza kufanya mambo makubwa.”

People working together can do great things.


Neema Lyimo, PPI Computer Technician

Neema Lyimo is 25 years old, and a Computer Technician at Powering Potential. The youngest daughter in her family, she was raised by her parents in the Moshi district of Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region. “My parents encouraged me to get an education,” she says. “They always told me life would be very expensive without it.”

As she moved through Tanzania’s system of public education, her favorite subject was always science. She loved learning about biology, chemistry, and agriculture, and her parents and teachers were consistently impressed by her dedication and work ethic.

In 2011, she passed her Form 4 exams — the Tanzanian equivalent of 12th grade — and decided she would continue her education. Her interest in the sciences led her to the JR Institute of Information and Technology in Tanzania’s Arusha region. She graduated with a diploma in Computer Engineering in 2014.

Neema and Albin Mathias at the Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF) Headquarters in Karatu, Tanzania. PEF is Powering Potential’s partner in TZ.

“This is my dream,” she says. “I want all of Tanzania’s students, especially young girls, to know that they can be an engineer like me, and I believe Powering Potential’s work will do this by introducing young people to technology earlier.”

On the left, Neema with PPI’s founder Janice Lathen. On the right, Neem works on a SPARC installation.

“I am so thankful for Powering Potential. Through my work I am able to create a better world for children like my one-year-old daughter, Faith, who I hope will grow up to be a listener, a learner, and a teacher for all people everywhere.”

o o o

Swahili is the language of Tanzania. The following African proverbs are a taste of that beautiful language:

“Mtu halisi haogopi kujaribu.”

A real person is not afraid of trying.

Subira Yavuta heri

Patience attracts blessings.


Denis Christopher, PPI Engineer

Denis Christopher is 31 years old, and a Technical Consultant and Social Media Manager at Powering Potential. He was born in the Kahama District of Tanzania’s Shinyanga region and is the second oldest child in his family.

“I was very interested in Mathematics, Science, and English,” Denis says. “My father was a teacher and Library Master at a public school, so I had more access to books than other students.”

In 2001, he finished his primary education with the highest grade in his class. His hard work and commitment to education allowed him to enroll in Tabora Boys’ Secondary School, one of Tanzania’s elite secondary schools. Even so, conditions were far from ideal.

“Tanzania has a severe shortage of qualified science teachers and books,” Denis says. “There were not enough books or teachers at Tabora, but my parents helped keep my motivation up.”


His parents’ support, along with his dedication to academic excellence, helped fuel great achievement. In 2002 Denis scored a 92 on his English exams, with 40 being a passing grade. This placed him among the top best-performing students in all of Tanzania. He earned his Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) with excellent marks and continued to the next level of education pursuing Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.

In 2008, Denis’s father passed away. The family was deeply affected by the loss, and Denis could no longer afford to continue his education. He was forced to find a job to help support his family. He found a position at a local mining operation and worked as a Process Plant Operator for a year.

“Being a Process Plant Operator was not my dream job,” Denis says. “Since childhood I had dreamed of being an engineer. This goal was why I studied Mathematics, Science, and English throughout my education. But I could not work and continue my education. My family needed my support.”

But good luck was on the horizon. In 2009, the Tanzanian government’s Higher Education Students’ Loan Board started offering 100% loans for students pursuing science and engineering degrees. Denis applied and received the funding that he needed.

“This was the stepping stone to achieving my dreams,” Denis says. “I immediately resigned from my position at the mining operation and enrolled at St. Joseph University in Tanzania. I was going to get a Bachelor of Engineering. I was so happy that I would finally achieve my professional dream.”

It was there that he met Albin Mathias, Powering Potential’s Tanzanian Country Director. During a Microsoft Office lab session, Denis ran into trouble. Tanzania’s rural conditions had not given him the years of computer experience most Westerners take for granted, and because of this he struggled with simple computing tasks.

“I asked Albin for help, and he was very nice. I was amazed by his knowledge,” Denis says. “It was my first time studying computers, but Albin was a graduate of Powering Potential’s Technology Tent [an early Powering Potential program]. He knew much more than I did.”

Albin and Denis became fast friends, and it was through this friendship that Denis learned about Powering Potential’s charitable work. He was impressed that an organization was not only proving solar powered computers, but also follow-through instruction and training. Denis started working for Powering Potential since 2015.

“Powering Potential solves the problem I had when I was in school,” Denis says. “They provide access to learning materials that many students do not have. It is a valuable program that is making a big difference in my country.”

Dana Rensi and Ena Haines @ the Fulbright Conference 2017

Attendees will hear from extraordinary speakers, engage in provocative panels, and benefit from extensive networking opportunities. Our conference venue is in the heart of Washington, D.C., with easy access to the downtown area and the National Mall. With a variety of opportunities to connect with fellow Fulbright alumni, share and discuss scholarly research, and build relationships within the international education community, our conference is a highlight for the hundreds of participants who join us each year. 


— Fulbright Association@



On November 4 – 7, Powering Potential Representatives Dana Rensi and Ena Haines attended the fortieth annual Fulbright Association Conference in Washington, DC. The Fulbright Association Conference is an opportunity for Fulbright alumni and others involved in international education and development to network, participate in panel discussions, and give presentations about their work and progress. Some participants also lobby Congress for support of Fulbright activities going forward.  

Dana Rensi, PPI Management Team

Dana Rensi recently joined the Powering Potential management team to facilitate our Latin America expansion. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching and also spent a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Iquitos, Peru in ’05-’06. She taught in Mexico under Fulbright’s auspices. Having made lasting professional and personal relationships in Peru, and wanting to continue working with the people of the Amazonian region, she returned in 2010 and 2017 to introduce digital educational materials (including World Possible’s RACHEL offline digital library) to schools and libraries. She also worked as a volunteer on a hospital boat providing puberty education materials and reusable feminine supplies to Iquitos’s under-served female population.

Dana Rensi (left) and Ena Haines (right) with their Fulbright Conference Poster Presentation

At the Fulbright Conference, Dana was selected to do a poster presentation about her work and her plan to install a Powering Potential SPARC+ computer lab in an under-served Iquitos school. Ena Haines (PPI Management Team) joined her in the poster session and the two spoke one-on-one as people came by to see the poster and learn about the cost-effective solar powered student labs and offline digital educational content.  Dana used the same type of battery-powered Aaxa P300 projector that she uses in Amazonian schools to present her slideshow.  Many people stopped by to check out their presentation, including individuals from many foreign and US universities, as well as people from organizations dedicated to international development, including the World Bank.

Dana and Ena also met with Christina Kwauk, a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. They learned about the research and analysis that the Brookings Institution does to help organizations across the spectrum of government, non-profit, and private to share best practices in solving problems facing society at the local, national, and global level. Christina’s subgroup is focused on girls’ education. Dana and Ena shared information about Powering Potential’s SPARC programs in Tanzania and Powering Potential’s plan to expand to Peru.


Dana Rensi (left), Christina Kwauk (middle), and Ena Haines (right)