A SPARC+ Upgrade for Sazira Secondary School in Tanzania

In the past, we’ve talked about our efforts in the Sazira Secondary School in Tanzania near Lake Victoria. We’re committed to completing an expansion upgrade to their computer lab by September of this year. Thanks to a generous grant of $13,000 from the Collegiate Churches of New York and $3,800 of in-kind services, we need only an additional $6,300 to complete the project. Would you help by making a contribution?

We’ve been working for years with co-ed government secondary schools to solve the lack of electricity, internet and educational resources with our award-winning programs. Our Educating Through Technology programs include SPARC (Solar-Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) computer labs and the Pi-oneer, an innovative teaching tool that combines a mobile projector with a Raspberry Pi computer. Both create a technology infrastructure within the schools and enables them to offer the national curriculum for Information and Computer Studies to their students. In addition, we provide schools with an offline digital library of educational resources along with technology training for teachers and students.

The SPARC lab at Sazira Secondary School

We have also sought to give students in these regions a foundation on which to build their lives. After receiving a school background with improved resources and technology literacy, these students often go on to pursue advanced education and employment opportunities. A full 60% of students surveyed at our beneficiary schools reported continuing their education while 57% were able to secure solid employment. With the generosity of our corporate sponsors, compassionate donors and individuals like you, we will continue to increase those numbers.

Sazira Secondary School, Kabasa Secondary School, and Mekomariro Secondary School are three schools in the Bunda District equipped with our solar-powered computer labs. Our plans for the Sazira Secondary School will take the school’s current SPARC lab of five computers and transform it into a SPARC+ lab equipped with twenty. This installation will impact 822 girls and boys aged 14-18 and 37 teachers. As one class graduates and another begins, more students will benefit from the services we provide.

Solar panels at Sazira Secondary School

As an international non-profit, we remain committed to our mission of enhancing education and stimulating the imaginations of students in developing countries. We also respect and incorporate the values of the local culture, emphasizing cooperation over competition, community over the individual, modesty over pride and spiritually over materiality. Combined with our dedication to utilizing solar power and open source technology in every lab we install, we feel our cause is a worthwhile charity for our patrons.

Join us in our efforts to continue expanding the resources available to the Sazira Secondary School by donating today!

Founding Director Attends United Nations Meeting

We are delighted to announce that our Founding Director Janice Lathen attended a high-level side-event on “Relevant, Equitable and Inclusive Quality Education for All: an Imperative for the 21st Century” during the review of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) at the High-level Political Forum 2019 in New York at the United Nations Headquarters on July 15, 2019! Hosted by UNESCO, the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, the event was held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber and included a panel discussion.

UNESCO, also known as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has programs that are vital to the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030. They work alongside the SDG-Education 2030 Committee, which is tasked with the coordination and assessment of SDG4 and other aspects of this incredible work. The Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning is new to the trio having been established in January 2019 for the purpose of outreach to make education a priority to the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and other UN organizations. This body is currently chaired by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, the Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway to the United Nations.

The Trusteeship Council Chamber

Transforming lives through education through the guidelines set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the main topic of the event’s 90-minute panel discussion, which included direction on how to generate global commitments towards inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all populations. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, gave opening remarks. Statements were then given by Ministers of Member States and representatives from the European Union and the World Bank. Government, private sector, civil society, and youth representatives were also in attendance.

One of the most engaging speeches was given by Maggie MacDonnell, the 2017 Global Teacher Prize Winner. Additional topics included equity and inclusion among populations, the interconnection between global communities, and providing the necessary life and work skills to those same communities. Afterward, Ms. Lathen spoke with Ms. Azoulay, who suggested that Powering Potential contact her office for possible funding opportunities.

Maggie MacDonnell

“I am always inspired to attend events at the United Nations,” Ms. Lathen said. “I was especially grateful for the opportunity to meet the Director-General and introduce Powering Potential to her. We hope for an opportunity to collaborate with UNESCO in the future.” 

We would like to thank UNESCO, the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning for both the invitation and experience!

Celebrating 10 Years with Segal Family Foundation

On June 5th, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI) held a fundraising celebration to commemorate its 10-year partnership with Segal Family Foundation (SFF) at the NoMad Studio in Manhattan. Over fifty guest were treated to an evening of Tanzanian culture, music, dance, and cuisine. Barry Segal, Founder of Segal Family Foundation, attended with his wife Dolly, two daughters, Sharon Harrison and Lisa Green, his son Rich Segal and wife Joanna, and son Brad Segal. Cher-Wen DeWitt Director of Partnerships for Segal Family Foundation also attended. 
Curious on Tanzania Founder Justa Lujwangana

Curious on Tanzania Founder Justa Lujwangana was on hand to get the guests dancing to vibrant African music. Afterward, she served Tanzanian cuisine from recipes in the cookbook, Taste of Tanzania, by author Miriam Malaquias. PPI Secretary James Allen and PPI Treasuer Greg Obenshain personally made two dishes, Kachumbari Salad and Coconut Peas. Other flavorful dishes included Chicken Makange, Plaintain Futari, Beef Bokoboko, and Vegetable Samosa. Along with complimentary wine and soda, a classic Tanzanian cocktail, “The Dawa,” was also available to the guests for a small donation. The Dawa is a mixture of lime juice, honey, and vodka. Dawa also means “medicine” in Swahili.

Greg Obenshain introduced Powering Potential Founding Director Janice Lathen. She spoke about the history of the relationship between PPI and Segal Family Foundation, which began in the organization’s infancy. A certificate was then presented to founder Barry Segal.

Barry Segal with Janice Lathen

Mr. Segal later gave a statement about Segal Family Foundation’s continuing involvement with PPI: “We at Segal Family Foundation have been proud to not only partner with Powering Potential—but to count them among friends. Their team has taken on the challenge that Tanzanian students face disproportionate inequity of access to educational resources. A decade of committed work has brought technology skills and learning materials to thousands. Those are, in our book, thousands of milestones worthy of celebration.” 

A RACHEL-Plus system was also on display to showcase new technology being used next month to launch Powering Potential’s award-winning SPARC Lab program in a second country (Peru), led by a Fulbrighter. With their personal devices, guests were able to log onto the RACHEL content and explore the educational resources.

The Silent Auction was a success, selling all but a single item. Greg announced the winners. Guests received their prizes with both humor and candor while expressing thanks at being a part of the celebration.

Special thanks to Josh Apter and Peter Olsen of the Manhattan Edit Workshop and Champion Hamilton, Founder of Champion Eye Media, for offering pro-bono services in videography and photography to cover the event.

The Segal Family (L to R): Rich, Barry, Dolly, Sharon, Brad, Lisa

Event Coordinator Georgia Allen was thrilled. “The volunteers were fabulous. Everybody pitched in and just did beautifully.”

Part of the proceeds of $8,400 will go towards upgrading the Sazira Secondary School to a SPARC+ Lab, which will impact more than 800 students in rural Tanzania. And part will go toward keeping the lights on at Powering Potential Inc. Last month, the Collegiate Churches of New York awarded PPI a $13,000 grant for this project. Rick Harper who represented Collegiate Churches also attended the event.

“It was so heartwarming to spend an evening with Powering Potential donors and Segal Family Foundation members,” remarked Founding Director Janice Lathen. “Moyo wangu unaruka kwa furaha!”    (My heart is jumping with happiness!)

Thank you donors for supporting our cause!

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.