17 July 2014

help ashley enrich the lives of vulnerable kids in tanzania.

Now, it's my turn, folks! Michael wrote on Monday about all of the great work he's doing right now and how you can have a hand in the creation of small businesses where we live.

I need some moola, too!

As Michael mentioned, we are both Maryknoll Lay Missioners living and working with the poor in Tanzania. Financial gifts from family, friends and really cool total strangers allow us to be here doing what we do.

This is what I do, and here is how you can help.

What work is Ashley doing?

I recently transitioned to a new organization, known as Shaloom Care House, that is dedicated to improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, particularly their children. Currently, I work in the Youth Centre, a small building designed to house a library and a few classrooms. Within the last couple of weeks, I've begun an after-school tutoring program in English and math for children from the ages of 6 to 14. Next month, I'm hoping to expand all the way up to age 18.

study room converted into my empty classroom at shaloom care house.
As we already wrote about in our post on the Tanzanian education system, education is a mess here, for a myriad of complex reasons. Children fail their national examinations at an alarming rate. Why? Because they can't speak English. Tanzanian children attend primary school, consisting of seven standards, learning everything in Kiswahili. By the time they get to secondary school, if they're able to pass their national examinations, they're suddenly thrown into all-English lessons, with nowhere near enough preparation for this drastic shift.

That's where I come in.

The children I work with at Shaloom Care House are one of the most vulnerable groups of children in Tanzania. They come from homes where HIV/AIDS has taken a huge toll. Many have lost a parent due to disease. Others are living with and being raised by their relatives. Some live with the disease themselves, having received it from their parents. Almost all have little time for play, because when they're home, they're assisting with house work or taking care of siblings and cousins.

my not-so-empty classroom. these kids seriously love to learn!
I aim to create a space at Shaloom Care House where children can both learn and play. This means that my programs are:
  • Free of Violence: At Tanzanian government schools and many private schools, Tanzanian children are physically punished by their teachers. I work to underline that violence is not acceptable at Shaloom, whether its teacher-student violence or students fighting one another. 
  • Creating Healthy Teacher-Student Relationships: I encourage the children to ask questions, present their ideas, and teach their fellow students. This is largely unheard of in a Tanzanian school, as serious hierarchy exists within the education system. Students are taught to obey their teachers without question. I demand respect but I also demonstrate to the students that I respect their opinions, feelings, and learnings on an equal footing.
  • Conversation-Based: Most lessons in Tanzanian schools consist of teachers filling a chalkboard with a particular subject, telling the students to copy what they've written verbatim into their notebooks, and walking away. This is no way to learn anything, but especially a language. My lesson plans consist largely of dialogue-based learning, in which students learn orally, instead of writing with little comprehension.
  • Fun and Active: No kid wants to sit around in a classroom all day. I want to teach the students that learning can be fun instead of being filled with fear and shame. I make sure my lessons get them up and out of their seats, playing games, teaching one another, and most of all, having a good time. 
just a few of our school supplies. yes, all pens here are obama pens. 
The goals for this work are the following:
  • Educate students in math and English in order to build their capacity to succeed in the Tanzanian school system
  • Support children living in difficult circumstances by providing them with a safe place to learn and play, every day, with me and with one another
  • Instill values of respect, self-confidence, non-violence, care for the other, honesty and hard work in the character of these students to assist them in school and beyond
no big deal - just me and joseph teaching each other kiswahili and english!

How can you help?

You can make a donation. Simple as that.

Your financial gift will assist in the provision of educational materials for Tanzanian youth and children, as well as needed supplies to maintain the library and classroom space.

But it's not just about me and the work I am doing. In addition to my work with kids and their families living with HIV/AIDS, your financial contributions help fund the following activities (which you can read about on our Support page):

Our work in Tanzania is impossible without your support!

Please consider making a financial donation to support our work in Tanzania. Tax-deductible donations can be made via a secure online form, over the phone (1-800-867-2980), or by mail (Maryknoll Lay Missioners, P.O. Box 307, Maryknoll, NY 10545-0307). You can make a one-time donation, or if you are really awesome, you can choose to make a recurring gift (monthly, quarterly or annually).


A very amazing and generous donor has agreed to match dollar-for-dollar every donation made on our behalf in the next month - no joke. This means your financial gift will double if made in the next 30 days. Please consider making your donation now to maximize its impact!

To ensure that your financial contribution directly supports our work in Tanzania, please state your gift is for "Michael and Ashley Leen - Mission Account" in the "Comments" box for online donations or in the memo line for old-school handwritten checks.

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