Special to KT by Mary Lu Beaupre –
Kitchissippi resident, Virginia Taylor, has just returned from an eventful two months in northern Tanzania, East Africa, where exciting things are happening with girls’ education and community learning. Virginia is a volunteer board member and the educational coordinator of a small Ottawa-based NGO called TEMBO, whose main focus is to promote education for Maasai girls in Longido and Kimokouwa villages through sponsorship and academic skills development programs.
Since 2007, TEMBO has sent over 200 girls to secondary school and this year alone, TEMBO is sponsoring 94 girls in eight different schools. Without this sponsorship, families could not afford to send the girls, and in keeping with cultural practices, these girls (ages 13-18) would enter early marriage and motherhood.
In addition to supporting girls’ education, TEMBO employs local community facilitators in Tanzania to promote community learning, women’s micro-business, women’s health and literacy, and outreach programs in remote, impoverished schools.
Virginia travels to Tanzania three times a year to oversee these projects in conjunction with the local workers and other Canadian volunteers. This time, she mentored local staff and helped with strategic planning. She also met with local leaders to foster strong community relations. One particularly enjoyable task for her was to help outfit the TEMBO-sponsored girls with uniforms, bedding and school supplies as they excitedly prepared for their first year of secondary school.
Virginia Taylor and Arlene McKechnie, President of TEMBO, lead two groups of Canadians who had come to Tanzania on a “Travelling with TEMBO” trip. The travellers learned about the challenges facing Tanzanians by visiting traditional Maasai villages and meeting community leaders. They also went on safari to the Serengeti. Their visit to Longido coincided with the grand opening of the TEMBO- funded Longido District Learning Centre, a beautiful new facility designed to support the learning needs of the entire community. Maasai women and local school children celebrated the opening with joyful songs and dances and local leaders and government officials added their words of support.
Here at home, Virginia is busy working with other TEMBO volunteers on an upcoming fundraising event, “An Evening with Sally Armstrong” taking place May 3 at Ben Franklin Place. Sally Armstrong is a three-time Amnesty International Canada award winner and a human rights activist. In her latest book, Ascent of Women, A New Age is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter, she shows us that empowering women and girls is the way forward.
Virginia feels Sally Armstrong’s message resonates strongly with TEMBO’s belief that empowering girls and women has positive effects on every aspect of society.
For more information on this event and on TEMBO, visit Projectembo.org.
Mary Lu Beaupre is a Carlington resident and volunteer with TEMBO.