Originally named Newton-Tanzania Collaborative, Inc., NTC began out of a desire to catalyze the energy and altruism of people in the developed world into positive change for people living in extreme poverty. NTC began in 2006 when Ross Lohr, then an economics student at Boston University, decided to do something about the poverty he was learning about in the classroom. He saw that people with the means and desire to help often became dissuaded from doing so because they did not see progress from their donations. He decided that a community-to-community model could address this issue by giving people an opportunity to form personal relationships. Ross won a grant from Boston University and traveled to Tanzania and met with several communities before settling on Kwala.
Kwala is a rural community of 3,000 people, mostly subsistence farmers. It hosts a primary and secondary school but ranks in the bottom 5% of community education in Tanzania. Kwala has failed to produce any secondary school graduates, preventing Kwala’s families from breaking the vicious cycle of poverty that has plagued the community for generations. The community has placed a high value on education, as they helped build the schools themselves, but lack the resources necessary to provide quality education for their students.
However, NTC realized that undirected donations of aid would not help the community in the long-term. So, they established the NTC Kwala Committee, with 12 members from Kwala’s schools and community and NTC’s 2 project managers. The Kwala Committee meets monthly to consider proposals from the community for meeting its goals for education, and to vote on which project to undertake. NTC provides seed money for the winning proposal, and the Project Directors work with the winning group to: create budgets; obtain additional project funding; manage the project; and ensure the sustainability of the project. The aim of their work is two-fold: to provide aid that will result in the most significant progress toward the village’s educational goals, and to develop the community’s ability to eventually do this without NTC’s help.
NTC (Newton-Tanzania Collaborative, Inc.) - Kwala, Tanzania, Africa
We learned what was important to the people of Kwala by working closely with them for over four years - first by making many trips to the village and now, by having two Project Directors live, work, and teach in the village. While NTC’s Project Directors serve as ambassadors to the community and communicate their needs back to our support base in the United States, it is the Kwala Committee, which is drawn from all major groups in the community, that determines what the community’s needs are.
Our mission is to promote quality education and increase access to quality education throughout the Kwala community. Each participating group in the Kwala Committee has determined three year and five year goals for educational attainment in the community. For example, Mahundi Primary School has determined a three year goal of 90% of students passing the Primary School Leaving Examination, and a five year goal of a 100% passing rate. Because the Kwala Committee is aware that there is only a limited amount of funding, representatives only choose projects that will make the greatest impact on community goals.
We are committed to building meaningful relationships between Americans and citizens in Kwala through cultural exchange projects in schools and exchange visits to and from Kwala. Personal relationships not only foster cross-cultural understanding, but also ensure sustained involvement and promote accountability and feedback between ‘donors’ and ‘recipients.’ The presence of Americans (through exchange visitors and NTC’s project directors) in Kwala has created a community-wide acceptance and appreciation for NTC, while teacher exchange visits to America have increased awareness of NTC in the United States. With so much acceptance and appreciation, there are many volunteers in Kwala to participate in and take ownership of projects. For example, local women run the bookstore and the Village Reading Corner project, not because of financial incentives but because of the pride and increased status associated with being involved with NTC projects.
We have worked with the Kwala community to administer extensive surveys to Kwala Secondary School and Mahundi Primary School students to evaluate the needs of the school community and measure the impact of our projects in Kwala. The Kwala community has seen increases in school attendance since we started working in the community in 2006, as well as the first students from Kwala Secondary School to pass the government’s examinations, which then allows them to be selected for advanced levels. We also evaluate individual projects. For example, the success of the water harvesting system at Kwala Secondary School will be measured by surveys before and after implementation of the project and by assessing how much the availability of water affects school performance and attendance. We strive to measure the success of all projects selected by the Kwala Committee.
Participatory development and relationship building ensure that sustainability is built in to all of our projects. Debating which projects to undertake with a limited amount of funding ensures sustainability because those who are awarded projects know that they are held accountable by the committee. They feel a responsibility to ensure that projects are carried out effectively. Our Project Directors are trained development practitioners who facilitate systems that are self-sustaining and aligned with community and school incentives. Meaningful direct personal relationships through cultural exchange are self-sustaining in themselves because they ensure prolonged involvement and accountability between ‘donors’ and ‘recipients.’ Citizens in Kwala know that NTC will have a sustained presence in Kwala due to the relationships that have been built over the past four years.
Both projects selected by the Kwala Committee thus far have been tremendously successful. The Committee proposed to build a rainwater harvesting system at Kwala Secondary School, researched water harvesting systems and met with the Ministry of Water to determine the best design, and obtained a free connection to the community water source. The Committee is addressing illiteracy in Kwala by increasing access to children’s literature and introducing programs designed to read books out loud to children. A local woman runs a Committee-subsidized book shop in Kwala, while the wife of the village chairman volunteers by reading at the weekly “Village Reading Corner” in the village center. Both projects are self-sustaining and have shown terrific results. The Kwala Committee members eagerly continue to volunteer their time to attend Committee meetings.
Kwala Fund's Website: http://newtontanzania.org/
Project Directors' Blog from Kwala: http://newtontanzania.org/news-2/live-from-kwala