Catalyzing Human Capital
First, the setting. I write this from the veranda at Betsy’s House, in Kitenga, Tanzania—a special place that has become like a second home to me. Three students just stopped by to welcome me back and get me caught up on the news. Sister Berna walks by, with a batch of kittens running after her, as she returns to afternoon clinic. I hear doves, chickens, the chirping of many little colorful birds and the bellows of the random cow. Around me, the plant life has burst open since my last visit six months ago. The unusually heavy and long rains have spurred new growth – the landscape much more lush and fruit-filled than ever before. If the rains hadn’t damaged the road and bridge, I would think – let this happen every year! Yet they have actually been too fierce.
I’m not veranda-writing however to talk about the rains right now. This time, my story to share is about what is happening as I write. As I write, a group of ‘fundi’ (builders) who hand-slashed the grasses this morning with machetes, are now laying the strings and pounding in the corner posts to mark the foundation of a very exciting addition to Kitenga!
Today, January 31, 2020, we ‘broke ground’ on GEC’s new Volunteer House and Center for Collaboration. Inspired by the success of Betsy’s House, this new center will quadruple the number of visitors who can engage in the spirit of Kitenga at any one time. While it is technically a ‘building’, I see it more as a runway. Just as a plane needs a certain amount of stable infrastructure before it can become air-bound, fueling the ‘take-off’ of Kitenga needs the same
Betsy’s House has demonstrated that a place for ‘community building’ has reaped incredible benefits for the school. Prior to Betsy’s House, visitors couldn’t immerse themselves in the Kitenga school community, nor could volunteers contribute a full day of efforts, as they had to travel at least an hour each way for accommodations—and not travel in the dark. Professionals with expertise in areas Kitenga is seeking (think: education, teaching, medicine, health, infrastructure and more) who have offered to come participate, have been advised to please wait, that the structure didn’t yet exist for such engagement. Staying on campus is not only a cost-effective efficiency, but also facilitates immersion and authentic relationship building—the building blocks needed for meaningful engagement. Kitenga also brings profound benefits to those who have been lucky enough to partake in a stay. Since opening less than three years ago, Betsy’s House has catalyzed volunteers, idea exchanges and ambassadors in education, technology, health care and more.
Building on this success, sights are now set on expanding the opportunities for more frequent, deeper and longer exchanges – for community building, learning and sharing.
At its essence, it will be a piece of built capital that will leverage
and catalyze human capital.
Years ago, the Sisters set their vision on creating a school of excellence to bring education and opportunity to some of the world’s most at-risk and marginalized girls. From the earliest days of our partnership, they said to GEC: “Bring us visitors, bring us volunteers – let people see for themselves what can happen here in Kitenga. Let us learn from each other!”
What have we learned since Betsy’s House has opened? They were so right!
Because we share the Sisters’ belief of the boundless potential that can be unleashed when people with a shared vision for the world bring their talents, energy and commitment forward, we are breaking ground today, to create an even more powerful tomorrow.
Click to learn more about the GEC Volunteer House and Center for Collaboration