The Power of Collaboration

At the invitation of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa, a Tanzanian community of nuns, GEC became an integral partner in the building, launching, and growing of the Kitenga Secondary School for Girls. 

The Kitenga School for Girls

In the far northwest corner of Tanzania is Kitenga Village: dirt roads and pathways, distant markets, no running water or electricity; limited schools and health care; a land deforested from cutting wood for cooking; and unconsciously high rates of disease, malnutrition, and mortality – this is life’s fabric for the 7,000 residents. It’s a hard life, and especially so for girls and women as the destructive cultural traditions of female genital cutting and the bartering of female children into marriage remain prevalent. 

The Kitenga Secondary School for Girls (KSSG) is GEC’s first partnership and the intent is to support, enhance, and accelerate the work and vision already being generated by the school’s founders, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa. By securing more than $1.5M in financial support and providing planning expertise and thought partnership, GEC became an integral part of transforming the lives of girls in Tanzania.

Partnership Bears Fruit

Through deep partnership and collaboration, and over the course of five years of hard work by all, GEC joined the Sisters in building the infrastructure necessary for opening a school. In January 2017 the Kitenga Secondary School for Girls was opened, and today, there are 100 girls on campus finding new pathways for themselves. At full vision, the school will educate and nurture up to 500 adolescent girls.

While the Sisters’ focused on the building of the dormitory and housing for teachers, GEC funded, ‘green designed,’ and built the two key academic centers needed for the opening of the school – the Alice Kryzan Memorial Library and the Science Center. GEC also helped ensure there was enough water for the young school by funding and building an additional deep bore well. To improve access and student safety, GEC likewise funded and built a 4.5km road into the school.  

In February 2017, GEC was honored to open a special addition to the campus, Betsy’s House.  This visitor housing, named after the late Betsy Greene and funded by her friends and family, created space for visitors and donors to stay right in Kitenga, rather than having to travel more than an hour each way. 

As planned, the school opened with a small enrollment with the intention to grow as infrastructure was added. Since the opening, GEC also helped fund and build an additional three-classroom building and the Theodore and Pauline Cohen Trust Girls Dormitory, the school’s second dormitory. For the newly opened school, GEC also supported the expansion of solar electrification on campus, and because of water scarcity, built more systems to capture and harvest the seasonal rains. 

As mentioned in the impact section, GEC is committed to green and sustainable building practices across the Kitenga campus. As such, GEC has funded the creation of a less traditional and more ‘green’ and ‘student-centered’ learning environment overall, across each building, that includes water harvesting, solar electricity, and green building design. 

Through the generosity of GEC donors, we have been able to provide the new school with beds, desks, text books, and many other day-to-day items critical to the girls’ success and well-being.

Our Partners: The Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa

A Tanzanian faith-based community, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA) is dedicated to improving the quality of life for its extended neighbors, especially women and girls. An order of about 150, they primarily serve the Mara Region of Tanzania and are based in Musoma, along the shores of Lake Victoria. 

The Sisters have a track record of successfully advocating for and providing services to the most marginalized. Examples of their work in education include having run one of the highest performing secondary schools for girls in the region and currently managing a school for deaf, mute, and mentally disabled children. For more than 20 years they have operated an agricultural project, health clinic, and primary school in Baracki, a village similar to Kitenga.

Almost thirty years ago, the Sisters were granted 1,000 acres by the Government of Tanzania for a community development project. The Sisters’ goal was to transform an impoverished, under-served community through the transformative power of girls education. Over the years they established a health clinic, ran vocational programs, and started a kindergarten program for boys and girls. Yet they struggled to build the cornerstone of their efforts, a residential school for marginalized, at-risk girls. The Sisters sought a committed partner that could truly help bring their bold dream to fruition.

Seven years ago, GEC joined hands with the Sisters to help make their vision come true. This proved to be a critical and pivotal partnership for IHSA, as together with GEC, they built the school and opened doors five years later. GEC was able to bring much needed resources, planning expertise, project management, and thought partnership to jointly carry out the Sisters’ vision and create an outstanding residential school for some of the world’s most marginalized girls.

Building with New Fence
Hand Washing Station

Kitenga Pioneers

The first class of students at KSSG self-describe as “Kitenga Pioneers.” For some of these girls, this school offered the first glimpse of hope for a life beyond their village. In November 2020, 30 of these pioneers will graduate with a lower secondary school degree and experience beyond what they dreamed possible four years ago.

We take a holistic approach to educating “the whole girl.” GEC continues to work closely with school leadership and provides needed funding to boost programming that helps ensure the success and retention of every student, despite their personal or educational backgrounds.

Recognizing the critical need for holistic wraparound services at the school, GEC is co-developing, funding and supporting additional programming and growth opportunities for the students, including access to athletics, music, art, health education, and leadership development.

We are fortunate and honored to be working with the Sisters and joining them in their vision to empower the women of Tanzania and improve lives for all through the power of education.

Recent Accomplishments

With GEC’s financial, technical, and programmatic support, the school is off to a strong start over its first three years. Despite a potentially catastrophic setback in late August 2018, the Sisters, students, and community recovered with resounding resiliency to move forward with their ultimate goal of providing a high quality, safe education to these girls. Highlights from 2019 include:

Join the Movement

Together, we can show the world that there’s nothing a girl can’t do.