Archive for January, 2012

January 30, 2012

My Labor of Love: Building Schools in Africa (Part 2)

Hi there,

Check out Part 2 of my post on the MSL Conversations Blog about AIA’s trip to Tanzania this past summer. If you haven’t yet, check out my first post about our time rebuilding classrooms in Olasiti village.

– Alyssa

After a week in Olasiti village, our group traveled to Ulolela village in southeastern Tanzania. The trip took two days – a full day (15-hour) bus ride (on the African version of a Greyhound), followed by an equal-length car ride the next day. But it was worth it when we were met with a celebration of traditional African singing and dancing, which followed us for the last mile of our trip.

In Ulolela, we stayed with host families for five days and oversaw the final construction on our Community Learning Center. We held a village meeting to celebrate the opening of our Center, the only building in the village with electricity—I even flipped on the lights for the first time after they installed the solar panels! Classes in the CLC will begin soon, and will have curricula on self-empowerment, business fundamentals, and HIV/AIDS awareness, which we had translated into Swahili.

Ulolela village was the most remote location I’d ever been to – the closest city (i.e. had some electricity and plumbing) was an hour away. But the simplicity was beautiful. The village was in a valley surrounded by hills with patches of farming land. We went on hikes to neighboring villages and the highest peaks, and saw waterfalls, Lake Malawi, and a walking stick (!!). We played soccer with young villagers, who beat us without breaking a sweat, on the most picturesque field on Earth.

After saying goodbye to my host mother, who gave me a decorative, handmade axe that I somehow got back into the states, we had another two-day journey to Dar Es Salaam. Unfortunately, the closest I came to an actual safari was passing through a wildlife reservation, but I still saw monkeys, a far-off giraffe, and a zebra crossing the road.

But, in Swahili, “safari” actually means “journey.” So, from founding the organization with my fiancé, to managing our three projects, to our trip this summer, it’s been quite the safari. And thankfully, it’s just the beginning.

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January 25, 2012

The Multipier Effect

In honor of its 50th anniversary, USAID has launched several new initiatives to help improve lives.  USAID is focused on bringing  a new spirit of results-based development to helping people around the world build their own path out of poverty.  A pivotal tool in building this path is improved education.  Through this insightful infographic, USAID demonstrates the multipier effect that  educational investments can have on the lives of individuals around the world.  Below are some of the facts about the impact that education can have on a person’s overall well-being.  It is clear that improved education does not impact learning alone – with more education comes increased health, economic growth, civil societies and food security.

Wages rise 20% for every year beyond 4th grade that a girl remains in school.

There would be a 12% drop in global poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills.

Each extra year of preschool increases a person’s future productivity by 10-30%.

Countries that raise literacy rates by 20-30% have seen increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8-16%.

Each 1% increase in the level of women’s education generates 0.3% in additional economic growth.

If all women in Sub-Saharan Africa had a secondary education, 1.8 million lives could be saved each year.

Women’s education is responsible for half of the reduction of child mortality over the past 40 years.

In sub-Saharan Africa, investing in girls’ education has the potential to boost agricultural output by 25%.

A farmer with just four years of education is 9% more productive than one with no education.

On average each additional year of schooling for a country’s population reduces the chances of falling into civil war by 3.6%.

People of voting age with a primary education are 1.5 times more likely to support democracy than people with no education.

It’s important to recognized that education can have far-reaching effects.  Making an investment in educational projects can dramatically change a person’s life in unexpected ways.  We’re eager to bring about that change and we hope that you’ll consider helping us!

January 23, 2012

My Road to Building Schools in Africa

Hi all,

I recently posted on the MSL Conversations Blog about my trip to Tanzania, and I’m posting it below to share with you all. Part 2 is coming soon!

– Alyssa

Three and a half years ago, I was another college student at Boston University trying to map out a career path, but unsure where I wanted to go. I love to write and my first dream job was to be an author, rather than, say, an astronaut. This led me from journalism to public relations. Why write the news when I can make the news? But more than that, I wanted to use my skills to help others.

This inspired me to join my fiancee, Brendan Callahan, to co-found Achieve in Africa (AIA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is devoted to improving education in rural villages of Africa.

This past July, I got the opportunity to see what I’ve been working on for the first time when another organization expressed interest in sending a group of students to our project sites in Tanzania. Around this time, MSLGROUP Americas (Note: I work in the MSL Washington DC office) announced its Beyond Boundaries Experiential Awards designed to recognize and reward employees with learning and professional development opportunities that enhance their MSLGROUP Americas experience and deliver on agency values. One of the awards was a paid sabbatical to work on a cause program. I quickly jumped on the opportunity to win the sabbatical to pursue my volunteer work. When I received an email saying I won, I burst into tears of gratitude.

Along with Brendan and a group of volunteers, I was able to see our three projects: a classroom building in Olasiti Primary School outside of Arusha in northern Tanzania, a Community Learning Center in Ulolela village outside of Mbinga in southern Tanzania, and the site of Olasiti’s first secondary school (grades 7 and above), currently under construction.

While in Olasiti village, our group renovated seven classrooms by reinforcing the base of the walls with cement to avoid flooding, digging trenches to route rainwater away, and painting the outside of the classrooms. We also repaired a damaged classroom that was unusable by replacing the concrete floor, fixing cracked walls, and repainting the classroom inside and out. It sounds easy, but did I mention we mixed the cement by hand? And we painted with rollers stuck on the end of tree branches? It was a true lesson in what it means to be resourceful.

Olasiti village is unshakable — a community into which we were welcomed wholeheartedly. Olasiti Primary School’s headmistress taught me how to count in Swahili, how to carry a bucket of water on my head, and she gave me traditional handmade African cloth head wraps. I taught my “three African daughters” (who I wish I could’ve brought home with me) animal noises and ring-around-the-rosie, even though they were all under the age of five and didn’t understand any English. But aren’t they cute?