While the work we are doing here in Arusha consists of a variety of different projects, they all centre around the students at the Umoja Centre.  We spend every week day with these students – acting as both teachers and partners.  For 10 hours each week (split between intermediate and beginner students), we teach a course entitled “Key Skills”.  This is a full year course in the Umoja Curriculum which includes units on citizenship, African History, Careers and Health.  Our focus during this phase is on Personal Development, with classes on goal setting, overcoming challenges, self-esteem, values and confidence.  We spend a lot of time discussing our subject matter as a group and students are encouraged to support each other with advice and input for all assignments – and do they ever!  It is obvious that genuinely want each other to succeed.  Their feedback and questions for each other are well thought out and often provoke their own discussion time.

There are 43 students in total – 19 boys and 24 girls.  They are between 14 and 24 years old with a range of education, from some secondary school to only primary.  They are all incredibly motivated, and it is understandable why – hundreds of youth applied to the Centre.  I wouldn’t call these students lucky – they have worked hard to get where they are, and continue to do so.  The curriculum is intense and many travel an hour or more to get to and from school every day.

Many students have overcome things I could not even imagine experiencing.  What is most inspiring is that students choose to look at these challenges as experiences that have made them stronger.  All of them are eager to finish school and go on to find jobs so that they may support their families and communities in ways they have never experienced themselves.

I think we, as Arusha volunteers, are some of the most fortunate for getting to work with these amazing young women and men.  We get to spend time with 43 youth who have a genuine desire to become leaders in their communities every single day.  Given the growth I have seen in these students in only three weeks, I cannot wait to see where the rest of their school year and beyond will take them.

-Erin Sunstrum, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012

For more on Erin’s progress, check out her personal blog Erin Says Habari to Tanzania.  For more information on our upcoming Youth Ambassador opportunities in Tanzania, check out the Program Calender section on our website

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