Two years ago, my friends from KIPEKEE (an Organizations that founded in Spain by some medical students when I was studying there) we’re running a free medical camp in the village of Matepes in Arusha, Tanzania. The camp saw many people receive free medical checkups and treatment. A number of them received free eye checkup and free spectacles. Tens of them received dental care and other general medical checkups.
However, the exercise was not as smooth as we would have wanted, because of the language barrier and the high level of illiteracy among the village people. Many also were in bad conditions because of poverty and lack of basic skills to carry on profitable economic activities. Many youths have not gone to school and have no means to learn entrepreneurial skills that would enable them to engage themselves in self-employment.
This is how the idea of Matepes Youth Center was born, with a vision to change the quality of life of the villagers through education and training. We put together resources from different well-wishers, the majority from the campaigns conducted in the University where the medical students were studying to realize our mission that aimed at Constructing a learning Centre. In the first phase of the project, we constructed two standard classrooms, a computer room, and an office, all in one building. Later on, we installed furniture and electricity through the help of the Spanish SVD Mission Secretariat but we were stuck at this level due to lack of funds to buy training equipment.
Our plan was to start with a nursery school to prepare the children with basic English-Medium education before they could join the public primary school. However, this idea could not be implemented because we lacked enough land required by the Tanzania government Education regulations. So we opted to focus on vocational based training programmes such as tailoring for women and girls, computer literacy for the youth and a library for the village students, where they could study in the evenings and weekends, especially those preparing for the national examinations. These programmes would also bring them together to form a self-help group in the future. In these groups, they would invest in tailoring businesses as well as find jobs or employ themselves with computer skills they would acquire.
Thanks to the SVD Techny Mission Center, we have already acquired five sewing machines, six laptop computers (which can be charged and used when there is a power cut), and over 30 National Examination Review Books for the students sitting for the national examinations at the end of the year. On Sunday 14-07-2019 we presented the sewing machines to the community after the mass and on Monday 15-07-2019 we had our first sewing class. On 17-07-2019 we installed the computers and began the introductory class. We have also added National Examinations Review Books, for Grade 7, Form 2 & 4 which can access after their normal classes, since the Centre is only a few meters from the school. We have also volunteer teachers who will be helping them to revise well.
In order to sustain the project, the community agreed that those doing vocational training would contribute as little as 5 dollars per month as motivation for the volunteer teachers, instead of 30 dollars per month they would otherwise pay in Arusha town which is about 10 Kilometers away from the village, without counting transport and meals. Many of them do not have the means to raise that amount. Some of the girls who had been going to town for classes whenever they could raise the fees have now opted for the Center, which is a few hundred meters from their houses in the village. We have already started seeing the fruits of the project.
The students doing revising for their examinations are only required to pay half a dollar monthly subscription. All are issued with Subscription cards. We hope and project that as time goes, the project will be able to run and sustain itself. We also are continuing with the registration process so that in future the learners can acquire relevant certificates and be able to look for formal employment.
In the future, we would like to expand and increase the courses offered to include catering, language classes and other indoor practical courses that will directly impact the lives of the local community. We want to most sincerely thank KIPEKEE, SVD Spanish Mission Secretariat, Techny Mission Office, and Friends from Madrid, Nairobi, and Arusha who have contributed to making this project kick-off.
Fr, Lawrence Muthee, SVD
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