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The Ota Initiative Blog

Empowering Local Youth

In our last post you heard from one of Ota’s group leaders, Fahimu, about how The Ota Initiative has positively impacted his community. In this edition I am going to share the rest of Fahimu’s letter to me in which he writes about how he personally has benefited from working with Ota. First though, I want to provide some quick background on the youth we work with in Karagwe.

While the focus of Ota is to provide educational opportunities for elementary students, we also treat the program as a professional development opportunity for local youth. Every program we employ five local secondary and university students as group leaders to help our head teacher run the program and offer more one-on-one attention to students. This is an important opportunity for local youth because Karagwe’s economy relies mostly on subsistence agriculture, and youth seldom have access to quality job opportunities. Youth looking to make money often have to search for short-term manual labor jobs such as hauling charcoal. Unsurprisingly, these jobs do not pay well, which is especially troublesome as high school is not free in Tanzania. While school fees amount to only a few hundred dollars each year, they often exceed the amount rural families can afford and deter students from graduating. Ota provides its group leaders with a guaranteed paying job during their school breaks, without which some of them would struggle to pay for school.

We don’t just want to provide students with a salary though; we want to help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the world. Because quality employment opportunities are often unavailable to youth, the students who do manage to graduate high school and university often embark on the job search without any relevant work experience. Along with giving our group leaders job experience in education and community development, we run a week-long seminar for them before each program that focuses on developing their teamwork and leadership skills. Our leaders clearly value the training and salaries we give them because four of the five group leaders who worked with our first program in June 2013 are still working for us. At least three of our group leaders have also told me that their experience with Ota has helped them obtain other jobs.

I firmly believe that Ota is making a difference in the lives of our group leaders, and I was thrilled to read that Fahimu shares this feeling as well. Now, in his own words, are Fahimu’s thoughts on how he has benefited from working for Ota:

The following points are existing benefits of The Ota Initiative program in Karagwe:

The Ota Initiative provides creative teaching methods and leadership skills training to secondary school group leaders. During The Ota Initiative training seminars, group leaders learn how to teach pupils without using corporal punishment, how to live with and supervise children, time management, team work, and good working habits. These skills can be helpful in any teaching and leadership activity for the group leaders. Also group leader have gotten a chance to understand and discuss democracy in both Tanzania and USA with American volunteers.

The Ota Initiative also creates temporary job opportunities for Karagwe residents, especially for secondary school students and teachers hired as group leaders, head teachers, and cook. Normally the work is temporary but helpful. Because those people are employed by The Ota Initiative they do not waste their time resting at home during school breaks. The Ota Initiative helps them to stay working, gaining experiences, learning about different issues, and making friendship with different people, especially foreigners like Amizade volunteers from USA.

Personally, The Ota initiative has helped me a lot in my school fees and other contributions. But also I have gained much experience on teaching and leading and acquiring enough information about democracy. Therefore the education I acquired from The Ota Initiative can help me in any teaching activity and in being good and self-reliant. It has helped me develop qualities such as self-confidence, being future–oriented, and creativity, as well as being a good critical thinker.

Finally, I would like to thank The Ota Initiative and anyone who has a spirit to help my society. The Ota Initiative has been the best program in Karagwe.

Fahimu is an excellent group leader who has played a critical role in Ota’s success, so it was very rewarding and heartwarming to hear all the ways he has benefited from working with us. I hope that one day Ota can expand so it can offer educational opportunities to more students and empower more local youth through employment and leadership training. For now though, we are still working to fund our December program. We have not yet met our fundraising goal, and time is running short, so please, consider making atax-deductible donation to Ota (form at bottom of linked page) so we can continue empowering Karagwe’s youth.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this update, and thank you for your support. Have a wonderful week!

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