Megan Foo's Blog

Interview with Mary Dupont of the EfforTZ Foundation

[color=#222222][b]Providing an Education for Tanzania's Children: Spotlight of the EfforTZ Foundation[/b][/color]
[color=#222222]A 100% volunteer-run, dynamic nonprofit that provides an education to the orphaned, abandoned and impoverished children in Tanzania, the [url=]EfforTZ Foundation[/url] adopts an enlightened philosophy that a broad-based education is instrumental to poverty reduction. EfforTZ's mission is to provide a quality education to orphanage boys, Maasai girls and impoverished children in Tanzania so that they may realize their full potential. By offering [url=]scholarships to students and providing students with essential school supplies[/url], the EfforTZ Foundation creates sustainable, positive solutions to tackle the deep-rooted structural poverty in Tanzania. To learn more about EfforTZ's incredible vision and model, read our interview with Mary Dupont, one of EfforTZ's founders, below.[/color]
[b]Megan Foo: What inspired you to start the EffortZ Foundation? What do you enjoy the most about your job?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] What inspired me to create EffortZ and what inspires me every day to keep working on it was and is the opportunity to help children with nothing achieve a brighter future through education.
Every time I see the face of one of our orphaned or abandoned boys, who has been admitted to secondary school when he thought he’d be left behind, just looking at that face filled with joy inspires me. When I look at the relief and joy on the faces of our 12-year-old Maasai girls given the opportunity to continue their education rather than enter into an arranged marriage with much older men with multiple wives, it makes every minute I spend focused on EffortZ a joy.
It’s the kids, it’s the joy on their faces when they are given an opportunity to go to school, to pass a grade, to move from primary to secondary school; it’s what causes me to do this every day.
[b]Megan Foo: How does the EffortZ Foundation measure impact?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] We have three separate programs; the most significant program where we spend the majority of our dollars is in our scholarship program. We measure its success by the percentage of our students who qualify for secondary school. By way of background, every child in Tanzania is required to attend primary school. Primary school is taught in Kiswahili. Secondary school is taught in English. What you have are children learning in their native language, if they’re lucky, getting an hour of English language classwork a day with teachers who don’t speak much English themselves, and then having to pass an English admissions exam. So, in Tanzania the ability to go to secondary school is pretty well-denied to the majority of primary school students.
If we can achieve our percentage objectives for our primary students to get accepted into secondary school, we consider ourselves successful. In Tanzania, only 35% of its primary school students qualify for admission into secondary school. When we began, we set as an objective a 50% pass rate into secondary school. To date, we’ve achieved a 95% success rate. That’s how we measure the success of our scholarship program – what percent of our primary school orphaned and abandoned boys and what percent of our pre-Form One Maasai girls get into secondary school. In both cases, our objective was 50%: 100% was achieved for our primary school boys and 90% was achieved for our Maasai girls.
We look at our school supply and the enrichment programs somewhat differently. Here we are trying to make a positive impact, albeit difficult to measure, on a public school system that is failing its students in every respect. When you give students materials to write with and write on, and you give teachers chalk to use on blackboards, the ability to see tangible results right away is simply limited. The excitement of a child receiving a pen or a pencil and saying – is this for me to keep – tells us how important the supplies are. And, when our volunteers go to Tanzania and work in schools providing English enrichment activities the students joyful participation in the activities in an educational system that doesn’t allow for student participation, tells us how important our enrichment program is. The sheer pleasure that is expressed by the students and teachers and other anecdotal evidence leads us to believe we are improving this failing educational system. In terms of metrics, we also use the same standard of measurement with these programs as we do the scholarship program – what percentage of the schools’ entire student body passes the secondary school exam and how that compares with our objectives and the results country wide. While the correlation isn’t direct, the improvement we see in our partner schools passage rates is far better than that experienced country-wide.
[b]Megan Foo: What makes EffortZ different from other nonprofits that focus on education?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] There are many ways in which we believe we are different. The first is that we’re a very small organization with only eight members on our Board of Directors and every single one of them is amazingly committed to all of our activities. Six out of eight of our directors go to Tanzania regularly and do volunteer work there. All eight raise funds and every one of the eight manages a significant segment of our program activities. We selected our eight board members based on their level of commitment and their willingness to contribute significantly to all of our activities.
A second differentiator is that we’re very “hands-on” even though we’re 7,000 miles away from our target population. Most of the nonprofits I’ve been affiliated with have their target populations in close proximity to their location, but not ours. Nevertheless, we are as involved with every school and child that we work with in Tanzania as the nonprofits that work in the communities they live and work in. There’s nothing that goes on in Tanzania with a school or a student that I am not absolutely involved in and usually someone else on our board is also involved in that matter as well.
We solicit feedback from the schools about their specific needs for books and supplies, for the English enrichment activities we provide to the students, and the professional development help we provide the teachers through our enrichment activities. When it comes to our students, we are involved with every aspect of their development, not only educationally, but when they’re out of school. What are they doing during school breaks? In some cases, we even arrange apprenticeship programs. When there are major decisions that have to be made – school choice, electives, majors, etc., we get the students’ input directly, we get our local representative’s perspective, he’s an educator, we get our board’s perspective, some of whom are also educators, and then we make a final decision that we share with everyone before we implement it – so we are as hands-on in Tanzania as we would be if we were working in the US.
A final differentiator is our lack of staff. So, our board members research everything very thoroughly. We talk to as many people in our focus areas as possible, on the ground in Tanzania – that includes headmasters, teachers, government officials, other not-for-profit experts, and we take everything that they tell us and we evaluate it against our own experiences, we re-evaluate it, we talk about our conclusions with each other and our constituents and our colleagues in the field before we act. It’s all part and parcel of being hands-on, but it’s also very thorough. We read every day about what’s going on in Tanzania, we focus especially on the educational environment, we know more about the educational system there today than I ever expected to know.
I think that those three factors: the organization’ small size, the hands-on involvement of our entire board in all our activities, and the thoroughness of our research, evaluation and implementation processes is what makes us different.
[b]Megan Foo: In co-founding and leading the EfforTZ Foundation, what was the best lesson you learned along the way?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] The best lesson that we learned is that operating in a third-world country is very different than operating in the United States, and understanding the differences between that country and that culture, as it relates to what we know and have lived with as Americans for years, is absolutely essential in establishing achievable goals and expectations. We know we need to have high goals and expectations, but we also know that they have to be set in a realistic manner considering the local circumstances of the third world country. In a US environment, we would expect 100% of our students to go to high school, even if they were in gang-populated, poverty-stricken areas.
We know that a high level of expectation for secondary school admission in Tanzania is 50% when the country is only achieving 35%; so we have been able to come to grips with the fact that the operational environment is incredibly different. The parents are very poor and, for the most part, illiterate so they can’t help their kids with education at home. For the Maasai, where there is no electricity, homework isn’t even possible. Further, most public school classrooms have one textbook, in the hands of the teacher. When you put all of that together and try to figure out how to educate children for a life of opportunity, which includes secondary school, community college and/or university, you operate with high expectations but with a realistic view of what you can achieve because it’s a whole different way of life in that third world country.
[b]Megan Foo: What does education mean to you?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] In Tanzania, education means escaping poverty, it means rescuing the futures of children whose lives would be filled with deprivation if it weren’t for education. It means empowering children to understand that they can with hard work become successful, finish primary school and secondary school and go on to community college or even university. It means obtaining employment in an environment where 50% or more of the adults in the country can’t gain employment. It means creating literate parents in the future for the children who will be born to our students.
For the major community that we work in, Arusha, it means developing their future leaders. For the Maasai village where we take our girls from, it means elevating the living standard for the community in the future. Their community has no electricity, no running water, and no bathrooms. It has a school where one student out of the entire 7th grade class gained admission to secondary school. When we take four to six girls out of that community who didn’t pass the secondary school exam upon completing primary school, and a year later, 90% of them are in secondary school, we’re absolutely convinced we’re making a difference in their lives. And, we’re working hard to encourage the majority of these young women and young men to both go back and give back to their communities, to understand that their efforts will be needed to help elevate the standard of living and create a better environment for the children in the future for their communities. Education in Tanzania means a lot of different things, but it means a brighter future, one filled with opportunity, for the children who we are educating, for their current and future families, and down the road for their communities.
[b]Megan Foo: What advice would you give to budding education and social entrepreneurs?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] While doing these good works in the United States is challenging, carrying out similar activities in a third world environment is exponentially more difficult. While addressing difficult if not intractable social problems is incredibly hard in both locations, it’s even more complicated when you are in a third world country that lacks infrastructure, capacity and capability. If you’re an educational and social entrepreneur who wants to make a difference in a less developed or third world country, you need to be prepared to understand that the social problems are as deep and as broad as you might imagine, but the ability to operate is hampered by these huge deficiencies in infrastructure, capacity and capability.
[b]Megan Foo: Do you have a message to leave to the Givology network?[/b]
[b]Mary Dupont:[/b] Givology fills a crtical void for small organizations like ours. With eight members on our Board of Directors and 136 friends and volunteers, we are by all standards extremely small. Our reach is only as broad as the reach of our Directors and their friends, families and neighbors. Organizations like Givology are what allow small organizations like us to reach a broader audience. You help us keep up with the support we need to provide our constituents and you’re what enables EfforTZ to keep going, and if possible, expand in a small way our focus.
Keep on keeping on for small organizations like us – you fill a critical need and even though we’re new to you and don’t know what you will ultimately be able to do for us, the fact that you are profiling us, partnering with us, and exposing us to your global environment, helps spread the word about the work that we’re doing and we think you’ll be extraordinarily helpful to us. Keep on keeping on.

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