There is a quote that “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”  In our case, in making the acquaintance of the NGO, Friends of Tanzania, we not only got a new friend, but we also got some cement, as it turns out!

Friends of Tanzania (FOT for short and Marafiki wa Tanzania in Swahili) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States established in 1991 “as a means for Tanzanians and non-Tanzanians to work together, learn from each other, learn more about Tanzania, and support worthy projects in Tanzania.”  It is comprised mostly of returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former Teachers for East Africa, employees or volunteers with various other organizations, and travelers/visitors to Tanzania.  FOT works primarily to identify and support worthy projects in Tanzania.

Enter my mother and Toa Nafasi board member extraordinaire, Carla Peterson, always in search of a new friend, who at a cocktail reception perhaps two years ago, got to talking to some FOT board members.

With the encouragement of Harry England, FOT Projects Chair, we submitted a proposal late last year for a small school refurbishment grant which was approved and we began work in early 2020.  The deal was that FOT funds would go towards building materials and a couple of skilled technicians to oversee the repairs while Toa would mobilize the community to assist the labor efforts, providing hot lunches to those who would volunteer with the work.

Though outside the scope of normal Toa activities, we decided to take this activity on thinking that it would engender good will with the schools in which Toa provides its pullout program as well as with the District Education Office, which has long lamented the need for new classrooms and repairs.  Me, being a Toa purist, had refused to budge on the issue of building until we made our new friend, FOT, because I didn’t feel it was right to use donor money on something so far outside of Toa’s typical activities.  The segmented grant from FOT provided solely for this purpose solved this issue and opened up my eyes that yes, Toa is first and foremost a program that strengthens human resources, but also that if those humans are working in physical conditions that are not conducive to either teaching or learning, then my Toa purity is kind of all for naught!

Thus, we began and completed Phase One of our three-phase project in which we will tidy up classrooms and toilets in 10 of the 11 schools in which Toa has a presence.  Photos from Phase One are below, and Phases Two and Three are expected to start up once we are able to resume work.

Of course, there were a few snags as there always are, and we are actually using this great pause to try to correct the ones we’ve already faced as well as anticipate those to come.  Per Deputy Director Augustino Valerian on the ground in Moshi, here were the major challenges in Phase One:

–> The consistency and focus of the project have to be prioritized by the schools

–> The schools must be the ones to follow up with the parents’ participation

–> The parents need to understand that they have communal ownership of the schools and it is on them to support the survival of the schools and projects like these

–> The preliminary agreement between Toa and the schools must be enforced by the signing of an MoU

At any rate, the idea behind this newly cemented friendship between Toa and FOT – see what I did there? 🙂 – is that by doing some small and relatively inexpensive repairs, we are creating a better learning environment for both Toa students and the wider student body in public primary schools in Kilimanjaro.


A fundi or handyman paints the outside of Jamhuri Primary School


The finished product!


A “before” shot of the interior


And “after”!


At Kiboriloni Primary School, the kids used to have to walk across a dirt floor


Now they have pristine concrete!


A shoddy door jamb….


….is replaced!


And a dilapidated building….


….is made anew!


“Before” at Shaurimoyo Primary School


And “after”!






And, a shout-out to each and every fundi who helped to “cement our world”!