Many exchange students come out of their experience with a positive outlook for the future and many ideas on how they can make changes in their home communities. Wilbert R. Massawe (YES 2016-2017, Tanzania, hosted by YFU in Fishers, IN) was no exception. Since his return home to Tanzania in 2017, Wilbert has planned and carried out numerous projects, most of which focus on education and youth empowerment.
Recently, Wilbert established Learning Centers at Kimara and SOS secondary schools. The goal of these centers is to create a space where community, youth, and secondary school students can have access to free educational resources. Many students in rural communities often drop out of school due to a lack of necessary resources to successfully pursue their education. Although the centers are not fully stocked, they do have school books that the youth can borrow to study for their classes.
Wilbert also started a Youth Story Time Program. The program’s goal is to empower youth to express their concerns about issues they face in society in a culturally appropriate way. Through this program, participants are able to improve their communication and public speaking skills.
These projects have not only had a tremendous impact on the community and participants, but also on Wilbert himself. “This project has challenged me to use some tools that I learned from my exchange year. Some tools that I have put into display throughout this project are leadership skills, communications skills, and organization skills,” Wilbert said. “This project has opened my eyes to discover more problems that exist in my community.”
Additionally, the projects showed the importance of community service and how people can make a difference in their community. The learning centers will be helpful in supporting students in secondary school and giving them a positive attitude towards learning. Youth Story Time has raised awareness on the importance of life and communication skills and has helped to break the language barrier. The project challenged participants to express themselves in both English and Swahili, along with inspiring many students to join the larger conversation about challenges they face.