So in keeping with my blogs about adventure, I have an American adventure to report about.  This New Years I spent my time ringing in 2013 in the Big Easy, otherwise known as New Orleans.  With four fabulous ladies, we set out to drive 958 miles from Chicago to New Orleans and experience one of the few American cities with amazing culture, food, music and fun.  Driving through Illinois, which is the longest state ever, all the way to Louisiana was no small feat.  Through the entire journey we did not notice much change to the landscape, everywhere we went was the same few fast food chains and I was a bit let down when we hit Louisiana and it was very much like the other 5 states we were in.  That is until we hit the swamp area and realized how different this state was and further into New Orleans we realized how much of a cultural difference there was within the city.  


Whether it was the amazing seafood, the French flair, the amazing music being played on every street corner, the funky voodoo shops, the incredible art work being sold on the street or the amazing architecture of the buildings of the French Quarter, everything made me happy.  It made me realize how much I love cultural differences.  I love being places where things are a bit different than the norm.  Many places in America all are starting to look the same.  With big corporations taking over most of our economy how can anything stay unique.  It was nice and refreshing to find a place that still had diversity and culture.  A place where you can learn from the things around you that are different.  With the growth of big business it makes me worried that some of the culture that makes us different, that makes going to different parts of our own country interesting, will be lost along the way.  Granted I love Target and Starbucks and some of the others, but I also don't want to lose smaller interesting places along the way.  Those places that  make us want to visit them just because they are so different, they are now unique.  


New Orleans was a trip full of dancing in the street, eating the most amazing mufflato sandwich, trying oysters for the first time, laughing a lot, and having crazy amounts of fun.  On the way home we stopped in Nashville and I again was amazed by another city with amazing culture.  From amazing live country music to the best BBQ I have ever had.  It was an experience.  


My Quote for this trip:  "We travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." – Pico Iyer


Check out the pictures:
 
This is the time where everyone reminisces on what happened in 2012.  I would say 2011 and 2012 are years that changed my life and made me realize what I really want to do in life and what I really value. 

But for for my year in review this year these things stood out….


I traveled to Zanzibar, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, a Hurricane on the East Coast and am heading out to New Orleans and Nashville for New Years Eve. 

I lived in Tanzania and fell in love with the idea of putting my education degrees to good use working in Educational Development, and learned a lot about what people need and do not need in life to be happy.

EdPowerment grew to a strong credible organization and is now searching for grant funding.

I have returned to America, and although the reverse cultural shock has been hard, I have managed to readjust most days.  



I have reconnected with family and friends and have made it a point to spend as much time with people I love as I can.


With EdPowerment’s Autism Connects Tanzania program we hosted 4 amazing workshops, built a playground for students with disabilities, helped fund a center dedicated to helping kids with autism, brought in professionals in the field to meet with Tanzanians about autism, and helped fight a stigma that keeps many children and families locked in their homes. 

With Kilimaehwa Educational Center, we finished an amazing afterschool group, painted a mural, hosted a few sports days, and fell in love with the idea of empowering young people through connecting them to community members.

Our Sponsorship program grew from 18 kids to 30 kids.  4 students are now in University studying education, medicine, law, and computer technology and 6 just graduated high school and are awaiting their exam results.

I have maintained my blog and gotten an entry published in a woman’s travel magazine and am starting a possible draft of a travel novel.  (Goal for 2013- We will see)

I have rejoined my Interact students and volunteered at a local food pantry with them and helped them raise money and food for their local community.

My goals for 2013….

-Find grant money to help allow EdPowerment to continue doing educational development work

-Travel back to Tanzania for two months to host more ACT conferences and help facilitate the work we do there though EdPowerment

-Host an amazing EdPowerment fundraising campaign in March & April with various activities people can participate in

-Pay off all my credit card debt and debt I owe to individuals

-Become more emotionally and physically healthy

-Travel to visit friends in Los Angeles, Portugal and Djibouti

-Write a draft of a travel novel about my experiences visiting over 33 countries

-Spend as much time with my family and friends as possible

After all of the negative things happening in the world, sometimes we have to look at our own lives and the things we can control to remember life can pretty good.  Try to spend this week  thinking about the amazing things that have happened in your life and make some goals for 2013 and plans of how to accomplish them.  Don’t just make new years resolutions to work on for a few weeks and forget about.  Make actual goals and plans to make them happen.

After having the life I thought I wanted fall apart, making goals for change and for new adventure helped me get through it.  And looking back my life now is so much better than it was before this huge change happened.  So give it a try.  What do you want to do next year, where do you want to go, and how do you plan on getting there.  

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Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.  The important thing is not to stop questioning.” 

I think he had a pretty good point.  (:

Happy New Years!

 
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Hello!  Long time and no post!  Sorry about that!  I know in my last post I wrote about how I was going to try to post every week and was going to use my positive attitude to find things in America that were interesting and adventurous.  Since my last post something definitely has happened each week that is interesting and exciting but life in America moves so fast and the things on the to do list keep piling on.  It seems that after one item is checked off or one event ends another one is added or another thing happens.  Often the high speed makes it difficult to slow down and reflect on things.  The goal of this post is not to write about the challenges of life in America but to highlight the adventures I have experienced while living here.  So, here are two of most interesting moments in the last month and a half.  After reading my top two feel free to take a few minutes and leave me a note about your most interesting adventure this month.  With life being so fast sometimes it is nice to stop for a few minutes and think about something crazy, fun, exciting or adventurous and reflect on it.  So please click the comment tab and add your own.  I am interested in you too.(:


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A Hurricane- Sure, why not?

The end of October, Jillian and I took at trip to the east coast to meet with Moira Madonia, our EdPowerment founder, to talk about our programming and fundraising plans.  Before we left my dad said to me, “You are going to New York, are you sure it’s safe?”  My response was, “Dad if you are worried about me travelling to New York, you really need to check your involvement in my life.” At the time, as we both laughed at his question, neither of us had any idea Frankenstorm, the super storm, was on the way to the coast to run over everything in its path.

We got to New York and spent Friday hanging out in New York City (my favorite city in America).  We walked through the amazing fall leaves in Central Park, watched the hustle and bustle of people from all over the world exploring Time Square, met some really awesome old friends for dinner, shared stories and had drinks with another non-profit founder, and had lots of fun.  Saturday we spent the day at Moira’s in New Jersey planning and working on EdPowerment.  Now fully aware of the storm headed our way, we were sure our flight on Sunday night would still take off since the storm wasn’t coming until Monday.  Sunday during a skype meeting with other members of our board, we found out all airlines out of La Guardia were cancelled and we would not be able to get another flight out until after the storm hit.  This meant we were going to wait out the storm in New Jersey and then could maybe get a flight on Wed. evening if La Guardia opened again.  After phone calls to work, family, and friends and planning 3 days of lesson plans for my sub we started to prepare for the storm.  With Moira, her husband, and her son we did some shopping and stocking up on water, food and most importantly- wine.  We charged all of our electronics, pulled out flashlights and prepared for the worst storm ever to hit the east coast.  The power went out Monday night at 6ish and as the wind blew around us at record speeds we tried to sleep.  We woke up to trees down everywhere and power lines all over the streets.  With the power out and no access to the news but the radio we had no idea how bad it was until friends of ours from countries like Canada, Tanzania, and Australia started calling to check in on us because they saw footage we could not.  Some of our friends who didn’t know we were in New York but also did not know the geography of America even called to make sure everyone in Chicago was alright. (: The biggest challenge for us was now figuring out how to get home.  We heard on the radio that La Guardia was mostly underwater and we were not thinking we would make it out on Wed.  I called my school to inform them I had no idea how to get home and to make some plans to prepare for my absence if I was out all week. 

In the afternoon we took a trip to Moira’s friends house where there was a generator.  Walking into her house you would not have had any idea a storm hit.  Music was playing, there was a fire in the fireplace and all the lights were on.  My first thought was how, although this storm has devastated thousands of people on the Eastern seaboard, America has the resources to truly get through so much.  This woman’s generator was big enough to run electricity to surrounding houses and I am sure this mess of a storm will be tended to quickly compared to other parts of the world.  When events like this happen in the underdeveloped countries aid and resources can take months or years to get to people. 

One nice thing about the generator is we were able to charge all of our electronics and call the airlines.  After finding out our flights were cancelled for a while and could not be rescheduled until the following week we started looking into buses.  We thought we could bus to another city like Boston or Philladelphia and fly from there.  Or worst case, we could bus home.  After bus companies were not answering and our inability to access their websites, we tried accessing the airlines.  We found out that all surrounding airports were not running at full capacity and it would be difficult to fly out of them also.  We then called car rental places.  With Moira’s help we were able to secure one of the last cars at Enterprise Rent A Car and had 20 minutes to get to them before they closed for the day.  Racing to get the car and get on the road before it was too dark felt like we in an End of Days type movie were people are trying to run to get out of the danger zone.  We said goodbye to Moira and her family and hit the road around 7pm Tuesday night.  We drove 4 hours through the darkness of hilly Pennsylvania, stopped at a hotel, slept and woke up to drive another 10 hours the next day.  We drove through the snow and rain of the hurricane to make it home in Chicago and return the car without getting charged for another day.  While we were happy to be home, it did feel like we left our friends to weather through it and after getting to the hotel in Pennsylvania and seeing pictures of the devastation for the first time on the news we realized how lucky we were to be where we were throughout the duration of the storm.  So many where devastated by that hurricane and lost so much. The entire eastern seaboard has been changed and will never really be the same.  

On the way home we saw a huge fleet of Com-Ed (the Chicago Electric Company) trucks heading out to the area to help out and although I know the people will be suffering for a long time to come I was appreciative that our country is developed enough to have the resources to deal in times like this, when so many in the world do not have the organization or the systems set in place to deal with something like this.   In the midst of such devastation we sometimes forget how lucky we are to live in a place that has the resources, money, and means to deal with even the worst of situations. My thoughts are always with those that lost everything and I am helping to organize a trip for some of my students to go to the East Coast to help volunteer for spring break, but I also think of the places where things like this happen and there is a lot less money and help.  All in all though, another first to add to my life of adventures- a hurricane and a cross country road trip.


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Jill and I went for a walk in the rain Monday morning to check out the wind of a Hurricane.
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Driving through Pennsylvania it was windy, rainy, and snowy.
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Jill driving at about hour 2 of day 2. Only 8 more hours left at this point.
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Sweet home Chicago!
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Writing....For Real!?!?

As some of you know I have been writing blogs since my first trip to Africa in 2008.  I enjoy writing and telling my stories and a few people have told me to share my stories with magazines or write a book.  I enjoy writing but I have never been sure if I could do anything with it.  I mean, I am a writer who doesn’t know how to use commas (if anyone can help me with that I would greatly appreciate it) and has a major spelling problem.  But then I thought….. I do have some really funny and interesting stories and my life is not at all what you would call traditional...so why not give it a try.  I decided to take a chance and actually see if anything could happen with my writing.  I submitted my first writing piece to the Women’s Adventure Magazine’s website.  And guess what….they published it.  I was so excited to have something I wrote published by someone else, even if it was on their website, that my confidence meter went up a little bit.  I figure most writers also use  editors so maybe with my awful use of grammar and punctuation I still have a chance.  Anyway feel free to check out my first writing submission by clicking the link below.  I am not sure where this will lead or if it will lead anywhere but I am going to submit some more so we will see. 

Womens Adventure Magazine

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Well, more adventures have definitely happened, check out some of the pictures below to see what I have been up too.  But I am also interested to hear yours. 

Click the comment link below and tell me something interesting (:

…..And if interested in what we did accomplish in New York during a hurricane.  Check out some of our new EdPowerment program videos, our website updates, and soon we will have new EdPowerment brochure.  If interested in joining our EdPowerment mailing list email me at: kerrielliott@edpowerment.org  

www.EdPowerment.org

Long Term Sponsorship Program Video

Autism Connects Tanzania Video

 
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Well, I have been home for over a month now and I have had no choice but to jump into the hussle and bussle of American life.  It definitely has not been easy.  In fact it has been down right HARD!  Every time I have ever come back from traveling it is hard.  But this time it wasn’t just a trip or a vacation (even though I did a lot of amazing vacation like stuff).  This time it was a life I lived, with really close friends, amazing work that motivated and inspired me, and people I will always consider family.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how much I loved my experiences around the world and miss every moment.  

In my last blog entry I talked about the intense reverse culture shock I was experiencing and how hard it was to return.   After a few weeks I am happy to report that it has gotten better but I still find myself getting really sad.  It is really challenging because every day I miss something that I encountered overseas.   Things like the slow paced lifestyle, the incredible amounts of contentment and happiness with life, and the appreciation for the small things tend to be not as prevalent here in the US.  
A certain song will come on my ipod and it will make me think of dancing until the morning hours lauging at how much fun can be had. A text from a friend far away about daily life things will make me wish I could be apart of those events and see the people I miss so much.  Presenting on my work with EdPowerment will make me think of the kids and miss my work there and wonder what more I can do.  Everyday there is something and everyday it makes me sad.  Apparently this is what life is like upon return for many people.  Everyone I know who has had similar experiences of living far away in very different cultures claims that this is what coming home is like.  I will often see sad facebook updates saying how much they miss a place or postings of pictures from long ago as people remember their amazing experiences.  People who do what I have done miss it everyday and everything that reminds them  of it can make them sad.  You meet some of the most amazing people in the most amazing places and coming home just doesn't seem nearly as exciting or life changing.  You don’t want to stop missing it because you are scared you will forget the experiences and the people but it makes you sad to remember.  It is the conundrum one is faced with when they love a place and people far away as much as I do.  But I have always been one to believe that you are the one who decides if you are happy or sad so I have decide to find a way to enjoy life regardless of the country code I am living in.  

So how does a person get out of this slump of sadness and misery?  Well one of the things that I loved about traveling was writing about it and hearing from people about their thoughts of my adventures.  Now granted I am in the US now and most of my readers are too, but that doesn’t mean that life here is not funny and interesting and full of crazy adventure.  Weird, entertaining, fascinating things happen everyday and often they go unnoticed.  I learned while travelling that you have to appreciate everything in life and be fully aware of how blessed you are.  As a result I am going to get out of my slump of sadness through writing about the quirky hilarious things that happen and the adventures I am having on US soil.  I originally thought I was going to end my blog upon returning home, that my big adventure was over.  But I am starting to realize that although travelling provides an environment to wander and explore, the true adventure is in how you live your life in the place you are, wherever that may be.  So readers, read on or not - the choice is yours, but I do plan on going back to posting weekly about the wild, wacky world I live in and the way I can turn even the smallest thing into a great adventure. 

I hope you will stay tuned. (: 

And feel free to email me or comment on anything wild and wacky that happens in your life.  I love to hear from people and might even use your stories or comments as future inspiration.

Some pictures of “Merika”



 
One year ago when I titled my personal blog “Cultures Collide” it was because I had planned to visit so many countries over the course of the year and I knew I would see things that differed from my own culture and that would collide with my upbringing. At the time I had no idea that the largest most difficult collision I would experience would be my return to America.

Over the course of my year overseas I have experienced new languages, weird food, vast cultural differences, many hours traveling on weird forms of transportation, living without a fridge oven or car, spending days without electricity or water, having only 3 pairs of shoes and 12 days worth of clothes and not understanding many of the things going around me. I don't know if it is because I have travelled a lot or if I am just a flexible person but all of that was easy compared to returning to the US. Granted I love my amazing US family and friends and seeing them has been wonderful but there are not many people that completely understand what I am going through in returning. Many people have tried to be super supportive, amazing and wonderful.  They have shown me tremendous love in so many ways but to understand the cultural collision that happens upon returning to the US after a year overseas is very difficult unless you have experienced it first hand.

You may be asking what is the big deal Kerri- You grew up here, get over it.  In an attempt to explain what  is happening with me I will explain the 3 biggest challenges I am currently experiencing and you can feel free to comment or criticize if you want.    


Many call this reverse culture shock.  And many people who have traveled extensively for long periods of time have comment that this is the worse kind of culture shock- I tend to agree with them.

The first major challenge I came across was the excessive lifestyle people have here and their need for physical possessions.  After living with just my basic needs for a year I came to realize that you do not need a lot to have a happy life.  We did not have a television, a refrigerator, a car, or many of the luxuries people have in America.  We did not live in a mud hut either with nothing but we had what we needed to get by.  We had a nice house, something to cook with, and our two feet to get around.  Everyday someone had to go to the market to get food to cook and we spent evenings with friends instead of watching television.  Many people here have said to me how did you live like that, but honestly I was the healthiest I have ever been, I made very intense relationships with the people I was friends with, and life was good.  When I returned the first thing that made me overwhelmed was the amount of stuff I had.  Granted before I left I thought I sold everything that I did not need but upon returning I felt like I had more than I would need in a life time.  I was so overwhelmed I went through every area of my house and eliminated half my wardrobe, threw out piles and piles of documents I had been saving since college, and donated many objects that I found to be pointless.  And after all that I still have more clothes than I need and stuff that I know is not important.  When I walk into a store here I feel like there is not a single thing I need and don't even bother looking at clothes anymore because I feel like I have too much.  After a week I still feel overwhelmed about the stuff in my house but what was the hardest was that every piece of clothing and object I donated I knew someone that could benefit from it far away and I knew that many people here are no longer interested in things once they have been used.  In America if it is not new many people are not interested in having it.  The frustrating part about all of this was that  every single thing I got rid of could have been given to someone I knew in far away countries, but to ship the materials would cost more than if I just sent them the money from shipping costs to buy the items there.  Which made me wonder- why as Americans to we feel the need to have so much stuff?  Why does everything we own have to be brand new? And why is it ok that we are ignorant of the fact that we do have so many things when so many people have nothing?

Ok my second cultural shock was the intense sense of urgency and work that exists here.  I have always said that the biggest difference I see between America and other parts of the world is the work load and the drive to have deadlines and schedules for everything.  This compared to the more relaxed attitude I have found in other countries makes me wonder what we are always rushing for.  Coming back I tried to mentally prepare myself for that.  I knew that I started work 5 days after returning home and I knew that it was not going to be easy, but as I sat in our teacher institute day and heard about how many things had to be accomplished by Monday morning I was feeling VERY overwhelmed.  Not only was I overwhelmed but so many other teachers were overwhelmed.  I know that education is not the only field that runs on calendars, to do lists and dead lines but sometimes it makes me wonder why we are so focused on getting so much done.  There are smart phone apps to help you get work done, email alerts to remind you of stuff you have to do, and a calendar on every system we use from paper to email to phones.  With all of that there are also advertisements about medications and therapies for depression, anxiety and things like restless leg syndrome everywhere you look.  Sometimes I wonder if the two things are not linked.  As I have gotten SO overwhelmed by the intensity of our developed advanced nation I also wondered if maybe we have made ourselves so focused on schedules and work that we have also made ourselves crazy.  Since being home I have tried to connect with many people and the thing that always amazes me is how scheduled they are and how they have to rearrange their schedules to see their friends or spend time with their family.  I am not sure if the way we live in the US is good for our mental health but I do know that one of the best things I learned this year while travelling is that is ok to slow down and take time to get things done.  The world will not come to an end if you are not doing everything or scheduled every hour of the day.  Sometimes relaxing and letting life happen to you is good too.  Now the trick is making my new way of thinking fit into my old American life.

After the intense throwing out of all my unneeded things and the decision to not obsess over my schedule, calendar, or to do list- I thought ok maybe I could do this.  Maybe if I just slow down and relax I will be ok.  That is when the phone calls started from my students in Tanzania.  It started during institute day when Humphrey, a student Jill and I took care of all year, called to say hi, see how I was and asked me to come back.  Then this morning Raphaeli, another student I have worked with for 3 years called to say hi and tell me he misses me.  Honestly I know that there are kids at my school in America that need me and there is alot I can do here also and the more people keep telling me that the more I don't want to hear it because no matter how many America students need me it is still hard to tell a kid without parents living by himself in his dead grandmothers house that I cannot come back right now but miss him also.  I love teaching- I love being in the classroom and I love the students I see everyday at Antioch they are great kids and the teachers are amazing people who I love to work with, but it is just not the same.  Helping kids find food, clothing, shelter, education access and civil rights when they have disabilities is so much different for me than teaching in America with computers, diversity clubs, sports teams, and enough resources to teach every kid in a different way.  



As much as I am trying and trying and trying to make it work and not be cynical and critical- It has been hard.  My new culture that has been built from my amazing experience has decided not only is it going to collide but it is going to smash everything I once knew about life to bits.   It is hard to look around and see how much stuff we have here and wonder do we need it when so many others are struggling.  It is hard to enjoy life here when overwhelmed by the amount that is expected and demanded of one person with so little respect for their personal time to live.  And it is hard to look at our textbooks, computers, and large teaching staffs and not think about kids over the ocean who only have pens and paper.  Kids who learn about computers but will never see one.  Kids who memorize the parts of a microscope but never actually use one.  


Those in the US that deal with me daily, and those in Tanzania that get my many sad texts messages please just know I am trying, please be patient with me.  I did not just go on vacation for a year.  I worked really hard, made a life for myself, and enjoyed everything about it everyday.  I love seeing every single person I am getting to see again in America and I love talking about what I missed and catching up but I also miss where I was, what I was doing, and the amazing people I fell in love with while I was there.  


So.....What have I learned about cultural collision........When do cultures collide?


Cultures collide when you go somewhere really really different for a while.  To a place that impacted your heart and mind and sent you home to realize you have forever been changed.

 
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The person who first said “Time flies when you are having fun” must have been having a lot of fun because I cannot believe how fast time can fly.   In about one week I will be returning to the United States after 13 months of hoping around the world like a ping pong ball and I cannot believe it.

There are only 9 days left before I return to the land of SUV’s, drive through restaurants, and prime time television and leave behind dirt roads, beans and rice, and nights without electricity.  That's 216 hours until I see my family in the US, say goodbye to my new family in Tanzania.  And 12,960 minutes until I go through the crazy reverse culture shock that everyone experiences when they have been somewhere really different for a while.  And 777,600 seconds until the part of my heart that loves Africa breaks and the family at home that loves me immensely tries to put it back together again. 

People both in the US and in TZ keep asking me how I am doing as the day gets closer and closer.  And honestly every time they ask I get a bit more unsure of how I am doing.  This week I was presenting about Edpowerment to the Moshi Town Rotary Club and after my presentation someone asked when I was leaving.  I told them the date and they told me I only had one full week left.  That was the day it for the first time set in my head that I only have one full week left.  I had a bit of a panic attack and thought- wow!  How did this happen so fast?  How am I going to say goodbye to all the amazing people I have met this year?  How am I going to leave the Kilimahewa kids and say goodbye to the Gabriella children?  How am I going to leave the amazing groundbreaking work we do here?  All of these questions came flooding at me and as excited as I am to see everyone in the US and have some of the things I missed while I was here, I was freaking out a bit.  When talking to one of the Kilimahewa students about leaving he said we need to spend a day in one room and just cry together and that pretty much summed up how I was feeling. 

To be honest, and everyone that knows me well would tell you, I don’t freak out a bit- I freak out a lot.  So there was some stupid arguing that happened with people for no reason, I came down with malaria which lead to me feeling sorry for myself, I  slept for 3 days, I tried to pack then got upset and unpacked, I lied to my parents telling them I was so excited to come home skype after skype conversation, and pretty much started to panic. 

Then last night I thought to myself- why would I spend my last week of this amazing adventure panicking.  Why would I fight with the people I love to push them away?  Why would I not be super excited about going home?  And I started to look at my return to the US as a next step in a much larger adventure I am having.  


I will have been gone for exactly 13 months when I finally arrive on US soil.  I have spent 390 days in 13 different countries.  I tried for 9,360 hours to communicate in different languages.  I enjoyed 561,600 minutes meeting different amazing people.  And was educated for 33,696,000 seconds in different perspectives on life and learned more about myself than I ever have. 

Now I am coming home to an amazingly fun family, some great wonderful friends, some already scheduled trips to visit people around the US, and a job I love.  Yes- I am totally going to miss every single person I know in TZ and I am going to miss everything I do here, but I miss that about America too.  So instead of panicking and stressing I am making a conscience decision to tell myself what I tell my parents over and over.  



I am excited about coming home. 


 I am excited about coming home. 


 I am excited about coming home.  


And not only am I telling myself that but I actually believe it also.  I am excited to see everyone, to laugh with my amazing family, to drive my car, to drink a starbucks coffee, to watch the Dirty Birds play hockey, to eat Mexican food, to go to a movie and to just live in America for a while.  

I have no idea what life might bring me in the next months so instead of stressing over the change I am choosing to embrace it.  I promised my mom a shopping trip.  I promised my dad to spend a weekend with him at our family summer home.  I promised my best friend Krista a movie night and Jonte a visit to New York.  All of these things I am so excited about. 

So I decided to take this opportunity to make a plan for my next adventure. My goals in the upcoming year…..

1) Get to know my family and friends again.  Participate in as many BBQ’s, movie nights, happy hours, and fun events as I possibly can.  I have missed a lot and am anxious to get to know my godchildren, close friends, and meet my new family members that were born while I was away.

2)  Become financially secure  again so I can take as many trips around the world in life as I can afford.  Sorry mom but once you travel like I have you don’t really want to stop.

3)  Fundraise as much as possible to fund Kilimahewa and the Gabriella Center and search for grants for Edpowerment programs.  Anyone looking to help with this please email me.  I NEED a small army of people to help me.

4)  Meet as many new people as possible and have fun and laugh a lot.  People are funny and when I don’t have to fight with a cultural barrier that makes sarcasm look like you are just being mean this should be easy to do.

5)  Every week do one thing that is different, fun, and exciting and completely out of my normal schedule.  Any ideas?

6)  Practice Swahili- possibly teach it - Anyone interested?

7)  Remember the things I love about America and try really not to be cynical, angry, or depressed about the differences between America and 3rd world countries.   This is always the hardest part for me- especially in an election year.  But US family and friends- I promise to try. (:

8) Try to Love every minute of the time I will be there because it is just another part of a larger adventure. 

So am I panicked- of course I am, but am I ready- most definitely.  America here I come!  


And everyone I have spent time with in the last 13 months, 390 days, 9,360 hours, 561,600 minutes, and 33,696,000, I could not have asked for a better experience, closer friends, more wonderful students, or another minute of happiness.  It was amazing and although it flew "in a blink of a hat" (as my friend Katie would say) I have loved every single month, day, hour, minute, and second I was blessed to be able to do it.

And Mom-  how about tacos for dinner and a starbucks ice coffee with a little bit of cream when you pick me up at the airport. Love you!

See everyone soon!

(: K


 
Sorry for the long delay in posts but this month was easily the most intense month we have had here in Tanzania.  It was the most amazing, stressful, wonderful, inspiring, tiring and fabulous month we have had to date since being here.  Here is a recap of what has been going on:

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Autism Connects Tanzania hosts ground breaking activities
This year in Tanzania, Jillian and I had the goal to develop our Autism Connects Tanzania project and lay the ground work for what hopes to be an amazing program supporting and fighting for the rights of children with intellectual disabilities.  This month this program really was able to make it’s mark on the area we serve.  Check out our short summaries of each event that occurred in the last month:


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Special Needs Roundtable Discussion:

On June 26th, ACT hosted one of the first ever Special Needs Roundtable Discussions.  At this meeting 50 people came to discuss the problems associated with special education in Tanzania and started to work together to brainstorm solutions.  Government officials, special needs teachers, NGO workers, and some parents attended and were able to for the first time hear multiple points of view on the issue of educating special needs students.  Government officials talked about how costly Special Education is compared to regular education and the need to meet the needs of all children but their uncertainty on how to do that.  Teachers talked about the lack of proper training and resources to help these children.  NGO workers talked about their difficulty supporting each other and their need to start to build more relationships with schools.  Parents addressed the little information they have on how to help their children within their homes.  In the end the group discussed solutions and shared ideas for how to start to help this population of people.  They asked for more workshops where they could share these ideas and were very grateful to be invited to the seminar and start to fight the stigma as a larger group instead of small individual entities.  


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Gabriella Center gets a New Playground for Special Needs Students

Earlier this year we were approached by the Gabriella Center about their need for a play area for kids to work on their motor skills.  We discussed with one of our donors, the District 117 Interact Club in Antioch, IL, and talked about the idea of them helping to develop the playground and to build it when their volunteers came in June.  The club agreed and raise $616 to build the project and this month the vision that was created by the American teenagers came to fruition with the construction of Gabriella’s First playground structures.  What was great about this was that not only did American students come from America to help build their design but the teenagers from the Kilimahewa Education Center were able to spend the days at Gabriella helping to build the playground as well.  It was the first time donors and two of our supported schools were able to come together and help each other and now the students of Gabriella have an amazing place to play.  


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Special Education Resource Fair

On July 14th Autism Connects Tanzania hosted the first Special Education Resource Fair.  We invited different organizations that work to help kids with special needs to come and present about their organizations to parents, other organizations, and government officials.  85 people attended the conference and 16 different organizations presented on their programs, their challenges and the support they can offer children with intellectual disabilities.  This was an amazing networking event where schools needing teachers were able to speak to professors from the local teacher college, where organizations that provide wheelchairs were able to meet with organization looking for wheelchairs, and where parents were able to learn about services they never knew existed.  It was a great day and everyone left feeling empowered to work together to help these children and fight the stigma of special needs here in Tanzania.


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Autism Screening Clinic

This week we are grateful to host Dr. Ashley Johnson from Brown University Medical School.  Ashley is a psychologist and has come to Tanzania to help run one of the first ever Autism screening clinics at the Gabriella Center sponsored by Autism Connects Tanzania.  The screening clinic will meet with 20 families to determine if their children have a high, medium, or low prevalence of autism.  The clinic will then offer some strategies for families to work with their children in their homes and talk to families about special needs services in the area.  Families are coming from all over Tanzania and will also be receiving occupational therapy training from the Gabriella Center Occupational Therapists.  It is a great step is many needed to helping support families with kids with autism.


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Special Programming for the Kilimahewa Education Center 
This month Edpowerment was also able to organize a few special projects at Kilimaehwa Education Center to enhance the learning being done within this education center.  Below are some of our programs this month:

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Cultural Exchange Presentations

For the last month we have been working with the Kilimahewa afterschool group to plan presentations on Tanzania that the group presented this month to the various visitors that have come to volunteer with EdPowerment.  The kids of the group made a long list of things that foreigners should know about Tanzania and then narrowed down their list to create 6 different presentations on important topics foreigners should know.  The groups presented on Tanzanian culture, language, environment, national parks, development, and entertainment.  The students of Kilimaehwa worked hard to plan their presentations and then to write out what they were going to say in English and present to the visitors in their best English.  It was great to watch and fun for everyone to participate in.  

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Sports Day

This month the students of Kilimahewa were able to participate in our biannual sport day event to celebrate the end of their first semester of classes.  The boys were able to play soccer and the girls played netball and basketball.  Lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were prepared by American volunteers to give the kids a taste of what food is like in America.  It was a fun day enjoyed by all.


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The Kilimahewa Mural Project

Over the last few weeks the kids of the Kilimahewa afterschool group have also been working to design and paint a mural that represents their school and values on the gates of Kilimahewa.  This Saturday they will work on painting the design but they have spent this last week working to prime the gates and prepare for the mural.  The kids have selected their school moto as “Education is the Key to Life” and have selected the symbols they want on the gate (Mt. Kilimanjaro, books, sunflowers, teachers, students).  They have drawn a variety of sketches of their ideas and Jillian is working to create one clear drawing with their work.  This Saturday all the kids will come to school to help paint the gate and have lunch to celebrate their hard work in designing this project.  


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8 visitors came from the US, Canada, and Portugal to volunteer

Due to the summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere many people have time during this time of year to travel.  We were lucky enough to be visited by various people wanting to come and volunteer.  


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Our first volunteer was Maria Garcia Lopes a professor of veterinary science from Portugal.  Maria came and volunteered teaching Biology classes, learning about Tanzania and visiting EdPowerment programs.  She had such a positive experience at the Kilimahewa Education Center that she plans to return to Portugal and work on collecting donations to ship laboratory equipment that will help create the first ever science lab at Kilimahewa.


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Our next volunteer was from California named Katie Moorhead.  Katie works on her own sponsorship program in Tanzania through EdPowerment called the Waka Waka Project.  She currently sponsored 15 students in various schools around the Karanga area and came for 3 months to oversee her student sponsorship students.    Check out her work at:   www.thewakawakaproject.org

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We were then visited by Andrew Harvey from Canada who volunteered at Kilimahewa 3 years ago and has been studying Linguistics at the University of Dar.  He came for a week to help us with translating Swahili and working with the kids of Kilimahewa.  After Andrew’s visit he wrote a short testimonial about the changes he saw while here….

During my time at Kilimahewa (roughly 3 months in 2009), the ability of the education centre to deliver a quality standard of education to its students was limited.  Government approved textbooks, teaching manuals, as well as other important school supplies were sorely lacking, and I remember many days where three to four students would sit around one tiny, lopsided table sharing one outdated textbook.

                  During a short return visit to Kilimahewa (one intensive week in 2012), I can see that the impact EdPowerment has had on the education centre is concrete and systemic.  School infrastructure has been ameliorated (better desks, a new chalkboard, waste-disposal facilities, etc.), as well as the school library.  Every student now has access to their own government-approved textbook – bringing Kilimahewa near to or at par with its government counterparts.  In addition to this, the overall quality of English at the school has increased – girls and boys showing a marked improvement in English pronunciation and sentence formation.  The changes are not limited to this: EdPowerment has both actively sought, as well as fostered a young, enthusiastic teaching staff – seeking out progressive-minded educators from the region, and offering them sponsorships to further their studies in pedagogy.  The overall time teachers spend in class has increased dramatically, as well as the range of topics covered and the depth to which they are addressed.  Daily assemblies of the student body have been implemented, where students share learnings, deliver important messages, and generally build and strengthen the school identity.  In the three short years which separate my first arrival at the school and my return, the change has been astounding.


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On the 23rd of June we were grateful to receive 2 teenage students from my school district and my co-worker and friend Nancy Clutter from the District 117 Interact Club in Antioch, IL.  The group came to visit the Kilimahewa Education Center, work with the afterschool group, help build a playground for the Gabriella Center, and help with a our Kilimahewa sports day.  Their visit had a huge impact on American teenagers but also on the Kilimahewa students since it was the first time that they had met foreign teenagers their own age.  


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A psychology under-graduate from Rutgers University named Sam arrived on July 5th to work for three months within EdPowerment programs.  Sam is spending his time two days a week at the Gabriella Center working with students with intellectual disabilities and than two days a week at Kilimahewa Education Center teaching English and taking over our afterschool group when we leave.


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Our last volunteer, Ashley Johson, arrived on July 11th.  Ashley is a PH.D. Fellow who works for Brown University and is here for two weeks running an autism screening clinic.  This is the first ever screening clinic and diagnostic testing that has been done in this area and is some amazing ground breaking work.  


As you can see this month has been amazing, stressful, wonderful, inspiring, tiring and fabulous.  In the next three weeks Jillian and I are starting to prepare for our departure from Tanzania and our reentry into American life.  This is going to be a difficult for both of us and even though we miss our American friends and family leaving after a year like this it will be a huge challenge.   I will post a few more times before I leave but please if you like what we are doing check out our website and donate a few dollars to help our cause.  Every little bit helps.

www.edpowerment.org

Miss you all! (:


 
One of the amazing things that Jillian and I are participating in while we are here in Tanzania is the creation of a comic book on child’s rights.  We are working with an organization called Mkombozi, which works with street children and promotes child rights in Northern Tanzania.  One of the administrative staff members approached us about helping them work with the street children in their group home to create a kid friendly comic book promoting child rights.  To do this Jill and I met with the kids at the center a few times and talked to them about child rights.   We gathered many ideas from the kids and put together a story line for a comic book that we are currently working with an artist to now create and give out to 5,000 kids across Northern Tanzania in the upcoming months.  Although the comic book is still in the works  to kick off their large campaign on child rights (haki ya watoto) Mkombozi had an event in Moshi for the children in town to celebrate their rights and to celebrate all the youth of Moshi.

All children were invited to this event and Jillian and I gave out invitations to our students at Kilimaehwa Education Center.  We told the kids it was up to them to get to the event and that we would be there to hang out with them but they had to talk to their parents about going and getting home.  The location of the event was on the opposite side of town and required the kids to take two dala dala (public buses) to get there and then to walk for about 25 minutes.  We did not think that the kids would show up but they seemed really excited about it.  Saturday morning, the day of the event, one of the children called us to tell us he was there and we needed to hurry up and come hang out with them. 

We arrived there at 10:30am to see 25 of our Kilimahewa students there.  We were so surprised and excited to see them.  They had gotten up early and many had arrived when the event first started at 8am.  While there we hung out with the kids, told stories, encouraged them to watch the presentations, to learn about their rights, and we laughed and danced.  The special needs students from Gabriella Center (another school we support) sang a song about children and other school groups performed.  We treated the kids to popsicles and enjoyed the day with them.  It was a great day and so much fun to see the Kilimahewa kids involved with the local community. 

Although the comic book is still in the works and we are hoping to have it published and distributed to children in both Moshi and Arusha before we leave in the beginning of August.  It is our hope that this book helps educate children and parents on children’s rights and gives kids something positive to read.  When we finish I will publish the comic book for you to see on my blog. 

Here are some pictures of the Kilimaehwa kids from the amazing event this weekend.  

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25 students showed up on their own to participate in the event
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It was so much fun
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Winifreda wore her EdPowerment t-shirt
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The kids dancing
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Salvatory and Peter enjoying popsicles
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Joseph's serious face
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Some of the girls
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Reading the Rights of children and smiling for the camera
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Some of the older girls
 
Sorry for the late blog entry….

For the last month I have been travelling around East Africa.  I have visited different places I have never been in Tanzania, seen some of the amazing beaches of Kenya, Trekked with gorillas in Rwanda, and visited the Source of the Nile River in Uganda.  It has been a pretty amazing journey.  Before I left on this long adventure one of my aunts asked me, “Kerri, you visit some amazing places but I still don’t understand why you love to
live in East Africa?”  This answer is not always the easiest for people to understand.  The things that make this place very different from America and very difficult to live in, are sometimes the same things I love most about it.  So in an effort to help everyone I love understand why I chose to try to live here this blog is dedicated to some of those reasons.  

Just for comparison purposes….

In the United States I am a highly educated award-winning teacher (so fancy I know but I am proud of that) who works long hours for my students.  I am insecure at times about life and some times get so passionate about my work that I can argue about the smallest things or break into tears over my frustration of the slow pace of educational change in America.  My co-workers spend a lot of time making fun of how involved I get in school and my need “to save the world,” one after school group at a time.  I run a Model United Nations and Interact Service Club.  I keep score at the volleyball games and take tickets at the football games.  It would be an understatement to say that I live for my work or that my work is my life.  I lived the last few years in a suburb 45 minutes outside of Chicago where the houses were pretty much the same and the grocery stores, restaurants, and places to go for fun were all corporate chains.  On the weekends I hung out with my family, ran activities at my school, or watched tv or talked to friends on the internet.  All events with friends generally had to be scheduled in advance because people were so busy with America’s crazy work expectations that no one had time for spontaneity and everyone had wall calendars, phone calendars, and email calendars to keep them on track.  I love to travel to fun and exotic places but many of my friends have kids and realistically their idea of travel is weekend trips to Wisconsin, weeks in Florida or other small trips due to the short amount of days people were given off of work.  Don’t get me wrong I love my life there and it is an interesting one full of amazing students, fun times, and wonderful family and friends.  I love Sunday mornings with Bill Mahr and Starbucks Coffee.  I love to go to the Chicago museums, eat at cool restaurants, or to just walk around Millennium Park.  But for me after everything I have done and all the places I have been at times every day in the US tends to feel the same.

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In Tanzania I live in the north of the country, in one of the most beautiful, environmentally diverse regions, I have ever visited in all my travels.  I live in a middle sized city called Moshi full of crazy and insane interactions and experiences.  In a way of life that is completely different to what I am used to in the United States I am amazed every day by the things that surrounded us….


Everyday when I wake up I look out my back window to a view of Mount Kilimanjaro.  And everyday the view gives me the chills just looking at it.  It is the largest free-standing mountain in the world and with the glacier on top it looks like a massive piece of ice and rock that could kill anyone who challenged it.  But for me, I do not think of the rock and ice or of the thousands of people that are on the mountain that day trying to reach its peak, instead I think of possibilities.  It is this mountain that people come from all over the world to climb and stand on the top of so they can say they reached the roof of Africa.  The mountain provides jobs to hundreds of people in the region and brings so much money in the form of tourism to the area.  The glacier at the top provides water to thousands of people that would not have it otherwise. The slopes of the immense mountain are full of coffee plantations and banana trees that so many people work to earn a profit from.  Every time I see Kilimanjaro on a clear day I think.-  Wow, Amazing!   

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View from my backyard window
We then spend time at Kilimahewa Education Center or Gabriella Center with amazing children who come from all over the area to get an education.  Some of our kids walk hours to get to school and then stay after school and on Saturdays just for some extra help that might help them pass the national exam and determine if they can have a secondary school education.  The kids at Gabriella have huge smiles and are so happy for positive attention that they light up a room when they walk in.  The kids listen to every word and although they do not always understand our messages they truly want and are grateful for every moment we spend with them.  Our afterschool group teaches leadership and life skills and you can see our students implementing the lessons they learned through their interactions with each other, their teachers, and through the stories they tell about their homelives.  Our outreach programs work with parents craving information about their child’s disabilities and you can see the small amount of hope they have start to shine brighter at the possibilities of support.  The desire for education and appreciation from students, parents, and organizations we work with warms my heart and is the most rewarding thing I have every experienced from a job.

Moshi, the town we live is a small town that booms due to tourism and a huge sugar plantation but if you travel west an hour you come to a much larger city called Arusha full of business, development, and many people. Both cities are full of traffic and congested with cars, people, motorbikes, buses, and businesses on street corners with funny names like “Chicken Pub”.   One of the things I love most about this part of where I live is the drive to Arusha.  On the way to Arusha you go from the lush forests and crops that fill the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to a vast open Savannah full of Acacia trees and people that live like nomads traveling around looking for water, food, and business.  You look out over the rolling planes and see the dust, the trees, and the moving people and I think of the Africa one envisions before they know better.  I think of ancient Africa with warring tribes, spears, mud huts, and people wearing small loin clothes from old history books.  This is the stereotypical perspective that most Americans have of Africa and is not completely accurate today but looking at this vast Savannah you can imagine what it was like and actual envision it coming to life.  

When you live in a place like I do you often miss the small things from home that make you so feel comfortable.  You miss silly things like good coffee, comfortable couches, places to hang out where you won’t get bothered because you are a minority.  When you are in the United States you have access to these things everywhere you go.  A cup of Starbucks coffee just becomes a part of normal life.  Sitting in a cute café with comfortable couches is not really as exciting because they are on every corner.  You walk down the street and everyone in the United States looks different so people leave you alone and you can go about your business without talking to anyone.  In East Africa good coffee, comfortable couches in cafes, and places where you don’t stand out like the statue of liberty exist but they are rare.  When you find them you love them for the happiness they bring you that you never would have thought a comfortable coach could bring you.  You get excited to go to them and you make special trips to visit these places just to get that feeling.  If they have wireless (which does exist here in some places) you get even more excited and sink back into your American habits of playing on your ipod and not talking to the people around you.  You love it and tell all your other friends about it because you want them to share in that feeling and go with you.  This new appreciation for the small things in life makes you happy you live in a place where you can finally see the value of the miniscule experience of living.

Living in a place like this you also learn about how to live differently, you have to  adapt, learn how to relax and wait, and learn a new form of patience.  Life here is very slow and so much different than the United States.   The work ethic is almost the opposite of what you see in America and the values of life are very different.  The culture you have to adjust to here is one built on relationships and social interactions.  People value each other and interactions as a way to share stories, gather information, and do business.  Working is important and there are systems and rules but often nothing can be done here without talking to many people, making others feel comfortable in the process, and not stressing over small things that might derail your scheduled day.  As a result working and living here leads to different experiences everyday and everyday is spent waiting for someone or something.  I cannot tell you of a single day that has been the same as any other day.  Everywhere we go we meet people, talk and socialize and develop new ideas of how to improve what we are doing or how we are living.  These interactions happen on the street corners, in offices of friends, at the grocery store, next to the bus stand, in the road, everywhere.  Everyday our planned workday changes, we talk and work with different people, and we hang out with friends and relax without a pressure to get work done for the next day. In one day you might have to have 15 conversations to get one piece of information, or call 3 people to find out where your meeting is, or stop in five different offices to get one important document. It often takes so long to accomplish tasks here that after one day you feel like you have worked for a month.  You might be thinking that it sounds exhausting but for me this means everyday is a different challenge and you get to visit different places and talk to different people everyday.  Monotonony does not exist in this part of the world, at least not in our lives.  This also means I get to have spontaneous experiences every day.  I can see my friend on the street and get a coffee and no one questions my work ethic.  I can meet someone in the morning for a meeting and then decide to stop and visit a students home and it is completely normal.  I can plan an amazing autism conference with a group of people and trust that word of mouth will attract people to come without trying to fight people to listen to me through their blue tooths, cell phones, and busy schedules.  I have also come to learn how to survive it without getting frustrated and now I find I thoroughly enjoy the slow pace of life here.  

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You have to scratch cards and enter number into your phone to make it work. Sometimes they only have 75 cent vochers and you can spend 15 minutes scratching them and entering them.
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You order food and drinks but might wait an hour for someone to bring you a bill. Service is very slow here.
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Everyday you have to go to the market to buy what you need that day for dinner. And if you need rice you have to go through it and get rid of the rocks and sticks before cooking it. It is much more difficult than Uncle Bens.
These are just a few of the things that I love about where I live but over the last month I have also been able to experience some of the amazing beauty and breathtaking environments that exist in Africa.  Traveling around Africa is not easy.  It requires lots of patience, many bus rides, lot of confusing situations and long hours waiting but once you reach different places you see things like you would never imagine.  The animals are incredible and things like the National Parks, Nile River or Lake Victoria are vast and are still great examples of natural untouched beauty.  You don’t see crazy high rise hotels or paved roads full of corporations trying to make a profit.  Instead you see a natural environment and the people around it not even aware of the rarity of the place they live.  I cannot put into words the amazing things I have seen so check out these pictures below and just imagine you are there.

Last but not least the most important reason I love living here is the people I have come to know.  In the US I often feel like I am not completely understood.  In my life I have travelled to 6 continents, 33 different countries, on over 20 different airlines.  I don’t know why I have done these things other than I love the adventure, meeting new people, going to new places, and feeling challenged.  I have seen the amazing ancient buildings and structures like Stonehedge, The Greek Parthenon, The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Ankor Wat, and Wat Pol.  I have seen wild animals such as lions, giraffes, whales, gorillas, seals, elephants and others in their natural habitat.  I have stood on huge rugged cliffs on the edges of Europe, America, New Zealand, and Thailand and stared into every major ocean. I have hiked through rainforests, trekked up mountains, ridden a bike down a volcano, and rafted through major rivers.  I have lived an awesome life and I am only 31.  I do not have a house or apartment in the US, anything I do own is in boxes at my parents house.  I am no longer married and everyday unsure of what the future may hold but I know I love my life.

When you have lived the way I have lived and seen the things I have seen it is sometimes really hard find people who understand you.  Here I have been able to meet people who have done similar things, people searching out adventure, people wanting to live non traditional lives and I don’t feel a need to have to explain myself.  

I will be leaving this amazing place and returning home to America in 2 months.  I know my family is very excited and I am very excited to see them but before I come home I did want wanted to answer my aunts question about why I stopped in East Africa.  I love living here because I love the amazing environments, the rewarding work I do, the new appreciation for the small things in life, the relaxing pace of life, the untouched beauty that exists and the wonderful people I have met.  

I hope everyone is well and you had a great Memorial Day weekend!  Talk to you soon!  More blog posts will be coming soon!

 
Dear lovely friends, family, and EdPowerment Supporters,

We are really in need of your assistance in helping us to fundraise for our Autism Awareness Project, Autism Connects Tanzania.  Through this project we hope to help fund outreach education to fight the large stigma people face here and help create a strong program to help students with intellectual disabilities at the Gabriella Center here in Moshi Tanzania.  We are in need of some amazing people to help us with our work here and help us find ways to help children here with intellectual disabilities find services.  Check out our fundraising page for more details. (www.razoo.com/story/Stepping-Up-For-Special-Needs)

A question in your mind might be….What can I do to help?  The biggest thing we are in need of is people to help host fundraisers and raise money and awareness about our cause.  I realize some people may not know about different ways to fundraise so this blog is dedicated to all the ways that we and EdPowerment Supporters have raised funds in the past.  Please help us fight the huge stigma that literally locks families and children in their homes.  Check out the fundraising ideas below and think of something that may work for you to help us step up against the stigma.

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Host a Dinner Party- Invite guests to come to a fun night out.  Use a theme to make things more interesting.  Inform them about EdPowerment (we can email you some informational materials or you can use our videos on you tube) and about our fight for children with special needs here.  Ask them for donations or have fun activities encouraging them to donate such as raffles or games.  Some themes that have been successful include: Wine Tastings, Beer Tastings, Murder Mystery Game, Spaghetti Dinner, Chili Cook Off, BBQ


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Have a silent Auction at your workplace- Collect donations from local businesses and auction them off in the staff office.  It is a fun way to get people involved and with some good donations you can really collect some amazing funds for our autism project.  

Create a team to perform a physical task (such as a 5K)- have everyone collect sponsorships donations.  We can send you our logo that you can also use to have t-shirts made for the day of the event.  


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Collect Spare Change- Ask people to donate any spare change they have at home.  You can create some decorative containers and put them in different places in your office or school.  You can call it something creative like Change to make a Change.

Host a Music Event-  ask a local musician that you know to perform and charge for entrance or invite people and ask for donations.  We can send you pictures or a slide show that you can use to show people where the money is going to be donated to.  


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Have a games night- Invite people to attend and collect donations.  With a games night people will be encouraged to participate in the fun of the event and then showing them pictures, videos and explaining the cause can encourage them to donate. Some Games nights that have been successful include:  Bingo, Bowling-a-thon, Horseshoes, Casino Night

Have a Talent Show- With friends, family, or co-workers host a talent show encouraging people to get involved.  Have people participate and then vote on a winner.  During the event you can explain the cause, collect donations, or charge tickets for entrance to the event.


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Create and sell T-shirts- Come up with a creative t-shirt design and sell your shirts to raise money.  We can send you our logos for ACT and EdPowerment to help with this.

Have a Garage Sale or Yard Sale- Sell your old items to collect some money to donate for the cause.  People love to go to garage sales and at your sale you can post information about Autism and the Autism Connects Tanzania project.  (We can send you any information or pictures to help you with this)


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Sell Food or other items- Everyone loves some good food.  You can buy or make some delicious home baked goods and sell them at work or at school.  With each food product you can place a little tag with information about our cause and our fight for kids with autism.  Some things people have sold in the past include: Candy Sale, Bake Sale, Gourmet Cooking

Have a fundraiser at a local business- Some local businesses have designated days where people can come to their locations and have fundraisers.  Talk to some in your area about how they have fundraised before and see if this might work for you.  Some places that have fundraisers include: Baskin Robbins, Different Fast Food locations, and some hold coupon fundraisers.  



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We really want to help make sure that all children have access to support and education they need regardless of their disability.  Please help us and either donate or host a fundraiser to help us raise the funds to hire a occupational therapist and a teacher for the Gabriella Center. 

Every $1 makes a difference.  Check out our fundraising page and tell all your friends about our cause.  (Stepping Up For Special Needs)

Thanks Again for all your continued support!!

Miss you all!