How we got here:
Uswege and I met for the first time, as we were both Volunteer Program Coordinators for Support for International Change (www.sichange.org). We spent that time living in villages outside of Arusha and Babati conducting HIV awareness campaigns, addressing an issue which was deeply personal for both of us. Similar experiences had shaped the way we view the world and our connection to it; choices we’ve made and responsibilities in how we treat every person we meet. The curriculum for SIC included a section on life skills that Uswege and I always felt held the greatest importance in driving behavior change - there was an untapped potential that we knew was the key towards impacting communities at a grassroots level. Gaining an understanding of each other we came to realize that it wasn’t just our birthday we shared, but also a mindset in regards to community development and education. Brothers brought together for a reason.
When the volunteer program ended I began working as the Full Circle After-School Program Director for The Foundation for Tomorrow (www.thefoundationfortomorrow.org). It was during this time working with TFFT’s incredible students and staff that I came to realize the tremendous impact that comes from teaching students Life Skills and see it in action - so I created a curriculum based on the lessons we put together. Once again Uswege joined me – as a Guest Teacher for Life Skills classes, as an intern in the TFFT office, and as a colleague in presenting the Life Skills curriculum to TFFT partner schools. It was through these experiences teaching and presenting together that we were really able to see the difference we could make in the world through empowering young people - and I knew at that point I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to it.
Already working together for 11 months, we decided to establish a partnership with a friend of mine: Anne Harman. Anne had created an HIV/AIDS educational game called Game for the World (www.gamefortheworld.com) which encourages discussion and promotes learning in the most incredible way. Together we decided to conduct a pilot project in Uswege’s hometown of Mbeya, deep in the southern highlands of Tanzania bordering Malawi to the south. We conducted the project and played the game with students at Uswege’s former primary and secondary schools, while living with his family at their home in Mbalizi. We managed and ran every aspect of the project together, working tirelessly day in and day out. This project really showed us what we were capable of and allowed us to see what we could create with our own passion, ambition and hard work. I left Tanzania a week after finishing that project in Mbeya, but Uswege and I knew that it wasn’t the end of our work together – instead it was the beginning of something much bigger.
After a few months of processing my emotions and drawing on the experiences I had, I wrote down my first ideas for RENEW in January 2012. Immediately I shared my plans with Uswege, and the dream grew and developed: youth leadership workshops which encourage creativity and participatory learning while empowering students to take action in their communities.
After returning back to Tanzania in February, Uswege and I spent a month creating RENEW - brainstorming, planning and developing curriculum. The first workshop was held in mid-April in Arusha with Secondary Students from The Foundation for Tomorrow. Uswege and I then traveled through the Southern Highlands of Tanzania to his hometown of Mbeya and held our second workshop at Uswege's former school - Itende Secondary School. Shortly after the workshop I returned home to Arizona, to establish RENEW as a nonprofit organization and bring together a team of dedicated individuals.
Where we are now:
Since 2013, RENEW has reached nearly 1,500 young people throughout Tanzania.
In early 2016, RENEW launched workshops in northern Arizona and have already reached more than 100 students there.
Students who participate in RENEW workshops discover their unique potential, step into their power, and start living their dreams from an early age.
To help us reach more youth, donate here: https://renew.causevox.com/