How the Sisters of Mary are helping the poorest children in Tanzania to study, work, play, and pray with joy

In September 2023, World Villages for Children and the Sisters of Mary opened Dodoma Boys’ School in Tanzania, in response to the desperate need and severe poverty in the region. Nicola Lawson and Carey Evans from the World Villages for Children team went to Dodoma to see the progress being made …

In the country, our team witnessed the brutal aspects of poverty and how it affects the most vulnerable in society. The word “poverty” is used so much in our day-to-day work, but seeing it first-hand drove home the harsh realities people face on a daily basis and the trauma that it leaves behind for so many vulnerable people.

Poverty, disease and disability – the complex home lives of children in Tanzania

Our team visited homes in local communities to meet students’ families. We learnt more about their lives, the vital need for education provision and how the chance of an education can transform a whole family’s situation.

Tanzania faces a long struggle towards a more equal society where the most vulnerable are cared for.

There is widespread lack of water, food, and electricity making everyday living a battle for survival. Families live without access to clean water and rely on rainfall to provide them with food.

In Dodoma, we visited 15 year old Baraka and his family.

Baraka is one of our newest students. His mother is a polio survivor and the disease left her unable to walk from childhood. The image of Mama Baraka[1] running on her hands and feet to her child, one hand protected from the ground with a flipflop, will stay with everyone.

Mama Baraka struggles to provide for her children alone and yet she works hard, sewing and selling what she can to her community. Neighbours regularly help her family, as they have so little. Her face lit up with pride and joy when she saw her son in his school uniform, clearly thriving in his place at school. His future success will offer new hope to this family, and many more just like them.

14 year old Camiro (pictured below) faces similar challenges. He is one of six children and lives with his grandmother. They survive by begging from their neighbours, entirely reliant on the compassion of others for food. Without an education, Camiro faced a future where he could not help himself, his siblings or his grandmother. Now, he has the hope of learning the skills he needs to earn a good living to ensure the family are lifted out  of poverty permanently.

Dodoma Boys’ School is a new programme for the poorest secondary age boys in Tanzania. In the Sisters of Mary school the boys receive quality academic and vocational education and full time care. The first group of 110 boys arrived at the school in August to start preparing for Form 1 in January 2024.

When the boys were asked what the best thing about being at the school was, every single boy said “food”. Three full nutritious meals a day, guaranteed, is unknown for these boys, whose families struggle for survival often on one meal or less a day. It helps them to recover and flourish.

At school, the boys feel relief and freedom, like every care has been lifted from their young shoulders. Watching them play football together in the Dodoma dust, their freedom was evident.

The small, daily mission which is transforming lives

World Villages for Children’s overarching mission is ending poverty through education. Within that mission, the Sisters’ daily purpose is to care for every child’s immediate needs.

These are the “small” things for every child: their own bed to sleep safely at night, three meals a day for proper nutrition, clothing and, shoes as well as quality teaching in academic and technical vocational subjects. These small things add up to the foundation for a better future for individuals, families and communities. When the children complete school they are skilled and ready for work, able to support themselves and those they love into a life free from poverty.

“Thank you for helping us, because when we was home, we cannot study good, so when we are here, we study good. This is a good area” – Dodoma Boys School Student

You can help children in Tanzania live free from poverty by giving them a quality education today …

[1] In East African countries like Tanzania and Kenya, it is tradition to refer to a parent by a name of their child, either Mama or Baba and then their child’s name.