The Buffalo-based nonprofit Girls Education Collaborative is launching a new fundraising effort for its partner school in Kitenga Village, Tanzania. The group hopes to raise $130,000 to build a new guest house at the school, where volunteer or medical groups from Western New York and beyond could stay while visiting the Kitenga Secondary School for Girls.
For the past eight years, Western New Yorkers have been the primary backers of this nonprofit, which fights for global gender equality by helping girls around the world gain access to education. That support is the reason GEC Executive Director Anne Robinson Wadsworth leaves for a month-long trip to Kitenga on Sunday.
"When you have a partnership like this that spans oceans and cultures and languages, face-to-face time is of critical importance," she said, "and I'm excited to say that while I am there, we will be breaking ground not only on the guest house - because we feel that we've raised enough money to get started, even though we will be fundraising for the balance - but also breaking ground on the administration building."
The new Girls Education Collaborative Guest House & Center for Collaboration will accommodate up to 14 guests once completed, allowing for long-term volunteer engagement, which Robinson Wadsworth said GEC has had to turn down up until now. Fundraising for the new building is being kick-started by a generous gift from the Theodore and Pauline Cohen Charitable Trust.
"It is $50,000 towards the $130,000 fundraising goal and every gift towards the guest house will be matched one-by-one by this challenge grant," she said. "So, we're really excited and off to a great start, and even though we have not raised all the funds yet, we anticipate breaking ground within the next 10 days."
Robinson Wadsworth added that about 75% of GEC’s total financial support has come from the City of Good Neighbors since the organization's founding.
Just 4% of girls in rural parts of Tanzania like Kitenga Village complete secondary school, according to GEC.
"Women in this culture are at a distinct disadvantage," Robinson Wadsworth said. "They still actually practice destructive cultural traditions such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, and so the sisters really wanted to help lift the whole community out of poverty and also empower its women. And they said to themselves, 'You know, the best way we could do this is by educating the girls.'"
The Kitenga school is run on the ground by Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa, a group whom Robinson Wadsworth said originally connected to Western New York when some its members came to study at the University at Buffalo. The school currently enrolls about 140 students and is expected to continue expanding in order to add primary education. The self-identified "Kitenga Pioneers," the school's first class of graduates, will complete their studies later this year.