AARP 2019 Purpose Prize Submission

Describe the work you are doing, what inspired you and why you believe it’s significant.

With the help of my family, friends, and some hard-working villagers in Kisongo, Tanzania, I founded a non-profit organization, Heart To Care Tanzania, to raise money to build the Bethany Pre and Primary School for underprivileged children in Kisongo. The school is officially registered with the government of Tanzania. I began fund raising efforts in 2017 and, within three months, local villagers constructed the first school classrooms. By January 2018, the doors opened to 32 children.

With additional fund-raising efforts, we purchased a school bus, built another school building, and by January 2019 increased enrollment to 156 children. I take no administrative costs — all proceeds go directly to the children’s school.

This project, which has transformed my life (and my family’s), began in January 2017 while on the Safari Serengeti Overseas Adventure Travel trip with my family. In the Ngorongoro Farm Valley Lodge’s gift shop, I met an engaging young Tanzanian man, Emmanuel Boaz. For years, a close relative of Emmanuel’s, Ojwang Samwel, had a dream to build a school on land he inherited from his father. Ojwang and Emmanuel’s passion for this project seeped into my pores, and soon I shared their dream and looked within myself for ways I could help.

The school is highly significant to the families in Kisongo. Parents are eager to send their children to our school where all subjects are taught and tested in English. In the Tanzanian government-run primary schools, instruction is in Swahili, but in government secondary schools, classroom instruction and testing changes to English. Thus, many children in government primary schools are poorly prepared for their next level of education. The class sizes are also much larger at government schools, with sometimes as many as 60 children in one classroom. Our class sizes are smaller, and the daily English immersion is very beneficial to the children, especially as they prepare for secondary school. Two of Ojwang’s children attend our school. Their children, and all of the children at Bethany Pre and Primary School, are being given a head start in life. Ojwang’s dream of empowering a new generation to have a better life has come true!

My friends and family have told me my fund-raising efforts – as well as my methods for garnering project support – are highly innovative. My first fund-raising feat was organizing a backyard plant sale in the spring of 2017. I have always been passionate about gardening, and it’s even more rewarding when I see my hobby create funds for the school. I divided and potted over 5,000 plants from my garden resulting in $16,000. Since the first success, I worked with my Minnesota team of supporters to create a musical concert benefit, a second plant sale (resulting in $20,000), a garden party, a baking class, and a website, which describes the program and encourages donor participation. As a result of these efforts, we built another school building, washrooms, and have 157 children enrolled for the January 2019 school year!

For most my adult life, my focus has been on my family – my husband and three sons. Career-wise, my calling has been to serve as a pediatric nurse. Today, at age 57, my three sons are grown and have launched their own careers. In 2017, when I began this project, I was in a position in my life journey to pursue what might bring me further purpose. My heart has always leaped out when I’ve seen children in need – and this project never fails to fill me and inspire me. Seeing the tremendous need for a quality school in a small village in Tanzania sparked my passion and led me to one of my life’s greatest adventures.

I am the one most surprised to be heading this project. When I initially met Emmanuel Boaz, I thought I could help him with his dental problems. Emmanuel had felt self-conscious in grade school for his bad teeth. After obtaining dental care for him, I believe his confidence surged, and I thought my involvement was completed. However, as our friendship grew, Emmanuel told me of his brother-in-law’s dream to build a quality and affordable English-speaking school for boys and girls at the far end of their village

I have always felt education was important. In my 20’s I realized I have a degree of dyslexia that I have had to overcome throughout my education. I always knew I had to work harder than most people in school for good grades. I just did not know why. I luckily had teachers who encouraged me and family and friends who were supportive. I went on to a university for nursing, and I have worked in the same hospital in their pediatric bone marrow transplant unit for 33 years. I continue to work, but my off time is devoted to this new passion, which is so close to my heart. I can help children in another way now.  I can help them receive a quality and nurturing education.

I have a very supportive family. Two of my sons have degrees in computer programming. They helped me create a website,, and continue to offer their technological expertise. My third son is a concert bassoonist and generously provides music for our fundraising concerts and backyard garden parties. My husband has a degree in business administration and runs the finance side of Heart To Care Tanzania. My father was a pastor and did mission work in Russia when he was in his 50’s. Like my father, I have tons of energy and a stick-to-it spirit. This is the perfect time in my life to devote my energy to this mission, to provide quality education to school children who otherwise would not have the opportunity.

My piece of advice to anyone considering undertaking such a project it to follow your dreams. Honestly, my family wasn’t on board with this project at first, but I felt it in my heart. They told me to slow down, but I could not. We are on this earth but once, and we do not get to push pause or rewind. We must push “start” and make a difference! And I personally believe if the mission is meant to be, there will be provisions, and provisions there have been!

My plans are to oversee the charity and the school as long as I am still able—hopefully another 30 years!  Of course, as a realistic steward of the project, I am exploring options for the future if for some reason I could not physically perform my duties.  I certainly do not desire or anticipate any change in my current role in the near-term future.

In five years, the children who entered the 1st grade in 2018, will be in the 7th grade, and at the end of their primary school education.  We still need to build one more school building to provide the classrooms to accommodate the 9 grade levels from pre-school to grade 7. This new building will be a 2-level classroom to maximize land space. 

 We also plan to build a library and a computer lab. My son has access to used computers from his work and we have already started sending a few computers at a time over to the school. We also need to complete the Community Center, which was started after the first two school buildings were built. This center, which is the home to the school kitchen and dining hall, will be rented after school hours for events. This future income will help support the school, bringing more resources to the children.

 Financial resources are the most needed. There are children who need sponsors. The families simply do not have the money to pay for the schooling. I plan another plant sale in 2020 to raise money for the children’s tuition and the next school building. My annual Garden Party Fundraiser will be in its second year this July. The help to the children and the school only slows down when we lack monetary resources. The teachers are there. The construction workers are there. The supplies are there. The skill level is there. They just need the money to make the dream of a quality school continue. Together we are getting it done!

Our Impact

• Education opens doors in life, and in two years our teachers have launched 157 children

on the path to a quality education, empowering a new generation to be productive


• Many Tanzanians live below the World Bank poverty line, but by purchasing all of our

good and services locally, over the two years of building the school, we have provided

over $168,000 to the local economy.

• Tanzanian wages average $10/day; however, during the two years of our school’s

construction, we have paid $33,000 to over 30 men and women construction workers.

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