About Rai Farrelly – Project Wezesha Co-Founder
In June 2008, Rai Farrelly traveled to Western Tanzania to work with a non-profit organization committed to educating the local community on several important issues – the environment, gender studies, wildlife conservation and conflict management. In addition to these topics, the program was planning to offer language classes in French, English and Swahili. Rai planned on collaborating with local teachers to develop the English language curriculum while additionally offering language teacher training. Unfortunately, the language program was not ready for her contribution when she arrived. To her surprise and dismay, there were no teachers with whom to collaborate! Having prepaid for the experience with this non-profit, Rai decided to make the most of her time in the village.
By the end of 5 weeks in the village, Rai had formed some lovely friendships and alliances in the community. She decided to offer six scholarships for four years of secondary school to children in need. With the help of her friend, Lucas Lameck of Mwanga, she was able to select six children in the village who were in need of educational assistance. All of the children are from single-parent families and live in extreme poverty, yet have a high level of motivation to complete secondary school and dream of going to high school. Without these scholarships, the children would not have the opportunity to continue their education and would thereby start working full time at the early age of 12 with no chance for higher education or higher level careers.
In the summer of 2009, Rai returned to the village to visit the six children. She returned with books, school supplies and mosquito nets that were either donated or purchased with monetary contributions from friends in Salt Lake City, Utah, Boulder and Golden, Colorado and Susice, Czech Republic. The children were so excited about the new reading materials. They created their own library in the home of one of the young boys. They also created their own system for checking out books to ensure that the books would be well cared for and returned for others to use.
The children with pictures of those who donated nets, books and money
By the end of this visit, Rai wanted to select six more children to sponsor through four years of secondary school. This time, she and Lucas looked to the neighboring village, Mgaraganza. In our quest to find students in need, Rai was approached by the local community about a school building project. The son of the village chief mentioned their great need for a secondary school. This chief was the leader of five nearby villages, none of which have a secondary school. Having just read both Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood, Rai innocently and eagerly said she would love to help and believed she could at all costs!
For the next week, Rai and Lucas met with the village chief and the community council to discuss plans for the school – size, location, project timeline, and other logistical issues. Additionally, during the course of these meetings the council selected the six children that were most in need of scholarships. They chose children who had passed their secondary school entrance exams and were motivated to continue learning but due to various circumstances – primarily lack of funds – could not continue with their education. All six of these children only have one parent to support their family.
Together, two inspired friends - Lucas and Rai - came together to establish a foundation that would empower children and ultimately a community through access to education. The two co-founders brainstormed names for their “little” endeavor and after pondering over several ideas, settled on Project Wezesha (Project Empower). They established a purpose and a partnership and are well on their way to making some dreams come true! By July 2010, we had raised over $11,000 for phase one of our big project! After only three weeks the foundation for the first phase is almost complete, a water system is installed and the school is becoming a reality!