The Olevolos Project is a 501(c)(3) that provides children with educational, housing, and extra-curricular opportunities through 12th grade. The students are sent to Usa River Academy—a boarding school outside of Arusha—where they receive a quality education that they otherwise would not have access to.
The non-profit pays for all of the school expenses the families cannot afford, including transportation, books, school supplies, and uniforms. The Olevolos Project was founded in 2007 by Dory Gannes, a graduate of Tufts University's Fletcher School of International Affairs, and Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.
In an exclusive interview with Examiner.com, Gannes discussed why even in the most impoverished areas, education is essential.
BROWNIE MARIE: When there are pressing issues such as not having clean water, not having adequate housing, not having food, the basic necessities... why is education still so important for these children?
DORY GANNES: It’s actually a great question, and it’s something that we struggle with in explaining to the parents and the caretakers of these kids. It’s such a long-term thing, and they say, ‘Well, if my daughter can’t help me get water on a daily basis, I don’t want to send her to school.’
What’s been really cool is now time has passed by, and parents are starting to see... ‘Everyone in the village is coming to ask my daughter for help on her homework when she returns for the holidays.’
Education is a huge long-term investment, and we’re working with our students for them to also see that if you do the work now, it pays off in the end. We’re really starting to see the results from that. The students are improving, and we’re also working on getting our secondary students into vocational training so they can learn specific skills, and enter [their chosen] industry right after high school.
Talk a bit about the importance of self-confidence and goal-setting in having a successful future.
Goal-setting is definitely something we emphasize with our kids. We actually had our lawyer come and talk to the kids recently, and he said, ‘It’s most important to be a good person, treat others well, and set your goals high.’
Our kids really have big goals. They come from a village where they haven’t seen much. What we’re trying to do is expose them to other people in [different industries], professionals, and we say to them, ‘This is what your life could be like. What do you want to do? Open your eyes big, set your dreams high, and then we’ll help you get there.’
In Tanzania there’s no infrastructure, so if you fall behind, there’s no one there to catch you. What we’re trying to do is provide that net, so that some of these kids who have no parents, they have no resources... they can still have the opportunity to succeed.
We’re starting to see that happen. We had one kid—she didn’t know English when she started secondary school. Now she decided that she wants to work in the trade of sewing. She’s wants to become a [seamstress], and help other people wear clothes to school.
Just finding the niche markets for these kids—who have come from nothing—to be able to have a job, is such an achievement for them.
For more information about The Olevolos Project, please visit www.theolevolosproject.org.