gmhTODAY 12 gmhToday Jan Feb 2017 - Page 38

The Story of Orkeeswa Local Rotarians Support Innovative School in Tanzania Orkeeswa School overlooks vast African plains in a remote part of Northern Tanzania — home to the noble Maasai people. This is the story of how local Rotarians came to be involved with an innovative school that is transforming lives of Tanzanian youth through the power of education. On January 22nd, Chuck Berghoff and Lorena Tuohey of the Morgan Hill Rotary Club (photo with Sue Berghoff on left) will join other Bay Area Rotarians on a trip to Tanzania. They are going to meet the students who inspired their Rotary service project in support of the Orkeeswa School. These young people are the first in their families to attain secondary and university level education. Written By Robin Shepherd T he beauty of this service project is that it not only connects people across nations and serves a humanitarian need, but it also supports a holistic, community-based model of education that happens to align with Rotary International’s credo of “service above self.” At Orkeeswa, students learn that life is about more than self- betterment. It’s about learning to lead and to serve one’s community with an attitude of respect for the dignity of its people. Tanzania’s Need While education can break the cycle of poverty, in some parts of the world, poverty is the biggest obstacle to obtaining an education. Orkeeswa School opened its doors in 2008 to break this cycle. In the underserved Maasai community of northern Tanzania’s Monduli Hills, the traditional Maasai way of life as nomadic herdsmen is vanishing, leaving many 38 in extreme poverty. Secondary school education is out of reach for roughly 90 percent of Tanzanian youth. School fees are upwards of $500 per year for families whose income may be as little as $1 per day. At Orkeeswa, education is free, to all students. Girls learn side by side with boys, promoting gender equality. And unlike boarding schools, Orkeeswa’s students attend day school in their village and return home in the evening to share what they’re learning with their families and neighbors. True to its mission, Orkeeswa’s holistic, community-based model of education balances academics with extra-curricular activities, life skills classes and community service. Orkeeswa’s Founding Orkeeswa School was co-founded by Peter Luis, a California native whose early career as a teacher took him to far-flung GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 corners of the world. About 12 years ago he went to work in Tanzania where he met Raphael Robert, who would become Orkeeswa’s co-founder, and other passion- ate educators. There was no secondary school for miles in any direction and they wanted to build one. They shared their vision with local village elders and asked for their endorsement. “We walked the village with the elders, who showed us a 20-acre tract of their land that they graciously offered to donate as a site for our school,” Peter said. “From the beginning, we’ve made it a priority to engage with community leaders and students’ families. We’re bringing educational opportunity to a commu- nity that traditionally counts on children to work and contribute to the family’s welfare, and practices arranged marriages for its young daughters for a dowry in the form of cattle. “For the potential of secondary school