Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wave of Change

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics found that 262 million children in 2017 globally were not in school. That’s 262 million children not learning how to read, problem solve and create. Imagine, those 262 million children, growing up to be entrepreneurs, innovators, social advocates or politicians.

At Neema International, we tackle the education gap on child at a time. Here’s what happens when you give one child an education:

Cognitive development increases, giving the child increased executive functioning, problem solving and critical thinking. They obtain the socioemotional tools that allow them to develop healthy and positive relationships. They use foundational literacy and math skills to tackle larger issues such as financial literacy, political advocacy and family planning. Once a child learns to read, they can read to learn anything. They become strategic in their personal and career goals, practicing independent thinking. Their ability to provide for themselves allows them to escape the cycle of poverty.

They influence their family and friends, through information sharing. Their financial stability allows them to support education of their young family members. They are able to translate for their family and teach English, expanding the economic opportunities of others. They share with others critical information about financial resources, family planning, global politics and gender equality.

Families share resources and information between each other. They gain the financial tools to improve community structure and invest in local ventures. The community works together to reach larger goals such as sustainable local economic growth and access to healthcare and education. The local culture surrounding parenting, gender roles and education begins to shift.

Communities that advocate for better education, gender equality and access to resources influence politics. Pressure is put on the government to meet the needs of the people. Children in school grow up to be influential leaders who advocate for the welfare of their communities on a national level.

Change a child’s world, change the world. Giving the gift of education is giving a child the ability to become an agent of change. It gives them the intellectual resources to self-advocate. Each child is only a drop in the ocean, but it only takes one drop to create a wave of change throughout a nation.

We already see the wave of change in Uru. At the beginning of the semester, a local father came to us, begging to send his two little girls to our school. In a country where secondary school is seen as most important and education is optional for women, this father was sensational. His advocacy for his daughters shows a cultural shift in early education and gender roles in Uru. Here is a community, sharing information and taking a step in the right direction.

Our sponsored children are set up for success. Neema International monitors each child’s behavioral and academic progress. We ensure children are healthy and happy at school, sending representatives to live at boarding school with children when necessary. We provide the social work services and career counseling need for long-term success. At Neema, sponsorship is not scholarship, it's a mentorship. We can’t sponsor all 262 million children out of school globally, but we can create hundreds of leaders in Uru that will each have their own wave of change.

Invest in future leaders. Start a wave of change. Sponsor a child!
Contact to sponsor! 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Teacher Trainings with ISM

The goal of Uru Academy is to provide high-quality early childhood education. We focus our curriculum on art and play-based lessons. Creative learning engages children, sparks their critical thinking and encourages individuality.

The typical Tanzanian government school takes a very different approach. Teachers use boards to drill students throughout the day, having them memorize definitions and facts. Students are taught to be quiet and behave.

For Neema International, the challenge in opening a high-quality early childhood center is proper teacher training. How can we get Tanzanian teachers with a government school background to implement creative learning?

Then, co-director Ali Hanson had a brilliant idea- to send our teacher’s to a local international school! Each of our head teachers spent a week at the International School of Moshi, shadowing a head teacher. Our teachers were inspired by the creativity, dedication and attention to details they witnessed at ISM!


High-quality teacher training is the foundation to high-quality education. Our kids are excited to drop the workbooks and pick up the play-dough, educational games and songs! Teachers are planning new academic clubs, art projects, group games and exploration activities!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Neema Bags

We are in love with our new Neema Bags! Neema Bags is Neema International’s social enterprise that markets stylish, locally-made, African-print bags to fund our projects! These cosmetic-sized bags are handmade in our office. They’re crafted from a sturdy canvas with kitenge fabric on the inside. The outside seam is also hand-beaded. We also monogram, with the letter on the outside matching the fabric on the inside.

Our Neema Bags are the perfect personalized, socially-responsible gift for graduation, birthdays or weddings. They also can be customized with a group name and bought in bulk. We have a variety of designs, including different canvas, kitenge and beading!

Selling Neema Bags not only provides the funds that Neema International needs to run our projects but also employs local mamas. Employing the people of Uru in our projects is one way in which we empower the community. When one person in the family has a job, the whole family experiences more security. With over forty employees, we are lifting the community out of poverty through providing a consistent income and safe environment for parents. All while making sure their children get the best education!

To purchase an individual or bulk order of Neema Bags, message us on Facebook, Instagram or email us at!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Creativity Spotlight!

Often we talk about the kids in Uru in terms of what they don’t have and how we can provide for them. We forget that these children bring so much personality and creativity to the table. They are the seed and we just help provide the sunshine for them to grow! Uru Academy encourages children to be as creative as possible. Creativity is the key to problem solving and self-expression. One way that we encourage creativity is through incorporating art into our lessons.

For example, one of our head teachers, Sels, taught kids to make butterflies by painting half a wing and then folding the paper. Children were able to design their own wings while learning about the idea of symmetry! We also have children use materials such as legos, molding clay or crayons to design their own creations. Below is a sculpture one child made of his teacher!

Children in Tanzania have few resources, so often they use their creativity to make toys with recycled materials. Here is a video of one of our children, Msafiri, using a top that he crafted with bottle caps and string. We encouraged Msafairi to keep creating and teach others how to make the same toy.

Creativity and self-expression is key to children’s development. We hope to continue to use whatever supplies we have and positive support so our little innovators and artists never stop designing!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Technology Update: iPads

In 2015 Arrow Electronics donated fifty iPads to Neema International. The Neema team installed educational apps ranging from baby to elementary level. Three years later, and now the kids at Uru Academy love to learn with the iPads!

On average, each class gets one, one-hour iPad session a week. Our teachers work together to create a weekly curriculum that builds on what they are learning in class. For our younger learners, this means working on phonetic foundations to reading. Our older kids work on math and spelling. While the iPads are in use, teachers walk around to guide technology use and help struggling kiddos!

Using technology in the classroom helps children work at their own pace, getting the individual practice they need. It reinforces lessons taught in class and allows children to learn through play! It also increases their technology literacy, as many of these children have never been able to use any type of computer before. Our kids look forward to using the iPads all week.

Some of our favorite apps are:

This app is perfect for babies and children who need to grow their English vocabulary. Vocabulary is the foundation to literacy and this app builds vocabulary through matching pictures to words.

ABC Magic
These series of apps work on letter sound identification, working on vital pre-literacy skills. Children can explore letter sounds by clicking on them or practice by matching them!

Math Bingo
This app is very versatile as it has different levels. Our younger kids can practice addition while our older kids can practice multiplication. Math Bingo provides children instant feedback at their own pace. Its great practice and our teachers can identify which kids are struggling for the future.

Thanks Arrow for our iPads! Three years later and they are still changing our kids lives, one app at a time!

For the original press release with Arrow’s iPad donations, see:

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Uru Academy's First Halloween!

            On Wednesday, Uru Academy had its very first Halloween party! Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in Tanzania, so our kids had no idea what to expect…

We started off the celebrations by introducing the idea with the Halloween special from Paw Patrol. Preschool shows such as Paw Patrol teach young English learners new words, building on their pre-literacy skills.

Fun fact: Our kids love Paw Patrol so much we name our three rescue dogs at the school Rebel, Rocky and Zuma!

Each class made a Halloween-themed art project out of recycled materials. Our little artists made pumpkin paper-plate masks, paper-plate black cats, lunch-bag monsters and toilet-paper-roll bats!

All our children had the opportunity to dress up in costumes collected from years of donations. They embraced the occasion to be silly, embracing their inner monsters and princesses. They were also able to see their future selves as professionals such as doctors, teachers or chefs!

We taught the kids to say “trick or treat!” Then they toured each classroom at the school, getting a piece of candy at each station. At the end of the day, everyone was exhausted from a long day of candy and play!

Many of the children we work with have a traumatic past. Neema International aims to meet their basic needs of nutrition, health and education as well as providing them positive childhood experiences. For these children, Halloween was much more than candy and a costume, but an opportunity to play in a safe and positive environment with their peers and trusted adults.

Can’t wait for Halloween next year!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Movement Learning at Uru Academy

            Uru Academy is proud to announce new daily gym classes! Our children and teachers spend all day engaged in lessons, ranging from math and English to vocational skills. Teachers routinely have children stand up, move and sing between each subject. Still, classes that sit all day see a drop in attention. Each class at Uru Academy now has one hour a day dedicated towards gym class!

 Physical activity gives the brain a break, time to absorb learned information. Our gym class teaches children cognitive and social skills through games and sports. Our gym teacher, Mr. Donacian, incorporates fun and developmentally-appropriate curriculum into his gym classes. Freeze dance becomes an opportunity for children to development their inhibition skills. Controlled breathing in yoga becomes a tool for emotional learning. Jumping through circles becomes a math lesson on patterns and numbers. Every game teaches children English through instruction!

            Gym is not the only time we incorporate movement learning in our daily routine. Movement learning is especially helpful for our kinetic learners. These children learn more through doing than they do through a traditional classroom lecture. Physical activity can help children apply what they learn in class to their real life. Take for example, Sensia. Sensi is a new child in Class A. She is learning how to count in English, but was having trouble with flashcards and counting objects in class.

During one of our gym classes we played “What Time is it Mr. Lion?”, a variation on the American children’s game “What Time is it Mr. Fox?”. In the game, one child plays the lion and the rest call out “what time is it Mr. Lion?” The lion then responds with “it’s time to take two steps”, or as many steps as they would like. The children then take that many steps forward. When they are close to the lion, the lion announces “dinner time!” This cues the rest of the children to run away, often laughing the whole way.

Sensia was able to watch her friends take each step with her, counting together as a team. She learned through playing, movement and peer guidance. After playing a few times, Sensia had counting up to five mastered! We look forward to solving future challenges with our kids through gym class and movement learning!

P.S. Sensi is looking for a sponsor!