Sunday, November 27, 2016


So, this blog post is a little late, but they say "better late than never" so here goes....

This past Thursday, we here in America celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday which (despite its problematic historical significance) is a much beloved day by families and friends across our fifty states.  As written in the International Business Times, "Thanksgiving is a day to count one's blessings, reconnect with friends and relatives, and gorge on traditional turkey day fare while trying to avoid popping any seams.  Just like the first Thanksgiving feast, when New Englanders and Native Americans came together to share a meal, American families across the country will join around the dinner table to celebrate what was historically the end of the harvest season."

To apply this sentiment to The Toa Nafasi Project, we can say that the year up until now has been the planting of the crops, the tilling of the fields, and now finally, we enjoy the fruits of our labor: the bounty of the harvest.  On behalf of myself and everyone on Team Toa from Moshi, Arusha, and Dar es Salaam to Washington DC, New York City, and Boston, and points far beyond, we want to take this opportunity to give thanks for the bounty of 2016.

Indeed, we all worked hard - me and Heidi on operations, Gasto on facilitation, both boards with advice and guidance, Hyasinta and the teachers in school, our referral partners who provided wonderful care to our schoolchildren, and of course, those children themselves, who worked hard not only to succeed in Grade One but to move on to Grade Two with triumphant exuberance.

We are thankful for these successes, to be sure, but we know well that they could not have been achieved without YOU, our blog readers and email recipients, our Twitter followers and Facebook friends, and most of all, our donors.  Your support cannot be measured.  That you care, that you give, that you love - it means the world.  Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, everybody!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Party in the USA

Hi everyone, it continues to be a busy time for The Toa Nafasi Project.  Earlier this week, we held our annual "friendraiser" at my parents' home in Washington DC.  Though we got a good response from our RSVPs, the turnout was rather intimate as many apologetic cancellations came in at the last minute.  I'm blaming it on - like everything else - Donald Trump, and the country's collective depression (minus the nincumpoops who voted for him).
Nevertheless, despite the small, cozy crowd, it was also an engaged and enthusiastic one with a lively Q&A after my short slide show, the reveal of our new Toa video (©Marytza Leiva), and some words from the members of the U.S. Board of Directors.  Many of the guests had already contributed so this was a nice time for them to see where their funds went and to ask questions about the Project.  Thanks to Heidi's prep work, especially on the budget, I was able to answer questions easily and proficiently.  It was a smoother performance than ever before!
I'm now back in New York, working away on donor thanks, email blasts, and website content.  It's a lot of work, but Heidi has been on-point, teaming up with me for this aspect of the work while Gasto and Hyasinta (and the teaching staff!) as well as our TZ Board of Directors hold down the fort at "home."  I am assured all is well in Moshi and we are on track for a productive and successful new year.
To that end, I leave you now with a few photos from the party.  You'll notice a common theme: booze.  Again, with the onset of the Trumpster, alcohol intake is sadly on the rise....  Sigh....
Barbara Finkelstein and Romana Li, members of the U.S. Board.

Mom and Dad.  He had just come from Tax Club, at which someone proposed the abolition of the IRS.  Needless to say, he was rather worked up....

The spread.  Waaaays too much food.  We're Jews....

Guests milling about.

Guests enraptured and impressed by Team Toa and our amazing Project!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Reliving the #Giving - Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Hi everyone, and hope all are well.  I'm writing today to remind you all it's that time of year again....  The holidays are nearly here, and along with spending time with family and friends, and over-extending our waistbands and wallets, it's also a good time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves and dedicate a moment to "giving back."

This year, The Toa Nafasi Project is hosting another of our annual "friendraisers" next week in Washington, DC as well as launching a bit more robust of a campaign for end-of-year donations.  Because of our recent expansion, and plans for further expansion, we recognize our growing needs require a similarly growing budget.

So, you'll be hearing from us on this blog and various social media platforms, and in your inboxes and mailboxes, for the next couple weeks as we wind down 2016 and prepare to usher in 2017.

As always, we so appreciate the support and friendship of our loyal donors and we want to take this time to say THANK YOU as well.  Because of you, Toa triumphs on and slow-learning kids in Kilimanjaro are getting the attention they need to succeed.  Asante sana - Thank you very much.

Below, please find a a bit of info on #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, from the official #GivingTuesday website.  It is a great way (and day!) to kick off the end-of-year giving season.


Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

Created by the team at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y—a cultural center in New York City that, since 1874, has been bringing people together around the values of service and giving back—#GivingTuesday connects diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.  A team of influencers and founding partners joined forces, collaborating across sectors, offering expertise and working tirelessly, to launch #GivingTuesday and have continued to shape, grow, and strengthen the movement.  Globally, #GivingTuesday has engaged more than 30,000 organizations worldwide.

#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources, and talents to address local challenges.  It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses, and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.

As a global movement, #GivingTuesday unites countries around the world by sharing our capacity to care for and empower one another.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Africa on Trump

In shock.


Please read below about various African presidents' reactions to the Trump victory, as reported by Quartz Africa.  I just gotta say, there's a lotta shade being thrown these days.  The outlook definitely seems uncertain....

Africa's populists and strongmen are some of the first to welcome a Trump presidency

While the world continues to react to the shocking reality of a Donald Trump presidency, some African leaders have rushed to congratulate the new president-elect.  Although it's not unusual for global leaders to congratulate newly elected presidents, a look at the first African presidents who have congratulated Trump reveals an uncomfortable theme.

Mr. @realDonaldTrump, on behalf of the people of Burundi, we warmly congratulate you.  Your Victory is the Victory of all Americans. 

Burundi's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, became an international pariah after staging a controversial constitutional amendment last year to win a third term in office.  Nkurunziza's insistence on a third term did not soften in the face of violence and a near-total breakdown of the country's economy. 

Egypt's President Sisi is the first World leaders to personally call and congratulate President-Elect Trump

Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the first world leader to congratulate Trump according to some accounts, is a military dictator bent on suppressing dissidents and regulating public life.  Sisi came into power in 2014 on the back of a military coup against Egypt's first democratically-elected president.  Sisi's coup involved a crackdown on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in which over 1,000 people were killed. 

President Jacob Zuma has on behalf of the Gov & people of congratulated President-elect @realDonaldTrump on his victory.

South Africa's embattled president, Jacob Zuma, who is facing yet another career-threatening scandal, was also among the first to congratulate Trump.  For much of his time in office, Zuma's presidency has been bogged by corruption scandals. Last week, a public prosecutor report uncovered large-scale corruption in the government.

Congratulation President-Elect Donald Trump and the People of America. Tanzanians and I assure you of continued friendship and cooperation.

Tanzania's John Magufuli, initially commended for his focus on government prudence and accountability when he was elected last year, has seen his popularity diminish due to "undemocratic actions" like banning opposition rallies.  Under Magufuli, Tanzania has stepped up policing of public opinion, particularly on social media, with criticisms of government and political dissent defined as cybercrimes under a new controversial law.  In September, five Tanzanians were charged with criticizing the president on social media.

Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump for a well earned victory.Looking fwd to continued good relationship w/ United States&new administration

Rwanda's Paul Kagame, while overseeing years of economic growth and prosperity for his country, is another polarizing figure.  His status as one of the continent's most forward-thinking, progressive leaders has been dented by claims of a stronghold on free press and for holding a controversial, albeit popular, referendum that would allow him to stay in power until 2034.

I congratulate @realDonaldTrump upon his election as USA president. I look forward to working with him like I've done with his predecessors.

Uganda's Yoweri Museveni has been in office longer than most presidents anywhere in the world.  Put another way: Donald Trump is set to become the sixth president America has had since Museveni took power through a rebellion in 1986.

Congratulations to Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, ally of Gabon
Only two months ago, Bongo was reelected to a second term after a disputed election which saw him win by a slim margin of 6,000 votes.  With a number of irregularities observed during the elections (voter turnout was a staggering 99.9%), EU observers said the election lacked transparency.  With Bongo's rival Jean Ping disputing the result, violence broke out in the oil-rich Central African country.  In response, Bongo's government imposed an internet curfew and cracked down on the media.

Even before the elections, Zimbabwe's longtime president Robert Mugabe had warmed up to the idea of a Trump presidency.  In a July meeting with US lawmakers, Mugabe reportedly suggested Zimbabwe's relations with America would improve under a Trump presidency.