Working for Wasa: where we were and where we are now

‘Working for Wasa’ is the pulsing heart of Students for Humanity, but I’m confident that most of you already know this. It is the challenge that some Bocconi students decided to take on years ago, in 2011, out of desire to give concrete help to the villagers of Wasa, Tanzania. With time and dedication, that challenge has now become a story of success.

Students for Humanity and Wasa are connected through the development of various smaller projects inside what we call ‘the mission’: the Vocational Training Center, the medical center, the kindergarten and the shop.

Within the mission of Wasa, the Vocational Training Center is a school that now hosts more than 70 students. It offers different courses: traditional ones like English and Maths, as well as more specific ones like tailoring and masonry. In 2018 it opened to female students for the first time, marking a very important milestone for all the girls who wished to study and to have the same possibilities as their male peers. Those who attend the VTC have a great opportunity, that is, to study and learn a job without having to pay excessive fees, as it is the case for most schools in the region. The goal that the association now pursues is the registration of the school, that would enable its students to receive a recognized certification needed to find a job or to continue studying after completing the three-year courses at the VTC.

Starting from 2014 another project was developed, ‘Students for Education’, to grant scholarships to students from the VTC who want to continue their studies at the St. James Kilolo Secondary School in Iringa. For the moment, there are three ongoing scholarships, assigned to Ezra, Helena and Emmanuel. The first student to receive one back in 2014 was Ezra Waya, who studied carpentry and had proven to be a very dedicated scholar with exceptional capabilities. He is currently enrolled in university and is pursuing a career in accounting.

The second scholarship was given in 2015 to Helena Luniungu, who would not have been able to afford going to secondary school without it, whereas the third one (now concluded) went to Makomboze Kisinini. His keen interest and determination to study paid off and he was able to pursue the dream of becoming a policeman.

Marko instead had a passion for woodworking, and thanks to ‘Students for Education’ he studied at the VTC in Ifunda, one of the most renowned schools in the area, and followed both practical courses and theoretical ones.

Ezra, Marko, Helena and all the others were chosen by SFH’s volunteers during their annual summer trip to Wasa, when they teach at the school and have the opportunity to meet the students that will then be awarded the scholarships. The selection procedure is based on the students’ motivation and expectations for the future, as well as their knowledge, capabilities and dedication.

Despite being important, a good education is not enough in this case. It’s essential to provide these people with the very fundamentals and to take care of those aspects that us, being in a privileged position, too often overlook. SFH works to give the youth of Wasa the opportunity to fulfill their basic needs and to allow them to enjoy decent living standards. For example, at a certain point the volunteers realized that the students were spending money they didn’t have to cut their hair, as required by the school. Therefore, the association decided to buy the tools needed to open a barbershop inside the mission. Moreover, a Basic Needs Store was built in 2019, a place exclusively at the disposal of the VTC students where they can find basic necessities (soap, toothbrushes, books and pens, tools).

The question is, how can a group of students manage all of this? And the answer would be: with cooperation, dedication and a great deal of trust. The volunteers are in constant contact with Wasa and its Baba, the priest of the village and president of the school. All the milestones that have been reached and all the objectives that will be achieved in the future are only possible thanks to the constant cooperation and mutual trust that exists between the two parties involved in this relationship. In particular, the figure of the Baba is an essential link of the chain of this cooperation project: he is the eyes of the association, the one who monitors everything that goes on there and gives SFH all the updates. Baba Stan or, as they call him, ‘the businessman’, always has lots of ideas to make life in Wasa easier and actively contributes to its development - he has a great entrepreneurial spirit! Thanks to him, and even bigger doses of trust, Students for Humanity managed to continue its operations throughout 2020, even without having the possibility to personally visit the village during the whole year.

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