IT ALWAYS SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL IT’S DONE

In 2005, when Ashley Holmer committed to teaching and coaching soccer for a year in a rural village in Tanzania, she had no idea it would be a life-altering move.

Over the course of the year, she lived and worked among the Maasai people. Living with no running water or electricity, she learned local customs, attended tribal rite of passage celebrations and ceremonies, and became fluent in Swahili.


“Why do this work? Because if you can, why wouldn’t you?”

—Ashley Holmer


She also saw the inequality between boys and girls, specifically in education. When 82% of Tanzanian families can’t afford to send their children to school, those who can often prioritize educating their boys because the girls are seen as more valuable staying at home and preparing for marriage. That not only hurts girls’ prospects for the future, it slows an entire community’s progress.

As a U.S. college all-star soccer player, Ashley quickly earned the respect of the local men and boys on the pitch. Coaching and playing alongside boys where girls are often not allowed, she demonstrated how women could not only participate, but also compete.

Ashley playing soccer with kids in the village

Her leadership as a teacher and an athlete earned the respect of local leaders as well. By the end of 2005, Ashley was asked to start a school in a nearby community. Coming from a family of educators, she understood the exponential benefits of a good education. She said yes.

WORKING TOWARD A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

The reality of a level playing field for girls in Tanzania and other East African countries was aspirational at best. But Ashley took on the community’s ask, raising funds to build and open Orkeeswa, the first secondary school in Lashaine Village, in 2008.

And she knew one school wasn’t going to be enough.

There’s an entire generation of children being left behind in Tanzania. Providing high school education and support—particularly for girls between the ages of 11 and 17—improves individual lives and entire families. Even more important, it has more impact in changing the next generation for the better than any other cause.

That’s why Ashley founded Red Sweater Project in 2011, with the goal of putting as many kids in school as possible. In 2012, Red Sweater Project opened the Mungere School, which welcomes a new class of students each year. The organization is dedicated to developing quality, sustainable, and accessible schools for East African children. And we’re just getting started.


OUR TIMELINE

February 2017

Form IV National Examination results return with 100% of Mungere students passing, compared with only 27% of students nationally.


January 2017

Following student selection from a field of over 130 applicants, the fifth class of students begins at Mungere.


December 2016

Mungere’s first Form IV class graduates from Ordinary Level Secondary School.


November 2016

Mungere’s first class sits for their Form IV National Examination.


May 2016

The fourth class of students joins Mungere, growing the student body (Forms I through IV) to 105 students.


March 2016

A new teacher office is constructed to accommodate the increase in the student and staff population.


April 2015

A new two-classroom building is constructed on the Mungere campus, and the third class of students joins the school.


November 2014

Mungere students sit for their first Form II National Examination and score 3rd highest in the Monduli School District. National exams occur at the end of Forms II (8th Grade U.S. equivalent) and IV (10th Grade U.S. equivalent) for all secondary students.


September 2013

Mungere’s second class of students is selected to join the school.


January 2013

The Mungere school year officially begins, with Form I (7th Grade U.S. equivalent) classes being taught by a team from Tanzania, the United States, and Mexico.


September 2012

Beginning with an English immersion program, the Mungere School opens with its first class of 40 students, three international ESL teachers from Ireland and Australia, and health workers from the United States. While Tanzanian primary school is taught in Swahili, secondary school is taught strictly in English. The immersion program prepares new students for their time on the school’s completely English-speaking campus.


March 2012

Over 200 students apply to be part of the first class at Mungere, and 40 students are selected.


January 2012

Construction begins on the first two classrooms and offices at Mungere.


June-December 2011

The organization is founded and successfully fundraises for the initial construction of the school.


April-June 2011

The organization begins research on a project site where they can work in conjunction with a community in need of a secondary school. Six possible sites are considered in viable areas where elementary schools exist, but no affordable educational opportunities are available beyond the (U.S. equivalent of 6th grade).


In June, an official agreement is signed between the government, Losirwa and Mungere community members, and Red Sweater Project to build the area’s first high school, serving over 5,000 community members. The village donates 15 acres of land on which to build the Mungere School, stewarding the school’s success by participating in construction and operations.


January 2011

Ashley Holmer and fellow passionate volunteers form Red Sweater Project in response to a lack of high school educational opportunities for children in rural Tanzania.

VOLUNTEER WITH US

Volunteer in Tanzania or help out from home.