Written by Hanna Lee
Meghann Gunderman never imagined her college experience of studying in Tanzania would shape the rest of her life, but what she witnessed there changed her forever. Megan traveled to Africa to research and complete her degree in International Relations and Geography. Her shock in observing this developing country truly impacted her worldview: âIâve been given every educational opportunity and I found myself overwhelmingly grateful for that,â she recalls.
In her first summer there, Gunderman volunteered at an orphanage. She regularly volunteered in the United States, but had never worked with a group that inspired her so intensely. The orphanages can only accommodate children for a certain number of years before they are pushed out on their own. Kids as young as 7-years-old are often left to fend for themselves in the streets. Gunderman noticed Â the fact that children in the country were seen just as a number instead of individuals. She asked the women running the orphanage how she could best impact these kids. âSpecifically, there was a set of triplets at the orphanage who had me wrapped around their finger, and I wanted to find a way to add value to their lives in the long-term,â she says. âI loved the idea of using education as a tool to help them help themselves out of a circle of poverty.â
Gunderman started by reaching out to friends and family for donations to put the triplets into a safe environment at a boarding school in Africa. Ultimately, this sparked the idea for Gundermanâs nonprofit: The Foundation for Tomorrow (TFFT). The nonprofit organization provides scholarships for African orphans to attend boarding schools in their home countries. Additionally, TFFT is committed to ensuring students the highest quality of education through their partnered schools and orphanages. Today, the nonprofit has given 82 children scholarships at boarding schools throughout the country. âIn the five years since TFFTâs launch, itâs been amazing to see all of these wonderful people [donors] come into my life and want to add value to these kids lives,â Gunderman says.
The organization has 100 volunteers at any given time and a team on the ground in Tanzania devoted to making Gundermanâs dream a reality. Â TFFTâs scholarship program seeks to put kids in schools as they age out of the orphanages to create a holistic, healthy environment for them, but also to offer them a higher standard of education. The nonprofit provides teacher training, tutoring and after school programs for the boarding schools in the area. Children on a TFFT scholarship are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the nonprofit works hard to cater to their specific educational needs and personality.
Gunderman wants to offer these children everything a child with a two-parent home would have. âWhat sets us apart is that we are focused on the individual, weâre not trying to solve all the worldâs problems. We are focused on certain children and trying to make leaders out of these children,â states Gunderman. âI want to see these individual kids grow into compassionate, effective people in their communities, and I want them to invest in their own countries. We see the value in Tanzania so we want them to see that value too.â
Gunderman is infinitely amazed by peopleâs kindness and interest in the organization. She says, âI am perpetually inspired by the generosity of others and infinitely inspired by the kids.â Witnessing the triplets grow and prosper in their boarding schools is especially touching for Gunderman. Her hope is that the gap between the quality of education in Tanzania and the quality of education in the West will grow smaller as she gets older.
TFFT prides itself in offering all of the scholarship recipients with personal care and attention. Â During a recent session at the nonprofitâs after school program, Gunderman participated in a session where teachers asked their students about their goals and dreams for the future. Gunderman realized a lot of kids around the world donât get asked what they want to be when they âgrow up,â and she was incredibly touched by what they had to say. âIt was emotional for them and for us,â recalls Gunderman. âA year prior, a child named Isaac was struggling academically and didnât feel worthy of the scholarship, but he stood up that day and said he wants to become a lawyer focused on childrenâs rights. Seeing his growth was an amazing moment for me.â
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