It all started when the oldest of four orphaned brothers decided to work the streets of Musoma selling candy and doing odd jobs with a singular goal: put his brothers in school. He offered to work for Brian Singer, a Peace Corps Volunteer who was there in 1993 teaching high school math.  In return for his work, his brothers went to school.

After his Peace Corps service, Brian continued to send limited support to the family, but it was not enough to keep them all in school. In July 2000, Brian returned to Tanzania and reunited with the boys. Together they laid out a plan to place the two youngest brothers in an English-medium boarding school – and Project Zawadi was born.
“When I returned home I wrote a letter to friends and family requesting donations and very soon I had more money than necessary. It was time to prepare to sponsor more children."  - Brian Singer, Project Zawadi Founder
Project Zawadi was incorporated in December 2000 with a strong founding Board that established guiding principles which resonate in our work to this day.  Since 2000, Project Zawadi has grown from sponsoring two students and raising just $5,000 to now sponsoring 299 students and raising over $400,000 annually. The deep reciprocal relationships that Project Zawadi has built with the community over the years provide the essential foundation for us to build our program model into the future.
2000Adam and Ismael (1)


Again having exceeded the fundraising necessary to support the first class of students, Project Zawadi expanded the sponsorship program. Working with a program for children living on the streets, an additional six students were chosen for sponsorship and attended primary boarding schools.


Project Zawadi was asked by Zinduka Development Initiatives to expand the sponsorship program to their community of Nyamuswa. Zinduka was a very new and local non-profit being organized by a group of concerned citizens to bring development opportunities to their rural community. Nyamuswa Village is where Brian Singer did his Peace Corps Service and he personally knew three of the founding Zinduka Board members, so a partnership was formed.


By 2003, it began to be clear that the strong connection and more communal nature of extended family in the Tanzanian cultural context meant that what it means to be an “orphan” is quite a different thing in Tanzania than it is in the USA. Wanting to respect and strengthen that extended family connection, the Project Zawadi Board reevaluated placing students in boarding schools away from their families and communities. Instead, Project Zawadi began to focus on supporting children within their local communities and schools, better maintaining the support and connectedness of extended families. Project Zawadi hired student counselors to provide day-to-day guidance and support as they pursued their education. Counselors conducted home visits to check in with caregivers and also visited the students and checked in with their teachers regularly at school. As in most rural areas of Tanzania, the schools were both understaffed and short on resources. It was, and still is not, uncommon to find 100+ students crowded into a single classroom with a single teacher. Recognizing these conditions as a serious hurdle to education, Project Zawadi began setting aside money for capital improvement projects at schools attended by sponsored students. Two classrooms were constructed at a school to help ease this overcrowding.


Project Zawadi's first group of sponsored students entered secondary school. Project Zawadi also discontinued adding sponsored students in the Arusha area and focused instead on sponsoring students in local government schools in the Nyamuswa area. Chosen for sponsorship by representatives of their local communities, Nyamuswa students are extremely vulnerable children. Often they have sick or disabled caregivers or are orphans living with extended family. They typically live a subsistence lifestyle in extreme poverty.


Project Zawadi saw its first vocational graduates. Trained in carpentry or needlework, these students achieved life skills which would enable them to earn an income to support themselves and their future families. Guardian Teachers were added at the primary and secondary school levels as an additional level of support and point of contact for sponsored students and Counselors at each school. A girls' dormitory was constructed at a local secondary school to allow a boarding option for those who lived a great distance from the school and improve female student safety and supervision.


Project Zawadi programing expanded to the town of Mugumu, 75 miles east of Nyamuswa. Project Zawadi partnered with a New York Quaker group to administer their independent sponsorship program of 135 students split between a primary and secondary school in that town. In Nyamuswa, two classrooms and a teacher's residence were constructed.


Two classrooms and a teachers' office were constructed.


Project Zawadi's first sponsored student entered university. Nyamuswa also hosted Project Zawadi's first group of volunteers.


Three classrooms were constructed in Nyamuswa.


Eight toilets and one classroom were constructed. Adam Musa, Project Zawadi's first sponsored student, was featured in a documentary short by Goodmaker Films entitled "Adam's Story".


Project Zawadi partnered with education experts in Moshi and Dar es Salaam to offer the first teacher professional training workshop for teachers at partner schools in Nyamuswa. The training program focused on promoting a student-centered approach to active teaching and learning, to develop counseling skills, and to provide professional support for teachers in rural areas with limited resources.

The Zinduka Vocational Training Center (VTC) was also constructed, funded in large part by Project Zawadi. The VTC’s goal was to provide high-quality, local, vocational opportunities to students not following an academic path so that they would have the skills needed for self-reliance for themselves and their future families. The first two programs offered were in carpentry and needlework. Programs quickly expanded over subsequent years to include computers, welding, and cookery as well as an adult O-level secondary school equivalent course.


The course offerings at the Vocational Training Centre expanded to include computer training and welding. A computer lab was installed and its first instructor was Hamis Masenza, a former Project Zawadi sponsored student. The second annual teacher training workshop was conducted in Nyamuswa to an expanded group of educators. Two classrooms were renovated.


Project Zawadi adopted Universal Children's Day, November 20th, as our annual day of giving in support of Project Zawadi initiatives. A preschool and teachers' office were constructed. Facilities at the VTC were also expanded to keep pace with the additional course offerings and to include a boarding option. Two dormitories and a water collection and storage tank were constructed.


Project Zawadi programming shifted from providing students access to school through our sponsorship program to partnering more fully with select local schools and improving the educational capacity of those schools for all students – sponsored or not. Project Zawadi entered into a Four-Party Agreement which included Project Zawadi/Zinduka, nine local schools, local government, and the Ministry of Education to provide more concentrated support including capital projects, expanded teacher training opportunities, additional teaching and learning tools, and an expansion of the number of sponsored students at each of these 'core' schools. Adam Musa, Project Zawadi's first sponsored student, joined Project Zawadi staff as a Counselor. The first Project Zawadi Donor Trip visited Nyamuswa. A classroom and a teacher's house were constructed.


the second annual Project Zawadi Donor trip visited Nyamuswa. Project Zawadi also turned an eye to improved technologies in our capital projects. A shift from traditional building methods using fired bricks to the use of an improved brick press which creates interlocking bricks of a more uniform design improves the quality of construction as well as being much better for the environment. At the Vocational Training Centre, a carpentry and welding workshop, toilet and bathing facilities, a second water collection and storage tanks, and a kitchen, dining area and storage room were constructed.


The Tenda Teachers Project was launched by Ian Keith. Tenda Teachers seeks to organize professional development for teachers on a national level improving teaching and learning in classrooms across Tanzania. 2016 also brought a partnership with Books for Africa which provided 22,000 books for Little Libraries at 15 partner schools creating an exponential increase in the available books in this area. Solar power was installed at teacher homes, classrooms, and the VTC, and water collection and reuse basins constructed.


Project Zawadi underwent an intensive strategic planning process. We’ve focused our vision for the future and adapted our mission to reflect lessons learned and programmatic growth. Tenda Teachers formally joined Project Zawadi and became a second program. This new focus brought new faces to the Project Zawadi team – a new Project Zawadi, Tanzania office including a Tanzania-based Board and program directors, an increased focus on teacher training and school support and a renewed commitment to our sponsored students.


Project Zawadi’s third program, Model Schools, was launched. The initial two schools are developed a community-based five-year implementation plan. E-modules were developed for teacher professional development and support. 


The Tenda Teachers Professional Development Program was launched with a pilot program of 212 teachers.  An apprenticeship program was added as an option for sponsored students.  Two additional Model Schools completed the community planning process.