A decade ago, Linda Ercole-Musso ’66 (then Linda Marie Musso) and her husband Ed Sulzberger, founded African
Childrens Haven, a 501(c)(3), in honor of Carole Cole, a high school classmate who had recently passed away. Ercole-Musso wanted to continue her friend’s work to support children and their wellbeing. Established in 2010, the program sponsored 10 Tanzanian middle school students with a talent for math and science from the Bethsaida Girls Secondary School outside of Dar es Salaam, the only Tanzanian middle school for orphaned girls.
Spearheaded by Aichi Kitalyi, PhD, one of Tanzania’s leading agricultural scientists, the scholarship program provided funding and mentoring for the girls to complete their middle school studies, go on to high school – a rarity for most Tanzanian girls -- and eventually qualify for college and university.
Kitalyi, herself a recipient of numerous scholarships following Tanzania’s independence in 1964, serves with Ercole-Musso on the board of African Childrens Haven.
“My dream was to give back and promote a new generation of girls with the skills that my country needs to develop and progress,” says Kitalyi. “When we first met them in 2009, the girls had little knowledge of English, although they were fluent in both their tribal language as well as in Swahili, but not a one had ever used a computer. What they had was an untapped capacity for math and science.”
Since then, nine of the girls have completed their university studies and have gone on to careers in education, nursing, accounting, business and laboratory science. Until recently, one of the project’s top students, Mariana Ndunguru, held a senior position at the Bethsaida School, her middle school alma mater, teaching science and math and helping to advance its science program. She has since moved on to teach at a prestigious government school.
Kitalyi is especially proud of Agnes Machumu, a midwife, a profession that is sorely needed in Tanzania, and Irene Pronet, who graduated high school with top honors and recently completed her university training as a registered nurse.
Although the project is now finishing up, the girls have formed a bond and are interested in making sure that other young women like themselves have an opportunity to get an education.
“We’re also working to secure additional funds so that some of the girls can obtain graduate degrees,” Kitalyi says. “I know from personal experience what higher education meant to me and how it has enabled me to give back.”