A Pet Project
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A Pet Project

Next Generation Leaders inspect the progress on a Tanzania school's chicken coop

You've probably heard the proverb, "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." But can that underlying philosophy be applied to chickens?

That was a question confronted by this year's Next Generation Leaders on their trip to Tanzania. The Next Generation Leader (NGL) program helps select college-bound, high-school seniors from underserved neighborhoods in Boston prepare for the future with a seven-week paid summer internship followed by a nine-day excursion to Tanzania. This year, seven outstanding students participated in the program.

Each year, the NGL Tanzania trip includes community service activities. In 2011, the NGLs were involved in what Sandra Vaughan, East Africa Operations Coordinator in Grand Circle Corporation's regional office in Arusha, Tanzania, dubbed the "Chicken Project."

Supporting Grand Circle Foundation's mission of helping partner schools become self-sustaining, Sandra's pet project involved building a chicken coop for 200 chickens at the Bashay Primary School in Karatu and providing vaccinations, veterinary care, and feed for the chicks. The primary goal is for the chickens to lay enough eggs to provide nourishment for the schoolchildren and make the project self-sustaining. Then, the school aims to sell extra eggs to hotels in the area to generate a much-needed profit of $500 to $700 a month to supplement the school's meager budget.

The NGL class of 2011 raised funds for the project and was instrumental in converting the school's former kitchen space into a coop during their visit to the school. Grand Circle provided the remaining funds needed for construction, as well as the purchase of 204 baby chicks, which arrived at the school on February 27, 2012. Sandra collected the chicks and made the three-hour drive to deliver them to the Bashay. She recalls: "I had to laugh, because on the straight roads, chick chirping was minimal. But when I hit a bump, and there are many of those in Tanzania, the chirping reached crescendo levels!"

The Foundation also pledged to support the project for its six months, at which point the chickens were expected to be laying 160 to 170 eggs a day. When the NGL class of 2012 arrived at Bashay in July, the chickens were close to full grown. "The kids could see what their peers accomplished," says Jan Byrnes, Grand Circle Foundation Project Manager, who accompanied the group. "It helped inspire them for their own community service project. They were very impressed!"

The focus of the 2012 NGLs' community service was not Bashay, however, but rather a new Foundation partner in Tanzania, the Tloma Primary School. In advance of their trip, they held two fundraising events for the school. By the time they arrived, they were able to deliver nine duffel bags filled with school and sports supplies.

For their on-site project, they planned to paint classrooms at the school. "But when we arrived, we found that the school was in much worse shape than we expected," Jan reports, adding that cracks in the walls and floors required repair before any paint could be applied. "The kids chipped away broken cement, patched walls, and lugged bricks that would be needed to fill a gap between the walls and the ceiling," she says. Despite this arduous work, the NGLs still found the energy to cook and serve dinner to the schoolchildren.

As for the Chicken Project, it is well on its way to "feeding the community for a lifetime," to paraphrase the proverb. The first egg was laid just a day after the NGLs' visit, and the hens now are producing more than 90 eggs a day, which a local five-star hotel has committed to buy. Even better, in a country where the chick mortality rate averages 60%, not a single chicken at the Bashay school has been lost.

"This is the first self-sustaining project we've completed here in East Africa," says Sandra. "Thanks to the Next Generation Leaders and to Grand Circle Foundation for raising funds for the project."

Featured in our August 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.