Jifunze began in a teacher’s living room in Kibaya, Tanzania where female secondary school students gathered to study every night. Their eyes straining to read against the flickering flame of the kerosene lamp, they conjured up the idea of building the community’s first education resource centre. Inspired by these creative young women, Christina Gabriel, a local primary school teacher who was born and raised in Kibaya, and Carrie Oelberger, a visiting secondary school teacher from the United States who was living with Christina, began working on their dream to develop a space for female students to study. Christina sought a piece of land on which to build a small study centre, while Carrie officially founded "Jifunze" in the United States, naming the NGO after the Swahili word for learning. Since those humble beginnings in 1999, Jifunze has now grown into a well-known and well-respected non-profit organization which has successfully handed over our seed project, the Kiteto Community Education Resource Centre (CERC), to the the local district government.
The Kiteto CERC, which from the outset was envisioned to become a sustainable solution to supporting education in rural Tanzania, was funded by Jifunze, but fully staffed by local teachers and support staff who were provided and paid by the Kiteto District Council. After 4 years of preparation and construction, the CERC opened its doors for the first time in July 2003, offering innovative programming to all community members. Over the next five years, Jifunze ran an intensive capacity building program in order to enhance the managerial and programmatic skills of our local partners with the goal of gradually phasing out of the day to day management of the CERC. This program proved extremely successful and in July of 2008, Jifunze officially handed over the "Key to the CERC" to local community leaders. The CERC is now functioning completely independently of international support, both managerially and financially, and as such, offers itself as a sustainable model for community development throughout Tanzania and the world.
Upon our success in Kiteto, Jifunze has now dedicated itself to restructuring the organization to be able to proivide support to others who are intersted in starting similiar community development projects throughout the world. While we are defintely interested in replicating our successful CERC model to other areas of Tanzania, we are currently waiting until July 2010 before commiting to any specific future projects. This decision has been made so that we can be sure that the Kiteto CERC will continue to be successful long term, and it is only then that we will feel comfortable scaling our model. Until that tim ewe will be developing this website in order to share our experiences from Tanzania with the hopes that others in the field will learn from both our failures, and our sucesses.