The IMAGE Project is a Minnesota –based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that arranges for educational sponsorship of young Maasai women in Tanzania. These are girls who wish to attend secondary school rather than be sold into marriage as has been the custom in their tribal villages. Maasai culture allows men to marry multiple wives and to choose whether or not to support the children their wives bear. Many of the young women in these villages wish for other options, and are running away to escape their parents’ plans to sell them for two cows to an older man. (Two cows is the going rate for a new wife in Tanzanian Maasai tribal villages.) Through a series of fortunate encounters, Deb Pangerl, the director of the IMAGE Project, has been able to respond to the requests of these young Maasai girls to have options in their lives besides being married at a young age and bearing children. These women have ambitions to secure a secondary education, which is very unlikely as the government only pays for education through Standard VII, which is similar to U.S. grade 6. After that families must pay the annual cost of a year of education, which is over $400. In a country where the per capita income is $356 per year, it is easy to understand why only the wealthiest of Tanzanians can afford to send their children to high school.
In addition to securing tuition sponsorship, The IMAGE Project seeks donated funds to help the Maasai students overcome hurdles that exist to their success at secondary school. Some of the obstacles take the form of lack of textbooks, transportation monies, discrimination within the schools, and lack of success in the Pre-Form I entrance test. We have established methods of dealing with these difficulties, all of which necessitate funds. To diminish dependency and facilitate ownership, we inquire of all the families and communities of our sponsored students regarding their ability to pay for an economically meaningful portion of the education bill. In short, along with sponsorship possibilities, funds are always needed “on the ground” in Tanzania to support payment for tutors, for transportation to and from school, for personal needs of the young women at school, and for instructors in Swahili and English. We thank you for doing what you can to support this cause!